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Brews News Issue #107 - December 2011/January 2012

Bar Beat

Craft Beer Market

Here's an interesting switch, a centrally located craft beer bar that sells a wide range of brews, all for the same low price. Pints are just 780 yen, while glasses are only 480 yen. But there are differences; the standard beers (Asahi Super Dry, Yebisu and Suntory Premium Malts) are served in 568 ml UK pints, while the craft beers are served in 473 ml US pints. Still, it is a great deal, and all of the craft beers are from various places in Japan.

An added plus is that the food is generally pretty good. On my visit I had the shrimp in garlic with the extra bread, quite delicious for just 900 yen. Also, they have an "otoshi" for 300 yen, and it was interesting that they asked me if I wanted it (I did) which is unusual for something that is normally obligatory, and something I consider to be in place of a tip.

Overall, the service is very friendly, the atmosphere lively, and the beer was all in great condition. I highly recommend it as a place to familiarize yourself with Japanese craft beer. Note that they are open for lunch and at night, but closed on the weekends.

It is located three small blocks south of Sotobori-dori which runs between Toranomon and Shimbashi stations. On the Tokyo Food Page review, there is a map which can be enlarged to make it easy for you to find it.

Craft Beer Market
SA Grace Bldg 1F
1-23-3 Nishi Shimbashi, Minato-ku
Open 11:30 - 2 pm, 5 - 11:30 pm
Closed Weekends.
Phone 03-6206-1603

Six Pick

Best Beers and Bargains

Here's an interesting selection of beers, some chosen for their excellence with others chosen because they represent good cost-performance, being quite acceptable beers for a very low price.

!!!! Yebisu Kohaku (by Sapporo; all malt 5.5% abv). Bewitching reddish amber with thick ivory head. Faint aromas of amber malt and hops in background. Rich, tangy malt flavors backed by stiff hop bitterness with rounded edges, with clean lager flavors and a moderately long finish. While this looks a lot like many ales, keep in mind that it is a lager with the requisite sharp flavors. It may not have the richness and fruitiness you might expect from a beer with this appearance. Still, quite a good beer that is widely available in many convenience stores.

!!!!! Green Flash West Coast India Pale Ale (San Diego, CA; all malt, 7.3% abv and an impressive 95 IBU) Golden Bronze with an off-white head, astonishingly rich aroma with generous malt with the hops pushed all the way to the floor, making it definitely a high-speed hopchase of a beer. With such deep flavors and intense quenching bitterness, the beer is half-finished before you realize it. Once finished, though, I found myself nearly out of breath and wanting another. A surprise gift from my friend Steve.

!!!!! Tripel Karmeliet (Belgium; barley malt, wheat malt, oats, hops and yeast, 8.4% abv) Hazy orange gold, thick off-white head, rich herbal and spice aroma with rather sweet fruity flavors at the onset, followed by complex malt and grain flavors. Very good when the weather turns chilly, as this is a body-warming ale high in alcohol. Creamy smooth foamy texture with a very tangy aftertaste that lingers long. Very comforting overall, and somewhat of a polar opposite to the highly stimulating West Coast IPA previously mentioned.

!!! Top Valu Barreal Lager Beer (S. Korea; all malt, 5% abv) This beer is produced by Aeon Supermarkets, and is sold for an astonishing 158 yen, making it probably the cheapest actual beer sold in Japan. Surprisingly, it is 100% malt and the hops are 100% German. Gold, off-white head, fine malt and hop aroma. Crisp flavor with brisk hops up front, while malt emerges richly midway through and lingers somewhat long into the finish. Better than most mainstream Japanese beers, even many of the 100% malt ones.

!!!! Reijoh Pilsner Beer (from Echigo Beer in Niigata; all malt, 5% abv) Deep gold, white head, good malt and hop aromas in great balance, with a rich body marked by crispness and a long, satisfying finish. Echigo Beer was the first microbrewery in Japan, opening in late 1994. They produce this beer for Maruman Store, a Tokyo supermarket chain, where it is sold for 198 yen, but often on sale for 179 yen. At that price it is a better value than the previously mentioned Barreal Lager, and quite good as an everyday dinner beer.

!!!! Saint Omer Abbey Beer (France; all malt, 6% abv) Golden bronze, thick light tan head. Thick malt-heavy aroma full of tangy malt sweetness, with hop bitterness way in the background. With its full-on "wall of malt" body I mistakenly thought it was from Belgium, but it's actually from France. The flavors here are simple, somewhat like Duvel, but with a touch more dark maltiness and creaminess in texture. There is some classic Belgian-style yeasty aromas and flavors here, but the beer is clean filtered and pours without sediment. The real surprise is the 198 yen price at the Kaldi coffee and imported foodstores around Tokyo. This makes it one of the best beer bargains around. Together with Reijoh, Saint Omer is a regular brew at home. Thanks to my pal Mark for the tip on this beer.

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.

Beer There

Killer B Party Rocks Yokohama

By Eli Raffeld

On Saturday afternoon, October 29, with the Indian Summer sun still beating down, over 100 first time visitors took to the upper level of the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club to enjoy premium American Craft Beer and to get their Party On! The first Killer B Party was an event that Dionysius himself (the pre-dating beer god, of course) would have certainly made an RSVP.

Featuring 12 taps of American Craft Beer (supplied by Nagano Trading Company), beer pong, bowling, and a bountiful buffet, the Killer B party afforded its members an unparalleled party experience. Surprisingly with so many non-members in attendance, less than ten members made it out to the festivities; leaving room for improvement the next time this opportunity comes around.

Throughout the party numerous exclamations were made, that the deck of the YC&AC is "the best place to drink beer in all of Yokohama." We agree.

At the Killer B Party the beer celebrities of Japan came out in strong numbers. Members of the Japan Craft Beer Association (JCBA), including President and founder Ryouji Oda, brewers: Bryan Baird of Baird Brewing, Teruya Hori of Nide Beer and Scott Brimmer of Brimmer Brewing, as well as many beer bar managers and staff attended this hop-infused event.

The selection of beers was outstanding. From a sour blackberry wheat beer to an imperial pumpkin ale, the olfactory and gustatory senses were engaged and delighted. As the Killer B came to a close a raffle was held, offering dinner vouchers at Mollison's Restaurant at YC&AC, Six packs of bottled beer courtesy of Nagano Trading and glassware and T-shirts from Baird Brewing. Guests left the event jubilant and buzzed.

The success of the Killer B Party begs the question, when will Killer B2 happen? The date is undecided but to get a taste of what's to come, visit the YC&AC bar to sample a wide variety of American Craft Beer.

On draft and in bottles for November and December are the following:
On draft: Racer 5 IPA from Bear Republic Brewing Co., Healdsburg, CA.
In bottles: 422 Pale Ale, Hop Sun Wheat, and Harvest ESB from Southern Tier Brewing Co., Lakewood, NY. Lagunitas IPA from Lagunitas Brewing Co., Petaluma, CA. Arrogant Bastard Ale, from Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, CA. And Double Stout from Green Flash Brewing Co., Mira Mesa, San Diego, CA.

We invite you try a new beer, a new experience and to be part of the American Craft Beer revolution. Cheers! We hope to see you at the next party.

Nippon Craft Beer Festival Celebrates Sixth Year

Sunday, November 6

While originally held in September, this popular beer event was moved to October last year, but moved forward to November 6th this year. Over 800 people attended, and were served a full range of beer styles, accompanied by a variety of food offerings and music that ranged from sweet pop to ear-piercing bagpipe selections. The event began at noon, and last call was 5 pm.

There were more beers on tap at this festival than in previous years, and one of the most striking developments was the appearance of craft beers from outside of Japan, notably Lagunitas IPA from California, Hard Core IPA from Brewdog in the UK, and the remarkably delicious Two Captains Double IPA from the Nogne O brewery in Norway.

Of course, the main attraction was the Japanese craft beers, some 42 varieties from 36 different breweries. My favorites included Smoked (pale) Ale from Iwate-kura brewery, Imperial Stout from Swan Lake Beer, Classic Rauchbier from Fujizakura Kogen, the rich full-bodied Suruga Bay Imperial IPA from Baird Beer, and the Munich Dunkel from Otaru Beer. Those who stayed to the end were treated to an announcement at 4:30 pm that beer from all taps still pouring was FREE until the event finished at 5 pm. You should have heard the crowd roar after that!

This event is perhaps the best chance during the year to meet with beer enthusiast friends and acquaintances, and for this reason it is certainly a pleasure to see familiar faces and compare notes on new offerings from breweries throughout Japan.

The 2011 event was the final year at the current Sumida Riverside Hall venue in the Asakusa district of Tokyo. Next year the NCBF will move to much larger quarters in Akihabara that can hold about 3,000 people. It will certainly be a few years before attendance rises to that level.


All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.
brewsnews -at- yahoo -dot- com

Beer Here

Belgian Beer Lovers Club

Saturday, November 26 from 5 to 9 pm

Bois Cereste in Akasaka, Tokyo

Held four times a year, this event offers remarkable savings on Belgian beers in the cozy, comfortable atmosphere of Bois Cereste in Akasaka. The next event is slated for Saturday, November 26, from 5 - 9 pm. The 3,500 yen admission gets you 10 tickets, and most Belgian beers require only 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. Directions and more information.

Belgian Christmas Beers

Wednesday, December 14 from 7 pm

Bois Cereste in Akasaka, Tokyo

On the second Wednesday of every month, Bois Cereste holds the "Nisuikai" event which features a light Belgian dinner accompanied by lots of Belgian Beers, usually five or six varieties, but often more. The dinner plus an assortment of beers is 7,500 yen per person, and considering the range and quantity of brews presented, is a reasonable price.

One of the best months to enjoy this is December, when various Christmas Ales from Belgium are featured. These beers are usually available for just a short time, if at all, around the holiday season, and represent a good opportunity to get "deep" into the more complex (and alcoholic) beers from a country widely known as Beer Paradise. If you want to join the dinner, please make reservations with Yamada-san of Bois Cereste, phone 03-3588-6292. For more details on the bar, see above.

BEERS December Meeting

Tuesday, December 6

Tokyo's English-speaking beer group, the Beer Enjoyment, Education and Research Society (BEERS) will be holding their December meeting on Tuesday the 6th at Ant N Bee in Roppongi. At the meeting, a presentation will be given by Will Shelton of Shelton Brothers, one of America's largest specialty beer importers, on the topic of Japanese craft beer in the U.S. - how it is marketed and its image held by Americans.

Shelton imports Baird Beer into the U.S., along with several other brands. Ant N Bee has over 20 taps of Japanese craft beer, and for the meeting it will be all you can drink for two hours, together with dinner, starting at 8:15 pm sharp. The cost is 4,800 yen. Ant N Bee is located at Roppongi 5-1-5, Minato-ku, in the basement below the pub Abbot's Choice. Phone 03-3478-1250, website: http://ameblo.jp/roppongi-beerbar-antnbee/

Please reserve by Friday, December 2nd by e-mailing Tim at tokyobeers "at" yahoo.co.jp. Directions and more information.


Hoppy Christmas Party

Saturday, December 3 from 3 to 5 pm

Park Hotel Tokyo in Shiodome

James Watt, the founder of BrewDog Brewery, will be the special guest at the Hoppy Christmas Party to be held in The Lounge on the 25th floor of the Park Hotel Tokyo in Shiodome Media Tower (1-7-1 Higashi Shimbashi, Minato-ku). Admission is 4,000 yen in advance (5,000 yen on the day) which includes 20 drink tickets, with drinks costing between 1 and 4 tickets. (Additional tickets are 1,000 yen for five.)

BrewDog beers will be on tap, including Mr. Squirrel, I Hardcore You, Punk IPA, and Sorachi Ace IPA. Harviestoun Old Engine Oil will also be on tap. In bottles will be the regular lineups of BrewDog, Mickeller and Harviestoun, along with Black TOKYO Horizon, a joint brew by BrewDog, Mickeller and Nogne O. Plus, more than 50 kinds of whisky will be available.

For details, go to the site of sponsor Whisk-e Japan. Tickets are sold on the site.

Beer Talk

New Directions

After putting out Brews News for over 10 years, I feel it is time to make some changes in the format. I am now considering fewer regular issues, and more "bulletin" type announcements for upcoming events. However, before I make any big changes early next year, I am interested to hear your opinions about Brews News and how you use the information presented.

What features do you look forward to? What information are you most interested in reading about? Do you have any suggestions for new additions to Brews News?

Please take a few moments to let me know what you think. I would certainly like to hear from you. Look forward to the next Brews News in the middle of January next year. Have a happy holiday season.

Best regards,
Bryan Harrell


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