Brews News #61
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Brews News #61 - September 2005

Beer Here

Fujizakura Kogen Beer

By Glenn Scoggins

Fujizakura Sylvans Brewery Restaurant and Bar

Brews News readers will probably associate Fujizakura with its prize-winning Weizen, a fruity, aromatic treat on a warm summer afternoon. Perhaps you've sipped the more esoteric Rauchbier (smoked lager), savoring its complexity and rich, lingering aftertaste by a cozy winter fireplace. Or, you may have even encountered one of the Fujizakura seasonals, such as schwarzbier or doppelbock. All of these German-style beers are made at a small, pristine brewery with its own restaurant, surrounded by a forested nature park in the foothills of Mount Fuji. Within a short drive is Lake Kawaguchi, a prime summer destination for escapees from Kanto's steamy grit and smog. Autumn comes early, with golden maple leaves enlivening the mountain scenery.

Established in 1997, Fujizakura Heights Beer produces three varieties year-round, along with three or four rotating seasonals. The brewery occupies one side (and the basement) of a well-appointed and spacious restaurant, appropriately named Sylvans. The state-of-the-art equipment, imported at no small expense from the Schulz company in Bamberg (suppliers of brewing equipment to Yona Yona and Okhotsk), reflects German efficiency and brewing tradition with a computerized system which also relies on human value judgments.

Supervising a staff of four is Brewchief Miyashita Hiromichi, who eschews the title "braumeister" in deference to the true masters under whom he studied at the Doemens Technicum brewing academy in Munich. Miyashita is simultaneously enthusiastic, understated, and analytical as he welcomes a guest to his domain. He is in constant motion, checking chemical levels and flow charts with a stopwatch's attention to detail, jumping from one level to another behind the wall of glass that separates the brewhouse from the restaurant, in full view of his guests but entirely oblivious to them.

Miyashita's passion for his craft is ingenuous: he spontaneously reveals the top-secret recipe for Rauch, then whispers "Don't print that, will you?" (It is no secret, however, that it combines four types of malt, all imported from Bamberg, some of which is smoked using local dried cherrywood chips to attain its trademark smokiness.)

When I tactlessly pointed out that the pilsner does not match the standards of his other beers, he wholeheartedly agrees: the hard local water (whose hardness is apparent to anyone washing their hands) is ideal for Weizen but unsuited to Pils. (I get the impression that the unremarkable Pils is on the menu only for the uninitiated, who want to drink something close to Japanese lager.) When I ask Miyashita-san to sum up what makes the other Fujizakura varieties taste so good, he has a ready reply: First is the clear mountain water from Mount Fuji; second is German brewing technique and technology; and third is dedication and love for making good beer.

The more ambitious Fujizakura brews have been perennial winners of national competitions, including the Japan Beer Cup, in which the Weizen has dominated its category, most recently winning the gold medal in 2004. The Rauch won the 2000 World Beer Cup's silver medal and has won Japan Beer Cup awards every year, including the gold medal in the Smoked/Yeast division in 2005. Also winning gold this year for German Dark Beer was the seasonal Sakura Doppelbock, an almost impossibly rich, malty concoction which demands the undivided attention of the drinker. Devoting the appropriate degree of concentration to a 500ml portion occupied the better part of an hour - time well spent.

The next doppelbock will be brewed in time for Oktoberfest. For those who have only enjoyed Fujizakura on tap, look out for the ornately designed labels adorning the distinctive squat bottles (thanks to the company president, who doubles as an artist), color-coded by version, as well as the trademark sakura bottle caps.

Sylvans Garden Restaurant has a high ceiling with comforting exposed wooden beams. Next to the main dining area is a cheery sunroom, looking out on the wooden deck and an endless expanse of lawn (with real green grass). Sylvans is just one part of Fuji Subaru Land, and next door is Doggy Park, sort of a theme park for dogs and their human companions. Sitting out on the deck with its sturdy wooden tables allows a diner to play with the dogs passing by between courses, while enjoying a view unbesmirched by smokestacks or power lines. The menu offers a range of casual and elaborate meals, all at low prices which may shock the jaded Tokyo diner, with an emphasis on free-range chicken with local vegetables, as well as a variety of pastas and pizza. House-made croissants and bread baked with barley malt are also available.

While by no means convenient to Tokyo, Fujizakura's remoteness is part of its appeal. A trip to Sylvans would complement any vacation at Lake Kawaguchi or the other lakes beneath Mount Fuji. Fujizakura beer is available at some of the lakeside museums and shops. The parent company, Fuji Kanko Kaihatsu, also operates Fujizakura Country Club, which will host the Fuji-Sankei Classic golf tournament in September, for those who want to combine one pleasure with another. While I wouldn't advise making the trip just to drink the unmemorable pilsner, I would encourage readers to go for the well-crafted weizen, the rich rauchbier, and the sensational seasonals at their origin.

Fujizakura Kogen Bakushu and Sylvans Microbrewery and Garden Restaurant
(Within Fuji Subaru Land)
6663-1 Funatsu Aza-tsurugi-maruo
Fuji-Kawaguchi-ko-machi, Minami-Tsuru-gun
Yamanashi-ken 401-03
Phone 0555-83-2236
Fax 0555-20-3866
www.fuji-net.co.jp/sylvans/
Open from 11:00 to 22:00, 365 days per year

Sylvans, along with Fuji Subaru Land and Doggy Park, is located about 20 minutes (by car or bus) south of Lake Kawaguchi, on the Subaru Line highway up Mount Fuji. There is a free shuttle bus is operated by Fuji Kanko Kaihatsu, leaving from Kawaguchi-ko station on the Fuji-Kyuko train line (connecting Lake Kawaguchi with Otsuki on the JR Chuo-sen). Regular Fujikyu buses also run (once per hour) between Mount Fuji and Kawaguchi-ko station via Sylvans.

Fujizakura beer can be ordered on-line through the Rakuten shopping mall: www.rakuten.co.jp/fujizakura/. A set of three 500-ml bottles retails for Y1950.

Editor's note: Not only was Glenn nice enough to research and write this article for Brews News, he was also again quite the gentleman to send me three bottles of Fujizakura Kogen Rauchbier for my appraisal.

!!!!! Fujizakura Kogen Rauchbier (all malt, 5.5% abv) Faintly hazy bewitching reddish amber color, generously thick and tense creamy ivory head, surprisingly dry malt aroma with a faint whiff of campfire smoke, crisp initial taste that proclaims its lager status, followed by interesting malt complexity, all the while the smoke flavor curls about the palate. The finish is clean and crisp, with a short lingering bit of malt sweetness, while the smoke and hop flavors linger far longer. While some German rauchbiers may slightly outclass this beer, its sheer freshness and great craftsmanship makes this the best choice for a rauchbier in Japan, in my opinion. The generous 500 ml portion makes it easy to share the bottle, if you can keep yourself from wanting to drink it all yourself (burp). The label is attractive, too. Note that this beer is served at Kura Kura in Shimokitazawa for just 850 yen, a great price for a truly world-class brew. - Bryan Harrell

NOTE: The Tama chapter of the Good Beer Club is planning a Mt. Fuji Beer tour for October 1st, which will include a visit to Sylvans restaurant. Please see the news section for details.

Bar Beat

The New Aldgate

By Tim Eustace

Miles of taps at the new Aldgate

I was fortunate enough to attend the Aldgate's reopening on August 19th at their new location in Shibuya. This location is just a couple of blocks from their old place, but instead of being in the basement they are now on the third floor in their new building. However, one thing you notice upon sitting down is how much the place still feels like a basement as the windows are shaded out and it took me a moment to realize I wasn't actually in a basement. I thought this worked, as it gave it a cozier feel than I would have otherwise expected. Another noticeable difference is the two turntables behind the counter in the middle of the bar. Mr. Hanaka has a reputation for liking Brit Rock and these turntables would be essential to Brit Rock night at the Aldgate so old vinyl records can be played.

However, all of this is of little consequence to most Brew News readers, as the most significant change from the old Aldgate are the 20 taps that line the wall (of which 15 are currently being used). The taps are predominantly for imported brews, but they will certainly have some competition from Japanese microbreweries like Baird, Swan Lake, Yona Yona and others. The foreign taps do offer some interesting treats, with the likes of Jever (one of my favourite German Pilsners) and Erdinger Wiesse, along with venerable UK brews such as Abbot Ale, Old Speckled Hen and a couple of other more well-known brands.

For those curious about price, there will be a pleasant surprise. Despite its Shibuya location, prices are very reasonable, with great beers such as the hoppy Aldgate Ale going for 900 yen/UK pint up to on the higher end of the scale Baird Shimaguni Stout going for a reasonable 950 yen/US pint. Nothing was more expensive than 950 yen and the cheapest was Jever for 850 yen/US pint. What perhaps surprised me the most was Bellevue Kriek BY THE US PINT at just 900yen, simply a bargain.

For opening night there was a free buffet of standard pub fare, and I found that the refried beans went particularly well with the Holdgate Porter, not a new beer, but a great domestic porter, renamed specifically for the Aldgate, as is the Aldgate (Amber) Ale. I talked to Mr. Hanaka and he said that he would rotate the five additional taps with whatever he felt like, domestic and foreign. Although it would be cool to get some foreign beers in, I hope Mr. Hanaka wants to help support the local microbrew industry and puts more domestic microbrews on tap. In any case, with at least 15 beers on tap and some of the best fish and chips in town, this is surely going to prove to be one of better options for beer lovers in the near future.

A side note to all of this is that with Aldgate reopening with 15 taps it got me thinking about what a great area Shibuya has turned into for beer. Did this all start with Belgo or perhaps even Amusement, or who really knows when it started, but the lineup is impressive - Les Hydropathes, Belgo, Aldgate, Amusement, German Farm Grill and even a stopover at the Maple Leaf along the long two-minute walk from Les Hydropathes to Aldgate may be in order, as Old Tom and Red Hook have recently blessed the menu along with other beer oddities. In any case, I think Shibuya now should be considered the beer hot spot in Tokyo/Japan as no other area can come to the variety of beers from Belgian to Germany to local micros. This is wonderful; now if only the rest of the country could follow suit we would be living in beer paradise!

New Location of the Aldgate:
3F Shin-Iwasaki Bldg.
30-4 Udagawa-cho, (towards the end of Center-gai)
Shibuya-ku
Phone 03-3462-2983

[Editors Note: I dropped by the Aldgate the other night and was truly impressed by their dedication to serving truly great beer. The Yona Yona real ale served on handpump was quite a treat at 1,000 yen per pint, while the Baird Shimaguni Stout for 1,000 yen was a wonderful value in a neighborhood where 1,000 yen will normally only get you just a Guinness. - Bryan Harrell]

Six Pick

The Chosen Brews

This month there are ten beers in our six pack, seven from me and three discovered by Steve Lacey.

Rating system:

! ! ! ! ! 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.

!!!!! Baird Public House Bitter (Numazu, Shizuoka; all malt, 3.7% abv) This is Bryan Baird's stab at a plain old session-style English bitter and it succeeds beautifully. In fact, I think it's probably his best effort so far from a technical standpoint since there's so much flavor in such a light-bodied brew. While heavier, highly hopped beers get all the attention these days, it's refreshing to have a light-bodied, lightly hopped (comparatively), easy-going brew now and then. This 3.7% alcohol marvel pulls it off well, and rewards the drinker with a good measure of flavor, with a creamy soft texture thanks to traditional cask conditioning. Enough of the background, here are my tasting notes: Hazy amber, thick and creamy light tan head, faint dried fruit aroma, juicy malt flavors in a thrilling soft texture, quickly joined by restrained hop bitterness, leading to a clean finish with just a slight lingering of flavors which slowly taper off. In a word, fabulous. Now being served at Popeye, Towers and other places. For more details on this beer, go to http://www.bairdbeer.com/html/bulletin-archives_0.html

!!!! Kirin Braumeister (malt, rice, whole-cone hops, yeast; 5.5% abv) Clear dark yellow, off-white thick sudsy head, good malt-hop balance in the aroma, initial juicy malt flavor, shadowed by hop bitterness, interesting creamy mouthfeel, counterbalanced by flavors of premium aroma-grade hops. This 350ml canned version is only sold at 7-Eleven at Ito-Yokado group stores, and somehow seems better than other Braumeisters I've had before. If you can forgive the over-the-top German imagery on the label of a can of beer made with rice adjunct, you might be able to appreciate Kirin's effort in creating a quality lager. There is no indication of the beer being "nama" (unpasteurized), so I assume that it is because the flavor is full and rich. Beers which are not pasteurized are instead microfiltered to remove living yeast for more stable shelf life, yet this removes a great deal of flavor components.

!!!! Kirin Akiaji 2005 (malt, hops, rice, cornstarch; 6% abv) Clear deep yellow, dense off-white short-lived head, impressive heavy malt aroma with hops in background. Rich mouthfeel and good hop backing in flavor, but malt dominates. Said to contain 30% more malt thank Kirin's standard beers (presumably Ichiban-Shibori). A good drinking experience for those who normally drink Kirin's other products. Interestingly, there is no indication that this beer is unpasteurized, so likely it is not.

!!!! Kinshachi Nagoya Akamiso Lager (happo-shu; malt, sugars, soybean miso, hops; 6% abv) Hazy reddish copper color, thick light tan head. Pleasant dark caramel malt aroma, little sweetness apparent. Very tangy flavor with a hint of sweet spice like cinnamon (none contained), rich tangy fermented taste, lightly balanced by hops. Good tanginess to complement rich foods, like Nagoya cuisine, but with a dry finish. Would also be great with Korean food. I have to admit I was very apprehensive about trying this beer, but it was recommended by Good Beer Club member Minami Matsuo, who has good judgement in beer, and was kind enough to comp me some sampling bottles. Brewed by Land Beer of Aichi prefecture; www.landbeer.co.jp

!!!! Shimono Coconuts Porter (happoshu; 90% malt, lactose, hops, coconut essence; 4% abv) I had this at Kura Kura in Shimo-Kitazawa, and was struck by the fascinating combination of flavors. It's not something you'd have often, but it makes a great change of pace and would be a great holiday beer if you could somehow equate coconuts with winter. Strikingly sweet flavor due to the lactose which doesn't ferment, yet brings out the coconut flavor and then slams it on top of a lot of roasty dark malt flavors, creating a "coffee-and-coconut liqueur cocktail" effect that is, quite frankly, pretty charming. Thankfully, the hops stay in the background on this beer. A great beer for those who were thinking of having a tropical cocktail, and perhaps a good introduction to highly flavorful beer styles like Porter for young people who would otherwise avoid them.

!!!! Suntory The Premium Malt's (100% malt, natural spring water from Tanzawa, unpasteurized, 5.5% abv) Clear medium-yellow, dense sudsy off-white head. Aroma with malt and hops in perfect balance. Good light Pils effect, a bit heavy on hops for a bit more quenching flavor. Nice lingering dry malt flavors in the aftertaste. Said to contain twice the hops and 20% more malt than regular Malt's beer. This beer won the Grand Gold Medal at the Monde Selection in Brussels on June 20th, causing a rush on the product, which was apparently out of stock for several weeks.

!!!! Karuizawa Kogen Beer Abbey Beer 2005 (Seasonal) (all wheat and barley malts; 6.5% abv) Clear deep amber, dense sudsy short-lived head, sharp tart aroma with dried fruit and some hop notes, smooth, tangy sweet malt flavors, with more complex spicy flavors emerging as it warms in the glass. This is a pleasant Belgian-style ale made with some kind of Belgian yeast. Still, it doesn't go all the way to blissful Belgian funkiness, so it may be best described as Chimay Red with training wheels. Still, a welcome attempt at a Belgian-style dubbel that won't blow too many minds. I did, however, manage to chide brewer Toshi Ishii for making an "Abbey" beer without actually having an Abbey around.

Hanamasa Selection

by Steve Lacey

Recently I stumbled across some good-value Belgian beer at the discount food-and-beverage store Hanamasa in Yotsuya.

!!!! Primus Premium Lager: 5.2% abv. 179 yen. A mass production-like lager on steroids. Nice and clean like a pale lager should be, but with a bit more oomph in the malt profile, a detectable but not unpleasant contribution from the maize (corn) adjunct, and a very pronounced earthy hop kick. Overall the balance is towards the hops, and served cold this is a real thirst-slaking beer. I can imagine chugging it back after toiling in the fields all day. Sadly I have to content myself with chugging it back after toiling away in front of the VDU all day as I wend my way to Yotsuya station.

!!!! Tongerlo Triple: 8% abv. 290 yen. As triples go this is a little cleaner than you'd expect. Lovely bright white marshmallow head. The estery funk is there, but subdued. It is more like a cross between a golden ale, like Duvel, and a true triple. Well-balanced and easy to drink. A Belgian triple with training wheels.

!!!! Charles Quint Keizer Karel: Unfortunately I lost my notes since tasting this, but I believe the alcohol was high, perhaps 9% abv. 310 yen. This is a light brown ale and the head retains a pronounced off-white/light caramel color. This is a harbinger of things to come, because if ever there was a beer that tastes like toffee and caramel and golden syrup and treacle and all things sweet, all squeezed together and fermented into beer, then this is it. But I am overstating it slightly perhaps because those caramelly sweet flavors are balanced by some esters and the alcohol. I really enjoyed this beer. It would be a great one to experiment pairing desserts with. A vanilla malt sorbet perhaps?

Beer Talk

I Can't Believe It's Not Happoshu!

As warned last month, we are doing a review of the new generation of post-happoshu "brews" which are made without any barley malt whatsoever. Beer-like beverage made with soybeans, anyone? Well, here they are.

The remarkable thing about these beers in the "other miscellaneous alcoholic beverages, category 2", apart from being in one of the lowest tax brackets, is that they are lacking in some of the graininess and sourness common to happoshu. While these defects are absent, so is a great deal of (for want of a better term) FLAVOR. The peculiar thing is that there is a slight "beer" sensation at the first sip, then flavors simply drop away for a "nothing" experience. Then, the sensation of drinking beer returns in the aftertaste, albeit faintly. All are unpasteurized.

Note that the point rankings are the same as with regular beers. Actually, they did not score as badly as expected, but only because the absence of disagreeable flavors (actually, ANY flavor, for that matter) made them less objectionable than the ordinary bad beer.

!! Asahi Shin Nama - Honestly, the best of the bunch. Very clear yellow, sudsy short-lived head, faint hop aroma. Brisk carbonation. Not as bad as one would think, has the malt mouthfeel, but very little flavor in the mid-palate, and is refreshing yet non-filling, with little of the sugariness or graininess common to happoshu. Emphasis here is on hops and carbonation, and since there's really nothing in the middle, you can pound these one after another and still not feel full (and not feel like you've had any beer, either).

! Kirin Nodogoshi Nama - Medium yellow, very clear, white short-lived head. Thin but somewhat rich tasting at first, but after the initial taste there is really nothing there.

ugh Suntory Kire - Very pale yellow, white short-lived head. This is like beer-flavored water, really. Mix club soda with a little beer and see what I mean. Nothing to write about, no discernable flavor. This product won't last long. Surprisingly, this is from the same people that bring you the delightful The Premium Malt's lager.

! Sapporo Draft One - Pale clear yellow, white short-lived head, little apparent aroma, beer-like mouthfeel with a thin, watery flavor, with some hop bitterness rising up in the end.

! Sapporo Slims - Very pale yellow, white sudsy head. Faintly viscous mouthfeel at the start, then the line goes dead - nothing. A faint sourness lingers, then slowly fades. Alcohol is only 3% abv, and there are only 73 calories in a can, about half that of normal Sapporo beer. Interestingly, this beer contains fiber.

ugh Suntory 2005 Summer Shot - This is actually in a different taxation category (Liqueur) but I included it because it is cheap and essentially masquerades as a beer. It is made with happo-shu and grain alcohol (from wheat), and force carbonated. Sort of like a mini-boilermaker made with low-malt beer. It's 5% alcohol, but that's pretty much all you taste.

News

Belgian Beer Dinner - Magical Mystery Tour - Part Two

This month's event will again be a blind tasting, with beers that will prove to be harder to identify than last month's selections, which turned out to be pretty common stuff like Hoegaarden Grand Cru, Leffe Radieuse and Rodenbach. I would especially encourage Brews News readers to attend this event because I was in on the selection process, and we have some truly remarkable brews that are impossible to find in Japan, and only difficult to find anywhere else.

If you've been meaning to attend one of these events, may I suggest that you make it to this one. Participants will be asked to guess the style, the region, the brewery and even the brand. Blind tastings are always fun because its where the truly knowledgeable are separated from the posers who refuse to admit they have no idea what their drinking. Please make your reservations ASAP by contacting Mr. Yamada of Bois Cereste directly.

Bois Cereste in Akasaka
Wednesday, September 14, 7 p.m.
7,350 yen (includes a light meal and at least ten beer selections)
Daytime (home) 03-3584-0859
Evening (bar) 03-3588-6292
E-mail: cereste@m2.pbc.ne.jp
Bois Cereste 2-13-21-B1 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Octobeer Fest at Beer Club Popeye now underway

Now continuing through October 19th is probably one of Tokyo's best Octoberfest celebrations for craft beer fans. Customers may ask for Octobeerfest point cards, and will receive one point for each half-pint ordered, and two points for each pint ordered. For each 10 points earned, you get a coupon for a half-pint of beer, and for each 20 points earned, you get a coupon for 1,000 yen worth of food. The best feature of this event, though, is that a total of 45 top-shelf Japanese craft beers will be served throughout the weeks of the event. Every Thursday, a new set of beers will be released.

Now pouring through Sept. 14th are five beers from Hida Takayama Brewing (pale ale, pilsner, dark ale, weizen, and stout) and three beers from Fujisakura Brewing (pilsner, weizen and the rauchbier smoked lager reviewed above). From 9/15-21 are nine beers from the amazingly experimental Hakusekikan Brewery (pale ale, golden ale, spontaneously fermented ale, brown ale, dunkel, autumn ale, Niiwa-weiss, crystal ale, Hurricane 15% barleywine). From 9/22-28 are six beers from Ise-Kadoya (pale ale, yuzu ale, Shinto bakushu, weizen, stout, English dark ale).

From 9/29-10/5 are six beers from Baird Brewing (pale ale, amber ale, IPA, brown ale, porter and stout). From 10/6-12 are six beers from Echigo Brewing (pale ale, pilsner, Koshihikari rice ale, weizen, amber ale and stout). From 10/13-19 are five beers from Yoho (Yona Yona) Brewing (pale ale, barleywine, Abbey ale, Tokyo black ale, and stout) plus five beers from Swan Lake Brewing (golden ale, amber ale, weizen, Koshihikari rice lager, and porter). This is a fantastic opportunity to taste most of the best craft beers currently brewed in Japan. For location details, see: http://www.lares.dti.ne.jp/~ppy/english/map.html

Baird Beer Announces Workingman's Dark Mild Released September 9th

Press Release from Baird Beer: Mild is a style that dominated English brewing until the 1950s. The term 'Mild' was used in reference to the fact that the style was less heavily hopped than paler ales such as bitters. The original aim of Mild Ale was the refreshment and nutritional replenishment of agricultural hands and industrial laborers. To this end the beer was replete with residual unfermented sugars and thus it sported a relatively low alcohol content. Hopping was intended only for balance and not for major character contribution.

The hallmark of the style, then, is a rich, sweet and chewy maltiness together with a non-intoxicating quenchingness. So central to beer-drinking English society was the Mild Ale style that WWII Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the troops be supplied it in unlimited rations from a small brewery that was erected upon a Royal Navy Ship. Is it any wonder that the Allied Forces persevered?

Baird Workingman's Dark Mild (approx. 3.2% abv) introduces itself in rich tones of amber-brown and with a proudly self-confident thick tan head of foam. Subtly rich notes of toffee, caramel and chocolate greet the olfactory senses. In the mouth, bready and biscuity notes join the ensemble. The feeling produced is one of wholesome satiation. But there is something more. A quietly playful underbelly of fruitiness (raisins and figs, perhaps?) sends the sweetness fleeing while summoning a zesty refreshing character to lead the flavor denouement.

Small quantities of Public House Bitter also remain on tap, so if you care to enjoy these sister English ales together please make haste to the Fishmarket Taproom in Numazu. For more information, go to: www.bairdbeer.com

Proposal for an English-speaking Beer Club -- Meeting September 20th

By Tim Eustace

I would like to propose an English-speaking beer club in Tokyo. I believe there are enough people who read the Brew News that may be interested in joining something like this that it could fly. I have some ideas as far as format and objectives of the club go, but would like to meet with people who may be interested in joining to see what they have in mind. If meeting like-minded people for monthly gathering appeals to you, please come to the Maple Leaf on Tuesday September 20th at 8 pm (7:30 social start). There will be some beers not available in Japan there for consumption for people at the meeting that I brought back from a recent trip to Canada. There will also be beers available that are not a part of the regular Maple Leaf offerings. I look forward to meeting avid readers of Brew News, so please attend this meeting!

Return of YLS Craft Beer Tasting Parties - October 7th, 8 to 10:30 pm

Some readers may remember the microbrew tasting events held at Yaesu Language School near Tokyo station. After a hiatus of some two years, party impresario James Gibbs has put the beer tasting back on his schedule of events, which can be seen at http://www.kokusaika.org/index_e.html. The next Craft Beer Tasting will be held on Friday, October 7th from 8 to 10:30 p.m. Japanese craft beers are exclusively featured, and there are usually plenty to choose from, making it a good opportunity to try beers you'd otherwise have to travel to find. In addition, there is a generous light buffet with roast beef and roast pork, and platters of vegetables, cheeses and bread. The cost is Y3,500 with reservation (Y4,000 at the door), all food and beer. For reservations and details, phone 03-5255-3090 or e-mail to beer at kokusaika dot org. Details on the tasting and a map to the venue are at http://www.kokusaika.org/english/beer.html

Good Beer Club events

See www.goodbeerclub.org for club information

October 1 (Saturday) All Day Mt. Fuji Beer Tour - Sponsored by the GBC Tama Chapter, this trip is by bus leaving Okunitama Jinja (shrine) in Fuchu, Tokyo (9 am) to Sylvans for lunch and Fujizakura Beer (11 am to 1 pm), Bayern Meister Beer for a beer break (2 to 4 pm), and Gotenba Kogen Beer for hot springs and more beer (5 to 8 pm) with return to Okunitama Jinja at 10 pm. Transportation cost is 3,500 yen for GBC members, and 4,000 yen for non-members. All other costs are borne by participants. There is room for 28 participants - send e-mail to tama at goodbeerclub dot org to reserve.

November 20th (Sunday) 3 to 5:30 pm November Beer Party - this is the party after the 2006 General Meeting of the Good Beer Club. Cost is 4,000 yen and includes a great deal of beer, along with some food. It will be held at the Shinagawa-ku Chusho Kigyo Center near JR Oi Station and Tokyu Oi Station (south of Shinagawa). For reservations, send email to brew at goodbeerclub dot org.
For more information on both events, go to: http://www.goodbeerclub.org/event/index.html

East Hokkaido JBA Tour - October 29-30

The Japan Brewers Association is sponsoring another beer safari, this time to distant Eastern Hokkaido. Destinations include Kushiro Minato-machi Beer, Abashiri Beer, Ohotsk Beer, and Tokachi Beer over the two-day run. One brave Brews News reader has already signed up for the trip, and has promised a report for publication. Other brave readers may join him and the rest of the participants by signing up with JBA for this event. The cost is 62,000 (Tokyo departure) which includes air fare from Haneda, or 34,000 yen (meet the group in Hokkaido) Prices include hotel and local bus transportation. For more information, go to http://www.beer.gr.jp/100/fan/051029/ (Japanese only) and get the downloadable PDF application form.

Belgian Beer Shop in Shinjuku Station

Just outside the Central East Exit of Shinjuku Station, on the B1 floor of the My City shopping complex, is a new liquor shop named Osakaya, which proclaims their wares as "Selected Wine & Belgisch Beer." Okay, the "Belgisch" part is because they specialize in high-end German wines, but that doesn't seem to detract at all from the rather comprehensive selection of some 120 different top-shelf Belgian brews on offer at fairly standard prices. They're open daily from 10:30 am to 9:30 pm
Osakaya, My City B1, Shinjuku 3-28-1; phone 03-3354-2202.

Microbrew Happy Hour at Bis Cafe in Shibuya

How about a cool Samuel Adams Boston Lager, an Anchor Steam, or a Kona Brewing Fire Rock Pale Ale for just 350 yen? Then head to the 4-7 pm happy hour at the Bis Cafe in Shibuya, just opposite the Tokyu Honten Dept. Store, on the 4th floor of the Fontis Bldg, in the lobby of the Cine Amuse theater, which mainly shows art/cult/odd films. They also serve pretty impressive U.S. home-cooked style hamburgers and sandwiches. Even if you don't make it during happy hour, you can still enjoy those beers and others (like Kona Longboard Lager, Kona Big Wave Golden Ale, Rolling Rock) for the normal price of 600 yen, which is certainly hard to beat anywhere in Tokyo. Open daily from 11 am to 10:00 pm.
Bis Cafe Fontis Bldg. 4F, 2-23-12 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku; phone 03-3461-2051

Special thanks to Tim Eustace, Steve Lacey and Glenn Scoggins for their contributions to this issue. We'd love your contribution, too, so send your story ideas (or story) to brewsnews at yahoo dot com. Deadline for the next issue is September 30.