Brews News Issue 50 - June 2004
Home >> Eating & Drinking in Tokyo >> Brews News
In this issue
Beer Here: Many Beer Events in Tokyo
Bar Beat: Beer & Bear in Osaka
Beer Talk: How many is too many?
Six Pick: A wide range of beer from Belgium, Japan and the U.S.
Spouting Off: Donations requested
News: Beer events here and there
Glassifieds: Home brewing equipment for sale
Ale Mail:

Beer Here

Mark Your Calendars

A nice cluster of events will be taking place in Tokyo in the middle of June. Here is list of them - scroll down to the News section for more details.

Wednesday, June 9th 7 p.m.
Belgian Beer Dinner at Bois Cereste in Akasaka
Various Raspberry lambic beers will be featured.

Friday, June 11th 8 p.m.
Mini Microbrew Festival at YLS near Tokyo Station

Saturday June 19, noon to 7 pm.
The 7th National Craft Beer Festival
Tokyo Prince Hotel "Garden Island" in Shiba Koen, Tokyo.

Saturday June 19, 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Sunday June 20, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Great Japan Beer Festival 2004 in Tokyo

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Bar Beat

Beer & Bear in Osaka




by Glenn Scoggins

There's a hidden gem unnoticed by the frenzied shoppers along Shinsaibashi arcade. Down a narrow alley, behind what at first glance resembles an assortment of rubbish collected from "big gomi" day, lurks a friendly and disheveled bar named, with charming alliteration, Beer & Bear. Run with understated modesty by Hata Norikazu, it's crammed from floor to ceiling with posters from Japan's craft breweries - and over one hundred bears: stuffed, plastic, wooden, and (outside) 800 kilograms of solid rock. My curiosity about this eccentric pub had been piqued when "Divine Vamp" made its debut at a handful of bars, amongst them Beer & Bear. A recent sunny weekend brought me to Osaka on business, and I took the chance to check it out (although without the simple map on their website, I would never have found it). Five beers were on tap: Yona Yona Real Ale (a good sign), Taiko Ale from Toyama (with which Beer & Bear has a special relationship), and three from Minoo AJI Beer in the north Osaka suburbs - pilsener, pale ale, and weizen. Nothing would do but to have them all, and the Minoo weizen impressed with a clear taste just right for the hot weather. Yona Yona did not disappoint either, in stark contrast to some bars where gas is added to produce fizz where none should exist. On the menu were over 100 beers from around the world, including Japanese jibiiru such as Hakusekikan, Echigo, and Akura Beer from Akita. Another indication of Hata-san's good taste was his selection of Bryan Baird's superb beer from Numazu, recently available in bottles. There's also a short food menu and economical lunch specials. While I had the place to myself on a Sunday evening, it is sure to be popular with regulars. "Brews News" readers in Kansai who don't already frequent it should add it to their list, and those visiting Osaka from elsewhere are in for a treat.

Beer & Bear
3-4-9 Hakuro-cho
Chuo-ku, Osaka 541-0059
Tel/Fax 06-6241-0409
e-mail: hatanori at silver.ocn.ne.jp
Open M-F 11:30-14:30, 17:30-24:00
Open Sat 16:00-23:00, Sun 16:00-21:00

Between Shinsaibashi (Exit 1) and Honmachi (Exit 12) on the Osaka subway system

From Shinsaibashi station, walk north under the arcade until you pass Maruzen Bookstore on your right. Cross the street, turn right, and turn into the next alley, but keep your eyes peeled. There's a simple map in English on the website below.

The ramshackle construction of the bar makes this a chilly choice on a cold night. Accordingly, Hata-san will shut up shop for several weeks in January next winter. He plans no days off for the rest of 2004, though. Check out his website, partially in English: http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~sjk/

BREWS NEWS WANTS YOU!
Please send in a short review of your favorite beer bar. Just a paragraph or two is fine, and be sure to include the address, phone number and operating hours. Deadline for the next issue is June 23rd.

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Beer Talk

How many is too many?

By Bryan Harrell

No, this is not about how many beers one should drink in one day. Rather, it is about how many beers a good pub should have on their menu.

The other day I was in the Maple Leaf, a new "Canadian Sports Bar" that opened in Shibuya earlier this year. They had quite a selection of bottled beers when they first opened, but recently it seems they have reduced the number on offer.

Good move. It shows they are putting some thought into their selection. Not just by cutting it down - there were some new brews, including Spitfire, an English ale, which is on tap and recommended for those who like a strong pale ale. (The Maple Leaf also has some of the best pub food in town, including a remarkable seafood chowder.)

While some beer enthusiasts will feel disappointed by a reduced selection, I am usually in favor of fewer choices, but only if it means better beer turnover (in the interest of freshness) and fewer me-too beers. After all, if a beer like Spitfire is on tap, it largely eliminates the need for similar-but-lesser brews like the ubiquitous Bass Pale Ale and Kilkenny.

Truth be told, when pub managers proudly show me their selection, I almost invariably advise them to adopt a "fewer-but-better" approach, particularly when it comes to international lagers, which tend to exhibit great similarity.

In front of the station I normally use there is a shop that has been vacant for almost a year now. It's a small place that shares the first floor of a building with a ramen joint. Formerly a coffee and curry cafe, it has a single counter that would seat ten at the most.

The urge to open a beer specialty bar there is tempting, but I hate working at night, and can't stand dealing with drunk folks. I'm not cut out to run a bar, but the faint longing is there.

So if I lost my mind and decided to open a bar there, what beers would I stock for such a tiny place?

First of all, I'd try to keep it to a total of ten beers - six available year-round, and four as seasonals to be rotated with the weather. The first six would likely be:

1. Sapporo Edel Pils (draft) - everyone needs a cold, crisp lager, and this is one of the best.
2. Hoegaarden White (draft) - Refreshing, aromatic, and complex flavors are three good reasons, but the most important reason is that practically every woman I've met just loves this beer.
3. Liberty Ale by Anchor Brewing - rich yet refreshing, and delicious at a wide range of temperatures. Every time I taste this I wonder why I don't drink it more often. (The perils of being a beer writer.)
4. Red Rose Amber from Baird Beer - a perfect blend of complexity and drinkability.
5. Westmalle Tripel - probably my favorite strong Belgian ale.
6. Shakespeare Stout by Rogue Ales (draft) - stout is popular, and this is one of the best.

The four seasonals would be along the following lines

7. Whatever is in season from Baird Beer, served on handpump.
8. An ale on handpump from Yaho Brewing, which produces Yona Yona Ale.
9. A Belgian of the season, such as a fruit lambic in summer and Bush 12% in the dead of winter.
10. A beer of the week (or less, if a case of 24 bottles sells quickly). The beer would be matched to the season, and could be anything from an English Ale to a regional German specialty beer to a U.S. microbrewery beer to a Belgian Abbey ale. This would always give customers something new to try.

Narrowing my choices down to these was no easy task, but it was fun thinking about it. Besides, these ten represent something for everyone, and I can't imagine someone leaving to go somewhere else because they didn't like any of the beers.

If you ran a pub and could only stock ten beers, which would you choose?

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Six Pick

A wide array of beer from Belgium, Japan and the United States


! ! ! ! ! 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.

!!!!! St. Bernardus Abt. 12 (Belgium, 10% abv, no other information available) Hazy deep dark brown, superbly creamy light tan head with long staying power. Rich and complex aroma with nutty spikes. Rich, deep flavor almost like walnuts. As it warms, a wine-like complexity develops with aged malt flavors, with notes of chocolate and spice in the background. The finish is surprisingly dry for such a heavy beer.

!!!!! St. Feuillien Blonde (Belgium, 7.5% abv, barley malt, wheat malt, hops, spices, reefer-imported by Toshin-Brussels) Hazy deep yellow, snow white short-lived head, sweet malty aroma with high alcohol apparent, along with a whiff of coriander and other spices. Tart flavor tempers the sweetness which remains subdued by acidity as hops faintly emerge.

!!!!! Anchor Liberty Ale vs.
!!!! Yona Yona Ale Since first tasting Yona Yona Ale from the can several years ago, I have always thought it very similar to the classic Anchor Liberty Ale from San Francisco, not just because of the prominent Cascade hop aroma and flavor, but also because of the color and malt profile. I finally broke down and decided to taste these two beers side by side to disprove my notion that the people who created Yona Yona had Liberty in the cross-hairs as they were aiming to make a similar beer. As it turned out, the two beers were even more similar than I had imagined. Both are all-malt beers, and are the same orange amber color with a light tan head. Both have a rich, malty aroma with dried fruit notes, with the distinctive smell of Cascade hops all the way up front. Both have a good balance of sweet malty body with sharp hop flavor. However, Liberty's malty flavors are a fair shade richer and more complex than Yona Yona, with a fair measure more tanginess in a heavier body. Liberty's Cascade hop flavors are also more complex and fresher tasting. Liberty's 6% alcohol is a shade higher than Yona Yona's 5.5%. Still, the biggest difference might be the price - about 250 yen for Yona Yona compared to about 370 yen for Liberty. Which one to choose? The choice is clear - buy one of each and compare them for yourself. You'll appreciate each one a lot more.

!! Hemp Seed Sparkling from Niigata Beer (Niigata, less than 1% abv; malt, hops, hemp seeds, natural fermentation). This is one of the most unusual Japanese craft beers I have had in a while. First of all, at less than 1% abv, it qualifies as a non-alcoholic beer. Second, this must be the only N/A beer that is naturally fermented in much the same way that Belgian lambics are fermented, i.e., the vessels are left in the open and the wort is fermented by naturally occurring yeasts in the air. Third, it's got hemp in it. So how is it? Hazy pale yellow, thick rocky white head, ripe "old gueuze" aroma with a similarly funky flavor. Quite acidic, and coupled with the fine carbonation, rather refreshing IF you like this kind of natural yeast flavor. It even had that "aspirin-like" characteristic I have noticed with some particularly ripe gueuze brews. Most will be put off by the strongly funky yeast flavor, but if you are a gueuze fan, you may like this one. In any case, this is quite an interesting and distinctive brew that will gain a few fringe fans. Somehow, I found it oddly refreshing.

!! Hemp Draft from Beer House Brewery, Numazu (Shizuoka, 5% abv; happo-shu with 25% malt, unmalted barley, hops and hemp seeds). Not to be confused with the brewery (Baird) that makes Numazu famous, the Beer House Brewery is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Very clear light gold, thin white short-lived head. Faintly sweet and grainy "happo-shu" aroma. Thin body, very light carbonation, no off flavors but could use a bit more flavor and bitterness. Rather light finish with a faint echo of malt sweetness lingering. There were six (count 'em) whole hemp seeds in the bottle, which was sort of charming as they clustered in the bottom of the glass.

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Spouting Off

Donations requested

It's the time of year that I once again ask Brews News readers to sponsor me on the annual AIDS Walk in San Francisco. This year's walk will be held on Sunday, July 18th. Each year, several generous readers donate a few thousand yen, which is donated upon my completion of the 10 km walk. This is a way for some Brews News readers to return the favor for this free publication.

Last year, Brews News readers donated $322 to my contribution, which was a tiny part of the over $3 million raised for the charity. For more details on the walk, and where the money goes, go to http://www.aidswalk.net/sanfran/

Donations may be sent to me at:
Bryan Harrell
2-14-4 Tomigaya #306
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0063

If you would like to make other arrangements for payment, please e-mail me at brewsnews at yahoo dot com

Thank you!

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News

Wednesday, June 9th from 7 p.m.
Belgian Beer Dinner at Bois Cereste in Akasaka. This month's theme will be Frambois lambic beers made with raspberries, with courses to match each offering. The cost is Y7,350 per person, including beer and dinner. These events are held on the second Wednesday of every month. Reservations are necessary - phone Bois Cereste on weekday evenings at 03-3588-6292. Bois Cereste is located near Akasaka station on the Chiyoda subway line at 2-13-21 Akasaka, Minato-ku.

Friday, June 11th from 8 p.m.
Mini Microbrew Festival at YLS near Tokyo Station
A number of Japanese microbrews will be featured at this month's Mini Microbrew Festival, to be held on June 11th from 8-10:30 p.m. at Yaesu Language School near the Yaesu Kita exit of Tokyo Station. 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 June 19, noon to 7 pm.
The 7th National Craft Beer Festival
Tokyo Prince Hotel "Garden Island" in Shiba Koen, Tokyo.
Tickets are 2,000 yen in advance; 2,500 yen at the door.
The Japan Brewers Association, a group of small independent brewers, holds a beer event each year in the early summer. The beer is from small brewers around Japan, some on draft and some in bottles, and it's all-you-can-drink. This year the event will be in a new venue, the Garden Island in the Tokyo Prince Hotel near Tokyo Tower; the nearest station is Onarimon on the Toei Mita subway line. Participants will also receive a copy of the JBA's new "National Craft Beer Map." Reservations can be made online at www.beer.gr.jp (Japanese only), or by fax at 03-3797-0808. Fax reservations must include your name, number of people in your group, phone number and fax number or e-mail address. For more details, phone Sugahara-san or Takami-san at the Japan Brewer's Association office at 03-3797-0707 weekdays.

Saturday June 19, 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Sunday June 20, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Great Japan Beer Festival 2004 in Tokyo
Tickets for each session are 3,200 yen in advance; 3,600 yen at the door.
Sample over 120 microbrewed beers at Garden Hall in Yebisu Garden Place near Ebisu station in Tokyo. Samples are not limited, making it an all-you-can-drink event. This yearly event is quite popular with Brews News readers, and is a great place to catch up with fellow beer fans. Tickets can be ordered on-line from the Japan Craft Beer Association's Japanese-language Web site at http://cgi.beertaster.org/user-cgi-bin/gjbf/ticket2004.htm . Tickets may also be purchased at Family Mart convenience stores (P-code 983-306) and at Lawson convenience stores (L-code 31611).

Baird Beer Introduces New Lager
The latest in the seasonal Baird Lager Beer Series is now on tap at the Fishmarket Taproom in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture. Four Sisters Celebration Bock has been brewed to commemorate the birth of Bryan and Sayuri Baird's fourth daughter - Sommer Eshelman Baird - and to celebrate the special bonds that exist among sisters. Four Sisters Celebration Bock is brewed in the spirit of a German Maibock (a unique golden colored bock annually released in the month of May). Four Sisters, however, harkens back to a time before the general association of bock beer with the city of Munich. The inspiration is the beer brewed in the city of Einbeck beginning in the 13th century, which was noted for its refreshing palatability and wholesomeness. It was said to be brewed with one-third wheat and two-thirds barley, hence the light, zesty feel for an otherwise strong beer. Four Sisters Celebration Bock sports a deep copper-gold color and maintains a brilliance of clarity unique for an unfiltered beer. In the nose, you will be greeted with the sweet-floral bouquet of Liberty hops. A rich, malty flavor will envelop your mouth giving way to an extremely smooth, dry finish in which a hint of honeyed-fruit flavor will linger. The alcohol percentage is 6.8%. For more information, see www.bairdbeer.com

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Glassifieds

Home Brewing Equipment

Finally decided to take a break from home brewing, and have a lot of equipment for sale. Large 20-liter glass carboy, 25-liter stainless steel pot with lid, plastic mash tun, miscellaneous doo-dads and more. Buy it as a lot for a great low price. Also, many boxes of clean bottles (glass and ceramic) are free for the taking, whether or not you buy anything. Phone Bryan at 080-3421-6654 or e-mail brewsnews at yahoo dot com .

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

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Ale Mail

Your feedback and comments are always welcome. Send to brewsnews -at - yahoo dot com


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Brews News copyright (c) Bryan Harrell and contributors.

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