Great Japan Beer Festival 2002
May 18 - 19 Weekend at Yebisu Garden Place in Tokyo
Over 80 Japanese microbrews served in an all-you-can-drink festival format. Last year's event had some serious drawbacks, mainly the one-hour line for a few sausages and signs mounted below the serving tables which couldn't be seen when people were lined up in front of them, making it hard to know which beer you were standing in line for.
Nonetheless, it is a fun way to meet a lot of other craft beer fans, and the price is not too unreasonable at 3,200 yen in advance and 3,500 yen at the door. Recommended breweries participating include Swan Lake Beer (Niigata), Hitachino Nest Beer (Ibaraki), Umenishiki
Whether to go or not is not an easy decision, and if you decide to go (as I have) then it's hard to decide whether to go on Saturday or Sunday. My choice is the Saturday, when the event runs from 14:30 to 19:00, because there is a chance that many of the good beers will be consumed on the first day.
Saturday May 18, 14:00 to 19:00
Sunday May 19, 11:00 to 17:30
(Last call 30 minutes before closing)
Garden Hall at Yebisu Garden Place
Phone 03-5424-1201 on the days of the event only.
Entry Ticket: 3,500 yen
Advance Ticket: 3,200 yen, available from Ticket PIA (03-5237-9999), Family-Mart(P code 683596) and LAWSON (L code 32189)
For more information in English, contact Mr. Oda of the Japan Craft Beer Association at 0797-31-3357 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Imagine strolling into a neighborhood brewpub with six or seven beers on tap, all cask conditioned. The interior is a warm, wood-finished affair with heavy stumps for stools. All the beers are smooth, well-balanced and superb tasting. Sound like some cozy spot in Portland or Seattle? Quite likely, though in this case you're in Japan and you've been lucky enough to find the Fishmarket Taproom in Numazu, about two hours from Tokyo.
The brewer is Bryan Baird, and chief cook is his wife Sayuri. Since it's a small operation with out large corporate interference, absolutely nothing has been dumbed down. They're in charge, and it's obvious in every aspect of the operation.
Here's a rundown of the beers I had on a recent visit
Bay Steam - Gorgeous, faintly hazy bewitching red color, thick ivory head, spicy rye-like malt flavor (but no rye!), low hopping initially, but stronger hops in the finish.
Teikoku IPA - Faintly hazy fire bronze, thick ivory head, good quality hops dominating the aroma, delightfully restrained carbonation (a trait of all Baird Beers), strong juicy malt in front, nice little blast of hops afterwards that tapers nicely through a long, dry finish. A superbly flavored session beer.
Rising Sun Wheat Pale Ale - Hazy deep yellow with hops predominating in the aroma, light yet spicy and complex with rich flavors and minimal sweetness. Good lingering bitterness.
Bureiko Original Belgian Style Ale - Hazy dusky amber, awesome thick ivory dense head like whipped cream. Strong citrus aroma. Clean taste, somewhat light body, refreshing, with some dried fruit flavors leading to a quick dry finish.
And..as if you would want any other beers, the Taproom carries "guest beers" in bottles, including several brews from Anchor Steam of San Francisco, Samuel Smith Ales from Yorkshire UK, and a number of great Belgian ales such as Orval, Westmalle and Boon Kreik. You just can't go wrong here, beer-wise, and prices are several hundred yen lower than what places in central Tokyo charge.
The Fishmarket Taproom is no smoking, but there is a little porch type balcony where smokers can go out and get their fix. This is a nice, considerate touch typical of the care that has gone into the layout of this place.
While I didn't have any food from the regular menu when I went, I certainly hope to return to try the house-made pickles (Y500), bruschetta (Y500), tortilla pizza (Y500), super hot chorizo (Y700), Taproom chili (Y650), and soft tacos (Y900 for 2, Y1200 for 3).
The Fishmarket Taproom is roughly a 30 minute walk from Numazu Station, or just a few minutes by bus. It's right in front of the Minato Koban (police box) at the port, an area said to be full of great sushi places. Call ahead to confirm operating times, what's on tap, and details on how to get there.
Numazu is on the Tokaido Line between Odawara and Shizuoka.
Brews in the News
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.
Ginga Kogen Doitsu Classic (Japan) - 5% abv, 100% German malt. Medium yellow, thick white head, rich malty aroma backed by floral hops. Rich, full-on malty flavor. Great hop balance with nice lingering bitterness. Easily beats most German imports, not to mention Yebisu and other domestic high-end all-malt brews. Best of all, it's Y218 a can, making it a real market contender.
Tiger Beer (Singapore) - 5% abv, malt, grains, hops. Medium yellow, short-lived white head. Little aroma, rich malt flavor but quick finish with faint lingering malt and hops in good balance. A bit sweet, making it a good choice for spicy Asian foods.
Castle Lager (South Africa) - 5% abv, malt, corn, hops. Golden yellow, white head. Fresh, clean malt aroma with floral hop highlights. Nice balance of malt and hops, somwhat rich initial taste, quickly fading to a dry finish with faint yet lingering hop bitterness. Similar to a good German or Dutch export lager, but a bit lighter.
Victoria Bitter (Australia) - 5% abv, malt, grains, hops. This one often proves to be a disappointment because it is an Australian bitter rather than an English one. What that means is that it's a lager with a bit of chocolate or caramel malt to give it a slightly bronze color and a bit of sweetness, compared to the average Ocker lager. And that's exactly what it tastes like, quite ordinary with little surprises. Slightly better than Fosters or XXXX or the other lagers, but nothing at all like an ale. Case closed. For a fascinating on brewing science which includes the history of the Australian bitter style, go to http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s478177.htm
(Thanks to Stephen Lacey)
Daiei D-Dry Beer (South Korea) - 5% abv, malt, rice, hops, cornstarch. Medium yellow, short-lived foamy head, slightly fruity aroma with some floral hop notes. Forward fruity malt at first, but quickly fades to a clean finish with just a bit of malt tang. Rather simple flavor profile. Fails as a "dry beer" because of the stronger flavors, particularly the fruity malt. Bot not a bad lager, and one what would go well with spicy Asian food. Not surprisingly, it is brewed in South Korea for Daiei as a cheaper (Y138 per can) substitute for Asahi Super Dry, which it easily eclipses in flavor.
Redback Original Wheat (Western Australia) - 4.7% abv, malt grains, hops, and a sulfur-based preservative. Rich yellow, dense white head, fruity, faintly medicinal aroma. Tart, light "wheat" taste. Somehwat hoppy, but a peculiar gamey hop flavor takes over. Quite quenching, but remarkable only for its curious acidity. The gorgeous red and light gray painted bottle giveth, but the flavor in the glass taketh away. Proclaimed as "The Original Malted Wheat Beer" this micro-imposter is brewed by the Matilda Bay Brewing Company in Fremantle, near Perth.
The selection of strong beers for late winter I'd planned to review in this issue seemed sadly inappropriate owing to the blast of unseasonally warm weather in the middle of March, so instead we are highlighting a collection of Japanese craft beers to give you an idea of what's good in the eighth year of the modern Japanese craft beer era. Beers are listed in the order they were tasted. Our Brew Crew this month is Jonathan Dunham, David Satterwhite, Robb Satterwhite and Bryan Harrell.
Yokohama Pride Pale Ale - All malt, 5%. Hazy yellow with a faint greenish tinge (I couldn't figure out why!), strong hop aroma with some skunkiness, and a sharp acidic bite. Virtually no malt sweetness, and a harsh metallic aftertaste.
True Blue Pale Ale - Hazy amber, some malt aroma, good balance of juicy malt and hops, but a bit on the dry side. This example is later in its conditioning cycle, and versions I have had which are younger are a bit sweeter and smoother.
Cincinatti Indian Pale Ale - One of a special series of brews by award-winning homebrewer Hiroyuki Fujiwara, brewed at Hitachino Nest Beer. Rich red amber, some haze, good forward fruity aroma, faint hops behind. Wonderful citrus flavor initially, but mutates to an odd liqueur-like flavor with perhaps a bit too much sweetness. Was this a stuck fermentation or was extract used? However, the "fruit and flowers" aroma and flavors of this beer was highly praised by other Brew Crew members. Robb suggested apple cider, while David suggested some kind of flower, perhaps apple blossoms. Bryan wondered "Do I taste cinnamon?" An interesting brew which is no longer available, but may return in some form later this year. I was purchased from Asaya Sakaten (03-3920-9248) which has a website in Japanese selling all kinds of interesting beer at http://www.ne.jp/asahi/asaya/e-shop/beertop.htm
TY Harbor Apple Ale - Clear light bronze. Tart! Cidery! Beer equivalent of Asti Spumante, but tastes like French cidre. Robb said "There's something missing here, perhaps the beer?" adding that the balance was not good and the taste seemed artificial. Bryan suggested it would be best to judge this drink as a cider rather than a beer, and also said it would be good for a sunny Sunday brunch outdoors.
Echigo Pear Ale - Clear, light bronze, medicinal herb-like aroma and not enough sweetness to bring out the pear flavors. A disappointing offering from an otherwise good brewery. David suggested "kampo yaku" while Robb said it seemed like it was made with some artificial tropical flavor. Jonathan said it didn't taste like pears at all, and actually had a clove flavor.
Niigata Edinburgh (presumably a Scottish Ale) - Hazy orange amber, too light and too hoppy to be a Scottish Ale, but with an interesting juicy malt flavor, overwhelmed by strong hops. Bryan wondered facetiously if this was a U.S. West Coast style Scottish Ale.
Seattle Espresso Porter - Stone opaque black, dark roast coffee aroma which carries over into the taste. Dry and acidic, could be a bit sweeter. A rich parade of DARK roasty flavors, bordering on burnt flavors in a good sense. The coffee in the beer is very apparent. This was perhaps the group's favorite. Another in the series by homebrewer Hiroyuki Fujiwara, purchased over the Internet from Asaya - for details, see above.
Our guest this month is John Schultz of the Minami Aizu Brewery, who writes:
"I have just about given up on selling under my label in Tokyo. Too much trouble for no pay. I think we have to face the fact that the vast majority of pub boozers go there for the soccer and are not very discriminating when comes to the taste of their choice of beers. They are mostly impressed by what company the beer represents and less about what it tastes like. By the time they gain enough maturity to tell the difference they are sitting at home with the kids." - John Schultz, March 1, 2002.
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Dear Food Lovers,
My wife and I made a happy discovery on Saturday evening. We made hiyashi chuuka at home, served it with goma tare (sesame sauce), and a few bites in we were dying for a beer. But the only thing we had in the house was Hoegaarden White.
And the pairing was WONDERFUL!
I had always shied away from drinking distinctive beers when eating foods served with goma tare. As the taste of the sauce is rather strong, I thought it would likely overshadow a good beer, and would be better off accompanied by something simple, clean and quenching. But the Hoegaarden went perfectly with the goma tare.
I wonder if anyone has comments or similar experiences. My body of knowledge starts and ends with beer. I know little about food, so despite a knowledge of beer itself I have been slow to pick up on food-beer pairings.
Any discussion on this subject -- either on this specific pairing, or on food-beer pairing in general -- would be welcome.
Cheers and Bon Apetit,
Bryan says: I received this note from Aaron about a year ago, and think that now is a good time to try his suggested combination. Any other ideas about beer/food pairing out there?
Your comments and questions are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Next Issue
Subject to change, if you haven't noticed...
Beer Here - Summer event roundup
Bar Beat - Belgian Beer Paradise at Bois Cereste in Akasaka
The Brew Crew - Swedish craft beers courtesy of Ake Nordgren
Brews in the News - New beers and beers for the season
Spouting Off - I'll think of something to complain about...
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