Brews in the News
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The review of each beer is followed by a review of where you can
This medium yellow beer has a dense white head and a very forward
malt aroma with a touch of tartness, backed by a faint whiff of herbal
hops. The carbonation is restrained, with a soft mouthfeel and a sturdy,
well-balanced flavor with a touch more tartness than the average mass-market
lager drinker may be used to, while bitterness may be insufficient
for fans of craft-brewed beer. Nevertheless, there is good herbal
hop flavor in mid-palate, with some bitterness lingering in the finish
for at least a modicum of satisfaction. After all, both England and
Samuel Smith have a history of ale, not lager, yet brewing a beer
with organically grown barley and hops is certainly an admirable pursuit.
Y800 at Frigo in Shinjuku.
This is a larger version of the popular Belgo in Shibuya, and not
surprisingly, is operated by the same company. The interior is dark
and comfortable, with an early 20th century European feel. Beer selection
couldn't be easier, just go to the large refrigerated case, peer through
the glass doors, and then pick out the beer you want. You can check
the freshness date and condition before you pay, making nearly everything
a safe bet. There are over 100 different beers here, mostly Belgian,
but a good selection of German and English beers, too. Best of all,
the cash-on-delivery system without any extra charges keeps things
simple. Wine and cocktails are also available, and there is a modest
food menu with some good selections. From the south exit of Shinjuku
station, it's a short walk down Koshu-kaido. 2-11-20-B1 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku,
This is a lovely reddish bronze ale with a light body, an enticing
malty aroma, strong initial sweetness which quickly fades, followed
by a mellow understated bitterness, leading to a long, full finish.
Although the body is rather thin for this style, it makes it all the
more drinkable. Brewed at Suntory's microbrewery within the large
Musashino brewery. While they have brewing craft beers like these
(not to mention some good mass-produced lagers) for over a decade,
Suntory is still stuck with its old reputation as brewing the worst
tasting beers among Japan's four major brewers. Sad, because Rose
Beer and most other specialty beers from the Musashino microbrewery
are among the very best brewed in Japan. Y580 at the Rose & Crown
in Shinbashi and Yurakucho.
The Rose & Crown
Rose Beer is just one reason to go to this large, nicely appointed
pub with plenty of room. Suntory's other beers are highlighted there,
including a dark version of Malt's on tap which deserves a try for
its great balance of roasty malt and sweetness, followed by a pleasant
finish. In addition, a broad variety of whiskies, cocktails and more
means there is something for everyone. Reduced prices during Happy
Hour, which runs from 5 to 7 pm on weekdays. A block away from the
steam locomotive on the west side of Shinbashi station. Shinbashi
Renga-dori Kaikan 1F, 2-14-3 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo. Open 11
a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Closed Sundays. http://gnavi.joy.ne.jp/gn/jp/g068230s.htm
in Japanese. http://gnavi.joy.ne.jp/gn/En/G068230h.htm
in English. There is also a branch in Yurakucho on the 1st floor of
the Denki Bldg.
A new face on the Tokyo pub scene, Hobgoblin ale in bottles is served
at most of the draft beer pubs oriented toward the foreign community.
Apparently supply from the brewery near Oxford, England cannot meet
demand because it is frequently out of stock. Hobgoblin is gloriously
complex ale, dark brown with a tinge of red, topped by a creamy ivory
head. There is a strong aroma of dried fruits with a touch of floral
hops. The initial taste is soft, creamy and sweet, but the sweetness
soon fades into a spicy, slightly smoky flavor, leading to a subtle
yet extended finish. Now on draft at the new Hobgoblin Pub in Akasaka.
This is the most attractive of the new crop of English and Irish pubs
in Tokyo, with a beautiful multi-level interior served by a remarkably
long bar. A chicken rotisserie is on the right as you enter, with
the sizzling whole herbed chickens symbolizing this pubs upscale food
menu. Wychwood craft beers from England are featured here, but there
is also a number of other great beers, including the crisp and hoppy
Edel Pils from Sapporo. A short walk from either Akasaka or Tameike-Sanno
subway stations. Tamondo Bldg. B1, 2-13-19 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo.
Ezo Soba Beer
Perhaps one of the world's most unusual beers, Soba Beer is brewed
from 55% buckwheat (the main ingredient of Japanese soba noodles)
and 45% barley malt, with a surprisingly low alcohol content of 2.9%.
It is one of the Ezo Beers created by Phred Kauffman. It has a beautiful
golden color, faintly hazy, with a snow-white head. The rich nutty
aroma is followed by a lightly tangy malt flavor which quickly fades
to a clean finish, leaving only the hops behind. The texture is remarkably
creamy for a beer this light, and the dry and crisp flavor is perfect
for summer. 720 yen at Ben's Cafe in Takadanobaba, Tokyo.
This is a great cafe in the European sense, with espresso drinkers
mingling happily with those who enjoy fine beer and wine. It's an
ideal place when you want a good beer, but don't want to go to a "drinking
place." With an American style food menu that includes bagels
and quiche, Ben's Cafe has a charming scene all its own. Customers
range from university students to artists to political activists,
with a few "normal" business men and women to remind you
you're in central Tokyo. The well-chosen beer selection is small but
quite complete, with American craft beers, Belgian ales, and German
beers, all priced much lower than in Tokyo's handful of specialty
beer bars. Poetry, comedy and other events are held regularly. For
details, go to www.benscafe.com.
A short walk from Takadanobaba station at 1-29-21 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku,
COOPER'S SPARKLING ALE
This Australian ale is called "sparkling" because, by British
ale standards, the carbonation is intense. Which means it is about
as fizzy as the average Aussie lager, which is brewed with higher
carbonation because the beer is invariably served at near freezing
temperatures. Cooper's Sparkling is far from the average Aussie lager,
though. It is bottled "live" with active yeast, giving it
a cloudy appearance and a heady, cidery edge. Malt flavors are subdued
and hopping is minimal, making it a refreshing choice in hot weather.
Best served cold, it is an interesting alternative to Champagne. Y800
at Little Euro in Meguro.
Formerly the Black Lion, Little Euro distinguishes itself from other
British/Irish pubs by serving a greater variety of beer and food.
The tap selection is remarkably broad, ranging from Murphy's Stout
to Hoegaarden White, and from Old Speckled Hen to Blackthorn Cider.
Impressive Fish and Chips for Y1,200, along with other reasonably
priced food. Regular pub quizzes and other events attract a fascinating
assortment of regular customers. Both yen and Euro dollars are accepted
here. A short walk from the West Exit of Meguro station. 1-5-16 Meguro,
Meguro-ku, Tokyo. www.littleuro.com
YOKOHAMA HAKURAI BIAZAKE
Premium Lager Beer
(brewed in U.S.A.)
Though this "Yokohama" beer is actually brewed in the U.S.A.,
the attractive bottle makes it look like a typical Japanese microbeer,
with the added touch of a cap label bearing the freshness date. Dark
yellow with a short-lived white head. High clarity indicates strong
filtering. Rich and spicy malt aroma, with strong yet blunt hop tones.
Full-bodied for a lager, with a strong malt flavor that lacks complexity.
Heavy tang lingers long as hop bitterness emerges. Hops lack crispness
and definition. Overall effect is like a heavier Yebisu, and seems
to have been brewed for the Japanese market. Remarkably cheap: Y207
at Union Supermarket in Yokohama.
Large, American-style supermarket originally intended to serve the
many Westerners who previously lived in great numbers on Yokohama's
bluff. Seems quieter and dimmer these days, though the small but interesting
beer selection seems to have kept up with the times. Very interesting
beers at low prices are occasionally found here. Along with the Yokohama
Hakurai Biazake lager, recent sightings have included discounted Hakkeijima
beer (brewed in Yokohama) and several Belgian ales. 4-166 Motomachi,
Nasu Kohgen Scottish Ale
A perfect beer for the season, this ale has a stunning deep red-brown
color with a smooth ivory colored head. The slightly tart aroma is
redolent of dried fruit with hints of smoke. The flavor is similar,
with touches of wood and sherry, resulting in a rich, complex flavor,
yet the body is surprisingly light. Overall there is a clean smoothness
without any cloying sweetness, leading to a faintly lingering finish
with fruitcake flavors, with a small amount of bitterness for balance.
One of the finest Japanese craft beers I have ever tasted, and excellent
in every respect by world standards. Y580 at Nasu Kohgen Brewery in
Nasu Kohgen Brewery Restaurant
Located in a beautiful mixed forest just minutes from the Nasu exit
on the Tohoku Expressway, this must be one of the most tasteful and
appealing brewpubs in Japan, if not the world. Floor to ceiling glass
affords a fine view of the rich greenery, while generous use of highly
polished wood makes it both comfortable and stylish. The brew house
is in full view from most of the seating area. Several styles of beer
are available on tap, ranging from a light Pilsener to a rich, award-winning
stout. The food is mostly Western style with some Japanese touches,
and flavor and service are beyond what you can expect for the price.
A good lunch with beer will run about 2,000 yen per person. Open daily
except Monday and the 2nd Tuesday of each month. Hours vary by season.
3986 O-aza Takukoh, Nasu-cho, Nasu-gun, Tochigi-ken. URL: http://www.nasukohgenbeer.co.jp/
Brews News copyright (c) Bryan Harrell and contributors.