Brews News Issue 43 - November 2003
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In this issue
Beer Here: Beer O'Clock Happy Hour at New York Bar
Bar Beat: Nitrogen Shakespeare
Brewer's Blues: by Toshi Ishii, Yona Yona Ale Brewmaster
Six Pick: A selection of great beers from Belgium and Japan
Spouting Off: Guinness too high!!!
News: "Pumpkin Pie" in a Pint from Baird
Ale Mail:

Beer Here

Beer O'Clock Happy Hour at New York Bar

The New York Bar in the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku has made a name for itself among happy hour fans for offering all-you-can-drink specials of high quality wines for customers arriving between 5 and 7 pm. The deal was that you order wine by the glass from a selection of about ten superb vintages, with a plate of appetizers included in the bargain, all for 5,200 yen, including taxes and service charges. There was a 90-minute time limit, but that is sufficient for an all-you-can drink deal.

The bad news is that the New York Bar no longer offers this deal, but the good news - especially for beer fans - is that they are offering the same deal, at the same price, with several U.S. microbrews. Plus, customers get to choose two plates of food from among six items.

The Brews: From California are Scrimshaw Lager and Blue Star Wheat Beer from North Coast Brewing Company, Steelhead Extra Pale Ale from Mad River Brewing Company and Great White beer from Lost Coast Brewery. From New York is Brooklyn Lager. From Colorado is an IPA from Flying Dog Brewery. From Massachusetts is Samuel Adams Boston Lager. From Oregon is Oregon Honey Beer from MacTarnahan's Brewing Company. And, with a nod to the good craft beer being brewed in Hokkaido, there is Kamuy Dark Lager from Hidaka Beer Company. As you can see, most brews are on the light side, so this represents an opportunity to convert a few more people to craft beer. I found the Steelhead Extra Pale Ale and the Flying Dog IPA to be particularly tasty, though Brooklyn Lager and Sam Adams Lager are always superb as well.

The Food: Fried Long Neck Clams with American Sauce. Tortilla Wrapped Soft Shell Crab with Spicy Tartar Sauce and Baby Greens. Snow Crab Legs with Toasted Sesame Sauce. Sweet Shrimp Ceviche. Yamagata Beef Carpaccio with Semi-Dried Tomatoes, Olives and Feta Cream. House-made Pickle Assortment.

The Bonus: The New York Bar, at 51 stories above West Shinjuku, has perhaps the best view of any bar in town. The bar itself faces Tokyo Bay, and those arriving at twilight will be rewarded with one of the city's best views.

New York Bar
Park Hyatt Hotel 51F
3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku
163-1055 Japan

Tel: +81 3 5322 1234
Fax: +81 3 5322 1288


Bar Beat

Shakespeare Stout on Nitro at Select Tokyo Pubs

By the time you read this, Shakespeare Stout, a highly hopped oatmeal stout from Rogue Ales in Oregon, U.S.A. will likely be on tap at Amusement (03-3464-7971) in Shibuya, at What The Dickens (03-3780-2099) in Ebisu and at the Town Cryer in Hibiya (03-3519-6690) and Kamiyacho (03-5401-9995). More interestingly, it will be dispensed with a nitrogen gas blend to give it that thick, creamy head common to other nitro-dispense beers like Guinness and Boddingtons. Here's your chance to have nitro-gas creaminess with a really powerful and hoppy yet creamy smooth oatmeal stout from a small craft brewery. It's best to phone your destination first to find out if the Shakespeare Stout is on since most places only ordered a keg or two.


Brewer's Blues

Putting the Pedal to the Medals

By Toshi Ishii,
Brewmaster, Yo-Ho Brewing Company (Yona Yona Ale)

Greetings from Karuizawa, known as the place in Japan most similar to Scotland. First of all, let me exercise my bragging rights: Yona Yona Ale Earns Gold Medal at Osaka IBC Four Years in a Row!

Of course I'm proud, particularly since a lot of hard work has gone into our success. The International Beer Competition held every year in Osaka is one of Japan's foremost beer competitions. We have also won Silver Medals for our Porter (Karuizawa Kogen Beer / National Trust), our IPA (Karuizawa Kogen Beer/2003Seasonal), and our 2001 Barleywine. And we took a Bronze for our 2002 Barleywine.

We are very proud of these awards and I'd like to thank all of you, our supporters, as well as the judges. The award ceremony was held at the International Beer Summit in Umeda, Osaka, from October 10-12. We participated in that festival and took with us a whole lot of Yona Yona Real Ale. We also packed lots of our Porter and IPA, also cask-conditioned for our supporters in western Japan, because, unfortunately there aren't any pubs or restaurants there that serve our cask-conditioned Yona Yona Real Ale.

As you can imagine, we're ready to GO WEST for Yona Yona real ale, so if you know any good pubs in Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe or other places that are interested in Real Ale, please let me know and I'll get in touch with them at once.

In Tokyo, our Real Ale is fast becoming popular. On July 1st of this year our Yona Yona Real Ale was released at Helmsdale, the holy shrine of single malts in Minami-Aoyama. This is the fifth pub so far that serves Yona Yona Real Ale, but the first place where it is poured into a genuine traditional Imperial Pint glass, which contains 20 ounces instead of the 16 ounces in an American pint. This is the kind of place that has welcomed the likes of Mr. Michael Jackson, who was very impressed with their immense selection of fine single malt whisky. Naturally, they are known as the Shrine of Single Malts, and now with our Yona Yona Real Ale, I hope they also become known for real cask-conditioned ale on handpump.

Our brewery is located in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, which is also home to a number of distilleries making fine single malt whisky. Though Karuizawa is the most famous summer resort in Japan, it's been really rainy and chilly here through this summer. Comparing the climate, Karuizawa is normally 5-6 degrees C (9-11 degrees F) colder than the greater Tokyo area. However our brewery has been so heated up by our production that many breweries that are very interested in producing real ales (cask-conditioned ales) have visited us and have undergone training in how to produce it. We have had brewmasters from a number of small breweries throughout Japan, including Iki-iki ji-beer of Toyama, Ichi-no-seki Beer of Iwate, AJI Beer of Osaka, and Minami-Aizu Brewing of Fukushima.

We're very pleased to welcome other breweries that are interested in brewing real ale and building this new movement with us. We believe that real ale is not just something we do for our brand image, but rather it is a new movement, which will hopefully become a culture, even if it's considered old-fashioned in the U.K.

Last year I visited England, and all the breweries I paid calls on -- Tetley's, Greene King, Fuller's, and Ringwood -- ranging from national to micro, gave me a good welcome on my technical visits. I got a close look not only at all aspects of their historical techniques from all aspects, but also their enthusiasm for, and dedication to, cask-conditioned ale. For this reason, I feel I have to pass on these insights and techniques to brewers and breweries in Japan, because in the near future we will certainly experience the growth of real ale in Japan. For this reason I need to be a brewmaster who is not only very familiar with the brewing scene in Japan, but also in the U.K. and the U.S.A. as well. I believe we can make good real ale in Japan, but I do understand this will not be an easy task.

Apart from my role as an Ambassador of Real Ale, I also have a full job description at Yo-Ho Brewing. Since we opened our Son-min Shokudo and Cafe Hungry Spot last April inside the Hoshino Resort Area (operated by our parent company), I've been managing and operating our taps for real ale and other beers there. Since I am also the brewmaster of Yo Ho Brewing Co, I import all our equipment, including beer engines (beer hand pumps), as well as various sundry items for cask ale from both the U.K. and the U.S.A. I am also one of the organizers of the Tokyo Real Ale Festival, which will continue to be held on the second weekend in March every year. Cheers!

[Toshi Ishii, "the Priest of Yeast", worked for five years as one of the brewers of the notoriously delicious Arrogant Bastard Ale at Stone Brewing Company in San Diego, California USA. He has been back in Japan for just a few years, and has already become the Brewmaster of Yo-Ho Brewing Company, brewers of Yona Yona Ale, one of the consistently best Japanese microbrews.]


Six Pick

From Australia, Canada, Japan and Norway
Plus a trio of stouts from Japan and Ireland

! ! ! ! ! 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.

!!!!! Don De Dieu (Quebec Canada, 9% abv, all malt) is rich and satisfying beer in the Belgian style. There is a wild fruity sweet taste, with lots of carbonation and a cloudy blonde appearance. It's somewhere between Westmalle Tripel and Duvel, and every bit in the same class. Huge applause. This beer is from Unibroue, one of Canada's best breweries, and one I consider the most distinctive in all of North America. Fortunately, their brews are now available in Japan, and imported nicely (by air, no less) by K.K. Hiroshima. Their website ( is only in Japanese, but is still wonderful fun to surf through for those who can't read it.

!!!!! Nogne O Bitter (Norway, about 4.5% abv, all malt) is not available in Japan yet, but could be by next spring. Still, the flavor was remarkable enough to include it here. It is essentially a Pale Ale (the draft version of which is called "bitter" in the U.K.) but has a light roasty, tangy malt sensation that sets it apart from its English cousins. East Kent Golding hops are used as aroma hops, and are unusually fresh tasting, but with earthy notes in the background.

!!!! Sankt Gallen Amber Ale (Atsugi Kanagawa Pref., 5.2% abv, all malt) is from the recently reopened Sankt Gallen brewery. Though dark amber in color, it has a clean, smooth taste with a medium body. Fairly simple flavors greet you at first, but once in the mouth, complex layers of malt unfold with spicy and fruity notes emerging, though sweetness is held in check by well balance hopping. A sturdy, rich tasting and well-made beer. Available for mail order by the case; phone the brewery at 046-224-2313.

!!!! Kushiro Minato-machi Beer "Muteki no Hibiki" Pilsner (Kushiro Hokkaido, 5.1% abv, unpasteurized, all malt) just doesn't taste like a Pilsner, but it is a fairly tasty beer nonetheless. It is fruity, somewhat sweet, and has a bewitching light amber color. Relabeled as a Marzen or a Bock would make more sense. Available along with three other types (Weizen, Alt and Red Ale) from the brewery; phone 0154-43-1122.

!! Brewry Classic low-alcohol beer (Australia, 0.9 abv, all malt!) is considered a "non-alcohol" beer in Japan since it has less than 1%. It is also one of the best tasting N/A lagers I have ever encountered. A closer look at the label revealed it is one of the few that is all malt, and perhaps this is one reason why. At Kawachi-ya in Shibuya for about 100 yen. A great beer for your next summer driving trip.

ugh Kairinmaru "Malt no Tokimeki" (Otaru Hokkaido, 7%, 25% malt happoshu) only deserves mention for its wild and hilarious label, which unfortunately was damaged somewhat on the bottle I got. It pictures a Christian monk praying in front of a nude woman. There are few countries that would allow this to happen, so I applaud the spirit of the label artist, as well as the brewery manager who commissioned it. The flavor is a faint version of cheap extract homebrew, so never mind what's inside.

Trio of Stouts

!!!! Echigo Stout, canned version (Niigata Japan, 7% abv, all barley and wheat malt) is a very good value at around 300 yen, though the bottled version from the original brewpub is a fair margin better, but costs twice as much. It's richly flavored, but not too heavy, and in my opinion more interesting and complex than most of the popular mass-produced stouts from Ireland.

!!! Kirin Latte Stout (Japan, 4% abv, barley and wheat malt, hops, lactose) is essentially a stout with training wheels. While in the original "milk stout" style, the lactose is too apparent, distracting the palate from the parade of dark roasty flavors. While I applaud Kirin for making this style available, and ensuring its freshness by cold delivery to the 7-Eleven stores where it is exclusively sold, I can't help but think it is a temporary marketing exercise, particularly with its goofy name. No, it's got nothing to do with Italy, and there is no milk in it - just milk sugar, which does not ferment, ensuring a stable level of sweetness throughout its shelf life.

!!!!! Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (Ireland, 7.5% abv, roasted barley, malt and hops) is my favorite version of this very popular beer. For one, it's about twice as strong and twice as heavy as its wimpy nitro-tap counterpart. For another, it has a powerful, rich, complex flavor that lets you know you are drinking something special. It is jet black, with a dark tan head. Port, vanilla and fruitcake aromas dominate, while sharply bitter and deep roasted coffee-like flavors emerge as it slides down your throat. As such, this is not an "everyday" beer, and tastes best during winter holidays, preferably in a brandy snifter. Drink it chilled (7 C) for a drier, more bitter flavor, or at cellar temperature (12 C) Apparently, Guinness brews this version for shipment to tropical countries where refrigeration cannot always be assured. At this density, with such high alcohol, it keeps well at temperatures in excess of 35 C.


Spouting Off

Book of Guinness Wreckers

There are almost enough delicious craft ales now being served in Tokyo pubs to write a book about. Better yet, an increasing number are cask conditioned real ales, and some are even served on handpump without the use of CO2 pressure to push the beer from the keg to the tap and, some say, over-carbonate it into a fizzy mess.

For instance, an Imperial pint (20 ounces!) of Yona Yona Real Ale at Helmsdale in Aoyama is only 1,000 yen, the same price they charge for Guinness Stout and Bass Pale Ale. A U.S. pint (16 ounces) of Baird Beer is 900 yen at Takara in Yurakucho is only 900 yen, the same price many places charge for a Bass, Boddingtons or Guinness. The Hobgoblin Pubs in Akasaka and Roppongi have also started serving cask ale brewed in Fukushima under their brand name for about the same price as their English-brewed counterparts.

This development not only means a greater measure of choice in real English-style ale, it also highlights how overpriced such lackluster, mass-produced beers are in Tokyo's English/Irish style pubs. Taking into account the cost of production and importing, a pint of Guinness should cost no more than 600 yen in most places, yet it is often half again as much.

More importantly, since the new wave of Japan-produced real ales are now being sold at the same price as the mass-produced imports, they represent quite a bargain to those who can appreciate their superior freshness and depth of flavor. In a few years, it may be possible that locally brewed beer can overtake the ales of the large corporate breweries.



Pumpkin Ale, Shochu Authority

On Halloween, Baird Beer released its Country Girl Kabocha Ale. What's a kabocha? It's a Japanese squash very much like pumpkin. Baird brews with kabocha from the vegetable gardens of Heda, along with a blend of sweet "pumpkin pie" spices in the brewing kettle along with the malt and hops. According to brewmaster Bryan Baird, it's like a pint of pumpkin pie. The color is a magnificent amber-orange in keeping with the spirit of the lovely fall foliage. For more information on Baird Brewing Company and their Fishmarket Taproom, check out their attractive Web site at

The Shochu Authority at Tokyo Station is now carrying more than 50 kinds of Japanese craft beers from all over the country. It's in the underground passageway that runs between the Marunouchi West Side and the Yaesu East Side of the station, and is outside the ticketed area. Phone 03-5208-5157. For a more detailed report, go to .



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