For its first 170 years the Kiuchi Brewery in Japan produced only sake. Then in 1996 it began to brew beer, which wasn't much of a leap since both are made of fermented yeasts and grains.

But Kiuchi wasn't satisfied to mimic Japan's ubiquitous golden pilsners and lagers. It took on the international beer industry's heavy hitters - the Belgians and Germans.

The company labels its high-end ales Hitachino Nest Beer, one of which is in the style of a German hefe weizen, a wheat beer known for complex flavors, notably banana, clove and citrus. Hitachino Weizen approximates the style but adds a few twists that result in a product that's pretty close to a Belgian farm ale. And that's a good thing. The beer pours a cloudy amber and has the sour, tart tang found in some Belgian ales. There's a hint of citrus and apricot, but little in the way of banana.

There's almost no bitterness. And it's 5 percent alcohol by volume, which is about average for the style.



Read Eric's blog at beer.directgates.com.SCOTT WHEELER/Direct GatesNeedless to say it's a great summer refresher and pairs with, well, everything from bratwurst to sushi.