Brews News Issue 23 - August 2001
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Greetings from San Francisco. I'm here until the end of August, but here's a little brews news to help freshen up your summer.

Bryan Harrell


A Tasting of Redhook Beers

Sunday, August 5th 5-7pm
The Pink Cow in Harajuku
All you can drink with light buffet: 3,500 yen!

Enjoy the tastes of one of the Pacific Northwest's most famous lines of craft beer in a tasting led by the importer himself, Jeff from Orca International. (Orca also imports some very tremendous wines, too.) Tucked away in the back streets of Harajuku, The Pink Cow is a great place you have to visit to believe you'll think you've stepped out of Japan for a moment. Jeff is a great guy with some great beers, The Pink Cow is a wonderful place, and this event is highly recommended. And so are reservations: phone 03-5411-6777 to make yours.

The Pink Cow
1-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
03-5411-6777.
For a map (which you will probably need), go to http://www.bento.com/pinkcow.html

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The Fickle Quaffers Society

Last month, John Schultz of Minami Aizu Brewery gave me two bottles of experimental beer as a way of introducing his interesting new sideline, the Fickle Quaffers Society. Both were Buckwheat Brown Ale, brewed in pretty much the same way, but with slightly different recipes.

BWB #1 was a fiery orange amber color, with faint haze and a thin, short-lived head. There was a faint malty aroma with spicy and grain-like highlights, giving off hints of figs and raisins. Upon tasting, there is a smooth and soft mouthfeel, with minimal carbonation. There is some restrained sweetness, followed by a strong tang, leading to a dry finish with lingering hop bitterness.

BWB #2 was also a fiery orange amber color, with faint haze and a thin, short-lived head. There was the faint malty aroma, but with hints of tartness. Upon tasting, this one exhibited a heavier mouthfeel, but carbonation was also minimal. However, as the flavors developed, this one was more complex, with a distinctive tangy malt flavor with a slightly funky sweetness reminiscent of aged sherry. There was a long and tangy malt finish with little spikes of tartness. Since this beer was sweeter, the hop bitterness at the end was less apparent.

For a yearly fee of 40,000 yen, you can join the Fickle Quaffers society and enjoy rare and interesting beers like these, along with Minami Aizu Beer's regular and other seasonal offerings, all in larger 500 ml bottles delivered to your home at what amounts to 555 yen per bottle. It's a good way to keep in touch with what's happening at Japan's only American-owned microbrewery.

For more details, log on to www.johnnylager.com and click on the Fickle Quaffers Society at the bottom of the page.


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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.

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


Samuel Smith's
Organic Lager
(England)

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.

Frigo
Shinjuku, Tokyo
03-5371-0666

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, Tokyo.


Rose Beer
(Japan)

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
Victorian Pub
Shinbashi, Tokyo
03-3597-0045

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.


Hobgoblin Ale
(England)

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.

Hobgoblin Pub
Akasaka, Tokyo
03-3585-3681
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
Oregon, USA

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.

Ben's Cafe
Takadanobaba, Tokyo
03-3202-2445
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, Tokyo.


COOPER'S SPARKLING ALE
Australia

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.

LITTLE EURO
Meguro
03-3491-2312

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.

UNION SUPERMARKET
Motomachi, Yokohama
045-641-8551
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, Naka-ku, Yokohama.


Nasu Kohgen Scottish Ale
(Tochigi, Japan)

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 Tochigi Prefecture.

Nasu Kohgen Brewery Restaurant
Tochigi Prefecture
0287-62-8958

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/ (Japanese only)

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Brews News copyright (c) Bryan Harrell and contributors.

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