Brews News by Bryan Harrell
Issue #10 -- March 1997

Michael Jackson in Tokyo on Thursday

World-renowned expert on all manner of beer and single-malt scotch will be part of a panel discussion to be held at the Belgian Embassy this Thursday, March 6 from 2 - 5 p.m. Other members of the panel include Mr. Yamamoto, a wine critic, Mr. Nishio, author of a book on Belgian beer and food, and Mr. Konishi, president of Konishi Shuzo, importers of Belgian ales and sponsors of the event. The event will be held in Japanese, with Mr. Jackson's comments given through an interpreter. Cost is 10,000 yen, which includes a small party after the panel discussion. For information, phone Konishi's Michael Jackson Seminar Office at 5695-7581, fax 3666-8191.

tokyo food page

eating & drinking

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BREWTEX TOKYO 97: March 11-14 at Makuhari Messe
Special "Beer Japan 97" corner to offer samples of 50 different beers from around the world.

Billed as the third international trade show in Japan for brewing and beverage equipment and services, Brewtex Tokyo 97 will be held at Makuhari Messe next week from Tuesday, March 11 through Friday, March 15. It's held concurrently with the Foodex fair which exhibits food and drink products from around the world to a primarily food/drink industries crowd. Both Brewtex and Foodex are connected, so a ticket into one will get you into the other.

Several friends of mine always manage to scam invitation tickets to get into Foodex, and prefer to show up on the last day in order to get great deals on (or haul away for free) the food and wine samples being offered. I went on the last day last year, but had no such luck -- the only thing I was offered for free was a bottle of Hooper's Ginger Beer (thanks to Ian Haffety) and a small bottle of a very good Greek Ouzo type liquor which I'm consuming very slowly -- it's excellent.

Anyway, people who don't manage to get tickets often pose as "journalists" or "foreign visitors" and manage, somehow, to get in without paying the requisite 5,000 yen. So if you're interested in attending, what you do is your own business.

The only problem for people living in central or western Tokyo is that getting out to Makuhari Messe Convention Center seems to take forever, although it's only 30 minutes from Tokyo station to Kaihin Makuhari station by the Keiyo line, the platforms for which are located quite a distance from the other platforms at Tokyo station.

The highlight of Brewtex for most Brews News readers is the Beer Japan 97 corner, where free samples of some 50 different kinds of beer are to be offered. Also, at last year's Brewtex a few local microbreweries set up booths selling 600-yen glasses of beer. Although most of the offerings weren't that interesting, Yamato Brewing of Nara was there with their delicious WAOH Hakugin Weizen and WAOH Kohaku Amber brews. Forget the free beer, I'll gladly pay for WAOH beer.

Then, in the Foodex part of the event, I've heard rumors that Bass Pale Ale on draft will be served at the British Pavilion, and that Konishi Shuzo might be pouring samples of Belgian Ales at their booth. Yummmmm -- some of the world's most rightfully expensive beer at a price you can't complain about, even if the samples are small.

Also, Brews News readers won't want to miss a booth jointly set up by Phred Kaufman (importer of Rogue Ales sold in Japan as Ezo Beer and bearing his own crazy Japanese names) and Michael Khoo and Craig Tillman of MicroBeers International, importers of choice U.S. microbrews. With three crazy microbeer-loving Americans in charge of one booth, you won't have to wonder where the party is.

For information on Brewtex, phone 3434-0093. Or check out the tips on that URL: http://www.ist.co.jp/IFBREW

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Deserted Island Six Pack Sweepstakes!

MANY THANKS to the several readers who sent in their choices for the sweepstakes. I'm surprised at the support for Liberty Ale from Anchor Brewing of San Francisco -- and can't help but think that people are choosing it not because they like it, but because they know I do, and they wanna win that six-pack!

While the tallies so far make for very interesting reading, about 80% of our readers have yet to respond. I'm sure many of you who haven't sent in your choices still want to get Brews News, so kindly respond ASAP. Yep, this is blackmail, pure and simple; those not responding may be dropped from the sub list.

Don't worry about what beers you like; and don't even worry if you can't think of at least six. You can always have more than one bottle of one thing. One reader selected two bottles each of three different brews -- presumably part of his one-for- now, one-for-later philosophy.

Again, this is what you have to do: Please send me the names of your six most favorite bottled (or canned!) beers. Draft beers don't count because theoretically you can't carry them with you. Also, comments or criticisms of Brews News are welcome.

WHAT YOU MIGHT WIN: The person with the selection which most closely resembles mine will win an actual six-pack of those beers (subject to availability). Deadline is March 21. THANKS!!! -- Bryan

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Oh Thank Heaven for that Ii-kibun!
by Richard Vliet

There are some new brews being probably being carried by your local 7-Eleven. The other evening on the way home, I decided I wanted to "splurge" 400+ on a Hoegaarden beer and to my surprise (delight) there was a whole new shelf full of imported beers from Portland and Seattle (in addition to the "De Verboden Vrucht" from Belgium).

The new beers are priced at 320 and are being imported by Itochu. From the Redhook Ale Brewery in Seattle there was "Wheat Hook Ale" which was fairly light but also had a more hoppy aroma than a typical big-brewery beer and "Red Hook ESB, Extra Special Bitter Ale." From Portland Brewing in Oregon there were three new beers (at least at the store on Nakamachi-dori, near the Komazawa-dori intersection, in Setagaya-ku): MacTarnahan's "Amber Ale" which is a nice red, with flavor that is more full-bodied that the Asahi Red beer; "Haystack Black," which was disappointing and a bit too "unique" with the roastiness; and "Oregon Honeybeer" which was very light, with just a hint of honey (which might wife felt was only detected by me because I had read the contents listed on the label)---but again with a more hoppy aroma than typical Japanese beer. Except for the Haystack Black, these new additions to 7-11's selection are delightful (to varying degrees). All in all it was a very good "detour" on the way home.

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Microbrew Scene Observations
by Sean Langdon

There are two new Micro-brewery/Beer Restaurants opening. Kisogi Beer Restaurant, Nagano is opening in March. It is part of a large complex being built for the Winter Olympics. I can't help but feel that producing quality jibiiru beer is nowhere near the top of the priority list here. Hagi Beer in Yamaguchi is currently under construction due to open later this year.

There are a couple of things that have struck me about a number of the micro-brew restaurants/bars that I have seen in Japan which appear to differentiate them from the U.S. and Europe. First, in Japan, they are termed Beer Restaurants which may explain the emphasis on food whereas in the U.S. they are referred to as Brew Pubs/Bars with emphasis on beer.

Secondly, in Japan the beer is unreasonably expensive. this is usually disguised by serving it in small but fancy glasses. Prices vary with prices of 460 yen to 540 yen for 300 to 330ml the norm. I have seen 480 yen being charged for a 240ml of stout. I also have the feeling that for many of the producers jibiiru is just a sales gimmick. Given Bryan's previous comments about the inferior quality of some beers, the industry could easily kill itself off before people develop a taste for real beer.

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Follow-up Report: Csarda in Kobe
by J. Kita

After reading Bryan's article on Yokohama Csarda, I just had to write and let everyone know that my partner and I had exactly the same experience at Csarda in Kobe last year. Their Pilsner was so badly infected that we could tell it had an unbelievable amount of off-flavor at the first sip, or even before it. We thought anybody would be able to tell that the beer was "off." But to our dismay, the people seemed to believe that is what Ji-biiru should taste like. And, any half&half with that pilsner had the same miserable off-flavor.

It was a very sad experience and I must admit I don't have enough spare time to go back to Csarda to taste that OFF- flavored Pilsner. I don't know what their problem is, maybe they have a different attitude toward their beer. And I share Bryan's opinion that if the Brewmaster there was truly a Brewmaster, he should not let them serve that beer and call it Pilsner. It is a shame.

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This Spud's For You
(Or, at least the beer's better than it was during the Edo era when they didn't even have beer anyway.)
by Bryan Harrell

The city of Kawagoe in Saitama prefecture is famous for retaining a great deal of Edo-era architecture, and for this reason has become a regional tourist attraction with the name "Little Edo." Kawagoe is also famous for "satsumaimo," Japanese sweet potatoes, which are in turn famous for their ability to induce flatulence in anything, presumably even stones, which consume them.

Even more interestingly, the Koedo Brewery in Kawagoe, which opened almost a year ago, is producing a "Satsumaimo Lager" which could possibly have the same effect on the odd chance that you'd get beyond the first sip. And that could go for the several other varieties of brew served at Koedo, all equally disappointing, and all made from what tastes to be the same hopped malt extract.

That's right -- malt extract, instead of malt. Homebrewers know that brewing from malt extract, syrup or powder, is far easier than brewing from freshly ground malted grain, just like it's far easier to make a cup of "coffee" from instant than it is to brew it from freshly ground beans. And, like instant coffee, most beer brewed from extract is lacking in the aroma and depth of flavor that characterizes the real thing.

The benefit the brewers at Koedo derive is that since their product is made from extract, and not real grain, it is, by Japanese government definition, not really beer. (Of course, you can find that out by drinking it.) And since it is "happo- shu" (carbonated alcoholic beverage) it is taxed at a lower rate than beer. Best of all, to get a license to make it, you only have to make 6,000 liters per year, rather than the 60,000 liter/year minimum required for a real beer license.

While some might say that this lower quantity requirement is a rare instance of the Japanese government doing the consumer a favor (by not requiring them to make so damn much of the stuff), the reality is that it's possible to make passable "brew" from malt extract IF you have good, unhopped extract and use high quality hops in the boil, and IF you know what you're doing. My personal experience is that making tasty beer in normal gravities from extract is very hard, but the heavier you make the beer, the greater likelihood that it will taste good.

Anyway, there's a big difference between home brewing for fun and building a big pub restaurant and charging people to drink the beer. Maybe it will take Koedo a little longer to make a passable brew from extract, but right now, their brew is not yet recommended.

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Echigo Beer On Tap at Barl's
by Bryan Harrell

Barl's in Nishi Ogikubo is one of the few places in Tokyo serving specialty beers that seem to know what they're doing. They have a moderate collection of some very well selected brews, and their prices are decent. Best of all, the place is very classy and attractive inside, and it's a pleasure to go there.

I went looking for Echigo Beer, and found that they serve the Pale Ale for 600 yen for a glass about 240 ml, which although expensive is easily the most reasonable price I've found outside the brewery in Niigata. Also available when I was there was the award-winning Echigo Stout. They may not have Echigo all the time as it sells out quickly, but they are certainly trying their best to have it whenever possible.

If they're out of Echigo, other offerings won't disappoint: Anchor products from San Francisco are 600 yen a bottle, including Anchor Steam, Liberty Ale, and the luscious Anchor Porter. Chimay Red is 800 yen, and Chimay White and Blue are 900. Brewski Ale and other U.S. microbrews are also sometimes available.

Barl's is a short walk from Nishi Ogikubo station on the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku. Address: M&I Bldg B1, 3-13-5 Nishiogi-Kita, Suginami-ku, Tokyo. Phone 5382-8046.

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Bryan and Tom Exchange Ideas on the Brews Blues:

BRYAN: How about 'Bored Under a Bud Sign' -- you know, '...been down since I began to drink. If I didn't have no Bud, I wouldn't have no beer at all." Of course, that would really go down sideways with all the A-B executives present...

TOM: No worse than "I ain't drinkin' no Miller, I ain't drinkin' no Coors, I don't drink Budweiser, That stuff belongs in the sewers. This pubs for you!"

Tom Dalldorf is a member of the Rolling Boil Blues Band, a group of U.S. beer industry guys who sometimes play the blues in pub-lic. In his spare time, he's also the publisher of the Celebrator Beer News and the Duke of URL: http://www.celebrator.com

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ATTENTION HOMEBREWERS: Fresh Australian Pale Malt

The Cellar in Kobe has just received a fresh batch of Cooper's Pale Malt from Adelaide, Australia. It's 400 yen/kg. in 20 kg. bags plus tax and shipping charge (chaku-barai, Yamato-bin). For details, contact Junko Saito at: 078-651-1437 or e-mail to:bcjkobe@osk.threewebnet.or.jp And the URL next door is: http://www.threeweb.ad.jp/~bcjkobe/

Brews News copyright (c) Bryan Harrell and contributors.

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XREF: [ Tokyo brewpubs and beer bars | imported beer stores | Japanese microbrew beers ]

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