Craft Beer Tasting
A beer tasting will be held by Brews News reader James Gibbs on Monday, December 16 from 8:00-10:00 p.m. at The Fiddler in Takadanobaba. Newcomers to the craft beer scene are very welcome, and no beer knowledge is required to attend. In keeping with the season, some darker, spicier holiday/fest beers will be served. Best of all, it's only Y3,000, all food and drinks included. Reservations are recommended before December 11.
Phone (03) 5255-3090, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Operated by the same company that runs the Brussels chain of Belgian beer specialty bars, Les Hydropathes is a new departure in modern Euro-trendiness. It features a sleek dark interior, Europop on the stereo, and hilarious 60s retro-future seats that look like squashed marshmallows and turn out to be not-so-comfortable for all but the slimmest drinkers. Nonetheless, they have a broad and interesting selection of Belgian beers, many which are hard to find anywhere else, warm and friendly service, and food that easily eclipses that served at Brussels locations. The frites, for example, had a superbly crisp texture without any dryness and were served with an eggy-yellow house-made mayonnaise, making them the best frites I have had in Tokyo. You can get a generous plate of them for 800 yen.
Robb Satterwhite and I sampled three beers on a recent visit, and those are reviewed in the Brew Crew section below. Despite the puzzling name that sounds like a mental condition, Les Hydropathes is certainly worth a visit.
B1, Shibuya Parco Part 1
Phone (03) 5456-9123
Open 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. daily.
Brews in the News
Beer from Belgium, France and Japan plus non-alcohol beers
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.
Malheur 10 Very strong ale (Belgium - 10% abv; all malt). Hazy golden yellow, fat dense off-white head. Sweet herbal aroma with wet wood notes and alcohol apparent, backed by a faint tart aroma. Very sweet initial tasted, then a spicy complexity unfolds marked by delicate bitterness. Rich, heavy body with a creamy mouthfeel and a soft finish with sweetness tapering off gradually. Said to be brewed with whole hop flowers.
Bush Amber Very strong ale (Belgium - 12% abv, malt, sugar, hops, yeast). Clear golden amber, thin tan head. Huge ripe fruit aroma, with no hop aroma present. Rich dried mango and candied fruit (used in fruitcake) flavors, soft fine carbonation with lots of warm alcohol in the taste. Sweetness fades to tangy malt flavors and finally hops emerge in the end for a balanced finish. Don't let the innocent appearance fool you -- this incredible beer is one of the most powerfully flavored beers produced, and one of my all-time favorites.
Kasteelbier Gouden Tripel Very strong ale (Belgium - 11% abv; no ingredient information available). Hazy light gold, thin ivory head. Sweet aroma with notes of ripe cheese and earth. Intensely sweet but tempered somewhat by strong carbonation. Malt flavors like ripe pears and tart apples, with sweetness tapering gradually, but still lingering in the finish for quite a long time. This is the 330 ml bottle version. The 750 ml bottle version has somewhat softer flavors.
Kasteelbier Very strong ale (Belgium - 11% abv; no ingredient information available). Hazy opaque dark brown, thin tan head. Sweet toffee aroma with cola notes, grassiness in the background. Stupefyingly sweet, to the point of distraction, overpowering all flavors. Dessert in a bottle for those with a very sweet tooth. This is the 330 ml bottle version. A 750 ml bottle version from 1998 had less sweetness, and more vinuous sherry-type flavors.
Kirin Ichiban Maribana Pilsener style lager (Japan - 5.5% abv; malt, hops, rice, cornstarch, yeast). Very clear bright yellow, white sudsy head, sweet malty aroma with a bit of floral hops in the background. Round solid malt flavor, hoppier than normal Kirin Ichiban Shibori, with a decidedly fresher hop flavor which puts it a notch above. Clean finish with fine hop flavors lingering. Said to be brewed with whole frozen hop flowers. Maribana means spherical flower, apparently referring to hop cones. However, it sounds too much like the way Japanese pronounce marijuana, and often induces chuckles when the name is said.
Suntory Beer Nouveau Pilsener style lager (Japan - 5% abv; all malt). Very clear light yellow, white sudsy head. Pleasant aroma of floral hops, backed by sharp sweet tones. Rather sweet initial malt flavor, with very soft mouthfeel and comparatively low carbonation for a mass-produced Japanese beer. Subdued bitterness. Too bad the hop aroma doesn't come through in the flavor. This beer is said to have been brewed with malt and hops harvested in 2002, hence the name.
These are not rated, for obvious reasons, but should be considered a legitimate class of beer, more so than the low-malt happoshu being foisted upon the Japanese public. Tis the season to be jolly, but for those who drive or for other reasons cannot drink, these are a life-saver. Note that one stands above all the rest.
Beck's Non-alcoholic lager (Germany, less than 0/3% abv; malt, hops). Clear light yellow, thick white head. Malt aroma like cornflakes, with some hop notes. Grainy artificial taste with odd sourness, yet backed by solid bitterness that lingers to cut sweetness.
Buckler Non-alcoholic lager (by Heineken of Holland, less than 0.5% abv; malt, corn, hops). Clear golden yellow, thick white head. Grassy malt aroma like hay, with dusky hop tones in the background. Initial flavor of a good Euro-pils, but quickly changes to a sweet cereal-like malt flavor, with a grainy taste like corn flakes. Still, good texture, foam and mouthfeel. Medium body, with along lingering sweet malt finish. I would suggest that they use more hops to better counteract the sweetness. Y198 at Yamaya. www.bucklerjapan.com
Gerstel Alcoholfrei Klassisch-mild lager (Germany, less than 0.5% abv; malt, hops, carbon dioxide). Clear yellow gold, fluffy white head. Fine malt and hop aroma in good balance. Solid malt flavor, balanced very nicely by hops, with very little of the cereal-like malt flavors. Forget all the other N/A beers, this one is clearly superior in taste in that it tastes more like real beer.
Holsten Non-alcoholic lager (Germany, 0.0% abv; malt, hops). Clear yellow, fluffy white head, clean hop aroma backed by malt. Good bitterness greets, followed by malt flavor. Still the cereal-like malt flavors come through, but is tempered somewhat by heightened hop bitterness.
Belgian Ales at Les Hydropathes
Tasted at Les Hydropathes in Shibuya, B1 of Parco Part 1
Ramee Blonde abbey style ale (Belgium - 8 % abv; malt, crystal malt, hops, sugar). Hazy golden yellow, dense thick fluffy white head. Meaty "aged cheese" yeast aroma with some hop tones apparent. Sweet initial flavor with a strong tang as tartness edges in, with hop bitterness coming to the fore as malt sweetness recedes. Refreshingly brisk carbonation makes for a good overall balance.
Caracole Saxo strong ale (Belgium - 8% abv; malt, unmalted wheat, hops, coriander, yeast). Hazy yellow amber, sudsy white head. Sweet spicy aroma. Tart and bitter initial taste, then sweetness moves in a few seconds later, only to be overpowered by the hops and spices for a dry finish with aromatics that cling to the tongue and the roof of the mouth. Awesomely powerful tasting beer, with brisk carbonation.
Brunehaut Tradition amber ale (Belgium - 6.5% abv; no ingredient information). Hazy bronze amber, thick ivory head. Sweet fruity malt aroma with roasty nutty tones. Very fruity malt flavor, almost citrus-like, with hops in the background. Very smooth and creamy, with light flavors of caramel and milk chocolate that emerge toward the end. Light body with fine carbonation, but with good, rich flavor.
Scotch Ale on at the Fishmarket Taproom
Scotch Ale, the biggest and boldest of Scottish beers, is now on tap at the Fishmarket Taproom in Numazu. Named Yabai-Yabai (Oh my, Oh my) Scotch Ale, this is a big, malty ale high in alcohol (approximately 8% abv) yet dangerously drinkable due to an underlying, and invitingly subtle, sweetness and an overreaching balance. This is the type of beer in which your better judgment will lead you to stop at one glass but your overweening inclination for satisfaction will deceive you into several. YABAI!
Also, there are just a few spots left available for the Sunday, December 8 concert performance by guitar virtuoso, Mr. Tim Donahue. If you want to kick off the holiday season with a great musical performance, a superb buffet and several pints of Baird Beer, contact the Taproom before all the seats are filled.
Yona Yona Cask Conditioned Ale
This wonderful beer is being served at the bar of the Dancing Monkey in Aoyama for 700 a glass. Hand pumped from the cask without the use of CO2 gas, it has a lovely creamy texture with a brilliant hop flavor and fine tangy malt. If you've never experienced what is called Real Ale, then this is your chance.
B1, 6-2-6 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Phone (03) 6418-4242
Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.
Calgary's new on-line beer guide
Former Japan resident Tim Eustace returned to Canada earlier this year, and apparently inspired by his experience reading Brews News, launched his own guide to the Calgary craft beer scene, which can be seen at www3.telus.net/themonthlybrew .
Tim writes "I just thought I would let you know that I decided to make a web site somewhat similar to yours back in my hometown. Similar enough, anyway, to give you some credit for the inspiration and a link to www.bento.com. Thanks again for making Brew News an invaluable resource while in Tokyo."
When you access his site, you'll see the amount of exhaustive work Tim has put into it. I wish I could have warned him in advance about how much time it will take from his life to do a monthly beer report.
From Australia, delivered to your home in Japan. The hopped-malt kits are 100% malt based (no adding 1 kg of sugar, blech!) with nine styles including pale lager, bitter, stout, bock, weizen, and Czech pilsener. You get one of these of your choice (makes 21 liters in most cases) plus everything else you need to start brewing. You even get 50 x 750 ml lightweight bottles. The kits are custom assembled to my instructions in Australia and mailed direct to your door. I provide detailed instructions and helpful hints in either English or Japanese. I am an award-winning craft brewer and my primary motivation is to help people enjoy this wonderful hobby. Email me, Steve, for more details email@example.com . If you want to make beer that you will be proud to share with your friends, you won't be disappointed!
Send your beer-related ads to firstname.lastname@example.org
I read with interest your note on drinking beer at different temperatures and thought that a few points might be helpful to the beer drinker.
Many really well made beers should not be consumed at room temperature, unless you live in my house in Aizu in November. I believe it is true that off flavors generated by some unhealthy yeast can be covered up a bit by chilling the beer, and these flavors can be detected when the beer is allowed to warm up. Of course, we do not always go out drinking with our detective hats on.
Even beers made with clean, pure, and superb ingredients, might taste funky if they are not consumed at the temperature they are designed for. Beers that focus on the flavor of the malt should be consumed at a higher temperature and beers designed to showcase hops should be quaffed at lower temperatures. British ales are generally hopped at a much lower rate than lagers or pilsners. Corona or Bud or Super Dry are made with costs in mind and contain a very high level of adjuncts such as rice or corn. The makers try to make these adjuncts taste better with hops and perhaps some other stuff. The flavor of the hops is clear at low temperatures but as the beer warms up some of these hops begin to taste awfully bitter. Then your tongue also begins to taste the adjuncts, which often is not good. So, if you want to drink low-malt, high adjunct stuff, it had better be cold.
Finally, it is likely that various individuals have various taste preferences. Some may like more hops, some may like more malt. Drinkers can adjust the flavor of beer by changing the temperature. Someone might say, "I just like cold beer". What he might really be saying, whether aware of it or not, is that he/she doesn't like malt. But I would cringe at the sight of a frosty glass of ale. The drinker might as well be slurping ice-cold water, or Corona.
John K. Schultz,
Minami Aizu Brewing Company 0241-83-1363 090-3236-4918
What I meant was that if a beer is really well made, it can be consumed at room temperature without making you gag. I didn't suggest that these beers should always be consumed at room temperature. Of course, this is a general rule, and there are exceptions, as you say. Thanks for the great inside advice.
Asking the Brews Brothers about smoked beer...
Hello Bryan and Phred,
I'm on a quest to find a Smoked Beer I had about 20 years ago in a beer specialty shop in LA. No one at the shop remembers where it came from. It has the distinctive taste of smoked ham so they probably use the same spices and maybe the same process to create the flavor. Do either of you guys know where it came from and where it might be available?
What you want is Rauchbier (German for smoked beer) which is an amber lager made with a little bit of smoked malt added to the regular pale malt used to make lager. No spices are used in the brewing. This is an excellent beer to pair with smoked meats or a hearty pea soup. The best example of this style available in Japan is the Fujizakura Smoked Beer from Yamanashi Prefecture. Also, Phred Kaufman imports a smoked ale from Rogue which is a bit different in style from the German original, but every bit as tasty in its own way. You can find it at Kawachi-ya in Shibuya.
Letters are always welcome in Brews News. Write to: email@example.com
Brews News copyright (c) Bryan Harrell and contributors.