Brews News #63
Brews News #63 - November 2005
All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.
The European Autumn Festival
By Tim Eustace
Whatever "2005 EU-Japan Year of People-to-People Exchanges" means, I am not exactly sure, but it sounds like fun. On the November 12-13th weekend there will be a European culture/food festival in Hibiya Park, Tokyo. Times are from 11:00-16:00 on Saturday and 10:00 - 16:00 on Sunday. Why is this of interest to Brew News readers? Well as you might imagine the food part of the festival does include beer. And not only does it include any beer, but many types of unusual and interesting types.
Pstros, the Czech beer specialty store, will have a booth just selling Czech (and Czech only) beer. The Pstros homepage has a pretty decent selection of well over 20 types of Czech beer and it looks like they are getting some special beers in just for this event. There will also be the mandatory Belgian beer booth, while Avalon International will also have a booth selling standard Irish beers, plus several from Early Biddy Brewery. For those wishing for a little something extra, there will be an un-beer corner, where you can sample a variety of grapes from across Europe in liquid form. And as if this wasn't tempting enough, who can resist handmade Slovak soba? I know I am sold. I will see you all there.
Strong Ale Fest at Beer Club Popeye
A national holiday is certainly a good time to serve strong microbrewed ales, and leave it to Aoki-san at Popeye to pull it off right. As of Monday 10/24, the festival will feature strong ales from: Baird Brewing (Shizuoka), Ezo Beer (Oregon USA), Hakusekikan (Gifu), Hitachino Nest (Ibaraki), Iwate Kura (Iwate), Shiga Kogen Beer (Nagano), TY Harbor (Tokyo), and Yona Yona (Nagano).
Entrance is 1,000 yen, which includes your first half pint. Your next beer and eight kinds of food will be sold separately, allowing you to tailor the festival to your own drinking style. In addition, live melodion music will be provided. To reserve, visit Beer Club Popeye for advance tickets. Popeye Club members may reserve by phone by November 5th. For a details and a map (in English), go to: www.40beersontap.com
November 23rd / 2 to 8 pm
Space is limited, so reserve before November 5th.
What ales you from Japan and England
Harviestoun Old Engine Oil (Scotland; pale malt, malted oats, roasted barley, with galena, fuggles and Kent Goldings hops; 6% abv) Don't laugh at the name -- this ale is a very dark brown, almost black, with a viscous texture and a good lubricating effect. Add to that a thick, sudsy light brown head, and a bewitching aroma with notes of toffee, port, chocolate, oak barrel and worn leather. Tremendous character, all in good balance, with a long, sensuous finish as more subtle flavors unfold. (It almost seems like it was brewed by Bryan Baird, if I may say so.) Not to be missed, and worth every bit of 546 yen at Daimaru Dept. Store at Tokyo station.
18th Century India Pale Ale (Yaho Brewing Company, Karuizawa, Nagano; all malt, approx. 7% abv) Brilliant amber orange, minimal head, juicy malt aroma spiked by a kiss of hops. Extremely tangy initial flavor, which cries out for spicy curry-like flavors in accompanying food, this could easily be considered the standard canned Yona Yona Ale on sterioids, but something a bit different is happening here. For one, there is way more malt - surprising from a canned beer. Actually, there is huge malt here, and the concern is that those drinking directly from the can (I know you're out there!) who cannot get all the good aroma-based flavors this beer can provide. Still, pour it into a broad-mouthed glass and have patience while it warms up - you will soon be rewarded with a cascade of malt flavors (though this beer doesn't seem to have Cascade hops).
Karuizawa Kogen Abbey Ale - served on tap at Beer Club Popeye (Yaho Brewing Company, Karuizawa, Nagano; all malt, approx. 7% abv) More complex than the canned version reviewed in September 2005 Brews News. Here's why: Popeye is the only place that gets an unfiltered version of this Belgian-influenced strong brown ale.
Hobgoblin Cask-conditioned Dark Ale (Wychwood Brewery, England) - I had this recently at the Hobgoblin Pub in Shibuya, and found it to be quite an interesting and tasty pint. Opaque dark brown, aroma of dried fruit with spice in the background, coarse long-lived tan head. A good array of complex malt flavors unfold, reminiscent of toffee and dark chocolate, yet the overall taste is surprisingly dry with minimal lingering sweetness. Bitterness is subdued, with hops in check UK style. Fairly strong carbonation, leading to a clean, dry finish. This beer almost seems that it came from a standard CO2-charged keg, but was served on handpump. The overall effect was halfway between a completely hand-drawn real ale and a standard kegged beer. Still, this will likely find favor with those who find real ale just a bit too flat. 950 yen at Hobgoblin Shibuya, 1-3-11 Dogenzaka; phone 6415-4244. www.hobgoblin.jp
Suntory Bonne Biere (malt, hops, sugars; 5.5% abv) The green and gold can prominently displaying the regional name "Champagne" tells you not to expect an ordinary Big Four beer. The can also tells you that it contains "natural water of Japan, quality malt of Champagne barley, fine aroma hop of Saaz." I know Champagne is famous for something else (which escapes me now) but for barley? Anyway, very clear very pale yellow (with a faint tinge of green), snow-white sudsy head. Fascinating herbal/vegetal aroma, like no other. Clean, light taste with a very unmalty malt flavor, like no other because it has practically no malt tang. There is just the right level of carbonation, making it smooth yet refreshing. This is a light beer, but with a distinct and unique taste. Light done right? You be the judge.
Kirin Toritate Hop Ichiban Shibori (malt, hops, rice, cornstarch; 5.5% abv) Hyper clear medium yellow, short-lived sudsy off-white head, hop-dominated aroma with dry malt in background. Hop-dominated initial flavor, but malt quickly overtakes it, leading to a quick finish, with lingering bitterness. Made with fresh-picked hops from Iwate. While the hops seem to be fresh whole-flower, they are not particularly distinguished in flavor or aroma, though they are surprisingly pleasing since Japan is not noted for the quality of its hops anyway. One would hope for a beer that's a bit more interesting than this.
Dueling Oktoberfests in Yokohama and Tokyo
By Glenn Scoggins
The Tokyo and Yokohama versions of Oktoberfest had the same line-up of German beers--Bitburger, Erdinger, and Kostritzer--and much the same atmosphere. Not surprising, since they shared many of the same sponsors and even took place under identical white tents with the same configuration of long wooden tables and benches. Each had a picturesque location, against the backdrop of dignified Taisho-era buildings: the Kaigakan Picture Gallery at Jingu Gaien and the Red Brick Warehouses on the Yokohama waterfront. The expanse of green lawn stretching in front of the Tokyo location contrasted with the blue harbor in Yokohama, but those who lounged by the tables outside the tents could enjoy their surroundings equally. Tokyo was a bit more self-consciously corporate, with the famous names of German industry plastered all over the tent, while in Yokohama the approach was more low-key.
One major difference was the Japanese beer sponsor - Tokyo was definitely and conspicuously an Asahi production from start to finish, while in Yokohama those in search of an unchallenging taste could choose from unobtrusive Kirin and Yebisu vendors. No matter what the tipple--the participants were equally cheerful and increasingly boisterous at both venues as the afternoon wore on to evening. To bolster the atmosphere, a Bavarian oompah band in lederhosen put in its third yearly appearance in Yokohama, to the delight of the crowd. In this respect, Jingu (at least while I was there) could not compete: eight identically-dressed, middle-aged Japanese gentlemen played American country music with a bizarre combination of instruments: seven banjos and a tuba!
In their first year, the Tokyo organizers limited their event to five days, while Yokohama, now in its third go-round, repeated last year's expanded schedule of the first ten days in October. This again led up to a long holiday weekend in which Yokohama also celebrated the annual Jazz Promenade and a multicultural World Festa in Yamashita Park, and it encompassed the two rival festivals in Chinatown, marking the national days of Taiwan and the mainland. Ten days of drinking, ten hours a day, ought to be enough to put anyone in an Oktoberfestive mood. For that reason even if for no other, I'd give Yokohama the nod this year over Tokyo.
But Yokohama had other advantages as well. In addition to the three German beers, the Japanese brew, and the ubiquitous sausages and sauerkraut, this year the bar had a section devoted to Kanagawa ji-biiru, with five brewers participating. Sankt Gallen provided its Golden Ale; Shonan Kuramoto produced a Festbier for the occasion; Atsugi Beer provided its Marine Beer, brewed with deep-sea water from the ocean depths off the Miura peninsula; Yokohama Beer introduced a new "Peruri" brand (recognizing Commodore Matthew C. Perry, whose relevance to Japanese beer is as elusive as his historical role is crucial); and Mutekiro, a Motomachi restaurant (previously innocent of any beer experience), brought out Gerard's Bavarian Beer, ignoring the inescapable fact that the Gerard in question was an early French resident of Meiji Yokohama without Bavarian connections. Outside the Oktoberfest tent, vendors sold Efes Pilsner and Dark from Turkey and a new Aka-Renga (Red Brick) Ji-Biiru produced by Koedo Brewery near Kawagoe. A mixed bag, but certainly an interesting departure from the usual.
The Yokohama organizers discovered ruefully two years ago that many participants took a fancy to the distinctive glasses, especially Erdinger's curvacious sensuality, and since last year there has been a deposit (ranging from Y500 to Y1000, but as low as Y100 for Kirin and Yebisu) on the glass. This is an excellent tactic: as soon as you turn in your first dirty glass, you get cash in hand to buy your next drink, creating a virtuous cycle of inebriation. By the end of the ten-day event, though, so many punters had obviously concluded that Y1000 was a cheap price for such a stylish glass that Erdinger had run out of glasses altogether and had to borrow Bitburger's squat (and inadequate) alternative.
One hesitates to draw conclusions about the relative larcenous tendencies of the citizens of two great towns, but the Tokyo organizers evidently thought it unnecessary to charge a deposit for the glassware this year. I applaud their optimistic view of human nature, as well as the civic and corporate organizers who brought Oktoberfest to Japan at such a beautiful time of the year.
Belgian Beer Dinner
This month's theme will be spiced beers and game meats. The cost is 7,350 yen, which includes a light meal with Belgian beer selections to match each course.
Wednesday, November 9, 7 pm
Please make your reservations ASAP by contacting Mr. Yamada of Bois Cereste directly.
Daytime (home) 03-3584-0859;
Evening (bar) 03-3588-6292
E-mail: cereste "at" m2.pbc.ne.jp
B.E.E.R.S. Wants You!
The newly created English-speaking beer club B.E.E.R.S. (Beer Enjoyment, Education and Research Society) has had a couple of meetings thus far and we realized it may be difficult for some people to make weeknights. In light of this, we have decided to begin holding weekend supplementary meetings/gatherings. In fact, the first such will be at the EU-Japan Autumn Festival on Saturday at 1pm, in front of (where else) the Czech beer booth. So please join us for a fun-filled day of European beer sampling.
Our next regular meeting will on Tuesday November 15th at Frigo in Shinjuku (From the South Exit of Shinjuku JR cross the street turn right (so you are walking on the left side of the street) and walk down the street about 200m. (Yoyogi 2-11-20, B1F). The meeting starts at 8pm, but there will be a 7:30 social. I will give a small talk about the history of Trappist beers, while we enjoy Belgian and German beers. For more details on B.E.E.R.S. send an e-mail to tokyobeers "at" yahoo.co.jp (Tim Eustace)
Good Beer Club events
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 e-mail to brew "at" goodbeerclub.org.
For more information on this event, go to: http://www.goodbeerclub.org/event/index.html (in Japanese) See www.goodbeerclub.org for club information
Baird Brewing Announces Country Girl Kabocha Ale
Trick or treating at The Taproom this Halloween will yield to the beer enthusiast a most delightful treat - Baird Country Girl Kabocha Ale! (Note: Kabocha is a Japanese type squash similar in flavor to pumpkin). The kabocha we use in Country Girl are picked fresh from the Heda vegetable garden of carpenter friend, Nagakura-san, cooked up in The Taproom kitchen to gelatinize the starch, and added to the brew in two additions: one major kabocha addition during mashing (when it is added to the malt porridge and liquefied by the heat and the enzymatic activity of the mash), and one smaller addition during kettle boiling. The result is a wonderful, subtly rich adult liquid porridge.
Hazy reddish-gold in color, Country Girl Kabocha Ale (5.7% alcohol by volume) sports a creamy off-white head of foam from which wafts the softly sweet aromatics of freshly cooked kabocha. In the mouth, a delicate kabocha-derived sweetness is buttressed by a quietly rich maltiness highlighted by the use of German Munich and Carared varieties. At the very moment this soft sweetness envelopes the mouth it is lifted and washed away by a subtle yet playfully pinpoint carbonation that works in seamless harmony with a pristinely clean and crisp hop bitterness (delivered via American Nugget, Perle and Vanguard varieties). The final impression most certainly is one of delicacy, subtlety and balance. It's as if the beer were demanding a further inspection. O-kawari kudasai!
Country Girl Kabocha Ale is currently served at Baird Brewing's Fishmarket Taproom, and is also available in very limited quantities at select Baird Beer retailers. Limited supplies of bottle-conditioned Country Girl Kabocha Ale also are available for purchase. For details, go to: www.bairdbeer.com
Special thanks to Tim Eustace 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.com. Deadline for the next issue is November 28th.