Brews News #69
Brews News #69 - July 2006
All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.
Baird Brewing Summer Beer Fest: July 15-17
Baird Brewing's Fishmarket Taproom will celebrate its 6th birthday this month, and to commemorate the occasion, Baird Brewing will host its first-ever Summer Beer Fest from Saturday, July 15 through Monday, July 17; noon to midnight each day. Owing to a growing number of craft beer enthusiasts, business at the Taproom continues to grow. In appreciation of this strong support, Baird will offer an unparalleled selection of Baird Beer styles (twelve on tap each day), discounts on regular Baird Beer varieties, a special celebratory food menu, and daily live acoustic musical entertainment.
In addition to the seasonal beer offerings listed below, kegs of American Dream Strong Pale Ale are being held back and conditioned an extra month for serving at the Summer Beer Fest. The three-day schedule is as follows:
Saturday, July 15:
Sunday, July 16:
Monday, July 17:
Saturday, July 15:
Sunday, July 16:
Monday, July 17:
Please mark your calendars and plan to join us for this most special Summer Beer Fest and Anniversary celebration. Reservations are not required; only your enthusiasm, thirst and hunger are.
Baird Brewing Company
Bar Beat: The Bar Hunter
Drinking in the Shadow of Mount Fuji at Gotemba Kogen Beer
By Glenn Scoggins
The natural beauty of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu region is an irresistible draw for tourists from the Tokyo area, who drag their exhausted bodies and full wallets to plop into an onsen, stuff themselves silly with good food, sleep on tatami, shop at an outlet mall and then return to the workaday world on Monday morning. Not surprisingly, the large corporations that own many of the ryokan and golf courses encircling Mount Fuji were quick to ride the crest of the jibiiru wave, seeing an additional attraction. Some quickly pulled out when the initial boom faded, but others have survived and thrived, dedicated to making good beer as well as profits.
On one side of the majestic dormant volcano is Fujizakura Kogen Beer (see Brews News # 61, September 2005), while on the opposite side is a comprehensive hotel, leisure, sports, and brewing facility run by Gotenba Kogen Beer (GKB). Located near the border of Shizuoka and Kanagawa prefectures, this complex includes two large hotels, three restaurants (with a combined seating of 1200), and a host of other attractions. The entire resort goes by the evocative name of Toki no Sumika, which (if one follows the website's exegesis) freely translates into "As Time Goes By."
Established in 1995 by veteran resort developer Shoji Kiyokazu, the GKB brewery got on its feet under German brewmaster Anton (Tony) Danner, who remains a consultant despite his return to Germany in 1998. He still approves changes in recipes and oversees the introduction of new product lines. The brewery and restaurant operations are supervised by company president Tsuchiya Masaki, a gregarious professional who is a ubiquitous fixture at all of the Tokyo-area beer festivals.
The actual brewing, carried out by a staff of four, is under the eyes of friendly and enthusiastic Kadokura Sakae, who joined GKB at the start and apprenticed under Danner. Kadokura is eager to show off the facilities, which are behind floor-to-ceiling glass windows in full view of the cavernous 280-seat German-style Grand Table beer hall. The two brewing tanks here produce the beer served on premises. Meanwhile, another three tanks at the nearby Mori no Biiru (Forest Beer) brewery run by GKB's parent company (food delivery service Yonekyu) provide the bottled beers sold in retail stores and at the chain of Chimney beer restaurants.
Next to the massive two-story Grand Table is an even bigger buffet restaurant, Mugibatake (Wheat Field), seating 450 punters who've come for the notorious tabe/nomihodai (all you can eat and drink). Nestled around the two buildings are a handful of Mongolian-style "yurt" tents, called Pao, each accommodating private parties of up to twenty.
The GKB brewtanks provide five types of beer for all three locations, including a rotating seasonal. The Weizen is a refreshing, well-made session beer which stands up to comparison with its neighbor at Fujizakura Kogen. The GKB Pilsner suffers, as does Fujizakura, from the same overly soft water in the Mount Fuji area, but is made palatable by mineral additives in the brewing process. The Schwarzbier is solid and substantial and could easily be my first choice. Conversely, I found the Weizenbock heavy and cloying at 7% abv, with no desire for a second glass.
The seasonal beer when I visited in February was a bizarre Honey Lemon Pilsner, in which the lemon flavor so overwhelmed all other tastes that it was hardly recognizable as beer. Indeed, my companion took one sip, dismissed it as a Lemon Squash, and happily returned to her Schwarzbier. The waiter rather desperately promised us that if we could have free re-fills all nights (perhaps they are trying to dump dead stock), but even that incentive found no takers.
When I met Kadokura-san the next day, I interrogated him about this: why not make a fizzy citrus beer in the humid summer, when it would be more welcome? Rather abashed, he stressed that the summer seasonal, Helles, served that purpose (and why don't I come back and try it in August?), but that the rationale behind a lemony beer in February is that it goes well with chocolate for Valentine's Day. Enough said.
Only three brands are brewed and bottled by Yonekyu at the Mori no Biiru brewery. Brews News readers may be familiar with the Pilsner, Weizen, and Dunkel sold in bottles in the Tokyo area. The recipes for Pilsner and Weizen are subtly different from those brewed at GKB, and a side-by-side comparison of the draft and bottled versions would make an interesting research project.
GKB recently replaced the Dunkel with its more interesting Schwarzbier, but you'll have to go to Gotenba to drink it from the tap. Kadokura-san stressed that, under Danner's tutelage, he abides by the Reinheitsgebot for the majority of his beers, including most of the seasonals, and the sacred document is prominently displayed next to the brewhouse at Grand Table.
Gotenba Kogen Beer and its associated hotels are a year-round operation, with special events planned in every season to draw day-trippers and bus tours. The winter attraction was a phenomenal display of tens of thousands of tiny lights (more than Roppongi Hills, they brag), many of them strung in a trellis-like tunnel extending the length of the premises - a twenty-minute walk under a romantic illumination. The Christmas decorations stay up from November through February, which must be a record even for Japan.
Seasonal beers are made for every event as well, of course, including Alt, Kolsch, the aforementioned Helles, and a Kodaimai (heirloom rice strain) beer made with Kurogome (black rice) from nearby Shuzenji. March and April see throngs descend for the famous cherry blossoms; the summer is the high season for visitors from nearby Sengokuhara and Ashinoko in Hakone; and in the autumn there is a large-scale Oktoberfest, as described by John Chambers (see his report in Brews News #62, October 2005).
Gotenba Kogen is a full-service operation: there are villas for rent, including some circular huts that would not look out of place in the Anatolian caves of Cappadocia. There is, of course, a wedding hall, complete with steeple and church-like trappings; but there's also a cemetery with thousands of Jizo statues - all amenities provided, literally from cradle to grave! The onsen is open to day-trippers as well as hotel guests, and there are several smaller Japanese-style restaurants scattered around the sprawling area.
Most impressive, especially with Mount Fuji looming overhead, is a full-size football pitch, approved by FIFA and used by the national team and numerous J.League sides for training. To get the full advantage of a Gotenba vacation and to enjoy all of the related facilities, plan a stay at the Toki no Sumika hotel, linked to the restaurants by a rustic wooden bridge across a babbling brook. The rooms are designed for large parties, accommodating up to six (including a loft). A current package offers three adults (or more) who stay two nights (or more) a room with breakfast, along with dinner at the restaurant of your choice, all food and drinks included, for Y9500 per person per night.
Gotenba Kogen Beer is on sale everywhere, of course, including your hotel: 500 ml bottles of Weizen, Pilsner, or Dunkel cost Y500, while one-liter aluminium cans (including Schwarz and Weizenbock) go for Y1000. A two-liter glass "siphon" jug can be had for the unlikely price of Y2940, but this includes discounted refills, making them suitable for large and presumably raucous parties.
Gotenba Kogen Beer and Toki no Sumika Hotel
Gotenba-shi, Shizuoka-ken 412-0333
www.gkb.co.jp or www.gkb.co.jp/english
The Toki no Sumika complex, including Gotenba Kogen Beer, is located about 30 minutes by car south of the Gotenba exit of the Tomei Expressway, or an equal distance west of Sengokuhara in Hakone. Free shuttle buses run from Gotenba station regularly, with the schedule on the GKB website. Gotenba is the main station on the JR Gotenba Line, a scenic mountain route connecting Kozu station (in Odawara, on the JR Tokaido Line) with Numazu. A "Romance Car" express called Asagiri, jointly run by JR and Odakyu, also leaves Shinjuku for Gotenba and Numazu. (A very pleasant trip can combine Gotenba with a stop by Baird Beer in Numazu: see www.bairdbeer.com for details and directions.)
For those who can't make it to Gotenba just yet, one may drink GKB beer at any of the Chimney izakaya pubs in Tokyo, a branch of Yonekyu. There are locations in Kanda, Ikebukuro and many other parts of Tokyo. Yonekyu and Kirin jointly run the newly renovated Hana no Mai and Danran Honoo restaurants that now occupy the former Beer Station next to JR Ryogoku station. A recent visit found the beer offerings disappointing, though, as there was only a light low-malt beer from GKB, with the rest of the beers from Kirin's usual portfolio.
Hana no Mai and Danran Honoo
At JR Ryogoku Station
Both open from 4:00 pm every day year-round
Yokohama Kitanaka Water
By Glenn Scoggins
Full Moon Beer, the product of two German brewers in Otaru, has opened a summer-only restaurant on the Inner Harbor of Yokohama, close by the Minato Mirai area. On a warm night with clear skies, the combination of the killer waterfront location and a glittering view of the twinkling lights of Landmark Tower, Queen's Square, World Porters and the Inter-Continental Hotel across the harbor will make an irresistible date spot.
The beer itself will not be the main draw, as there is just one type, available in 330 ml glasses for Y700 (or in take-away bottles for Y400). The gimmick is that it's brewed just once a month on the full moon. And then aged until the next full moon, then bottled and released. Other drinks include spumante (Y700 per glass/Y3800 per bottle) and wine (Y1200/Y6500), as well as soft drinks.
While the range of drinks is narrow, the extensive food menu will fill an empty belly, with stick-to-your-ribs items like rotisserie chicken (Y900 per quarter, Y1500 per half, Y2700 for the whole bird), barbecue (with sausages, kebab, or steak from Y1000 to Y1800), pizza (from Y1900), pasta (from Y1200), and risotto (Y1500). Appetizers change monthly, with Italian and Balinese cuisine the theme for May: calamari fritters and Iberico cured ham are featured, with prices ranging from Y300 to Y800. There are also specials from the on-site kitchen, with lamb and vegetable kebab currently featured (Y2500).
As the prices indicate, this is not a bargain beer garden, and those in search of a nomi-hodai/tabe-hodai special should take the elevator to the top of the nearest department store. However, you are perfectly welcome to have a few beers, munch on some tapas, and drink in the view. Given the miserable weather so far this spring, any outdoor location is desperate for customers. Large umbrellas shelter diners from inclement weather, and a giant screen will be in place to show World Cup matches.
Open six nights a week as well as weekend afternoons, Kitanaka Water (which presumably describes the view rather than the beer) is well-situated for a pre- or post-dinner drink as well as a full meal. If you're coming from Tokyo, take the Toyoko-sen from Shibuya three stops beyond Yokohama station: Bashamichi (on the Minato-Mirai Line) is just a few minutes from the restaurant, behind the historic but crumbling Teisan Soko warehouses.
Kitanaka Water Open Air Restaurant and Cafe
6-62 Kitanaka-dori, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231
Phone: 03-5545-7393 (office of owner, GBC Corporation)
Open until 3 September 2006
Open Tuesdays through Fridays, 5:00 to 10:00 pm
Open Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays, 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
Three minutes from Bashamichi station (Minato-Mirai Line, direct from Shibuya)
www.beer.co.jp (How did they snag such a memorable website?)
Gribousine by Malonne 8% abv Hazy yellow-orange, white head, sweet and tart aroma, with funky straw notes from "farmhouse" style Belgian heirloom yeast. Clean malty taste balanced by tartness, with faint hops in the background. Long, tangy finish.
Malonne Brune 8% abv Very dark brown, almost black, with frothy tan head. Tart and fruity aroma, with some sweet chocolate notes. Quite richly sweet, but balanced mostly by acidity, then, to a lesser degree, by hop bitterness. This approach to flavor balance makes this heavy, dark and strong beer rather refreshing.
Gouyasse Tripel 9% abv Hazy pael yellow, dense and creamy snow white head. Good full-on meaty, yeasty aroma, of course. Sweet wheat malt and barley malt aromas, spike with tiny and indeterminate spicy notes, leading to strong Belgian style sweet maltiness. However, this Tripel is more strongly hopped than others, so it bites back with bitterness soon after the sweetness spreads out on your palate, leaving a bitter hop splash on the roof of your mouth that lingers long. Not quite as comp lex and endearing as Westmalle Tripel, but exceeds it on the refreshment side.
Petrus Gouden Tripel 7.5% abv Very hazy light gold, huge carbonation, massive rocky white head, enormous fruity, spicy hop aroma. Rich and clean, yet rather simple flavors. But the good malt richness and total Belgian yeast vibe get the job done.
Petrus Oid Bruin 5.5% abv Hazy deep reddish brown, dense tan head. Aged, slightly sour aroma, some sherry notes in the flavor. Sour and vinuous, but not very complex. A bit disappointing for this type. @@@1/2 Petrus Speciale 5.5% abv Deep gold, off-white head. Shockingly bitter initial flavor, malt behind. Not heavy, but big gobs of flavor. Sort of a lightened Belgian ale made more palatable to those used to mainstream lager. Not bottle conditioned it seems - no yeast sediment.
The Petrus beers are brewed by Bavik Brewery (www.bavik.be) and are only Y298 at Yamaya stores.
Last month's "Guess This Beer" was Suntory's German Pearl Dry.
Nissin's Growing Beer World
By George Schneider
Nissin World Delicatessen is one of Tokyo's larger international supermarkets, offering foods and beverages from around the world. Located in Higashi-Azabu, not far from Azabu-Juban Station, it is particularly noted for its low prices on meat and its incredible beer and wine selection.
Over the past 18 months, Nissin's increase in the number beers carried, to some 200, has been a quiet affair. The ease with which this figure has grown was recently discovered through some casual chat with the store manager, who revealed that nearly every request for something new comes from customers. Open to all suggestions, liquor department chief Hiroyuki Nakano says the idea now is to, by word-of-mouth, make his beer selection of imports and domestics the best in the Tokyo area.
Together with Nissin's current offering of over 2,000 varieties of wine, Nakano says he is also seeing a rise in restaurant and club personnel who buy a variety of beers, beyond the known domestic lagers, to offer their customers. Most often however, it is the store shopper who has sampled a brew at a local pub, or is looking for a favorite brand from their home country and is in need of a steady, reliable source for that beer. Apparently, Nissin intends to be that kind of store.
Whether you are experimenting with Belgium's Mongozo Banana, England's Theakston Old Peculier or a craft beer from Ezo Beer of Hokkaido, or simply prefer to drink at home one of your favorite Schneider Weisse of Germany in classic 500 ml bottles, Nissin may be worth the extra bit of travel effort to stock up for the home or party imbibe.
As with the wines, many brands are tagged with a country flag of origin, and a short clipping from the catalog in Japanese explaining the brand; it's not complete. Many simply name the beer in English and Japanese. Nakano says he will try to expand on the labeling as best he can. Also overheard on a recent visit was a request for Bishop's Finger and Spitfire, a welcome call as a local pub who does have them on tap is frequently dry of these two English ales.
Another request was for the addition of my personal domestic favorite, Yona Yona Ale. All fingers remain crossed. Yet even if supplies cannot be negotiated (Kirin's Hojun is out because the brewer requires refrigerated transport from bottler to retail) there are many more to taste and sample before any boredom settles in.
One last note, if you were hoping for the standard 15% discount on shopping early bird between 6:30-8:30am, the sad news is that the discount does not apply to beer.
Nissin World Delicatessen, 2-34-2 Higashi Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo; 03-3583-4586
BEERS stands for the Beer Enjoyment, Education and Research Society, and is Tokyo's English-speaking beer club, which meets at 8 pm on the 3rd Tuesday of each month. The next meeting will be held on July 18 at Ushitora in Shimokitazawa. For more details, and to get on the event e-mailing list, write to: tokyobeers-at-yahoo-dot-co-dot-jp.
Beer & Pub
The latest issue of The Beer & Pub magazine, Vol. 5 Summer 2006, went on sale June 20th. This Japanese-language beer publication is quite impressive for its deep reportage on good beers and places to drink them. Not to mention the stellar photography. Features of this issue include:
Beers of the Month Club
Ezo Beer continues to offer its "Beers of the Month" club. This month, the selections are Rogue Uberfest Pilsner, Rogue Half-e-Weizen, and Rogue Dad's Little Helper, in large 650 ml bottles.
For August: BridgePort ESB, Alaskan Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Rogue Chipotle Ale. Regular 355 ml bottles.
For September: Alaskan Amber, Rogue Juniper Pale Ale, Rogue FestivAle. Large 650 ml bottles.
For details on prices and shipping, write: phred-at-ezo-beer-dot-com
Knowing My Marzen from Mai-bock
An astute reader pointed out that I referred to Rogue's Dead Guy Ale as a Marzen instead of a Maibock - twice! David Peters writes: "Hey Bryan, I guess you are not really into West Coast ales, are you? Twice you've called Dead Guy Ale a Marzen . Its not by any standard. From the Rogue website: 'Dead Guy is a German-style Maibock made with Rogue's proprietary "PacMan" ale yeast.'Take care and thanks for the newsletters, - David"
Highly embarrassed, I replied: "David, Thank you for pointing out my error. Chalk it up to carelessness -- I knew it was a Maibock but for some reason I kept typing Marzen, and Phred the importer didn't even point that out. Yes, I certainly like West Coast Ales. I'm sure they're responsible for at least one of the mistakes. Best regards, Bryan Harrell"
Special thanks to Bryan Baird, George Schneider 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 (August) is July 27.