International Beer Summit - International Beer Competition (Osaka, October
A. English Light Ale
Gold: Scottish Ale (Nasu Kogen Beer, Tochigi Pref.)
Silver: India Pale Ale (Iida Beer, Nagano Pref.)
Bronze: India Pale Ale (Tokachi Beer, Hokkaido)
B. English Dark Ale
Gold: Swan Lake Porter (Hyoko Yashiki no Mori, Niigata Pref.)
Silver: Beer Works Porter (Pokka Corporation Beer Works, Aichi Pref.)
Bronze: Stout (Nasu Kogen Beer, Tochigi Pref.)
C. German Ale
Gold: Mori no Akuma (Joshu Mori no Beer, Gunma Pref.)
Silver: Koelsch (Kiizakura Shuzo, Kyoto)
Bronze: Alt (Tsuruga Beer, Shizuoka)
D. German Light Lager
Silver: Budweiser Budvar (Budvar of Czechoslovakia)
Bronze: Labatt's Blue (Labatt's of Canada, imported by Pokka Corporation)
E. German Dark Lager
Gold: Samuel Adams Double Bock (Boston Beer Co. of U.S.A.)
Bronze: Bock (Iida Beer, Nagano Pref.)
Gold: WAOH Hakugin (Yamato Brewery, Nara Pref.)
Bronze: Weizen (Kogane Beer, Shizuoka)
G. American Ale
Gold: Amber Swan Ale (Hyoko Yashiki no Mori Brewery, Niigata Pref.)
Silver: National Trust (Karuizawa Kogen Beer, Ya-ho Brewing, Nagano Pref.)
Bronze: Golden Ale (Pokka Corporation Beer Works, Aichi Pref.)
H. American Lager
I. Fruit Beer
Gold: Hitachino Nest White Ale (Kiuchi Shuzo, Tochigi Pref.)
Silver: Tanzawa no Shizuku Honey Ale (Atsugi Beer, Kanagawa Pref.)
Bronze: Cherry Ale (Pokka Corporation Beer Works, Aichi Pref.)
J. Smoked Beer & Rice Yeast Beer
Gold: Echigo Ginjo Beer (Uehara Shuzo, Niigata Pref.)
Silver: Ezo Beer Noboribetsu Jigokudani Ibushi Bakushu (made by Rogue Ales
K. Belgian & Special Beers
Gold: Wild Forest (Karuizawa Kogen Beer, Ya-ho Brewing, Nagano Pref.)
Silver: Hitachino Nest XH Belgian style ale (Kiuchi Shuzo, Tochigi Pref.)
Bronze: Echigo Belgian White (Uehara Shuzo, Niigata Pref.)
At the International Beer Summit, ordinary people who attended were asked to
rate the beers they had, and here is the results of the survey:
1) Oyama G Beer Weizen
2) Kogane Beer Weizen
3) Yona-yona Ale
4) Corona Extra
4) Hida Takayama Pale Ale
5) Echigo Belgian White
Please note that Brews News endorses neither the methods of categorization
nor the results of the competition in both events.
Brews in the News: How WE rated this season's beers
Revised New Beer Rating System
Starting last issue, I introduced a new way of rating the beers sampled by
me and my varying group of tasters. I kept it simple, with four categories.
After having some particularly unworthy products this time, I've decided to
add a fifth category for beers that are totally extraordinary, and among the
world's very best. Also, we are now indicating beers we've had which
should be avoided. Previously I wrote that if a beer isn't mentioned, it
means it is either not recommended or it hasn't been tried. Clearly this
was a cop-out, and now I've decided to come clean and mention the beers
that I think are best left on the shelves. Please do remember that it is
only a matter of opinion, and that it is not our intent to do whatever
little damage we are capable of to beer producers. Rather, we feel that the
customer has a right to know our opinion on everything that passes through
our lips. -- Bryan Harrell
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.
We recommend that you avoid this product.
NOTE: All bottles and cans are 330-355 ml (normal beer size) unless
And now, to the beer. Here's what we managed to get our hands on through
the summer and up to October 11.
- 1. Fukairi Bakushu Brown Beer from Suntory, limited edition. A beautifully
clear reddish brown lager beer with a fine, complex aroma and a rich,
malty flavor. Number three in the Kodawari Gentei Shuzo series,
this one created by Noboru Itoh, brewmaster at Suntory's Tonegawa Brewery.
With a lingering yet subdued malty aftertaste, this one is for enjoying
slowly and quietly. All malt, 5.5% alcohol. Y240/can.
- 2. Iwatekura Pale Ale. This is a clean, crisp light ale with
a fair dose of Cascade hops in both bittering and aroma. Seems like
the brewer was aiming for a beer like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It's certainly
nice, but definitely not cheap. All malt, 5% alcohol. Y670/bottle at
Tobu Department Store in Ikebukuro.
- 3. Tanchozuru White Crane Bitter Beer, brewed by Rogue Ales
of Newport, Oregon USA and sold in Japan under the Ezo Beer brand as
Hokkaido ji-beer. This is a good, standard pale ale that's available
in Japan, though a bit hard to find in Tokyo. All malt, 5% alcohol.
- 4. Hida-takayama Dark Ale. This was a surprise, and far better
than beers we've had before from this brewery. There were pleasant vanilla
notes in the aroma, a good sweetness that didn't intrude or linger,
and an aftertaste that wasn't at all cloying. A little expensive, but
almost worth it as a refreshing, dark beer. All malt, 5% alcohol. Y780
for a 500ml bottle.
- 1. Koln Kara no Okurimono by Sapporo, limited edition. Slightly fruity
light ale, with fine carbonation and a soft mouthfeel, though not super
smooth. Different from average Japanese beer, and worth trying at least
once. All malt, 5% alcohol. Y225/can.
- 2. Weiss, Kirin Europe Series, limited edition. This pale
yellow, briskly carbonated wheat ale is a credible example of a Bavarian
Weizen, having the signature "clove and banana" phenolic aroma characteristic
of the top-fermenting ale yeast used in the real thing. However, it's
lacking in sufficient body and creaminess which would make it at least
a good example. Still, it's nice to get something from the Big Four
that tastes markedly different from their regular product, and we think
many people might buy this on a regular basis while it's available.
All malt, 5% alcohol. Y225/can.
- 3. Aki Aji from Kirin, limited edition. Said to be made with
30% more malt than ordinary Kirin Beer, so presumably it contains correspondingly
less rice and cornstarch, which is a good thing. Aki Aji tastes like
what Kirin Lager should have tasted like all along. Richer body, good
quality hops evident, more flavor, higher 6% alcohol. Good replacement
for those who normally drink ordinary Japanese beer. Y225/can.
- 4. Koedo Ji-beer No. 1, from Koedo Brewery in Kawagoe, Saitama.
This beer is interesting because Koedo used to produce only happo-shu,
but apparently got a license to make beer. It's also interesting because
at Y250/bottle it's the least expensive Japanese microbrew we've ever
come across. Although it has an aroma similar to mass-produced American
beer, it is more malty and rich, with a fairly clean taste. Nonetheless,
it is not particularly distinguished, but it is way better than Koedo's
previous attempts at craft brew. All malt, 5% alcohol.
- 5. Ginban Pilsener. This is a malty yet clean-tasting pilsener
with some good bitterness. Competent, yet still undistinguished. All
malt, 5% alcohol. Y341/bottle at Odakyu Halc.
- 1. Hama Kirin, spotted by Kim Scheufftan who mentioned it
in our summer issue. [Hey Kim, I finally found a can!] Richer and sweeter
than normal Kirin Lager, which it resembles, but has a more "buttery"
feel as one taster put it. Tastes like a good version of normally bad
U.S. malt liquor. Has 6% alcohol, and is made with malt, rice and cornstarch.
- 2. Bock, Kirin Europe Series, limited edition. This pale gold
version of the heavy German lager known as Bock comes off a little too
faint in the aroma, while the complex malty sweetness of the style is
not sufficiently developed, leaving the beer too dry and a little too
harsh. Too much bittering hops flattens the complexity of the malt,
but this was no doubt done to give the beer the dry finish and lack
of aftertaste preferred by the average Japanese beer drinker. Still,
the 7% alcohol puts it right in Bock territory. Note that the use of
rice and cornstarch would prohibit the sale of this beer in Germany
under the venerable Beer Purity Law. Y225/can.
- 3. Pale Ale, Kirin Europe Series, limited edition. This is
definitely a, uh, pale version of something like Bass Pale Ale, which
itself is a pale, mass-produced version of the great pale ales from
many of England's smaller brewers. It's a very pale amber, and it's
excessively lager-like, no doubt to cater to existing tastes rather
than expose beer drinkers to other flavors in beer. It tastes like a
mixture of one part Bass, two parts Kirin Lager, so the brewers of Bass
won't lose any sleep over this one. In short, Kirin's really got it
all wrong with this beer, and in England it's more likely to be embraced
by lager drinkers than by people who normally drink pale ale, or its
draft version, bitter. Still, it's worth a try once because it might
be a good substitute for your everyday lager. We also had the draft
version, and it's essentially the same beer. Made with malt, rice and
cornstarch; 5% alcohol. Y225/can.
- 4. Brau, from Sapporo. This one was really a surprise. It's
a happo-shu, and it's amazing how much it tastes like a full-on beer,
despite the fact that some of the grain content is not malt. Sapporo
claims that Brau is brewed with organic hops, which are added at three
stages during brewing to give the beer a full hop flavor, from initial
underlying bitterness to aroma. Made with malt, rice, cornstarch and
sugars, but tastes better than that all sounds. While it's not exactly
a great lager, it's easily the best happo-shu we've tasted, and certainly
worth a try. Good for hopheads on a budget, I suppose. Y145/can.
- 5. WAOH Yamabuki Ale from Yamato Brewing of Nara prefecture.
This tastes just a little too caramelish, and has a limp, undistinguished
character. Something should be livelier, perhaps it could use more aroma
hops. All malt, 4.5% alcohol. Y563/bottle at Tobu Department Store in
- 6. Ozeno Yukidoke Brown Weizen from Ryugami Shuzo in Gunma
prefecture. We had trouble deciding why we didn't like this beer. Someone
said "languid" while another taster said "funky." So it has a languid
funkiness that makes it lack focus on flavors. Presumably this is a
dunkelweizen, but there was little weizen character, and it was way
too cloudy besides. All malt, 5% alcohol. Y380/bottle at Keio Department
Store in Shinjuku.
...and the category.
- 1. Sapporo Real Clear, limited edition. Only "pretty clear," it tastes
like Asahi Super Dry but not as smooth. Watery, with hay or straw notes
at the end. Not much different than the average happo-shu, but priced
like normal beer. Made with malt, rice and cornstarch, 5% alcohol. Y225/can.
- 2. Sapporo Gokoku, Japan's first seriously multi-grain brew.
This is one weird happo-shu. While beer can only contain certain specified
ingredients and must have at least 66% malt in the grain bill, happo-shu,
on the other hand, is a completely different animal, and brewers are
allowed to put damn near anything they want in it. For this beer, Sapporo
used malt, rice, two kinds of millet (awa and hie), and soybeans. Sounds
like an early 70s bread recipe for this late 90s beer. It tastes unusual,
grainy, and has a lot of carbonation. We decided not to put this in
the "avoid" category because we feel that Brews News readers
should experience beer made with soybeans (not to mention the twin millets)
at least once. Would this be the Next Logical Step for those who enjoy
edamame with their beer? You'd better hurry, we predict that
by the time you read this the brand may have already been discontinued.
- 1. Buddy's Extra Strong, brewed in the U.S. for Budweiser Japan. This
one shouldn't be around for long. It's a high-alcohol (6%) happo-shu
(low-malt beer-like beverage) and tastes like a poor example of U.S.
malt liquor, which is a poor excuse for beer that is invariably marketed
to the urban poor due to its low price and relatively high alcohol.
We got a dishwater-style head, and very strange lingering sweetness
coupled with a grainy taste. Made with malt and miscellaneous sugars.
Was this designed for Japanese bikers or soccer hooligans? We sure don't
know. Cheap, but still not worth it.