Brews News #55
Home >> Eating & Drinking in Tokyo >> Brews News

Brews News #55 - February / March 2005

Beer Here

Michael Jackson speaks to the Good Beer Club

This Sunday, February 13th at Popeye

The world's most famous beer writer, Michael Jackson will be arriving in Japan by the time you read this. He has kindly made time out of his busy schedule to speak to the Good Beer Club, and Brews News readers will particularly benefit from this event because no interpretation into Japanese will be necessary!

Mr. Jackson will be speaking on "Beer and Consumers," highlighting the importance of consumer-oriented beer groups such as Britain's Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the organization in Japan patterned after it, the Good Beer Club. He will give a short talk of about 20 minutes, followed by a Q&A session that should be quite lively. Don't miss this rare opportunity to hear the most knowledgeable man on beer in the world, Michael Jackson.

When: Sunday, February 13th
Time: from 1 to 3 pm
Where: Beer Club Popeye in Ryogoku, Tokyo
2-18-7 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku
Phone 03-3633-2120
Cost: 2,000 yen admission / half to donated to the tsunami victims
Beer: cash bar at Popeye
Please reserve in advance by sending your name and contact information to:
And special thanks to Popeye's Aoki-san for providing the venue.

Bar Beat

1st Annual Baird Big Beer Winter Weekend

Friday, February 11 through Sunday, February 13

Normally, summer is regarded as the optimal season for beer drinking. While this might hold true for the swilling of industrial lagers, it certainly is not the case when it comes to enjoying the sorts of strong ales and lagers that artisan brewers love to craft. No, winter is the season that is optimal for the imbibing of these brews, the craft brewer's most treasured.

Baird Brewing has produced four special big beers for this winter season and ALL of them will be poured at the same time from The Taproom taps during the Baird Big Beer Winter Weekend. The four strong ales to be served are: Hatsujozo 2005 Double IPA, Dark Sky Imperial Stout, West Coast Wheat Wine and Ganko Oyaji Barley Wine.

This is truly an unique opportunity to experience a diverse variety of intensely flavorful and warming strong ales in one venue at one time. To further enhance the imbibing pleasure, The Taproom kitchen will be preparing a host of specialty food items made specifically to complement each of the strong ales.

The Baird Big Beer Winter Weekend also is timed to coincide with the completion of our brewery's second major expansion project in as many years. Since the installation of our new brewery in 2003, production capacity has been bottlenecked by two factors: packaging inefficiency and space constraints. In this second expansion project we have addressed these problems by (1) installing new semi-automated bottling machinery and (2) adding raw material storage and cellaring space to the brewery by moving into what formerly was a bar located directly below The Taproom. We now occupy our entire building and the Baird Big Beer Winter Weekend gives us chance to celebrate our progress with you, the beer enthusiasts who have made it possible.

Reservations are not required. Please plan to join us for this special winter weekend celebration. For directions to the Fishmarket Taproom, go to

Bryan Baird
Baird Brewing Company & Fishmarket Taproom

Beer Talk

But It's STILL A Job

On being a beer writer
By Bryan Harrell

I've been writing about beer for over 10 years now, and when people find out that's one of the things I do, many invariably snicker about the "difficulty" in doing such a job. Well, it is an interesting job, but it is STILL a job. If I wanted to have fun drinking beer, I'd skip the writing part. Believe me, if you want to do the job of beer journalism properly, you need to pay attention, take notes (and keep track of them) based on some standardized parameters, and make your deadlines like every other writer. Of course, I do have a day job because it is nearly impossible to make any kind of living writing about beer unless you are Michael Jackson. (And, my day job is the reason why this labor-of-love newsletter gets into your e-mailbox at odd hours of the month.)

Speaking of Michael Jackson, I will be taking him around the greater Kanto area for three days next week to assist him in updating his beer research on Japan. While he is fortunate to actually make a living at being a beer writer, he deserves every bit of the immense fame and modest fortune. He's perhaps the hardest working beer journalist in the world, taking the time to research every detail, and note every flavor. His knowledge is truly encyclopedic, and this is reflected in how well he tells the story of beer when he speaks in public. Even if you love beer more than anything else in this world, I doubt you would want to attempt to fill Mr. Jackson's shoes. The work is truly grueling, and doing it on his level must require a passion and dedication that I find unfathomable. A great deal of my knowledge (and likely yours, too) about beer is thanks to Michael Jackson.

Six Pick

U.S. Holiday Beer

by Bryan Harrell

I've had the good fortune to be in Northern California for most of the holiday season this winter, and have enjoyed the abundance of holiday and winter ales available. They seem to be getting more popular each year, and are quite easy to find, even in major supermarkets. Here are six of my favorite this year, in alphabetical order. Since they are not available in Japan, I've spared you the agony of describing in detail how great they taste.

Doggie Claws from Hair of the Dog
At 11.5% abv, it's the ultimate Big Holiday Beer from the ultimate brewer of delicious big beers.

Grant's Deep Powder
a reddish brown ale brewed with honey.

Lagunitas Brown Shugga
A massive 9.9% abv (OG 1.100) ale made with brown sugar.

New Belgium Frambozen
A brown ale, fermented with real raspberries, 6.5% abv.

Samuel Adams Winter Lager
A dark wheat lager brewed with winter spices.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale 2005
The classic Big Beer from Northern California, this barleywine weighs in at 9.6% abv.

Spouting Off

WCBF - Japan's Best Beer Festival?

by Steve Lacey

Better late than never, I have finally found some time to file a report on the World Craft Beer Festival that was held in Ikebukuro back in October (10/18-19; Brews News #52). Just to recap, the event was sponsored by Nippon Broadcasting (AM 1242) and offered some 100 beers on tap, with a "real" feature being 10 real ales from Japanese microbreweries. There were also imported beers from Belgium, the US, the United Kingdom and Germany.

The first thing to say about this event is that it was extremely generous; the advance-purchase admission price of 3200 yen provided unlimited sampling, and the session time from 1pm until 8pm offered sturdy souls the opportunity to make a tilt at sampling all 100 beers. The original announcement in Brews News contained the rider that "those who are unable to remain standing may be asked to leave." The long session time presented a real risk of this happening, and I did see one prostrate gentleman who possibly would have qualified, but by what means of locomotion he could have effected his departure I don't know.

The large venue, in Sunshine City, was ample for the good-sized crowd. The staffing and service, mostly provided by volunteers from the Good Beer Club, were excellent, and there was never any delay being served. The venue appears to offer plenty of potential for the event to grow in future years.

The beers were arranged into sections by country: America, Belgium, Britain and Germany. Each section was intended to house beers of styles associated with the country, regardless of where they were actually brewed. This was a clear departure from the traditional approach of having a booth for each brewery. I believe it was a major step in the right direction.

It did present some anomalies, however, with the appearance of at least one India Pale Ale, a classic English beer, in the American section. But with the use of American hops in some interpretations of this style, it does show that there are gray areas to deal with when organizing sections along country-of-origin lines. It can also alienate original beers or beers from countries not represented (Czech Pilsener? Bier de Garde?) There were actually two other sections apart from the four countries; one was the real ale corner, the other was a section for about seven beers that had won medals at the World Beer Championships-both sections were well worth lingering over!

The real ale corner was, without any doubt, the highlight of the show for me. And the beer I was most blown away by was the Baird Beer Angry Boy Brown Ale. Perhaps this was in part because I had my preconceptions about the brown ale style being easy-drinking and mellow, but somewhat lacking in real character (think Newcastle Brown Ale as the archetype) completely blown away. The beer features generous use of distinctive citrusy American hops against a boldly malty background with just the right level of roast malt to add another layer of complexity. Serving this beer as real ale allowed the aggressive hop flavors and aromas maximum opportunity to assault the palate. No wonder the name! And the added bonus was that Bryan Baird himself was in attendance at the show, so I was able to meet him and compliment him on what a fine Angry Boy he has!

Also at the real ale section were some interesting offerings from the Hitachino Nest Brewery. Ever experimental and daring to be different, the brewers at Nest came up with the idea of aging some traditional English style ales in casks made of indigenous Japanese woods. In one case a native oak, and the other Japanese pine, perhaps kuromatsu). The oak was a reddish ale and the oak added a slightly astringent richness that left one thinking... "hmm, this different," but not necessarily clamoring for more.

The base beer for the pine-aged version was a lighter gold colored ale and may have once been a nice beer; I'm afraid to say, the pine was not a success. Pine sap may create aromas that lend a lovely earthy feel to a room when used for paneling and furniture, but it is not something that belongs in beer. Without going into too much detail, the phrase "mouth puckering" springs to mind. Full marks to Nest though for their continued innovation.

One more specific beer to mention was Harviestoun's Old Engine Oil from Scotland, which was in the medalist section. As black as its namesake, this apparent stout by any other name requires only one taste to announce itself as no ordinary stout. It is malty-rich, silky-smooth, and wonderfully complex. More detailed accounts can be read at or

Find it, try it!

There were many other wonderful beers of course, but space really only allows these few highlights. I would rather conclude by complimenting the organizers or providing excellent value for money and breaking with tradition and offering some concepts not previously seen at beer festivals in this country (to my knowledge). I sincerely hope to see a return of the World Craft Beer Festival in Ikebukuro next year and strongly recommend all Brews News readers keep their beer antennas tuned and their calendars open for this one.


Baird Big Beer Winter Weekend

Friday Feb. 11 to Sunday Feb. 13
For details, see above.
Hot tip to Brews News readers: there will be a very special "mystery guest" on Sunday evening.

The Maple Leaf 1st Anniversary

On St. Valentine's Day, Monday Feb. 14, cocktails for women will be just 500 yen, which should be of interest to both men and women. But the real fun is on Tuesday, Feb. 15, when ALL DRINKS will be 500 yen, ALL DAY LONG. Here's your chance to quaff some of their good beers for a bargain price, and likely meet a lot of fun people in the process.

The Maple Leaf - A Canadian Sports Bar
Kokusai Building A-4F
Udagawacho 13-16
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Phone 03-5784-6778

Belgian Beer Lover's Club

Mr. Yamada, owner of the Belgian beer specialty bar Bois Cereste in Akasaka, visited Belgium in January, and brought back a cargo of rare beer treasures to be offered at his quarterly Beer Lover's Club event. Those who have experienced the difference in 'hand carried' Belgian beer know it's completely different from that shipped commercially, as many Belgian ales just don't travel very well. The costs involved in bringing beer back this way are formidable, and that's why some of the more expensive beers require up to 5 tickets for a small bottle, and as many as 10 tickets for a large bottle. Still, it's cheaper than going to Belgium. Most all beers not normally available in Japan are in limited quantity, so hard-core Belgian ale enthusiasts should arrive early.

Bois Cereste in Akasaka
Saturday, February 26th
3 to 9 p.m.
Admission: 3,500 yen (includes 10 beer coupons)
For details and reservations, contact Mr. Yamada directly.
Daytime (home) 03-3584-0859
Evening (bar) 03-3588-6292
2-13-21-B1 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo

The 3rd Tokyo Real Ale Festival

This year's Tokyo Real Ale Festival will be bigger and better than ever before. We've secured a new site, Curian Hall, with a capacity of 500 people, eliminating the need for "sessions" over the weekend as was done in the first two events. Now everyone can drink good beer and have a great time together!

For information about the event (in Japanese only), go to

There is a lower admission price for Good Beer Club members. At this time, information on joining is in Japanese only at

Saturday March 19, 2004
Oimachi Curian Hall
5-18-1 Higashi Oimachi, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo (near JR Oimachi Station)
For a map in Japanese, go to:

Special thanks to Bryan Baird and Steve Lacey for their contributions to this issue. We'd love your contribution, too. Please contact us because we can't contact you unless we know you want to contribute.