The 2nd Tokyo Real Ale Festival - March 20th & 21st
RESERVE NOW! Sell-out expected soon
The newly formed Good Beer Club is presenting the 2nd Tokyo Real Ale Festival on March 20th and 21st at Beer Club Popeye in Ryogoku, the site of last year's event. This year, unprecedented crowds are expected, so the event will be held in three separate sessions.
Session 1: Saturday 3/20, 2 to 5 pm
Session 2: Saturday 3/20, 6 to 9 pm
Session 3: Sunday 3/21, 2 to 5 pm
This year, even more brewers are participating in the event. As of this writing, they are: Baird Beer, Hitachino Nest Beer, Iki Iki Ji-beer, Ikspiari, Isekadoya Bakushu, Iwatekura Beer, Minoh Beer, Sankt Gallen, Swan Lake, TY Harbor Brewery, Tokyo Beer Research Club (brewed at Loco Beer), and Yona Yona Ale. A few more are expected.
Reservations are required, and admission for each session for GBC members is Y3,500 for advance payment, and Y4,000 for payment at the door. For non-members, admission is Y4,000 and Y4,500 respectively. With admission to each session, participants receive a 2ndTRAF souvenir glass and tickets good for eight tastings of 125 ml each (1/4 pint, conveniently one stroke of the hand pump) for a total of two pints of beer. Additional tasting tickets are available, and will be priced (as of this writing) at Y200 each, or Y700 for four. This price may be raised slightly depending upon the final prices of the beer.
Not only do GBC members get a discount, they also get priority reservation privileges until early March, when reservations will start being accepted from the general public. This is just one reason to join the GBC. Membership is at the reduced rate of Y1,500 until September, when the new membership year begins.
Fortunately, a system has been set up to allow you to join the GBC and reserve for one or more sessions at the same time. You can do this online at http://www.goodbeerclub.org/traf/joinandentry-en.html
Where it says "I recognize the regulations of the Good Beer Club and join it," this refers to the club rules, which are in Japanese only and can be viewed at http://www.goodbeerclub.org/traf/rules-en.html
Also on the site is information about the 2nd Tokyo Real Ale Festival, and a clear map showing how to get to Beer Club Popeye from the west exit of JR Ryogoku station. For this and other general information, go to http://www.goodbeerclub.org/traf/index-en.html
If you experience any difficulties, please feel free to contact me at (brewsnews at yahoo dot com) and I'll do what I can to help. Remember, the GBC is an entirely volunteer organization, so things may not always go smoothly.
The Aldgate, a British-style pub in Shibuya, was one of the four pubs in the Beer Gang pub crawl on February 20th, organized by the Good Beer Club. To my surprise, The Aldgate is now serving cask-conditioned ale on hand pump. The beer is Yona Yona Pale Ale made in Nagano Prefecture, and it's Y1,100 a pint, not a bad price considering that a pint of Guinness, Bass or Boddingtons costs Y900. Located between Seibu Dept. Store and Tokyu Hands, the Aldgate is a friendly pub, not too big, not too small, with free live music on Wednesday nights. For more details, check out their Web site at
Kura Kura in Shimokitazawa originally highlighted Japanese craft beer, but in the past two years they've added Belgian beers and U.S. microbrews to their selection. Recommended are the Ezo Beers brewed in Oregon, particularly the Soba Beer, the Jigokudani smoked beer, and Shakespeare Stout - all only Y700 each. For Belgian beers, you cannot beat their Chimay prices - Y800 for red, Y850 for white, and Y900 for Blue - likely the lowest of any bar in town. And, they offer Westmalle Tripel for only Y1050. Their most recent menu addition is the complete line of Baird Beers in the bottle, and they're only Y900 each - quite a good price. Kura Kura also offers different Happy Hour specials each day. It's very close to the station, outside the south exit just past Daiei. For more details, check out their Web site at http://J-beer.com/kurakura/
Bois Cereste: Big Belgians
A report on the February Belgian beer dinner
By Mike Kubeck
I'm a sucker for Belgian beers and couldn't resist Bryan's tip in the last Brews News that there might be some unusual and fresh Belgians at Bois Cereste on Feb 12th. Since it was a place I'd been meaning to visit for quite some time, I went with high expectations. I even brought along my girlfriend who, though not partial to beer per se, does tend to enjoy Belgian beer more often than not. This turned out to be a particularly good move because I was able to not only score brownie points by taking her on a date, but also drink extra portions of some beers that she couldn't finish.
The interior of Bois Cereste is a tasteful hybrid of European beer restaurant and mom-'n'-pop style Japanese coffee shop, comfortable and encouraging. The twenty or so attendees were an interesting combination of affluent older Japanese couples and diehard Belgian beer fans, including Bryan and myself, who were the only foreigners. The tasting/dinner began once everyone was seated family-style around the three large but cozy tables.
Before giving my impressions of the beers, I should mention that there were 4 or 5 small plates of Belgian-style food accompanying the beers. Unfortunately I did not take notes about them and have forgot any details. I do remember, though, that everything was VERY tasty, and that someone even brought along slices of some delicious Belgian chocolate for dessert. The size of each dish and of each beer was not large, but considering that all the beer was lugged back from Belgium by hand, I can't complain, especially since I left feeling quite satisfied.
On to the beers! First up was an amazing creation, Deux -Brut des Flanders- Cuvee Prestige 2002 (11.5%), which came in a champagne bottle. It was appropriately light in color with accompanying effervescence. As is the case with many Belgians, this did not taste like "beer." It was extraordinarily dry but well balanced with a unique aroma that could have been champagne to me. Possibly fermented with Champagne yeast? 5 stars all around.
We then went from sweetish to over the top sweetness with Wilson - Mild Stout (5.2%) To me, this milk stout tasted like a failed homebrew that did not completely ferment. Lots of body, but just too damned sweet. Perhaps it would mellow with age? 2 stars.
The next beers were from a weekend brewery, and were called Angelus (7%). There were three styles from this brewery, but I only managed to get sips of the Amber and the Dark before they were gone. If the Wilson was (although a commercial product) a good example of what could go wrong in a homebrew, the Angelus were examples of how small production can be done right. These were both unique and balanced. I could have certainly done with another glass of the Amber. 4 stars.
Sorry for lack of details, but my notes begin to fade a bit here as I began to drink portions of my girlfriend's beers. The next-to-last beer was also a weekend brew "La Sambre" that had gone off - no comment.
The final beer of the tasting however, brought everything full circle. Dubuisson/Bush - Prestige Cuvee Speciale at 13% was BIG, but unbelievably drinkable, sweet like a good German white wine, with just the faintest hint of beer-like body. Another limited-edition champagne-style beer in a champagne bottle, this is one to look out for. However, it is apparently quite expensive, even in Belgium. If you can find it AND your wallet is flush, don't miss your chance to enjoy one of the best of the best. 5 stars.
With the tasting over, and feeling particularly good after the Bush Prestige, on Bryan's recommendation I decided to go for extra-credit and sample a Bush 12 (12%) to put things in perspective. This too was an absolute winner. No notes here but "yum."
See the News section below for details on the next Belgian Beer Dinner at Bois Cereste.
[Mike Kubeck is the Vice-President of Tokyo Ale
For details, see http://www.tokyo-ale.com/e/home/index.html ]
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In early February, I had the pleasure of planning a beer-tasting event for over 40 people hosted by Dick Christenson at his spacious Art-Deco-style mansion (yes, a real one) in Azabu. Dick's a friendly fellow who likes good beer, and he invited embassy employees and their friends for this event. Although everyone brought dishes for the pot luck, an organizer named Alan went the extra distance by baking huge pans of Bratwurst sausages for everyone.
My task was to choose some American microbrews that would represent the wide range of beers available. While I wanted to expose people to as many styles as possible, I wanted to keep the list short to avoid too many confusing choices for the guests, many of whom had never had this kind of beer before. It was difficult, but I managed to narrow my selection down to eight different beers from four different suppliers in Japan: Baird Beer, Ezo Beer (Rogue Ales), Orca International (Red Hook) and Tengu Foods (Wolaver's Organic Ales). Although Baird Beer is brewed in Japan, it qualified as American because brewmaster Bryan Baird is from the U.S.
I also minimized unusual choices in favor of beers with familiar flavor profiles. But to my surprise, in a show of hands, each beer garnered a good number of 'favorite' votes. Just as many people liked the easy-drinking Chinook Copper Ale as did the rich, bitter Shakespeare Stout. More astonishing, the beer I thought most people would not like - Brutal Bitter - had quite a few fervent fans who had "never experienced a beer with so much flavor," as one guest told me.
The following are my reviews of the beers in the order we tasted them. Thanks again to Dick, Cynthia, Alan and the other organizers who showed a strong interest in traditional beer.
Wolaver's Organic Pale Ale (Vermont USA) Tangy and malty, with a good hop profile in good balance with the malt. Medium heavy body for this style.
Baird Rising Sun Pale Ale (Numazu, Shizuoka pref.) Crisp fresh flavors in a surprisingly light body given this much flavor. Very juicy malt flavors with brilliantly complex hop bitterness that lingers long.
Rogue Dead Guy Ale (Oregon, USA) Deep orange amber, clean aroma dominated by floral hops with a dry malt aroma behind. Clean, smooth and subdued malt flavor profile with rather low bitterness. A sturdy, solidly balanced brew.
Chinook Copper Ale from Redhook (Washington, USA) Slightly hazy bronze orange amber, sweet malt aroma with a highlight of dried papaya or mango. Good rich malt flavors that are an extension of the aroma, balanced by a hint of citric tartness. Rather low hopping for a "Northwest Style Ale" as the label proclaims. A very smooth brew with a nice clean finish.
Baird Red Rose Amber Ale (Numazu, Shizuoka pref.) Hazy reddish brown, thick creamy light tan head. Fresh floral hop aroma with faint fruitiness. Rather light body but surprisingly rich malty taste with restrained fruitiness and a very clean and dry finish, when the hops emerge. Quite a smooth and thrilling brew, very drinkable, and you finish it before you realize it. One of Baird's most unique.
Redhook IPA (Washington, USA) Golden orange, good hop flavors greet that are more floral than bitter, with solid malt in the background. Hops carry over into the flavor with rather clean, dry malt flavors behind the big hop bite. Sharp dry finish, but hop flavors linger long. Nice clean finish.
Rogue Brutal Bitter, known as "Namara Nigai" in Japan (Oregon, USA) Brilliant orange gold, thick sudsy off-white head. Big tangy malt flavor, matched perfectly by huge luscious hop bitterness, that takes over towards the finish. Wow, this is an incredibly powerful yet fresh-tasting and lively beer. Having such enormous, intense bitterness, this is the beer I thought most people in the tasting would not be able to drink. To my surprise, it was a big hit, and was named as a favorite by a few more people than any other of the beers.
Rogue Shakespeare Stout (Oregon USA) Black, black, black. Thick, rich, bitter, roasty, intensely flavored, but astonishingly smooth, thanks to the small amount of oatmeal used with the many varieties of roasted malt. I wish every Guinness fan could experience this beer just once.
All of these beers can be ordered for home delivery in Japan. For details, check these Web sites.
Baird Beer www.bairdbeer.com
Red Hook Beer www.orca-international.com
Rogue Ales www.ezo-beer.com
Wolaver's Organic Ales www.tengufoods.com
Real Ale Club becomes the Good Beer Club
At the January 31st public meeting, the Real Ale Club officially adopted the name "Good Beer Club" and formed under a charter of by-laws. While cask-conditioned real ale will be the focus of the group's activities, most members are also interested in other traditional styles of beer, such as Belgian ales and classic German lagers, and the veritable rainbow of microbrew now pouring out of North America. Thus, the Good Beer Club was born.
In the days following the GBC's formation, planning for the 2nd Tokyo Real Ale Festival began. Meanwhile, the group's first "pub"-lic activity - a pub crawl between four pubs in Shibuya on Friday, February 20th - was surprisingly well attended, and went well beyond the planned 10 pm finish, as clusters of beer drinkers reveled well past midnight in all four places. The next activity, the Real Ale Festival, will likely be the group's biggest undertaking of the year. Following that, there will be monthly activities in Tokyo, collectively named Good Beer Day. A shitamachi pub crawl is planned for April, a real ale seminar day is slated for May, and regional activities will begin in June.
Naturally, these activities require a tremendous amount of planning, logistics and hard work. On the directors' mailing list, close to 100 e-mails pass through every day. Since the GBC is a non-profit consumer group, all organizing work is done by volunteers. In this connection, I would encourage any interested Brews News reader to join the GBC and get involved. It's a great way to meet others who share your interest in good beer. The membership spans a wide range of ages, and although most are men, there are quite a few women in the GBC. If you live outside of Tokyo, you could be your area's organizer.
The best place to start is to join the group and attend one of the sessions in the upcoming Real Ale Festival. Membership until September is only 1,500 yen, and at the last pub crawl in Shibuya, The Aldgate pub was giving discounts to GBC members, and many other pubs are expected to follow this courtesy as the GBC expands its activities. While the quarterly newsletter and Web site will be in Japanese, they will contain some English to give you an idea of what's going on. As the need arises, more English will be added to the Web site, which should be up and running in early March at www.GoodBeerClub.org
Hair of the Dog beer in bottles is now available in Japan. Hard-core strong beer lovers recognize this Portland, Oregon, brewery as one that produces the most interesting and powerful brews in North America. Since these beers sell in the U.S. for as much as $3.00 to $3.50 for a regular 12 ounce bottle, people who drink them must be hard-core. Phred Kaufman, who began importing draft versions of several Hair of the Dog beers for Beer Club Popeye last year, now has a shipment of HotD bottled beers, namely Adam, Fred, Golden Rose and the limited edition Doggy Claws holiday ale. They are available by the 24-bottle case (mixed OK) for Y700 per bottle. For details, contact Phred at ezo-beer dot com
Wednesday, March 10th
Belgian Beer Dinner on March 10th from 7 p.m. at Bois Cereste in Akasaka. This month's event will feature rare aged Belgian ales, paired with several courses of Belgian cuisine. Owner Yamada-san says the average age of the beers offered will be about five or six years, so this should be quite an interesting experience. The cost is Y7,000 per person, including beer and dinner. These events are held on the second Wednesday of every month. Reservations are necessary - phone Bois Cereste in the evenings at 03-3588-6292.
Thursday, March 11th
There's a new Sports Bar in Shibuya, eh! The Maple Leaf Sports Bar & Restaurant, a new Canadian Sports bar in the heart of Shibuya, will hold an opening party on March 11th from 7:30 pm to late. All drinks will be just Y500, and complimentary hors d'oeuvres and other Klondike munchies will be served. Beat the rush and arrive early. Reservations not necessary but appreciated, e-mail info at maplesportsbar dot com
The Maple Leaf has eight beers on tap, and two huge screens showing NHL, NFL, NBA, and MLB action, along with soccer and Japanese sports. Chow down on charbroiled steaks, burgers and more. Plus they got a whole lot of Canadian beer, eh. Open daily from 5 pm until late.
The Maple Leaf Sports Bar & Restaurant
Kokusai Building 4F, 13-16 Udagawacho in Shibuya, near Parco Part 3.
Phone 03-5784-6778. Map at http://www.maplesportsbar.com
Friday, March 12th
"Satsuma Night" is the theme of this month's Mini Microbrew Festival, to be held on March 12th, 8:00-10:30pm. at Yaesu Language School near the Yaesu Kita exit of Tokyo Station. A broad range of craft beers from southern Kyushu will be featured, along with a special appearance of Red Hook Ales from Seattle, USA. The beers are:
1. Hanatogawa Beer: Satsuma Gold, Satsuma Black & Satsuma Purple
from Satsuma Shuzo Co., Ltd. in Kagoshima Pref.
2. Kirishima Beer: Koelsch, Blonde, Kaneto and Alt from Kirishima Highland Beer Co. in Kagoshima Pref.
3. Satsuma Beer: Weizen, Satsuma Ale, Crystal Weizen and Dunkel from Satsuma Brewery Ltd. in Kagoshima Pref.
4. Denbe Beer: Koelsch from Hamada Shuzo Co., Ltd. in Kagoshima Pref.
5. Red Hook IPA, Red Hook ESB & Black Hook Porter from Red Hook Ale Brewery in Seattle, Washington USA.
A generous light buffet is also provided, with vegetable platters, cheese platters, bread platters and roast beef. Reservations are recommended. The cost is only Y3,000, all food and drinks included. Reservations are recommended, phone 03-5255-3090, or email beer at kokusaika dot org
Saturday, March 20th and Sunday, March 21st
The 2nd Tokyo Real Ale Festival will be held on March 20th and 21st at Beer Club Popeye in Ryogoku. For details, see the top article in this issue.
Monday, April 26th
Shitamachi Pub Crawl by the Good Beer Club is now being planned for April 26th from 7 pm at the following pubs:
1. Beer Station Ryogoku (at JR Ryogoku Station, 3623-5711) This beer hall differs from others in Tokyo in that some of the beer they serve is brewed on the premises.
2. Izakaya Genjiro (near Hikifune Station, Tobu Line, two stops from Asakusa, 3619-8441) A large selection of Japanese craft beer is featured here.
3. Sumida River Brewing Co. (Asakusa, in the Asahi Beer HQ complex, 5608-5144) This is a small brewpub operated by Asahi, and though the beers brewed here are radically different from Asahi's most famous brand, they are not called Super Wet.
4. The Warrior Celt (Okachimachi, near Ueno, 3836-8588) A broad range of U.K. beers are available here.
Show up at one or all of the pubs and look for the Good Beer Club sign, buy your own drink, and get to know other fans of good beer.
Sunday, May 30th
Real Ale Seminars and a bring-your-own-beer gathering are planned for May 30th in Shinagawa. Mark your calendars - details in the next issue of Brews News.
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