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Brews News #102 - November/December 2010

Beer There

Yokohama Craft Beer Festival

September 18-20

This is easily the nicest of the JCBF events, easily outclassing the larger one held earlier in the year at Yebisu Garden Place. The Yokohama event had the additional bonus of the huge collection of US microbrews brought in by the Brewers Association of America. Nevertheless, the enormous selection of Japanese craft beers certainly captivated a lot of my attention. This is the one festival in the series put on by the Japan Craft Beer Association that I always make sure to attend. See you there next fall!

Nippon Craft Beer Festival

October 31, Asakusa Sumida Riverside Hall

This was the day of the dueling beer festivals, with this established event being held on the same day and time as another quite appealing event at TY Harbor Brewery featuring a handful of great US microbrews (assembled by Andrew Balmuth of Nagano Trading) joined by about the same number of TY Harbor brews.

Nevertheless, despite the time conflict, both events were well attended. I went to the Nippon Craft Beer Fest and saw quite a number of familiar faces. Many of the beers I had were standouts, but I had the advantage of being tipped off by my friends as to which beers were particularly good.

Among my favorites were Sakura Bock from Fujizakura Kogen, Hopslave Double IPA from Tanzawa no Shizuku, and Isseki Nichoh ("two birds with one stone"), an Imperial Dark Saison from Shiga Kogen. Apart from these, there were many standout brews on offer, including a few US craft beers from Oregon, Colorado and other places.

Six Pick

Rating system:

! ! ! ! ! Exceptional, among the best of its type in the world.
! ! ! ! Highly recommended, without hesitation or fine print.
! ! ! Recommended as being good, interesting, worth a try.
! ! Some people may like it; otherwise close but no cigar.
! We don't think you'll like it, but there's some reason why we mention it. You're on your own with this one.
ugh We recommend that you avoid this product.

Craft Beers Into Winter

This is a nice selection of brews that can lead you into the cold winter months with fine, rich flavors. The organic Bison beers are available from Tengu Natural Foods (www.alishan-organics.com) while the others can be purchased at Tanaka-ya in Mejiro.

!!!!! Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout (Ibaraki Pref., all malt with espresso coffee beans, 7.5% abv). Opaque black, thick dark tan head. Brewed to an imperial stout recipe with a rich, heavy taste with deep roast flavors, minimal sweetness and bitterness. Very good balance, with a smooth texture. Think of it as a coffee milkshake, only made with beer. I have also had this beer with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and served this way it is a terrific dessert.

!!!! Shonan Beer Weizen Bock (Kanagawa Pref., all malt, 7% abv) Hazy reddish brown with a creamy tan head. Classic weizen aroma with clove highlights and a fruity banana flavor. Dark, tangy wheat malt flavors backed by a crisp tartness at first, followed by a muted malty sweetness backed by a very tangy malt richness. Subtle but spiky carbonation, with yeast flavors prevalent. Fades slowly with a long, tapering finish. Quite a striking beer with so much going on.

!!!! Bison Organic Honey Basil Ale (California USA, malt, hops, honey and basil, 6% abv) Bright amber gold, light tan head. Herbal lemony aroma. Some lingering honey sweetness. The basil is fairly subdued, but provides a faint minty herbal bite that, together with the malt tanginess, adds a quenching character to the beer. Despite the unusual flavors, the beer is quite smooth and approachable.

!!!! Bison Organic Chocolate Stout (California USA, malt, hops, cocoa, 5% abv) Very dark opaque brown, tan head. Aroma of cocoa and roasted malt. Rather minimal sweetness over dark malt and chocolate flavors. Hopping is minimal. Very clean tasting and well-balanced, making for a good session beer for the holidays. Would be great as a stout float with vanilla ice cream.

!!!! Bison Organic Gingerbread Ale (California USA, malt, hops, spices, 6% abv) Deep reddish brown, thick tan head. Sweet aroma with an array of sweet spices (ginger, cinnamon, etc.) present. Very smooth drinking with minimal bitterness. The spices predominate in the aroma, but are far more subtle in the flavor. Here, rich roasty malt flavors combine with gingerbread spices for an exciting flavor, while the hops lurk quietly far in the background. Could be an ideal pairing with pumpkin pie.

!!!! Swan Lake Amber Ale (Niigata Pref., all malt, 5% abv), Slightly hazy reddish orange with a thick, tan head. Malty aroma, with full amber malt flavor carrying a touch of tartness. This, along with moderate hop bitterness, balances the beer. Medium-length finish marked by some tanginess.

Beer Talk

The Great American Beer Festival 2010

by Steve "Pudgy" De Rose

The 29th Great American Beer Festival was held in Denver, Colorado on the weekend of September 16-18, 2010. In my years of attendance, this is the earliest it has started off. Until this year, I suspected the reason the weekend flexed was due to the Brewers' Association's wish to avoid the same weekend when the Denver Broncos National Football League franchise had a Sunday home game. (The Broncos draw from a six-state region. Many fans travel to Denver from afar; and they account for many hotel rooms, which then are unavailable for those visiting Denver for GABF.) But the Broncos were playing at home this weekend (and so were the Colorado RAPIDS Major League Soccer team), and GABF went ahead. So I have had a paradigm shift. I no longer know how and why the BA picks the weekend!

(Next year's GABF dates have not yet been announced. But on a laptop computer belonging to somebody assisting with a slideshow, who I deduced was a BA employee or volunteer, I spied a slide reading "29 -30 September / 1 October".)

One solid aspect for the early scheduling was the weather accompanying it. I can recall a GABF years ago when the temperature dropped to freezing on Thursday night, but rebounded to the lower 70s [°F] on Saturday afternoon; which can make it difficult to pack and dress when arriving from out-of-town. Weather during this span was superb; with clear skies, high temperatures in the lower 80s, and lows in the mid 50s.

What is truly remarkable about the GABF is its comprehensiveness. At no other beer festival will you find the mega-brew national behemoths adjacent to small craft breweries and diminutive brewpubs. At the centerpoint of it are the awards. There were 79 categories for 2010. The most popular category was Category 47: American Style India Pale Ale, with 142 entries. Second most popular: Category 45: American Style Pale Ale, with 109. The least competitive: Category 14: Gluten Free Beer (13); although for established styles, it was Category 34: European-Style Dunkel (19).

The majority of the categories are considered the domain of craft breweries. But there have always been categories seemingly orbiting around the mega-brews. In the 1990s, it was intriguing to see craft breweries nosing into those styles and earning medals. But this year, the one genuine 'upset' was the Stevens Point Brewery, a regional specialty brewery from north central Wisconsin, winning the Gold Medal in Category 2: American-Style Wheat Beer with yeast, for its Point Horizon Wheat. It beat out Widmer Hefeweizen. A list of all the winners is here.

Beers that Brews News readers may know which won medals include:

  • Pyramid Apricot Ale (Fruit Beer - Silver)
  • Stone Smoked Porter w/Chipotle (Herb and Spice or Chocolate Beer - Silver)
  • Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar (Specialty Beer - Bronze)
  • Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout (American-style Stout - Bronze)
  • Bear Republic Roggenbier (Rye Beer - Bronze)
  • Ballast Point Fathom IPL ('Out of Category' / Traditionally brewed beer - Gold)
  • Hale's Kolsch (Kellerbier / Zwickelbier - Gold)
  • Kona Longboard Island Lager (Munich-style Helles - Silver)
  • Widmer Bros. Drop Top (Ordinary or Special Bitter - Bronze)
  • Deschutes Bachelor ESB (Extra-Special Bitter or Strong Bitter - Bronze)
  • Deschutes Wowzenbock (German-style Wheat Ale - Silver)
  • Great Divide Colette (French- and Belgian-style Saison - Silver)

The GABF also has educational events during each session. Participants may attend the "Beer & Food Pavilion" for advice on pairing; the "Brewers Studio Pavilion" for interviews and discussion from the brewers themselves, or test their own beer judging alongside a Beer Judge Certification Program judge in the "You Be The Judge" booth.

For the fifth year, there was the "Pro-Am Competition." This is in which a 'Best of Show' homebrew recipe gets ramped up and brewed at a commercial facility by both its homebrewer and that brewery's brewer.

The medal winners for 2010 were:

  • Gold: Red Velvet - A.H.A. Member Donny Hummel, & the Eagle Rock Brewery Brew Team; Los Angeles, CA.
  • Silver: Ryed Hard & Put Away Wet - A.H.A. Member Adam Glaser, & Jim Stinson; Rockyard Brewing; Castle Rock, CO.
  • Bronze: Robust Porter - A.H.A. Member Keith Antul, & Ben Roesch; Wormtown Brewing; Worcester, MA.

Sessions of the GABF have been selling out in recent years, and selling out longer in advance. If you are interested in attending one or more sessions of it, I recommend you sign up to become an A.H.A. member. Members get advance notice of when tickets will go on sale; and only A.H.A. members are eligible to attend the "Members Only" session on Saturday afternoon. See http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/

But if you don't want to attend every session of GABF, there are other beer events in the days around it at various Denver bars, brewpubs, and breweries. 'Unofficial' off-location venues include the Wynkoop, the Rock Bottom, and the Falling Rock Tap House. GABF is the culmination of Denver Beer Fest [http://www.denver.org/denverbeerfest/].

Denver is relatively easy to get around via transit. The Denver Rapid Transit Division runs electric light-rail trains through downtown and lower downtown ("LoDo"). A 'SkyRide' limited-stop motor coach route [Route AF] connects downtown to Denver International Airport [DEN]. Round-trip tickets on it cost $18.00 if bought in advance. (This could increase by one or two dollars in 2011.) There are routes crossing the city; and other limited-stop extra-fare routes to exurbs like Boulder. View http://www.rtd-denver.com/

Next year, it is unlikely that GABF will be on the same weekend as the Japan Craft Beer Festival in Yokohama. So consider coming over to the U.S.A. for this. I am fairly certain you will have an enjoyable time.


All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.

Beer Here

Belgian at a Discount

Belgian beer specialty bar Bois Cereste in Akasaka is now offering a special through the end of November. Hoegaarden White on draft is 600 yen a glass (normally 1,100 yen) while an order of frites (Belgian-style fried potatoes) is just 400 yen (normally 800 yen).

Plus, there are even bigger savings with the Beer Lovers Club event from 5 pm on Saturday, November 27th. The 3,500 yen admission gets you 10 tickets, and you can order most Belgian beers for just two tickets, representing a significant savings over regular prices.

You may also use the tickets for food - just one ticket for fried potatoes, for example.
Map . Review

Autumn Beers Style Showcase: "Falling for Brew"

Baird Nakameguro Taproom
Sunday, November 14th 3 to 6 pm

This event will feature at least six beers showcasing the unique tastes of fall beers. Marco McFarren will be talking about malts and lagering, as well as fall and seasonal flavors.

Both Baird beers and imported beers will be featured, and the 3,200 yen admission fee covers all beers, some light food, and a short all-you-can-drink session on the featured beers after the presentation. The selection of beers will be announced at the event.

The presentation will be given in English. A separate presentation on the same topic will be given in Japanese by Beer Manager Takahashi on Saturday, November 13th from 3 pm.


BEERS Meeting

BEERS stands for Beer Enjoyment, Education and Research Society, a Tokyo-based English-speaking beer club that usually meets on the third Tuesday of each month. This month's meeting will be held on November 16th from 8 pm at BierVana, a comfortable and stylish new beer bar in Akasaka.

For more information about BierVana, as well as a map showing how to get there, go to www.biervana.com/en/ . The cost is 2,500 yen per person, including beer, and BEERS member Eric Miller will be explaining the variations of stout.

If you would like to attend, please send an email to Tim Eustace 'tokyobeers (at) yahoo.co.jp' by Friday, November 12th. Note that the December meeting will be held earlier this year, write to Tim for details.

Craft Beer + Concert

November 21, 6:30 pm

Thumbs Up! Yokohama

This is a special live music show in Yokohama featuring loads of various kinds of American and Japanese craft beers, and a lively group called Dachambo, all for 5,000 yen. Advance tickets only, none at the door.

One of the organizers is Ry Beville, publisher of the Japan Beer Times quarterly, so you are assured of proper respect and attention paid to the brew. The show will be held at Thumbs Up! near Yokohama Station. For more information on the event, go to www.yokohamaseasider.com/dachambeer/


Special thanks this issue to Steve "Pudgy" De Rose for his contribution. We'd love your contribution, too, so send your story ideas (or story) to brewsnews "at" yahoo.com by Friday, December 17.

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