Brews News Issue 42 - October 2003
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In this issue
Beer Here: Saturday Evening Beer Live
Bar Beat: Oktoberfest at Bernd's Bar
Brewer's Blues: Scaling Up: The Brewer's Craft by Bryan Baird
Six Pick: A selection of great beers from Belgium and Japan
Spouting Off: The Case of the Imposter Brewmaster: the perps revealed
News: Yona Yona Cask Ale at Helmsdale, Kirin Latte Stout, Beer Tasting
Glassifieds:
Ale Mail:

Beer Here

Saturday Evening Beer Live

This is a monthly event held in Ryogoku at Beer Club Popeye, the best place in the universe for Japanese craft beer, and at 40 taps, one of the best beer places in Japan, period. This month's event is on October 18th, and will be a report on the Great American Beer Festival by Nakayama-san. Admission to SEBL is 1,500 yen, and one drink is included. Certainly it's a beer. The "live" portion of the program is a talk on beer by Fujiura-san, perhaps one of Japan's top ten Beer Geeks who also has a Web site on beer: www.BeerLineToday.com. Like SEBL, the site is all in Japanese, but it's all about beer. If you read Japanese and are interested in SEBL, go to the Web site for more details. For inquiries and reservations for the event, call Beer Club Popeye at (03) 3633-2120; for a map, go to www.lares.dti.ne.jp/~ppy/

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Bar Beat

Bernd's Bar

Okotoberfest means German beer and food, and I can't think of a better place in Tokyo than Bernd's Bar in Roppongi. In my normal race for exotic microbrews and esoteric Belgian ales, it is too easy to forget the smooth quaffing lagers of Germany. Bernd has a handful of great ones, and once you set them side by side, the differences aren't as subtle as you think. From the light, crisp Jever to the rich, solid Bitburger, to the dark, rich wine-like Kostritzer, there is truly a range of beers that will keep most beer enthusiasts happy for the entire evening. That most of Bernd's customers are German should tell you something, not only about the beer, but also the food. Before you head there, check out the fun and well-designed Web site in English (and German and Japanese) at http://www.berndsbar.com/ where you will find the food and drink menus, a map, and more.

Bernd's Bar
Pure Roppongi 2F
5-18-1 Roppongi
Minato-ku, Tokyo
(03) 5563-9232
Open Monday to Saturday from 5:00 p.m.
Closed Sundays and national holidays

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Brewer's Blues

Scaling Up: The Brewer's Craft

By Bryan Baird
Baird Brewing Company
www.bairdbeer.com

Brewing a consistent and characterful beer involves the interplay of art and science. No time is this interplay more evident than when a brewery expands its production capacity with the acquisition of larger equipment. The brewer's challenge is to adapt his recipe to new equipment with new dimensions and, possibly, to new processing techniques. The task is made even more difficult in the event that a new water source or new raw ingredients are involved.

The flavor implications of a change in equipment can be great. I was an apprentice brewer at Redhook in 1997 when the company was migrating production from a 50 hl brewery in Seattle to a 100 hl brewhouse (with double-batch 200 hl fermenters) installed in a new facility in nearby Woodinville. Theretofore, the flavor profile of Redhook's flagship beer, ESB, featured a prominent butterscotch character resulting from the production (and lack of re-absorption) of diacetyl (a natural by-product of fermentation) by yeast during fermentation. Fermentation at the new, larger facility, though, resulted in a significant reduction in the perceived diacetyl character of the ESB. In effect, the yeast responded to the new dimensions of their fermentation environment by behaving differently, thus changing the character of the beer.

Our company recently expanded brewing capacity by purchasing and installing a 2.5 hl Beraplan brewery. Although still a very small brewery by commercial standards, for us it represented an eight-fold increase in batch size, which is quite a significant jump. The key challenge for me as the brewer was to scale up the recipes without altering, or diminishing in any way, the basic character of Baird Beer. The goal in the end, of course, is to actually enhance the character of the beer at each opportunity for growth.

The scientific nature of the expansion challenge comes in the form of learning, then adjusting to, the efficiencies of the new equipment. For example, mashing efficiency relates to how much extract is derived from the malt during the mash. On our new system, which includes a better mill and improved heat retention through superior mash tun insulation, our extract efficiency is up to around 92% (compared to our old system's 86%). This means we can decrease the amount of malt used per liter of finished wort. Similarly, heightened vigor during the boil with our new equipment has produced a slight increase in the hop utilization rate (i.e. the rate at which hop bittering components are taken up in the wort) and this means we can add fewer hops per liter of wort to achieve a given level of bitterness. All in all, these efficiency variations that exist among brewery systems of different sizes and configurations mean that recipe scale-up is not a simple linear task. Through actual brewing on the equipment the new efficiencies must be measured and the recipes must be adjusted accordingly.

The artistic nature of the scale-up challenge presents itself in a more subtle and subjective sort of way. Here, the brewer has nothing to go on save his own experience and intuitive power. The Redhook yeast example fits here. If preservation of the yeast-derived butterscotch character were a priority, then the Redhook brewers would have had to experiment with the fermentation regime (e.g. by changing temperatures, times, pitch rates, etc.).

In our case, the step up to our new brewing system presented a major challenge to our commitment to the exclusive use of whole flower hops. Whole hops tend to clog vessel outlets and hard-piping and most brewing systems are not configured to process them. Hop aroma and flavor that we believe can only be derived from the use of unprocessed whole hops, however, contributes significantly to the character of Baird Beer. Thus, through persistent trial and error, we figured out how to brew with whole flower hops in our new system. On the fermentation side of the process, the larger tanks and their new dimensions produced a modest change in yeast activity. Again, through trial and error, we quickly deduced that slightly lower temperatures than previous would help maintain original character while even augmenting overall yeast performance.

Done correctly, with sensitivity to both the scientific and artistic sides of brewing, a production capacity expansion should result in the preservation, and even enhancement, of original beer character. Baird Beer, while remaining true to its original character, enjoys an even crisper, more tightly defined flavor profile than before the brewery expansion. And that is how is should be if the brewer is doing his job. Cheers!

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Six Pick

From Belgium 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.

The two Japanese beers were sent to me by James Gibbs, sponsor of monthly beer tastings near Tokyo station. See the Beer News section for more details.

!!!!! Rochefort 6 Trappist Ale (Belgium, 7.5% abv, contains malt, grain, sugar, hops and yeast) is the Rochefort I least often drink, probably because it is the lightest. However, it has an enticing fruity/floral aroma with dried fruit notes, and a brisk carbonation to accompany its light body. Plenty of alcohol keeps the aromas floating up, though. Rich savory malt flavor with a good bit of tang, with light chocolate and sweet coffee flavors tempered by high carbonation and rather low sweetness. Purchased at Kawachi-ya in Shibuya.

!!!!! Echte Kriek (Belgium, 6.8% abv, 70% malt, 30% cherries, hops, yeast) is a cut above the average Kriek, with a tart yeasty aroma that features notes of hay and fresh fruit. Simple flavors, but with stiff, solid fruit acidity holding the malt at bay, with very minimal hops. Not as candy-like as the lesser Kreiks, but similar highly focused format with a richer, more authentic cherry taste. Purchased at Tanaka-ya in Mejiro.

!!!!! Erimo Beer Kamuy (Japan, 5% abv, unpasteurized, 100% organic two-row pilsener malt, Hersbrucker and Perle aroma hops, yeast) is a good sturdy lager with exceptionally fine hop aromas and flavors. Dry and crisp, yet rich with a refreshingly clean finish. Purchased from the brewery; phone 0146-65-3333.

!!!! Naruto-no-kaze Kogen Lager (Japan, 5% abv, 50% malt, unmalted barley, sugars, hops, yeast) Rich and flavorful, but with a clean, dry finish. Good texture and malt structure. What a surprise to find this is a happo-shu, but a higher grade with 50% malt rather than 25%. A very skillful execution that stands up well to some of the finer mass-produced export lagers from Germany. Purchased from the brewery; phone 0229-86-2288.

!!!! Cuvee de Ciney (Belgium, 9% abv, no ingredients indicated) is a Belgian abbey-style ale with a very forward roasted malt flavor and high alcohol apparent. Sweetness is balanced by both tartness and bitterness, but is surprisingly light for such a high-alcohol brew. Malt sweetness fades quickly to leave a dry and bitter sensation in the mouth. Purchased at Kawachi-ya in Shibuya.

!!!! Duvel Special (Belgium, 7.5% abv, filtered) is a filtered clear variation of the ordinary Duvel with the red and white label. Full-on Belgian sweet yeasty aroma, with high carbonation pushing up the flavors. Sharp sweetness masks the prodigious alcohol. Not a lot of complexity, but a fine refreshing beer with a good punch. Purchased at Kawachi-ya in Shibuya.

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Spouting Off

The Fraud Squad - The Case of the Imposter Brewmaster: the perps revealed

In case you missed this intriguing caper, read it on previous installments of Brews News.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

The real brewer was William Morgan, an award-winning brewer from the U.S. who was offered a job in Japan some years ago. He has since quit, and is now working in the U.S.

Ginga Kogen Brewery was the firm that brought him over to work in their largest brewery, in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture. Their sales manager was the chief perpetrator of this fraud.

The imposter was a Tokyo-based actor named Walter, who was told he was doing the brewery a favor since "William Morgan was suddenly unable to attend the event, and many people would be disappointed if he wasn't there." This was news to William Morgan when I told him, since he was told nothing about the event. Walter was told by his talent agency to not talk to anyone about this incident. Walter's only resemblance to William is that he is Caucasian and has a beard.

The victim of this incident is William Morgan, who had his identity stolen and his dignity robbed.

The real losers of this fraud are all the hard working employees of Ginga Kogen, who turn out some pretty great beer and good prices.

I had planned to review all of the Ginga Kogen products in an upcoming issue, but that plan has been postponed for the time being.

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News

Yona Yona Cask Conditioned Ale at Helmsdale

A great version of Yona Yona Ale, the creation of brewmaster Toshi Ishii, is now being served at Helmsdale, a small single-malt whisky bar near the Red Cross Hospital in Minami Aoyama, not far from the intersection of Kotto-dori and 246. They only charge 1,000 yen for a real 20-ounce pint, served in a real English pint glass. At the same price as the increasingly ubiquitous mass-produced Guinness, this version of Yona Yona Ale is a downright bargain by comparison.

Each pint of this beer is handpumped up from the keg, giving it a very soft texture without the buzz of excess fizz, and a remarkably dense head unhelped by nitrogen gas dispensing. The hop character is gloriously full and aromatic, with thrilling complexity and a clean, gentle bitterness. One of the best beers in Tokyo at the moment - check it out.

Helmsdale
Minami Aoyama 7-13-12 2F
Minato-ku, Tokyo
Open from 6 pm to 6 am Mon-Sat, and 6 pm to 3 am Sundays and holidays
(03) 3486-4220
www.helmsdale-fc.com


Kirin Latte Stout

Talk about borrowed interest! I work in advertising, and we do it all the time. It's basically bringing in an unrelated element to get interest in a product. Like a beautiful woman sprawled across the hood of a car. Kirin is using the current coffee boom to sell their new Latte Stout which contains neither coffee nor milk. Okay, it is a "milk stout" - a traditional English style. And, yes, "latte" does mean milk, in Italian. But the name so much of a stretch that it's just plain goofy.

However, the product looks interesting. See it at http://www.kirin.co.jp/brands/lattestout/index.html It is made with barley malt, wheat malt, hops and lactose (milk sugar). Apparently, the addition of lactose, as was done with the original English milk stouts, will add a smooth sweetness to the beer. On sale from October 8th at 7-11 convenience stores (which sell liquor) in Tokyo and adjoining prefectures. -- a tip from reader Eiko Nishida, who says "I'd love to see what the difference is between the original Kirin Stout (a heavy 8% alcohol brew) and this "latte stout" (about 4% alcohol).


Beer Tasting

October 17th, Friday, from 8:00-10:30 pm will be your chance to taste a range of interesting beers. September's beers were a broad range of brews from all over Japan, along with a few from Scotland and Belgium. Plus there was more than a meal's worth of sausage, potatoes, bread, vegetables, and other hearty snacking food. These tastings are held on the 3rd Friday of every month at Yaesu Language School just outside the Yaesu exit of Tokyo Station. Reservations are recommended. Y3,000, all food and drinks included. Phone (03) 5255-3090, or e-mail beer(at)kokusaika.org.

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Glassifieds

Send your beer-related ads to brewsnews@yahoo.com There is no charge for Brews News readers.

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Ale Mail

Letters are always welcome in Brews News. Write to: brewsnews@yahoo.com


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Brews News copyright (c) Bryan Harrell and contributors.

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