Another Craft Beer Event!
The 4th Japan National Craft Beer Party
80 beers from 42 breweries throughout Japan, from Hokkaido to Okinawa
Sponsored by the Japan Brewers Association, a national organization
of small breweries.
Tuesday, June 5th
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Admission: 5,000 yen
Josui Kaikan, Star Hall
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (3261-1101)
I went to last year's event, and it was really a lot of fun, despite
a number of things working against it. First of all, it is on a weeknight,
and only lasts for two hours. Second, it is in a banquet room with
an atmosphere more conducive to a company party or press announcement.
Third, the food was strictly government-issue banquet food; not bad,
but very, very ordinary, though there was enough for everyone.
Still, there were huge buckets of beer out for the taking - grab
a bottle that looks good, then grab another. Most of the brewers of
the beer were present, giving you the chance to talk shop with someone
brewing in a microbrewery out in the countryside. What I liked best
was the friendly camaraderie and the general lack of "rules"
that seemed to dampen the Great Japan Beer Festival in May.
This year, some 42 breweries are participating, and over 80 types
of beer will be out in the buckets at various times. Last year, a
couple of breweries brought kegs of special beer, which turned out
to be a treat, and were quickly drained.
I cannot say that everyone will find it worth the 5,000 yen admission,
but if you are curious about the Japanese microbrew scene, are gung-ho
about getting your share of brew in two hours, and willing to take
the chance on this once-a-year event, I am sure you'll find it worthwhile.
If you go, be on the lookout for the Hakodate Beer Stout, the Atsugi
Shiso Ale (for its novelty value, more than anything), the Hakkaisan
beers (made by a leading craft sake brewer), the Fujisakura Rauchbier
(an incredibly delicious lager made with smoked malt), the Hamanako
Red Ale, the Komi Stout (finally, something great from Nagoya), and
the Satsuma Weizen (one of the best in Japan). These are ones that
I know are good, but many on the roster I have yet to try.
Details of the event (in Japanese) are on the JBA
Event Report - Great Japan Beer Festival 2001 May 12-13 in Ebisu
Though the microbrew industry in Japan continues to take a pounding
from a regulation-obsessed government and a public that is still reeling
from the first few years of largely poor-quality beer, the Japan Craft
Beer Association plunges on in its efforts to popularize good brew.
This year, they decided to hold their annual Tokyo beer festival in
May instead of July, and found brighter, more attractive quarters
at the Ebisu Garden Hall in Tokyo.
Held on the May 12 - 13 weekend, the event drew nearly 5,000 visitors,
who each paid 3,500 yen (about $30) for a theoretically unlimited
number of two-ounce tastings. Everyone seemed to spend more time in
line rather than drinking beer as the serving stations were overwhelmed
by an unexpectedly high turnout. The only food available were small
plates of boiled sausages, with many waiting in line over an hour
to get them.
Another drawback was poor signage, with signs at each station posted
below table level, where the were obscured by the throngs of thirsty
people holding out empty glasses. The upside of this was that it encouraged
visitors to check out every single station to make sure they didn't
miss anything interesting.
Despite the problems, there were a number of great brews being served.
The Swan Lake Amber Ale from Niigata was surprisingly full flavored
and fruity, yet had a light body and a crisp, hoppy finish. The Yona
Yona Ale from Nagano is a well-balanced West Coast-style Pale Ale
featuring a tangy finish marked by a good dose of Cascade hops. The
Nest XH from Hitachino is a high-gravity dark ale with a rich, bewitching
complexity. Perhaps the most interesting and well-crafted is the Fujisakura
Kogen Rauchbier, a smoked lager from the foot of Mt. Fuji made from
malt smoked with cherry wood.
One thing that was done right at the festival was the inclusion of
the glass-washing station, equipped with three large industrial glass
washers courtesy of Winterhalter of Germany. Dirty festival glasses
were cheerfully exchanged for sparkling clean ones, right on the spot.
Sometimes you just want a really clean finish.
German and Belgian Beers at Tanne in Yoyogi
This cheerful, well-managed place is a great find, and is only about a minute
from Yoyogi Station on the JR and Oedo Subway lines. They have Lowenbrau,
Holsten, Hoegaarden White and Bass Pale Ale on tap, and you can get
a tasting set with a small tumbler of each for 1,000 yen. That's a
nice way to start the evening.
But it gets better, with nearly 30 other beers, mostly good Belgian
and German beers, all priced lower (by a few hundred yen, it seems)
than other popular Belgian beer places. The Boon Oude Geuze I had
was only 850 yen! Plus, there's plenty of mid-range wine at very good
The food menu is predominantly German, with pasta, pizza and even
fish and chips as well. The German Potatoes were exceptional, and
only 500 yen. And, they are open for lunch on weekdays. Get there
early to get a seat, and to not be disappointed by the 11 p.m. closing
I'll be back.
Rogue Mocha Porter Now on Tap at Roti in Roppongi
This is a deep reddish brown ale, with a thick creamy head. On the
first sip, the smooth mouthfeel is most striking, since the beer has
a much lighter body than its color and head seem to indicate. There
is a good interplay of deep roasted malt flavors and hop bitterness.
The finish is remarkably dry, with lingering bitterness. This beer
is served along with St. Rogue Red (a hoppy amber ale) and the light
and spicy Buckwheat Ale. Sampler sets are available for those who
want to have a taste of all three.
These beers are made by Rogue Ales of Newport, Oregon and are available
on draft only at Roti, which specializes in perfectly prepared rotisserie
chicken and other California-style specialties. While it is a great
place for a meal, customers are always welcome to have a beer and
a snack at the bar.
Roti - Modern American Brasserie
Piramide Bldg. 1F