The leaves are harvested from yaezakura trees (species with blossoms consisting of more than five petals) in Ina City, Nagano Prefecture–one of Japan’s cherry blossom-viewing hotspots selected from a list of 100 famous places. The annual harvest takes place before and after the Golden Week holiday around the last week of April and the first week of May. Plucked blossoms are immediately pickled, compressed, and preserved in the fridge for about a year before being added to the brew.
Of particular note is that the pickling process releases a chemical in the flowers that is reminiscent of sakura mochi, a traditional Japanese sweet consisting of pink rice cakes filled with red bean paste and wrapped in a pickled cherry leaf.
The remaining ingredients include malted wheat, hops, and rakufumai (楽風舞) brewer’s specialty rice, the latter sourced from Izumibashi Brewery in Ebina City, Kanagawa Prefecture. The unconventional addition of the rice adds a sweet depth of flavor to the beer.
This year’s edition of Sankt Gallen Sakura beer will hit the shelves of liquor stores and Sankt Gallen’s website on February 19 and stay there until mid-April. A 330-milliliter (11-ounce) bottle will cost 460 yen (US$4.39) and contain 5-percent alcohol. Consider picking some up to sip while you watch the 2021 Cherry Blossom Forecast. Or, if you’re not in the mood for beer, perhaps Suntory’s Blossom Harmony Whiskey or Kanade Sakura Liqueur will hit the spot instead.
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