Brews News Issue 35 - January 2003
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In this issue
Beer Here: Stout and Porter tasting January 20th
Bar Beat: Popeye revisited
Brews in the News: Beer from Belgium, France and Japan
The Brew Crew: Holiday Ales
News: Divine Vamp IPA

Beer Here

Stout and Porter Tasting

Another craft beer tasting will be held by Brews News reader James Gibbs on Monday, January 20th from 8:00-10:00 p.m. This time, the tasting will feature craft brewed stouts and porters, certainly good news for all you dark beer fans. On the tasting menu are 1. Hitachino Nest Beer Sweet Stout, 2. Maple Stout from Minami Aizu Brewery (a dry stout), 3. Shakespeare Stout (a generously hopped oatmeal stout also known as Ezo Brown Bear Beer) from Rogue Ale in Oregon, 4. Anchor Porter from Anchor Brewing in San Francisco and 5. one more Japaense microbeer to be announced.

The December tasting was apparently attended by five Brews News readers, so if you were one of them, please let me know how you liked the event and the beers served.

The January event will be held in the Yaesu Language School, which is directly across the street from the Yaesu north exit of Tokyo Station. (Enter the Cordial Securities building on the left side and go to B2 level.) The 3,000 yen admission includes all beer and light food (breads and cheeses, etc.) Reservations are recommended; phone (03) 5255-3090, or e-mail


Bar Beat

Popeye Revisited

Every time I come to this shrine of Japanese microbrew, indeed easily the best place in the world to drink it, I wonder why I don't manage to come here more often. A recent visit with noted sake writer John Gauntner ( and California-based wine and spirit event promoter Sharona Kitahara ( was a chance to introduce to them some of the more amazing Japanese craft beers, while discovering a few new ones myself. Here are descriptions of some of the beers we enjoyed.

* Hiroyuki Special Cascade Ale (!!!!!, 680 yen) featured a brisk Cascade hop aroma, rich juicy malt flavor and quenching hop flavor in thrilling balance, leading to a long bitter finish.

* Shinano Dragon Ale (!!!!, 650 yen) was a brilliant dark amber ale with impressive complexity, yet smooth and highly drinkable as a session ale.

* Iwate Kura IPA on hand pump (!!!!, 750 yen) was a faintly hazy gold color with no head and very little carbonation. The fresh floral hop bitterness and full flavor despite the light body made this ale one that could be consumed slowly all night long.

* Fuji Sakura Weizen Bock (!!!!, 600 yen) featured a classic weizen aroma with the addition of a distinctive caramel aroma. This combination continued into the flavor, leading to a brisk, slightly tart finish.

* Nasu Kogen Nine-tailed Fox (!!!!!, 500 yen for 120 ml) is a precious and expensive old ale with a hazy reddish gold color and a tart aroma of dried fruit. Distinctive flavor oddly redolent of strawberries, with a long sweet, rich finish. Truly a beautiful work of the brewer's art.

* Hida Takayama Carmina (!!!!!, 650 yen) is deep reddish brown, with a stunningly complex malt aroma with sweet highlights. The flavor is very "Belgian" - sweet and tangy with a long finish.

* Baird Kurofune Porter on hand pump (!!!!!, 700 yen) is a delicious dark beer with a light body and superb balance of malt and hops, with minimal carbonation for an uncanny smoothness.

* Hakusekikan Vintage Brown Ale (!!!!!, 880 yen for 180 ml) is an aged brown ale with a dusky dry flower aroma. The flavor is sweet, with highlights of peach and coconut. A very interesting beer that is on par with world classics.

Popeye is a short walk from Ryogoku station on the Sobu Line, three stops from Akihabara, and on the Oedo subway line.
2-18-7 Ryogoku
Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Phone (03) 3633-2120


Brews in the News

Beer from Belgium, France and Japan

! ! ! ! ! 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.

!!!! Belzebuth (France - 13% abv; malt, hops vitamin C as anti-oxidant) Brilliant orange bronze, short-lived ivory head. Rich fruity aroma with lots of alcohol present. Strong alcohol-dominated sweet malt flavor, creamy texture in mid-palate reminds one of lightly toasted marshmallows. Bitterness emerges strongly towars the end as sweetness slowly starts to fade. Looks and behaves like Bush Amber, but not as rich and complex, so isn't as satisfying. But still worth a try as an example of a beer on the high-alcohol frontier. Still, I do wonder why a beer this heavy and strong needs the addition of an anti-oxidant, even in the form of vitamin C.

!!! Nihide "Soft" Nanbu Sango Beer (Okinawa, Japan - 5% abv; all malt) Very hazy pale yellow, thin white head. Strident hop aroma (Kent Goldings?). Crisp lager flavor with a clean finish. Some acidity further contributes to the crisp finish.

!!!! Nihide "Hard" Nanbu Sango Beer (Okinawa, Japan - 5% abv; all malt) Slightly hazy light orange amber, light tan head. Faint caramel aroma. Nice brisk bitterness balances well with the caramel and toffee flavors over a pale malt background. Rich heavy lager flavor, with strong hop bitterness, more strongly emerging toward the end for a long, bitter finish. A special "Thank You" to reader Michael Ainge for bringing me these two Nihide beers from Okinawa.

!!!! Palm Belgian lager (Belgium - 5% abv; malt, corn, hops, sugar, vitamin C as an anti-oxidant) Amber gold, thin ivory head, little aroma. Rich malt flavor with a light caramel tang, subtle carbonation and bitterness. Almost like Bass Pale Ale in tangy caramel flavor malt profile, but lacks fruitiness. Malt lingers lightly during the long finish.

!!! Sapporo Classic Japanese lager (Japan 5% abv; all malt). Very clear medium yellow, thin snow-white head. Distinctive hop aroma. Medium pale malt flavor augmented by spicy herbal hop flavors. Sharp, clean finish. Normally available only in Hokkaido, but occasionally found in Tokyo. An interesting variation for Sapporo fans.

!!! Shinshu Natural Beer (Nagano, Japan - 5% abv, all malt). Faintly hazy yellow with thin short-lived white head. Grassy aroma. Funky flavors over heavy malt, but long grassy finish.

!!!! Suntory Malt's Super Premium Happy New Beer 2003 Premium Japanese lager (Japan - 5.5% abv, all malt). Yellow gold, thick white head. Nice juicy malt aroma with good herbal hops in background. Rich flavor cut by fairly brisk carbonation. Good complex hop flavor profile - different from regular Malt's Super Premium, which I like better though this is a nice change. Long, dry finish.

More non-alcohol beers...

!! Sapporo Super Clear (Japan - less than 0.5% abv; rice starch syrup malt, hops, caramel, citric acid, bitter flavoring, anti-oxidant) Very clear light yellow with a coarse white head. Malty beer aroma, with some hops present. Crisp light beer taste with virtually no off-flavors (quite an accomplishment in a non-alcohol beer) save for the strange acidity. A faint cereal-like "corn flakes" flavor comes in at mid-palate and lingers long, but is not very distracting. Rather a good job of duplicating the taste of Japanese beer flavor - certainly better tasting than most "happoshu" low-malt beer. Worth a try for the curious.

ugh Suntory Fine Brew (Japan - less than 0.5% abv; malt saccharified starch, citric acid, vitamin C as an anti-oxidant) Very clear yellow, coarse white head. Grainy "corn flakes" aroma. Water initial taste with all the common drawbacks of non-alcohol beer out in full force. Limp "corn flakes" cereal flavor, odd tartness. Virtually no hop flavor makes this one of the worst non-alcohol beers in memory.


Brew Crew

Holiday Ales Enjoyed This Season

This month's Brew Crew features holiday ales of 2002, along with a vertical comparison of Anchor's Our Special Ale from years 1999 through 2002. Some are still available around town, so keep an eye out. The Belgian ales were tasted at Bois Celeste's monthly tasting in December.

!!!! Anchor Our Special Ale 2002 Spiced ale (San Francisco USA - 5.8% abv, malt hops, herbs and spices). This is the 28th year this beer has been brewed, and each year it is made from a slightly different recipe. The 2002 is a deep clear auburn with a thick, slightly orange tan head. Fresh hop aroma, but hard to identify variety. Probably a blend containing Cascade hops. Deep burnt toffee aroma in background. Strongly aromatic spice flavor hits full-on at the start, followed by roasty malt and hop bitterness lingering on the tongue. Rather more stout-like than in previous years. Somewhat tart with a bit of astringency. Spices and hops linger long in the finish.

!!!!! Anchor Our Special Ale 2001 Spiced ale (San Francisco USA - 5.8% abv, malt hops, herbs and spices). Deep dark brown with reddish highlights, thick creamy tan head. Aroma of coffee, fresh herbs, licorice, pumpkin pie spices, cinnamon and anise. An initial taste of roasted coffee, dark toffee, and fudge with a hint of clove and licorice. The aromatics almost cancel out the malt sweetness, with hops finally emerging in the finish, which has a creamy edge at the end, like the way a wave recedes from the shore, leaving only hops and roasty notes behind. This is one of the best years of this ale I've had, leaving me to believe that a full year of refrigerator aging is the best for this beer.

!!!! Anchor Our Special Ale 2000 Spiced ale (San Francisco USA - 5.6% abv, malt hops, herbs and spices). Deep dark reddish brown, bright tan head. Huge "Chinese herbal medicine" aroma with a parade of spices. The flavor continues from the aroma, with a huge assault of spices making this very unlike a beer, with the delicacy of an obscene phone call. Sweetness is all but lost in the herb/spice deluge, which continues long in the finish.

!!!!! Anchor Our Special Ale 1999 Spiced ale (San Francisco USA - 5.6% abv, malt hops, herbs and spices). Deep reddish brown, thick tan head, faintly brisk, clean spicy aroma with hops in the background. Smooth mouthfeel with burnt toffee sweetness and mild spice flavors, and subdued hop bitterness. Complex dried fruit flavors run long for an extended fruity finish. Rather like a nicely aged rum-soaked fruitcake.

!!!! Bush de Noel (Belgium - 12% abv; malt, hops, spices). Light bronze, ivory head. Spice and coffee aroma, thick and rich mouthfeel, mostly sweet spice in the malt profile. Fiarly strong carbonation, lingering sweetness in the finish. Beer from the large 750 ml bottle is lighter and more "open" than that from the 250 ml bottle. Spicy, rich parade of flavors, with a slight astringent effect in mid-palate.

!!!! Delerium Christmas (Belgium - 10% abv; malt, hops, yeast sugar) Deep bronze, light tan head. Sour, aged malt aroma. Rich flavors of dried figs, dates and old sherry. Smooth creamy mouthfeel contrasts with sharp acidity, which nicely balances the heavy malt sweetness for a surprisingly quenching finish from a beer this heavy, with minimal hop bitterness apparent.

!!!!! L'Abbaye des Rocs Special Noel (Belgium - 9% abv; all malt) Deep mahogany color, thick sudsy light tan head. Spicy cotton candy aroma. Deep , sweet molasses and toffee flavors with crisp sweetness, with some tartness in the background. Flavors similar to Japanese to-mitsu (dark sugar syrup) and kinako (roasted soybean powder). Brisk carbonation.

!!!!! La Binchoise Special Noel (Belgium - 9% abv; all malt) Medium bronze, short-lived tan head. Exquisite perfumed spicy aroma much like Turkish delight confection, which carried over into the flavor. Beer from the small 330 ml bottle had more spice apparent than that from the large 750 ml bottle. Rather light body, with strong carbonation. Long, lingering finish.

!!!!! Regal Christmas (Belgium - 9% abv; malt, hops, starch, licorice, anise, coriander, bitter orange peel) Deep reddish brown, short-lived tan head. Yeasty "dusty" aroma with dried fruit, coffee and spice tones. Tart, with complex caramel candy and malt flavors with hints of various spices. Long, rich and flavorful finish. Beer from the small 330 ml bottle had more astringency, while that from the large 750 ml bottle was fuller, softer and sweeter.

!!!! St. Feuillien Cuvee de Noel (Belgium - 9% abv; all malt) Deep reddish bronze with short-lived tan head. Aroma of aged hops and spices. Deep caramel, toffee and malt flavors tempered with spices, hops and a touch of tartness, though none of the three are strikingly apparent. Long, lingering finish.



Divine Vamp IPA

This is a special India Pale Ale brewed at the Echigo Brewery in Makimachi, Niigata prefecture on December 14th amidst a heavy snowstorm. A large amount of pale malt was mashed, along with a prodigious amount of Kent Golding hops in four additions. The result is a reddish gold heavy ale with 60 IBUs, which is now in the conditioning tanks as you read this. It will be bottled and put on sale February 1st or thereabouts. By the case, it is only 8,800 yen including refrigerated shipping, which works out to 370 yen per bottle. Tax is extra. Only 40 cases will be available, so order early if you want yours. To order, contact Aoki-san at Popeye; phone (03) 3633-2120 or fax (03) 3533-2341.



Brewing Kits

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 . If you want to make beer that you will be proud to share with your friends, you won't be disappointed!



Brews News copyright (c) Bryan Harrell and contributors.

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