In this issue
The 1st Tokyo Real Ale Festival report
Beer Goya in Fussa
Brews in the News:
Beer from Canada, China, France and Japan
May 16th Beer Tasting, Baird Beer News
The 1st Tokyo Real Ale Festival
A new chapter in Japan's beer history was written on March 15th with the first "real ale" festival in Japan. Some 17 different ales were on tap, and it should be noted that not all were true "real ales" in the strict sense of being purely cask conditioned in the proper manner, but those that weren't were reasonably close to the real thing, if not just a bit over-carbonated.
Appropriately, the event was held at Popeye in Ryogoku, the best place on earth for Japanese craft beer. For a first-time event, everything went surprisingly smoothly, and overall it was very well managed. Credit goes not only to Popeye's owner Aoki-san, but also to the other organizers and many volunteers who worked the festival, from the registration table to the barmen who had to deal with a capacity crowd that just kept getting thirstier as the evening went on.
Ales served at the festival were from all over Japan, plus two from the Goose Island Brewery in Chicago, USA. The fact that the Goose Island ales did not particularly stand out is a credit to the skill of Japan's brewers, who collectively turned in some very fine examples of what beer could taste like in a perfect world. The following is a list of what was served.
Brewery - name of beer / style / hops used / alcohol
1. Ikiiki Beer - Taiko Ale / India Pale Ale (IPA) / Cascade / 7%
2. Harvest Moon - Pale Ale / Bitter / Kent Goldings, Saaz / 5.5%
3. Echigo Beer - Divine Vamp / IPA / Fuggles / 6.5%
4. Hitachino Nest
Fujiwara Hiroyuki Cascade Ale / American Pale Ale / Cascade / 5%
5. Hitachino Nest - Oyster Stout / specialty / n.a. / 5%
6. Loco Beer - Bakushu Kenkyukai IPA / Fuggles, Kent Goldings / 5.7%
7. Iwate Kura - India Pale Ale / IPA / Kent Goldings / 7%
8. Isekadoya - Pale Ale / American Pale Ale / Cascade / 5%
9. Hakusekikan - Pale Ale / American Pale Ale / Styrian Goldings / 5%
10. Shinano Beer - Dragon Ale / American Amber Ale / Cascade / 5%
11. Baird Beer - Chocolate Coffee Stout / specialty / n.a. / 6.7%
12. Baird Beer - Best Bitter / Best Bitter / Kent Goldings / 4.8%
13. Yona Yona - National Trust Porter / Porter / Cascade / 5%
14. Yona Yona - American Pale Ale / Cascade / 5%
15. Yona Yona - Toshi's Barleywine / Barleywine / Centennial / 8.5%
16. Goose Island - Naughty Goose / American Brown Ale / n.a. / 5.2%
17. Goose Island - Rye Stout / specialty / Styrian Goldings / 5%
Interestingly, my personal favorite was the one with the lowest alcohol content, Baird's Best Bitter, which was mistakenly indicated as an Extra Special Bitter on the event program. This is a fairly light session ale, hazy golden bronze with a creamy tan head, a good drop of fruit flavor which quickly fades for an extended dry flavor and finish. Tiny pinpoints of carbonation complement the hop bitterness to balance the restrained sweetness of the malt. Baird's other entry, the Coffee Stout, had a very nice balance of malt fruitiness and mind-blowing chocolate/coffee roasty flavors. According to Baird, it was brewed in the style of a foreign export stout, but with the addition of ground chocolate macadamia nut coffee from the Kona Coffee Company at the end of the wort boil.
Other ales of note included the delightful Toshi's Barleywine from Yona Yona, which was served from the small wooden keg in which it was aged. Since there was so little of this superbly brewed heavy beer, each guest was only given a 30 ml sample. The other two Yona Yona ales were also superb, though the Pale Ale, as excellent as it is, wasn't much of a surprise since it is has been available on tap for some time now at Popeye and a few other places in Tokyo. The Goose Island Rye Stout was also memorable for its interestingly spicy and complex flavor that's somewhat of a departure from what one normally expects from a stout.
As soon as soon as I hear about the next Tokyo Real Ale Festival, I'll make a special announcement by e-mail so readers can know about it before it sells out. You can also keep an eye on their Web site for any developments: www.tokyorealale.org
Fussa no Beer Goya
by Steve Cassidy
As the weather begins to warm up, Fussa no Beer Goya comes to mind. It's a great place to hang out on a warm (or even not so warm) evening after a hike in the Okutama area.
While Fussa no Beer Goya is a beer hall, the business is basically a sake brewery named Ishikawa Shuzo, brewers of Tamajiman sake. They have somehow managed to preserve a fantastic Edo-era brewing compound (across the road from the modern sake brewery), and one of the old storehouses now contains a small brewery. Ishikawa Shuzo used to brew beer in the early Meiji era, but stopped in 1887. Then, 111 years later in 1998, they began brewing again.
Next door to the brewery is what they call their "Casual Restaurant," which is actually something of a German-style beer hall serving their own beers and sakes as well as a range of quite reasonable (price and quality) food. The restaurant itself can get a bit stuffy and smoky, hence my preference for sitting outside. I believe some of the trees are cherries, so right now is probably a good time to go. One tree in the compound is said to be the oldest in Tokyo-to, though I don't know if that has been independently verified!
Prices are excellent. A glass of beer is 450 yen, and the pitchers are excellently priced at 1750 yen. I think there are usually four beers available, though there are more in their range (available in bottles). I drink nothing but the Pale Ale, which is reminiscent of Yona Yona.
To get there, the best jumping off point is Haijima Station (on the Seibu line and the JR). From there it's a walk of about 20 minutes (not particularly pleasant) or a short taxi ride. The taxi drivers all know it. The restaurant will order taxis for the return trip; they come right into the compound and almost pick you up from your table!
For those with wheels, it is just off the Shin Okutama Bypass between Fussa and Haijima. Plenty of parking, but I wouldn't recommend driving -- the beer is just so good!
Fussa no Biru Goya, Tel: 042-530-5057
1 Kumagawa, Fussa-shi, Tokyo
Open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. (until 10 p.m. in summer)
Closed: Tuesdays (except in summer, when they are open every day)
Brews in the News
Beer from Canada, China, 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.
We recommend that you avoid this product.
Maudite (Canada - 8% abv; all malt) Hazy amber orange, short-lived light tan head. Meaty yeasty aroma with rich malt in the background. Strong carbonation initially, with soft candy flavors in the malt, balanced almost inadequately by some herbal and spicy hop bitterness. A huge, sweet, spicy, complex in-your-face beer. Maudite! Indeed. This and other fantastic beers from Unibroue of Quebec (www.unibroue.com) are now being imported into Japan and are available at Tanaka-ya in Mejiro and Isetan in Shinjuku.
Ch'ti Brune (France -- 6% abv; all malt) Dark brown with red highlights, dense light tan head. Interesting espresso coffee and dried hay aroma which has a flinty mineral character. Brisk roasty malt flavors combine with an interesting clean tartness to put a lot of stouts to shame. Rather rich in flavor, yet quite dry and smooth. A 250 ml bottle is just 168 yen at Yamaya - what more could you ask for?
Ch'te Biere de Garde Ambree (France - 6% abv; all malt) Hazy bronze amber, dense light tan head. Light aroma of floral hops and toffee. Very smooth yet complex malt flavors with layers of sweetness tartness, tangyness and a sherry-like aged character. Still, quite a dry sensation with no lingering sweetness. Very nice recipe here. Has many of the traits of a good Belgian Dubbel, but lighter body and more accessible, thanks to the lack of a strong yeast character.
Jenlain Biere de Garde Ambree (France - 6.5% abv; all malt) Hazy fiery amber with tight but short-lived light tan head. Aroma of dried fruit, juicy malt and fine aroma hops. Rich tangy flavor with dried apricot and raisin flavors, backed by a bit of hop bitterness, all in a surprisingly light body. Nice clean finish with a faint lingering of tangy malt. Also cheap at Yamaya.
Jenlain Biere de Printemps (France - 5.4% abv; malt, wheat and hops) Clear medium yellow, thin off-white head. Faint fruity ale aroma with zesty spiciness of wheat. Sharp, tart and rich initial flavor, sort of like a very strong lager, leading into a smooth, rich and fruity malt flavor with alcohol apparent, yet little lingering aftertaste. Somewhere between Hoegaarden White (without spices) and a strong German pale lager.
Ch'ti Biere de Garde Blonde (France - 6.4% abv; all malt) Hazy whitish yellow, thick snow-white head, faint malty aroma with clean floral hop tones. Clean sweet malt flavor with some yeast character present, along with a bit of tang - somewhat similar to Duvel. Actually not very complex, but brisk and pleasantly refreshing for such a strong beer.
St. Druon De Sebourg Biere de Garde Blonde (France - 6% abv, malt, wheat, hops) Hazy golden yellow, dense snow-white head. Aroma of hay and dried flowers with tart sweet malt notes in the background. Tart flavors dominate the malt sweetness. Body is light, with the sourness ruling above all.
Suwa Roman Beer Rindou Alt (Nagano Pref. - 5% abv; all malt) Hazy bronze brown, sudsy light tan head, faintly sweet malty aroma with some dried fruit in the background. Smooth mouthfeel with somewhat thin body and good tangy malt flavor, which lingers with nominal sweetness through to the finish, when hop bitterness fully emerges. The carbonation is too brisk for an alt - and though this really isn't a whole lot like a real altbier from Dusseldorf, it is more "alt-like" than other so-called alt beers from Japanese microbreweries.
Suwa Roman Beer Shirakaba Kolsch (Nagano Pref. 5% abv; all malt) Hazy yellow, thin white head. Tart aroma with some earthy hop tones. Sharp initial tasted with sourness and bitterness in front. Inadequately developed malt flavors, insufficient richness and a sharp, dry finish. This is nothing at all like a kolsch from the German city of Koln.
Micro-rant: This is a typical example of what many Japanese microbreweries do - brew ales and insist on using German style names for them, likely because people equate beer only with Germany. The M.O. is this - if the beer is light colored, then it is a kolsch. If it is dark colored, then it's an alt. Never mind what these two classic styles from Koln and Dusseldorf actually taste like. Generally speaking, breweries that do this don't normally make very good beer anyway, so if you see kolsch or alt offered by a small brewery here, approach with caution.
Echigo Koshihikari (Niigata - 5% abv; malt, Koshihikari rice, hops) No indication, but this is undoubtedly a lager. Pale yellow, short-lived white head, faint malty aroma, nondescript beer flavors that put it very close to mass-produced Japanese lager. But this is no surprise, since this microbrew is brewed with some rice added. Not ordinary rice, mind you, but the premium Koshihikari table rice. Well-balanced and okay, with a dry finish where malt and hops linger nicely. This brew is still better than Super Dry, but Echigo can do a lot better than this. Perhaps they felt their product portfolio wasn't complete without at least one gimmick beer.
Yanjing Beer 12P Extra (bottle) (China - 4.3% abv; malt, hops and grain) Light-to-medium yellow with a sudsy white head. Faint malt aroma, thin body, strong carbonation, good balance. No skunkiness, despite the clear bottle. Decent clean finish. Undistinguished, but pleasant. The 12P refers to "12 degrees Plato," the original gravity (heaviness) of the beer. A surprising designation for a beer of this type.
Yanjing Beer (can) (China - 4% abv; malt, rice, hops, mineral water) Clean light yellow, short-lived white sudsy head. Sweet yet slightly grainy malt aroma. Thin initial taste, somewhat watery and a bit sour, but no serious off flavors. Reasonably refreshing, but in no way a high-grade beer.
Note: When I purchased these Yanjing beers, I thought they were the same beer in different containers. I had intended to compare the "bottle" and "can" taste, but the beers differed in a different way. A closer look at the bottle label revealed that it was a different brew.
Sapporo Half & Herb Happo-shu (Japan - 3.5% abv; malt, hops, rice, cornstarch, sugars, orange peel) When herbs are used in brewing, even with a happo-shu, I am always game to try. In this case, the herb is orange peel, which is used in a number of Belgian specialty beers. Well, this one turned out to be far from those, though it is interesting in that it is the least beer-like of any happo-shu I have ever tasted, so much so that it really creates its own category. It is very clear pale yellow with a snow-white head. Fresh herbal aroma. Thin watery flavor, faintly herbal, with tartness prominent, and very dry to the quick finish. For what it's worth, I know a lot of women who would love this. The label proclaims that, compared to ordinary beer, calories have been reduced by 50%, and carbohydrates by 80%. And since it is in the lowest-taxed category of happo-shu, malt has also been reduced - by 75% compared to Sapporo's flagship Yebisu beer.
????? What do you think? - Kirin Namakuro Happo-shu (Japan - 5% abv; malt, hops, rice, sugars) I think this is the first dark style happo-shu. Rather than rate it, I thought I'd ask you readers out there what you think of this brew. The first five people who respond with a credible review will get a beer on me. Please submit your reviews by April 15th to firstname.lastname@example.org
A beer tasting will be held on Friday, May 16th, from 8:00-10:30pm. at the Yaesu Language School just outside of the Yaesu exit of Tokyo station. Those unfamiliar with beer are very welcome to attend, and no beer knowledge is required. These are regular tasting events, and I attended one earlier this year. I was impressed by the amount of information on the beers provided to participants. This is a serious tasting, but not at all stiff - everyone is friendly, and there is lively discussion about the various merits of each beer. Those expecting a party or "beer bash" should consider their local pub. Reservations must be made by Monday, May 12th. The price is 3,000 yen, with plenty of beer and snacks included. The beers to be tasted will be decided sometime in April. For reservations or more information, phone (03) 5255-3090 or e-mail email@example.com
Shimaguni Stout now on at the Fishmarket Taproom
On March 21, Baird Beer announced the release of their spring seasonal beer, Shimaguni Stout. Brewer Bryan Baird says it's a "classic Irish-style dry stout that is roasty, supremely balanced and, of course, extremely dry." He adds that Irish dry stouts, although midnight-black and pungently flavorful, are simple brews with a low alcohol content. It is now available at Baird's Fishmarket Taproom in Numazu, Shizuoka.
For more details about Baird Brewing Company and their Fishmarket Taproom, check out their very attractive new Web site at www.bairdbeer.com Beginning this summer, through the site, Baird Beer will be offered by mail order.
FYI, the new Baird Beer Web site was designed by Mark Schumacher, and the new Baird Beer logomark is a creation of graphic designer Eiko Nishida. Both are beer enthusiasts and long-time readers of Brews News.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org . If you want to make beer that you will be proud to share with your friends, you won't be disappointed!
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Letters are always welcome in Brews News. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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