Brews News Issue 31 - September 2002
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In this issue
Beer Here: Kona Brewing Co. Beers at Kua'Aina Sandwich Shops
Bar Beat: Dropping Anchor in TY Harbor
Brews in the News: Australia, England, Germany, Japan and Scotland
The Brew Crew: TYing one on at TY Harbor
Spouting Off: More good beer getting around
News: Baird Beer from Numazu now available in Tokyo and Yokohama
Ale Mail:

Beer Here

Great Hawaiian Microbrew Now at (where else?) Kua'Aina

Three great beers from Kona Brewing Company are now on the menu at all Kua'Aina sandwich shops in Japan. Surprisingly, they are only 500 yen each, which is not much more than you would expect to pay for them in a restaurant or bar in the U.S. Choices include Longboard Lager, Golden Ale and Fire Rock Pale Ale.

I recently paid a visit to the Shibuya shop and had a Longboard Lager to go with the Mahi Mahi sandwich on light rye I ordered. While I normally choose ales over lagers, I picked the lager for a number of reasons: 1) it was a hot day, 2) I'd already had the Fire Rock last spring, and gave it a glowing review in Brews News, and 3) the beers at the shop I went to had passed their "best by" dates by about two weeks, and if the beers were too old, I figured it would be easiest to tell with the lager.

Fortunately, I had little to worry about because the lager had been kept well, and tasted great. By my estimate, these beers will still be quite good for at least four to six months past their "best by" date. Of course, not quite as good as freshly bottled, but the difference is minimal. Besides, at 500 yen per bottle, the Kona beers are a much better value than mass-produced beer.

The Longboard Lager is an all malt beer that's medium yellow with a thin, white head. Rich malt flavor is followed by crisp hop bitterness that quenches. It has a medium body, but deep rich flavors normally encountered in heavier beers, with the sweetness of the malt somewhat subdued as the hop sharpness takes it to a dry finish with some bitterness lingering. This brew rates four stars out of five.

Kua'Aina is best known for their U.S. home-style hamburgers, but take time to familiarize yourself with their other interesting sandwiches. Prices are a bit high, but the quality makes them well worth it. Ordering a large serving of fried potatoes (400 yen) and a Kona microbrew and still getting change from a 1,000 yen note is certainly a good deal for a quick after-work stop.

Kua Aina has seven shops in Japan:
* Aoyama, Tokyo (Minami Aoyama 5-10-21, 03-3407-8001)
* Gotanda, Tokyo (Nishi Gotanda 1-26-7, 03-5437-3800)
* Kanda, Tokyo (Kanda Surugadai 3-5, 03-3518-0050)
* Shibuya, Tokyo (Shibuya 1-10-4, 03-3409-3200)
* Kamakura (Yuhigahama 4-3-9, 0467-61-2400)
* Maihama, Chiba (Ikusupiria shopping mall, 047-305-5833)
* Osaka (Shimaya 6-40-1, 06-6464-8500)

Also, a new location is scheduled to open in the Maru Bldg. in the Marunouchi area of Tokyo on September 6.

For information on Kona Brewing, go to


Bar Beat

Dropping Anchor in TY Harbor

As the best brewpub (among the few) in central Tokyo, TY Harbor Brewery has quite a number of things going for it. The location is spacious and attractive (if just a bit remote), the California Asian-Italian fusion (for want of a better expression) is absolutely superb and dependable, and they do make a fairly decent pale ale. Most of the time, that is. While it does vary in quality, it is one of their more dependable brews. The others, I am afraid, are rather different each time I try them. In short, consistency in product quality is a problem that still detracts, even after five years of operation.

On a recent visit, one of the specials was Tropical Ale, which turned out to be one of the best brews I've ever had there. The Wheat Ale was also good, but the normally reliable Pale Ale was ever so slightly off. The Amber Ale and the Porter (the other special), unfortunately, were below par on that day. For a detailed review, see the Brew Crew feature below.

Still, this is a decent beer destination, if only for what's good on a particular day. While this will require the initial purchase of a sampler, it will certainly be worth it for the one or two "hits" that are likely to be in the selection. If you avail yourself of the bar snacks, you're bound to want to stay longer because the food by Executive Chef David Chiddo is tasty, innovative and well-prepared. New on the menu are deep-fried Long Island Clams with a spicy dipping sauce that were remarkably delicious, with a well-seasoned crisp batter that made them ideal with beer. Best of all, they were not at all oily or greasy - just crisp and perfect. Other standouts were the quesadilla and the pizza. No other good beer place in town has food that even approaches this.

Should you want to limit your beer session and move into the dining room for a full-on meal, you will be amply rewarded by more great food, attentive service and a wine list that offers both quality and value.

I really like this place. I just wish they could pull their beer up a few notches and keep it there.

TY Harbor Brewery
2-1-3 Higashi Shinagawa
Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo
(03) 5479-4555


Brews in the News

Beer from Australia, England, Germany, Japan and Scotland

! ! ! ! ! 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.
ugh We recommend that you avoid this product.

!!!! Marston's Low C (U.K., -- 4.7% abv., all malt). Light gold, thin tan head, faintly fruity ale aroma like Bass. Refreshingly light body but with a good tangy malt flavor and a kiss of hops (the label indicates Goldings and Fuggles). Quite a bit of pleasant flavor for such a light beer. Clean aftertaste, but not abruptly dry. This is a low calorie beer, but overall, quite a good tasting one regardless of the calorie content of 84 per bottle, which is said to have been achieved by a more complete fermentation leaving less residual malt sugar behind.

!!!! Belhaven St. Andrews (Scotland, 4.6% abv., all malt). Gorgeous clear reddish amber, tight light tan head, clean floral hop aroma (Kent Goldings?). Smoky, peaty tones in the malt flavor gives me the impression there is some whisky malt in this brew. The flavor continues for a long time, rich with a background that is slightly smoky and iodine-ish in a pleasantly spicy way, but not at all intrusive, while some tartness aids in a refreshing finish, though the smoky malt just faintly lingers in the mouth for a while.

!!!!! Schlenkerla Rauchbier (Bamberg, Germany, 5.1% abv., all malt). Clear reddish brown with a firm light tan head. Aroma of fresh caramel and smoke. Smooth, fine carbonation as sweet smoke flavors fill the mouth, punctuated by fruity spikes and strong "stone-y" mineral flavors. Rather minimal bitterness, with smoke flavors providing counterpoint to the malt sweetness. Smokier than most other smoked beers I've enjoyed. It was really a shame I didn't have any good barbecued ribs or beef brisket to eat with this beer. The brewery that makes this has been in operation since 1678. A world classic brew, and a superb example of this rare lager style in which a portion of the malt used is smoked.

!!!!! Hakusekikan Shizen Bakushu (Hakusekikan Brewery, Gifu Pref., Japan, 5.5% abv., all malt). Hazy light amber gold, off white sudsy head, gloriously complex yeast-centered aroma with some sweet malt tones. Very smooth, yet brisk fine carbonation and a creamy texture much like Champagne. Intricate interplay of tart and sweet flavors, with hops far in the background. The finish is also Champagne-like, with a spritzy finish that leaves the flavors lingering. The information sheet that came with this beer says that wine yeast was added to the bottle for conditioning, and that the beer should be aged for six months to a year for maximum effect. This beer was tasted at six months, and I have another bottle I plan to open in February. A superb beer from one of Japan's most interesting and innovative breweries.

!!!! Kirin Maroyaka Kobo (Kirin, Japan, 5% abv., barley malt, wheat malt, hops and yeast). Very hazy cloudy whitish yellow with a tight white head, yeasty aroma predominates with hops in the background. Very, very smooth and creamy textures, like a good Belgian White, but of course with none of the spice or wheat flavors. Malt and hops are largely undistinguished in this beer that basically puts yeast and texture on parade. Characteristic Kirin hop bitterness lingers, a bit metallic. Long faintly bitter finish with floral hop highlights. Quite an unusual beer for a Japanese mass-production brewer, so certainly worth a try since the major brewers rarely release new beers anymore, preferring instead to dump loads of cheap happo-shu on the market.

!!!! Coopers Pale Ale (Australia, 4.5% abv.). Hazy dirty yellow, thick sudsy white head. Forward tart fruity aroma and very strong carbonation apparent. Pours live like Champagne. Tart fruity flavor with lots of fizz and a dry finish with only yeasty flavors lingering slightly. Overall, the flavor is fairly one dimensional, but it's nevertheless a great session beer when you want Belgianesque yeastiness with a light body, without the quirky funkiness of, say, a Lambic.

!!!! Coopers Sparkling Ale (Australia, 5.8% abv.). Hazy deep yellow with firm sudsy white head, tart cidery aroma, very brisk carbonation with fine bubbles. Intense carbonation bite with a certain tartness backed by hop bitterness, some faint fruity sweetness emerges in mid-palate, then quickly fades leaving a bit of lingering bitterness on your carbonation-scoured tongue. Fairly one-dimensional, but quite refreshing with unique character and style. Bottle conditioned with yeast sediment on bottom. Decant slowly for a clear draw, or let the yeast mix in by pouring it into the glass all at once.

!!!! Niigata Black Beer (Niigata Pref., 5% abv., all malt). Completely opaque black. No red or mahogany highlights, just plain black. Clean, well-balanced flavors with a good sharp roasty bite over a dryish lager-like taste, with flavors fading to black over a long, dry finish. However, the effect is rather one-dimensional with not much complexity of flavor. Still, this may be a desirable trait for those looking for a simple dark session beer. Overall, a well-made beer. The label claims "100% natural bottle conditioned" in English, and there is a cool chart on the side of the bottle showing the levels of sweetness, bitterness and carbonation on a time axis extending for four weeks, presumably to allow the drinker to drink the beer at the desired levels and ratios. The problem is, the label is mis-printed in such a way that the bottling date was obliterated, requiring a magnifying glass to find out that it had been bottled in February 2002. It was kept refrigerated from that time until being tasted in late August, with no untoward effects. The label also recommends drinking the beer at room temperature - in February, yes, but in August I drank it moderately chilled.


Brew Crew

TYing One On at TY Harbor

This month's Brew Crew visited TY Harbor Brewery on August 23. Participants were Andy Penn, David Satterwhite, Robb Satterwhite and Bryan Harrell.

!!!! Tropical Fruit Ale Vibrant hazy yellow with faint orange tinge. Thin white head. Full-on mango and passion fruit (?) aroma, replete with spiky tart notes. Fine pin-cushion carbonation helps deliver the tropical fruit's sharp acidity. Very quenching with strong fruit flavors, but subdued sweetness as fruit flavors come forward while the malt fades into the background. Andy said that at first it tasted like a Champagne and tropical juice cocktail, with the guava coming up first. David remarked that at first it tasted like lemon beer, "but then the tropical flavors came out. Yummy and tasty, a tropical delight. Unfiltered, so there is a milky mango effect, with mango coming to the fore." This beer is TY Harbor's Wheat Ale, with puree of mango, passion fruit and guava added. What a great, wonderful brew, and one worth returning for.

!!! Wheat Ale This is the above beer, minus the tropical fruit. Hazy haystack yellow, thin white head, fruity aroma with Belgian-style yeast tones, but no spice. Forward wheat malt flavors, almost like a Belgian white beer, with sweetness that quickly fades to a tangy, semi-dry finish that lingers, with hops hardly apparent.

!! Pale Ale Faintly hazy fiery bronze, thin off-white head. Light fresh fruit aroma that Robb said reminded him of "peach jam, with bitterness apparent first, then some fruitiness that is mostly like a soft summer peach, in fact." I noted a more citrusy orange-like flavor over light malt, with bitterness kicking in at mid-palate, then fading to dry. Normally close to four stars, but on this day there was a faint off-aroma characteristic of oxidation.

!! Amber Ale Hazy reddish brown, thin tan head, caramel malt aroma, some tartness greets as thin malt profile weakly unfolds, with flavor dropping off to a flat finish. Robb returned four days later and said that this beer had improved somewhat.

! Porter Deep hazy brown with a muddied flavor lacking in definition. Not enough body, compounded by weak carbonation. Subdued flavors all around. Likely to have been the last of a keg that had been tapped some time ago.

The next Brew Crew will be held on Saturday, September 28th from around 4 p.m. The location has not been decided, but will be in central Tokyo. Please drop a line to if you'd like to participate.


Spouting Off

More good beer getting around

For some reason, interesting beer seems to be popping up in some rather unexpected places. Who could have imagined that Kua'Aina, essentially a high-end hamburger chain, would start serving the well-made Kona beers? And at 500 yen a bottle? Such a deal. What's more, these beers go great with Kua'Aina's quality burgers, sandwiches and fried goodies.

Then around the end of August a flyer comes in the newspaper that screams "Even in the middle of summer, top-quality oysters and Belgian beer!" with tempting photos showing raw oysters and a fat glass of Hoegaarden White. What's going on here? The flyer is advertising a new "oyster and seafood barbecue" restaurant in Shinjuku called Shunkai, which has managed to find a year-round source for raw oysters way up in Hokkaido. Also from Hokkaido they are getting an amazing array of seafood, from scallops to mussels to scampi shrimp, not to mention all kinds of fish, all offered at reasonable prices. But what I found remarkable is that the restaurant seems to recognize that Belgian White Beer is an ideal match for seafood, which it most certainly is. Best of all, bring the flyer in and everyone in your group gets their first pint of Hoegaarden White on the house. Shunkai is in the basement of the Washington Hotel in Nishi Shinjuku (phone 3346-3306) and they are open daily. Look for a report in Brews News for October.

Developments like these are encouraging, and I look forward to more beer surprises in the weeks and months to come.



Baird Beer from Numazu Now Available in Tokyo and Yokohama

Baird Beer brewed by Bryan Baird at the Fishmarket Taproom in Numazu is now being served at Popeye in Ryogoku, Tokyo and at Copa in Aobadai, Yokohama. The first beer to go on tap in both locations is the Baird Imperial IPA, with other varieties expected to follow in the future.

Popeye has been written about often in Brews News, and offers the most comprehensive selection of Japanese microbrew in the world. Copa, which I have yet to visit, is a well-regarded beer restaurant with over 100 world-class bottled beers on the menu.

Bakushu Club Popeye
2-18-7 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Phone 03-3633-2120

Ji-Biiru Kobo COPA
Ando Bldg. 2F
1-9 Shiratori-dai, Aoba-ku, Yokohama
Phone 045-985-0037



Hop Pellets, 13 varieties from Cascade to Willamette, with alpha acid ratings. 100 yen for 30 grams, plus shipping.
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