Brews News Issue 21 - May 2001
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Real ale, craft beer, microbrew - no matter what it's called, everyone identifies it by the richer flavor, better ingredients and more distinct character than ordinary mass-produced beer. Brews News brings you information on good beer, and where to drink it. Occasionally, there are articles of interest to the home brewer.

Welcome to the first Brews News in quite a while. It's a lot of work to put this together. Should I continue? Help me decide. I would appreciate your comments and suggestions on Brews News, so please send e-mail to harrell @ gol.com I would really like to know...

How often would you like to read Brews News?
What should be covered more?
What needs to be covered less?
Are you interested in home brewing?

I would like to get a good idea of what the readers want to know when it comes to beer.

Thanks for reading,
Bryan Harrell

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Japan Beer Festival 2001
Saturday, May 12 / 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 13 / 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Garden Hall, Yebisu Garden Place
5 minutes from Ebisu Station on the JR and Subway lines

3, 500 yen (3,200 yen in advance at Family Mart and Lawson convenience stores, Ticket Pia and some beer specialty pubs)


This is the year's biggest craft beer festival in Tokyo, and not to be missed by anyone interested in Japanese craft beer. In previous years the festival was held in a drab office building in Otemachi, but this year the venue has been changed to the bright, upmarket Yebisu Garden Place.

The deal is pretty good, too. All of the craft beer you can drink, albeit in 50 ml servings, for 3,500 yen. While the seven hours on Sunday may seem more appealing than the four hours on Saturday, it is good to keep in mind that Saturday may be a better day to attend for a number of reasons: 1) the better-tasting beers are likely to run out on Saturday anyway, 2) it will be less crowded because most people will want to go on Sunday due to the longer hours, 3) four straight hours of beer drinking should be enough for anyone, and 4) it is better to recuperate on Sunday than on Monday.


For more information, go to the sponsor's website at www.beertaster.org or phone the Japan Craft Beer Association at 0797-23-6701.

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Specials on US Microbrew from the Importers

North Coast Ales

Red Seal Ale and Scrimshaw Pilsener from North Coast Brewing (Mendocino County, CA USA) are now available at a special low price directly from the importer, Tengu Foods, in cases of 24 only. The price (including shipping) for one case is 6,500 yen (270 per bottle), but if you order two or more cases they are only 5,900 yen each. (Y246 per bottle). The Scrimshaw is actually a very light cream ale with a slightly fruity malt flavor with a clean finish. My favorite is the Red Seal, which is a very hoppy light amber ale with a big flavor and a sharp finish thanks to lots of Cascade hops. To place an order, contact Tengu Foods.

Mention that you read about it in Brews News!

Phone: 0429-82-4811
Fax: 0429-82-4813
www.tengufoods.com


Ezo Beer (brewed by Rogue Ales)

Importer Phred Kaufman has a number of ales available at very low prices because of the best-by dates on the labels. The beers are actually good for several more months beyond what is indicated, particularly the strong, hoppy ones.

Super Discount Ales

3780 yen per case (tax included) = 150 yen per bottle (normally Y370 )

1. Phred's Phucken Bitter - an intensely hopped heavy ale (Last chance to get this collectors item.) Best by April, good until fall.
2. White Crane Bitter - a light, golden ale. Best by April, good until fall.
3. Red Fox -- a hoppy amber ale. Best by April, good until fall.
4. Birra Roma Oregano Beer -- a golden ale made with hops and oregano. Perhaps the most "different" beer available in Japan. Best by June, but hops and oregano are both preservatives so this stuff may be bullet proof.


Discount Ales

6,300 yen per case (tax included) = 263 yen per bottle (normally Y370)

1. White Crane Bitter - a light, golden ale. Best by July, good until Winter
2. Red Fox - a hoppy amber ale. Best by July, good until Winter
3. Brown Bear - a rich, smooth oatmeal stout. Best by July, good until Winter


Special Introductory Price

Discount Ales

6,300 yen per case (tax included) = 263 yen per bottle (normally Y330)

1. Dead Guy Ale good until next spring
2. Oregon Golden Ale good until next spring
3. Mocha Porter good until next spring
4. Younger's Special Bitter good until next spring
5. Shakespeare Stout good until next spring


Delivery charge is 1,000 yen per two cases
All other Ezo and Rogue beers can be ordered for a 10% discount for Brews News readers. Interested?

1) Place your order by e-mail (beer@voicenet.co.jp) or fax (011-614-0191)

2) Send payment by bank transfer to:
Hokkaido Ginko Tsukisamu-Shiten Futsu 0781130
Yugengaisha Yamaka Kobayashi Shoten

You may also send the money via the post office to:
Yugengaisha Yamaka Kobayashi Shoten
Nishioka 4-jo, 1-chome 13-5
Toyohira-ku, Sapporo 062-0034
Phone 011-851-6828


When the payment is received, your beer will be shipped. Offer good while supplies last.


True Blue Now Available Around Tokyo

True Blue Lager is made by John Schultz at his microbrewery in Miniami Aizu, Fukushima Prefecture, using top quality German malts and some of the purest water available in Japan. It is now available at many locations around Tokyo. Here are a few:

M's Beer in Suitengu (03-5649-2577), near Suitengu-mae station on the Hanzomon Line at 2-5-6 Nihonbashi Kakigara-cho. This may be one of the most inexpensive craft beer bars in Tokyo.

Hobgobin Pub in Akasaka (03-3585-3681), near Akasaka Station on the Chiyoda line and Tameike-Sanno station on the Nanboku and Ginza lines. B1 Tamondo Bldg. 2-13-19 Akasaka. This pub also serves the fabulous Wychwood Ales from England.

The Town Cryer in Otemachi (03- 5204-2201), in a slightly hard-to-find location on the sixth floor of the new Tokyo Sankei Bldg., pretty much above the Marunouchi line's Otemachi station. Worth the search, though, for a fairly consistent crowd, a wide selection of beers, and great food. 1-7-2 Otemachi

What The Dickens in Ebisu (03-3780-2099) is very well known, with live music most nights (no cover, but they make it up at the bar with slightly higher prices) and good solid food at surprisingly reasonable prices. Roob Bldg. 4F Ebisu-Nishi 1-13-3

You can also order True Blue beers directly from the brewery. John's Maple Stout (if he has any left by the time you read this) is a real work of thebrewer's art -- rich, complex, slightly smoky and quite astonishing. Contact: John Schultz, Minami Aizu Brewing Company

jschultz@johnnylager.com
www.johnnylager.com
0241-83-1363


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What's happening at Yamaya?

The discount wine shop chain Yamaya has had more than a few beer suprises these days, most of them from Belgium. From last fall they have been stocking several Jenlain beers from France at only 198 yen per bottle. Then, in early January, at the Yamaya Shinjuku store I spotted three varieties of one of my favorite Belgian brands, Bush (known as Scaldis in the U.S. to avoid getting stomped by Anheuser-Busch), on the shelves, also at 198 yen a bottle. Bush is hard enough to find at regular price (380 yen or so), but when I spotted the nearly impossible-to-find Bush Noel holiday beer (a rich 12% alcohol ale with intense, complex flavor), I immediately cleaned the shelf and lugged it all home by bicycle, thinking that would be the end to their stock. I returned a few weeks later to find the supplies replenished, with Bush Noel joined by Bush Blonde (10.5%) and Bush 7% (it's their LIGHT beer, really!). Recently, they have also been offerin four varieties of Grisette ales from Belgium. The price? 198 yen, of course. While I normally patronize the Shinjuku Yamaya, I have seen a good beer selection at the Akasaka store, though the selection at the small Shibuya store has none of the "good stuff." Check it out.

Yamaya Shinjuku (03-3342-0601) 3-2-7 Nishi Shinjuku, on the right side of Koshu-kaido as you head away from the south exit of Shinjuku station.

Yamaya Akasaka (03-3583-5657) Akasaka 2-14-33, practically above Akasaka station on the Chiyoda line, and very close to TBS.

Yamaya has a website with nationwide store information. www.yamaya.co.jp

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What's going on at Suntory?

The Suntory Malt's Super Premium now in heavy TV advertising rotation has, so far, been the surprise of the year. Since you can buy it practically anywhere, and it only costs a bit more than regular beer, but is easily twice as good, I just have to let you know. From a brewer not particularly known for the flavor of its products, Malt's Super Premium is certainly the Rodney Dangerfield of Japanese beers. Give it a try and see if you can't help but give it a little respect!

This is an all-malt lager, 5.5% alcohol, said to be made with natural spring water. It is medium-light yellow with a dense white head. Before you sip, notice the beautiful floral hop aroma with a subdued malt back-up. The delicate malt flavor entices you on first sip, and as it sits on the tongue the flavor cranks up, then gently tapers off in a long, lingering finish that retains good malt-hop balance all the way to the end. Most beers finish on either a hop note or a malt note, but Malt's Super Premium stays balanced. I was impressed!

Of course, I want to know what you think! If you try this beer, send me a short note of your impressions to harrell @ gol.com

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Brews in the News

These reviews have been sponsored by Nokia Japan for use on their i-mode portal. You can check the site out from your regular Internet browser at http://202.221.249.3/lifestyle/tfp/e/brews/e-index.html.

While you're there, you can check out the i-mode versions of Tokyo Food Page (full version at www.bento.com) and Tokyo Q magazine (full version at www.tokyoq.com). Better yet, you can get an i-mode phone and have the information with you all the time.

The review of each beer is followed by a review of where you can get it.


Duvel
This is a strong blonde Belgian ale that is right at home in a small French bistro. It looks like ordinary lager beer, but has about 9% alcohol, so slip slowly and carefully. It has a dry, fruity aroma with some herbal hop highlights, with a strong malty flavor with a sweetness that quickly fades into a long, dry finish. Not as complex or unusual as other Belgian ales, so it is easy to match with food. Ideal as an alternative to wine with a slow Sunday brunch.


Bistro La Verdure
Yoyogi Uehara
03-5465-0719
Bright and cheerful little French cafe with Hoegaarden White on tap, and a handful of well selected Belgian Ales such as Duvel, Maredsous and Orval at average prices. They seem to close about 10 p.m., but if you're out early in the area, it's certainly worth a visit. Just up the hill from the bookstore under the tracks at one end of Yoyogi Uehara station. 1-36-14 Uehara, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.


Ruddles Wheat Ale
This is a "light beer" version of a good English ale, made with some wheat malt for a lighter, spicier taste. It is ideal for summer, and one of the few English beers that should be well chilled. It is golden yellow, and a strong, brisk wheat malt aroma. It has a light body with a fruity tang, with prickly spicy notes that refresh. Low carbonation and a smooth texture, leading to a clean, crisp finish. 5.3% alcohol, the same as popular Japanesebeer. The summer beer for real ale fans.


The Warrior Celt
Ueno
03-3836-8588
This is a friendly U.K. style pub that draws a good mixture of Japanese and westerners, with live music on most nights. Owner Andy Stark also imports a wide range of English ales and ciders, and has perhaps the best selection in Tokyo. For summer, the Ruddles Wheat Ale is recommended, although real ale fans may opt for the Wychwood Corn Circle. Most of the other ales, like Old Speckled Hen, are heavier. Broad range of pub food, including curry, which really makes it English. Open daily, usually until late, but call first. A block east from the JR tracks between Ueno and Okachimachi stations. 6-9-22 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo.


Liberty Ale
From Anchor Brewing of San Francisco, and not as famous as their legendary Anchor Steam, this gorgeous amber bronze ale is similar to an India Pale Ale, but a bit darker. Rich in flavor, but is not at all heavy. Luscious creamy tan head with aromas of juicy malt and the sharp citrus and pine aromas of Cascade hops. Rich malty taste with a rather dry finish, and a long, lingering hop bitterness. Liberty Ale is unusual because it tastes good in a wide range of temperatures, so chill as desired.


Tobu Dept. Store
Ikebukuro
03-3981-2211
The liquor department here has one of the most complete and well-managed beer selections in Japan. About 200 beers from 34 countries are all kept in refrigerated cases and displayed well. Liberty Ale and all other Anchor Brewing Co. beers are in stock, along with an impressive selection of Belgian ales, German lagers and Japanese microbrews. The beer section is in the basement of the store, which adjoins the west exit of Ikebukuro station on the JR and subway lines. 1-1-25 Nishi Ikebukuro Toshima-ku, Tokyo.


Hoegaarden White
Classic Belgian white ale made with malt and plain wheat, giving it a cloudy appearance. Flavored with hops, coriander seeds, bitter orange peel and other spices for a gorgeous floral bouquet that is nicely backed by restrained malt sweetness. Very creamy texture and minimal bitterness make it an ideal refresher for hot summer nights. Clean finish for such a sweet and fragrant brew. This is the most sensuous beer on tap in Tokyo, and is served in many places. For an expert pour, try Frigo in Shinjuku.


Frigo
Shinjuku
03-5371-0666
A larger offshoot of the popular Belgo (03-3409-4442) in Shibuya, Frigo allows you to select your beer from large refrigerated cases and check it out before you take it to the counter and pay. Over 100 varieties of beer, mostly Belgian, but also a good selection of German lagers, British ales and U.S. microbrews. Good selection of pub food and snacks. Closed the 2nd Sunday of each month. A short walk from the south exit of Shinjuku station. 2-11-20-B1 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. www.flex-inter.co.jp/beer


WAOH Weizen
One of the best Japanese microbrew examples of the classic German weizen, a wheat ale made with a special yeast that imparts distinct aromas often likened to cloves and bananas. Brewed with malted wheat (for lightness) and malted barley, and minimally hopped for low bitterness, this beer is light yet extremely flavorful and invigorating. The intermingling of sweetness and spice, and a rich lingering finish add up to a distinctive beer experience. Great for summer. On tap at Popeye Bakushu Club in Ryogoku.


Popeye Bakushu Club

Ryogoku
03-3633-2120
This is the best place in the world for Japanese microbrew. Over 25 choices from all over Japan, with more being added all the time. US and Belgian microbrew, too. Sampler beer tasting sets available. Spacious and friendly, Popeye has a full menu of interesting food items as well. Be sure to try the pickled hop shoots, and the house specialty "snake potato" -- long continuous potato chip strings. Also a great selection of microbrewed sake. 2-18-7 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku. Closed Sundays.
www.lares.dti.ne.jp/~ppy


Lindemans Pecheresse
Technically a beer, but most will think it's sparkling wine. This is a Belgian fruit lambic made with peaches, and it is easily the most sensuous beer in the world, despite the low 2.5% alcohol content. Intense aroma of fresh peaches, tempered with tart lambic (natural fermentation) flavor. Women usually love this beer. Made with barley and wheat for a light, spicy flavor. Peaches give it a long, tapering finish. Low alcohol makes it ideal for a lazy summer afternoon. Other great Lindeman fruit beers include Kreik (cherry), Cassis (black currant), and Framboise (raspberry).


Belgo
Shibuya
03-3409-4442
Belgo is a semi-basement bar with intimate seating nooks on several levels. What's great here is that you choose your beer from large refrigerated cases, allowing you to check the freshness date and inspect the bottle before you pay for it. Mostly Belgian varieties here, and nearly every beer is served with its own distinctive glass. Broad range of pub food, from mussels steamed in beer to Vietnamese spring rolls. Try the frites, Belgian style fried potatoes. On Meiji-dori, across from the large Shibuya police station. 3-18-7-B1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.
www.flex-inter.co.jp/beer


Kirin Heartland
All four of Japan's major brewers offer a premium beer, with Yebisu by Sapporo the most famous. These premium beers are often quite good. Interestingly, Kirin has three: Brau Meister (draft only), Beer Shokunin, and Heartland. Unfortunately, Kirin does little promotion for Heartland. Packaged in an attractive green 500 ml bottle with molded logo, Heartland is Kirin's oldest 100% malt beer. Deep yellow with a balanced aroma of pale malt and floral hops, it is rich yet quenching, with a satisfying richness that recalls the Kirin Lager of 25 years ago. Slightly more expensive than Kirin's other beer, it is worth picking up as a great summer refresher.


Escalera
Yoyogi Koen
03-3485-1915
On a narrow alley a block from Yoyogi Koen subway station, Escalera is a very charming and intimate little dining bar that looks more expensive than it really is. A cozy wood interior divided into a two areas - a broad bar, and table seating, it feels like a mountain farmhouse somewhere in Europe. The food, however, is pan-Asian with Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese influences. The beer selection is noteworthy: Yebisu, Kirin Brau Meister, and Kirin Heartland, all premium Japanese beers. This makes sense not only because they go well with the spicy and aromatic Asian-style food, but also because the beer is invariably very fresh. 1-52-6 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku. Open 6 pm to midnight. Closed Sat., Sun. and holidays.


Shonan Weiss Beer
This is one of the better examples of a Weizen (German wheat ale) from a Japanese microbrewery. Cloudy pale amber color, with a coarse ivory head, it has a strong fruity aroma with the typical clove and banana aromas of this style. The flavor is richer and fruitier, and the body heavier than most Weizen beers, while carbonation is also somewhat stronger. There is a forward malty flavor, followed by a lingering malty aftertaste, with very little bitterness. Not quite as refreshing as the normal lighter Weizen beers, it is still richer and more refreshing. 500 yen per bottle at Sagamiya Saka-ten.


Sagamiya Saka-ten
Kamakura
0467-22-1613
This small liquor store on Kamakura's famous "komachi-dori" shopping street carries the full line of Shonan Beer. Brewed at Kumazawa Shuzo in nearby Chigasaki, it is one of the best microbrew brands in Japan. Unfortunately, like other better Japanese microbrews, Shonan Beer is not cheap. But at 500 yen per bottle, it is not like risking many times more money on a bottle of wine. In addition to the Weizen reviewed, other types now available include a decent Pilsener and an interesting dark ale called Riibe. This shop is also noted for its good selection of Japanese microbrewed sake. About a 3-minute walk from Kamakura station at 2-2-19 Komachi, Kamakura City.


Poretti Bock
While the autumn beers from Japanese brewers offer a heavier body and more flavor, the best heavy lagers are German Bocks. But this Bock from Italy is in the same class, but costs only 150 yen while supplies last. Italy is not known for its beer, but there has long been a beer tradition in the north. The Poretti Brewery dates back to 1877, and produces mostly German styles. This Chiara (pale) Bock is a bright medium yellow, with a dense white head. The rich fruity aroma is spiked with alcohol, no surprise for a 6.5% brew. Rich fruity tones carry over into the heavy malty body, backed by a nice herbal bitterness from the hops.


Kawachiya
Shibuya
03-3462-6604
There is always an interesting collection of good quality beer at this discount liquor store in the heart of Shibuya, which offers some of the lowest prices in town. Frequent close-outs on perfectly good beer make it worthwhile to visit often. Now on the shelves is the Poretti Bock at only Y150, less than half of what it should cost. The beer is freshness dated to 00/12/30, and a recent tasting gave it a thumbs up. Kawachiya is near the robot-head police box on the street that runs between Seibu and Tokyu Hands in Shibuya. 30 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Hurry, the Poretti Bock will likely sell out soon.


Pilsen Callao (Peru)
The Callao brewery dates back to 1863, so this Pilsner is no trendy newcomer. This American-style pale lager is crisp and light, with the pervasive but faint tartness which indicates of a high percentage of corn, which interestingly is native to Peru. The tartness lingers, backed by a blunt, undefined bitterness of a higher degree than normally experienced in Budweiser or other beers in this style. The bottle I had was surprisingly fresh, which is unusual when ordering an exotic beer in a bar which carries over 100 of them. 800 yen at Billy Barew's in Shinjuku.


Billy Barew's Beer Bar

Shinjuku
03-3358-0781
The newest in a growing chain of independently managed beer specialty bars. This one is perhaps the most conveniently located, just out the south exit of Shinjuku station at the corner of Meiji-dori and Koshu-kaido. There are more beers here than anyone can count, and something for everyone. Good values to be found in Belgian ales. But with such a huge stock it is best to check the freshness date before the bottle is opened. The Chili Beans and Nan is a good combination, though the portion is truly miniature. There is also a mysterious 300 yen table charge for a bar seat, without the usual small dish of snack food. Moto Bldg. B1, 3-32-2 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo.


Bergen brau
(South Korea)
This beer has a German name, yet comes in a silver can with black, gold and red printing which suggests a Japanese "dry" beer. But it's actually a "happoshu" (low-malt beer) brewed in South Korea. Why would anyone want it? Simple, it costs only Y98. How does it taste? Not any worse than beer that's twice as expensive. Much like popular American lager, it is pale yellow with a grainy, grassy aroma and a sharp, immediately quenching taste with a bit of tartness. The flavor quickly disappears for a sharp, cutting finish. Not much to this beer, but there were no off-flavors or weird tastes. Sold a most Daiei stores.


Daiei Stores
Everywhere in Japan
Discount retailer Daiei originally introduced the Bergen brau brand of beer in the early 1990s as part of its discount sales strategy. In Japanese, the name almost sounds like "bargain brau" and that's exactly what it is. It was originally brewed in Belgium as an authentic beer, and sold for about 130 yen. This new lower priced version is brewed in South Korea, and is somewhat downmarket in terms of flavor, but still represents an excellent value for people who would normally buy Super Hops or even Budweiser.

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Brews News copyright (c) Bryan Harrell and contributors.

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