Brews News #74 - February 2007
All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.
Osaka Beer Belly Winter Beer Fair
From February 5th, Monday
The Beer Belly pub in Tosabori will be holding a Winter Beer Fair with 7 heavy, high alcohol brews on tap: Hakusekikan Hurricane, Hitachino Nest Celebration Ale, Isekadoya Weizenbock, Minoo Double IPA on handpump, Oyama G'Beer Barleywine, Sanji Pekken Dunkelbock and a "secret beer" on handpump. Location: Near Higobashi station on the Yotsubashi subway line at Tosabori 1-1-30; phone 06-6441-0717; see map. The event will continue until the beers run out, so show up soon!
5th Annual Tokyo Real Ale Festival
February 11th 2007 1 to 5 pm / 2,800 yen
Japan's premier cask-conditioned ale event celebrates its 5th anniversary this month at the Sumida Riverside Hall, the same location as last year. Admission is 2,800 yen, which includes as a commemorative beer glass and tickets for eight 120 ml pours of ale. Tickets are no longer being sold through the event Web site, but some are still available at pubs around town, such as The Aldgate, Ale House, Beer Club Popeye, Beer House Ken, La Cachette, The Grafton, The Green Sheep, Inishmore, Kura Kura, McCann's, Trafalgar, Ushitora, Vivo!, and Yokohama Cheers. For details in English on these places, see http://www.tokyorealale.org/pc/ticketlist.php If you have difficulty finding tickets, write to "brewsnews at yahoo dot com."
A total of 23 beers will be served:
Baird Teikoku IPA, Angry Boy Brown Ale, Kurofune Porter, and 80 Shilling Scottish Ale (Shizuoka)
Hakkaisan Izumi Robust Porter (Niigata)
Hakusekikan Super Vintage Strong Ale (Gifu)
Harvest Moon English-style Pale Ale (Chiba)
Hitachino Nest Extra High Belgian-style Strong Ale with Perle hops (Ibaraki)
Iki Iki Taiko Ale (Toyama)
Isekadoya Pale Ale (Mie)
Iwatekura Original Stout and IPA (Iwate)
Minoo Double IPA and Coffee Stout (Osaka)
Sankt Gallen Imperial Chocolate Stout and El Diablo Barleywine (Kanagawa)
Swan Lake Robust Porter
TY Harbor Imperial Stout (Tokyo)
Yona Yona Wood Cask Conditioned Pale Ale, Peaty Smoked Porter, Tokyo Black Robust Porter, Scottish Ale, and Amber Ale for the 5th Festival
Among the many activities, the BEERS booth will feature the beer game that everyone can play on a first-come basis. See the 5TRAF site at www.tokyorealale.org
White Beer Fest at the Black Lion
February 25th, Sunday, noon until "late"
Ten different white and wheat beers from various craft breweries will be on tap at this festival. Uniform prices are 1,200 yen a pint, 700 yen a half-pint. A set of three pints is 2,700 yen, half-pints 1500 yen. Beers to be served are: Celis White (USA), Chimay White (Belgium), Franziskaner Weiss (Germany), Hoegaarden White (Belgium), Iwatekura (Iwate), Minoo (Osaka), Ocean (Chiba), Oyama G'Beer (Tottori), Weihenstephan Weizen (Germany), ...and two "secret" beers.
Plus, Weisswurst (white sausage) and Mussels Steamed in White Beer will be on the menu. Also note that some of these beers may be available Monday if they are completely gone by Sunday.
The Black Lion is located a few minutes' walk from the west side of JR Meguro station at 1-5-16 Meguro, phone 03-3491-2312
'07 Best Beer Selection in Umeda, Osaka
March 4th, Sunday, 1 - 4 pm
A selection of craft beers from 12 different small breweries throughout Japan, along with various imported bottled beer from around the world, will be served up at this event. Participating breweries will be A.J.I. Beer (Osaka) Dotonbori Beer (Osaka), Harvest Moon (Chiba), Hitachino Nest (Ibaraki), Isekadoya (Mie), Iwate Kura (Iwate), Kuninocho (Osaka), Oyama G Beer (Tottori), Shiga Kogen Beer (Nagano), Shonan Beer (Kanagawa), Swan Lake (Niigata), and Yona Yona Ale (Nagano). Cask conditioned ales will be offered by A.J.I. and Yona Yona. A food buffet will also be provided. Cost is 5,000 yen per person. The location is the Restaurant Sapole, Umeda Shinmichi Bldg. B1, 1-1-5 Dojima, Kita-ku, Osaka; phone 06-6341-0244. Reservations are required, and limited to the first 150 people. Reservations and inquiries can be made by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax to 0721-56-3472.
Prowling Around Yotsuya
by Glenn Scoggins, the Bar Hunter
The vicinity of Yotsuya station exudes a patrician self-assurance, emphasized by the well-heeled matrons at leisurely lunches and their well-behaved offspring at the gated private schools nearby. A low-rise skyline, revealed by the broad expanse of Shinjuku-dori as it crosses a deep ravine (once the outer moat of Edo Castle, now home to the train tracks), adds to the calm, unhurried pace of life. Aside from the oddity of standing on the JR platform and looking up at the subway station above it, nothing feels out of place. Hardly the place for vigorous nightlife or interesting beer, 't would seem. Yet the presence of Sophia (Jochi) University, Japan's premier Catholic braintrust, guarantees two hopeful indicators: thirsty college students and Irish Jesuit professors. Sure and begorra, you needn't walk too far in any direction to find the Guinness pouring in abundance. Yotsuya has a surprising diversity of places to get stewed, from early afternoon to early the next morning, but be sure to go there on a weeknight if you want company: the office workers and college students desert the neighborhood on the weekends.
Close to the station and hard by the Sophia University campus is The Morrigan's, a cheerful and roomy second-floor Irish pub, with a faux-Hibernian decor that's a tad more authentic than the usual pre-fab kit air-freighted in by Aer Lingus. Opened in 2001, The Morrigan's has a sister pub in Okinawa (accounting for the stir-fired goya champuruu with spam and tofu on the menu) and was once linked with locations in Yokosuka and Harajuku, the former Scruffy Murphy's. Seven beers are on tap, including all the usual suspects, at 900 yen per pint, but draft beers are discounted by 100 yen during Happy Hour (until 7 pm, including all afternoon on weekdays). Fourteen bottled beers, representing eleven countries, fill out the menu, including Warsteiner and Beck's from Germany and Lion Stout from Sri Lanka. There's also Irish whisky, of course, and two pages of cocktails. The food items run mostly from 500 to 800 yen and are quite substantial, reflecting the bar's function as a lunch spot for harried office workers and impecunious college students. The seating area, with fourteen tables accommodating up to sixty punters, is divided into semi-private zones but is still spacious enough to work up a vibe, especially around the darts boards which are the principal raison d'etre of the bar. There's no way to huddle around the bar counter, though, as it is for serving only (and is overpowered by smells from the kitchen). The waitstaff are personable but not chummy, and on my visit they had yet to learn how to make a Black and Tan separate into different layers. Given the convenience, atmosphere, and price, though, it's well worth a visit if you're in the area.
On a side street about ten minutes from Yotsuya station, you might with some luck (and a compass) discover Briongloid, down a narrow flight of stairs in a dank, evil-smelling cellar. The theme of Guinness and darts continues here, with the Black Stuff sharing tap space with Hoegaarden and Yebisu. Eight beers are available in bottles, including Spitfire, with La Mere Noel and Duchesse de Bourgogne representing Belgium. Opened in 2005, Briongloid (allegedly means "dream" in Gaelic) capitalized on last summer's World Cup, with a gigantic projection screen. Like The Morrigans, it opens at 11:30 am for lunch but stays open much longer, welcoming new customers until 1:30 am. Beers are steeply discounted and food is half price during Happy Hour, until 9 pm. An all-you-can-drink offer (with a three-hour time limit) goes for 3,000 yen for men (and 2,000 yen for women, on the questionable assumption that they drink less expensively). Add another 1000 yen for unlimited food as well. Eat, drink, and be merry, and you might stop noticing that odd smell!
Guinness and darts are also on tap at Three Thread, a two-story English pub hard on the main drag between Yotsuya and Yotsuya San-chome stations. The cramped counter on the ground floor, seating ten at a squeeze, belies a larger room upstairs available by reservation, with a 100-inch projection screen for sports and music. The stand-out amongst the four beers on tap is John Smith's Extra Smooth. The list of 21 bottled beers includes Traquair, Old Peculier, and Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, as well as Salvator and Paulaner from Bavaria. Happy Hour (from 5 to 8 pm on weekdays) features all pints at a flat 600 yen, one-third off the usual price. Tuesdays and Thursdays are Ladies Days, with all cocktails at half price. Similar to the rest of the area, it's a bit dead on the weekends but lively on Thursday and Friday nights.
If you're still thirsty after a late-night pub crawl, you might find yourself at Sobremesa (appropriately, it means "after your meal" or "dessert"), a whisky and cigar bar run by Ono Yoshiaki and subtitled Yoshi's Bar. It's located on Sugi-Daimon-dori, a funky neighborhood street with plenty of small, old, atmospheric joints, reminiscent of Shinjuku's Golden Gai in years past. It doesn't open until 11 pm, but you can stay until 5 am (later, winks an habitue), so it's perfect if you've missed the last train - or intend to do so. Anchor Steam and Yona Yona are the main brews on offer, so pay your Y500 cover charge, settle down, and enjoy the late night crowd. You might even run into a few Jesuits who've climbed down from their ivory tower.
Irish Pub The Morrigan's
2F Kojimachi Kyoei Bldg., 6-1-18 Kojimachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Walk five minutes to the east from Yotsuya station, on the south side of Shinjuku-dori. Open Monday through Thursday, 11:30 am to 11 pm; Friday, 11:30 am to 12 midnight; Saturday, 4 to 10 pm; closed on Sundays and Holidays
Public House Briongloid
B1F CS Bldg., 1-2 Kyoei-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Walk ten minutes to the west from Yotsuya station, on a small side street parallel to Shinjuku-dori. Open Monday through Saturday, 6 pm to 2 am (or as late as guests want to stay); Sundays and Holidays by advance reservation only
English Pub Three Thread
2-4-11 Yotsuya, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Walk ten minutes to the west from Yotsuya station, on the south side of Shinjuku-dori, or an equal distance to the east from Yotsuya-Sanchome station on the Marunouchi subway line. Open Monday through Thursday, 5 pm to 2 am; Friday and Saturday, 5 pm to 5 am; closed on Sundays and Holidays
Yoshi's Bar Sobremesa
8 Arakicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Walk about five minutes to the east from Yotsuya-Sanchome station along Shinjuku-dori, turning north of Sugi-Daimon-dori (no wider than an alley), and then pay very careful attention for two blocks until you find a ramshackle hut on your right. Open from 11 pm to 5 am (or as Yoshi's fancy dictates), 500 yen cover charge.
Brews in the News
Special thanks to Glenn Scoggins
Shonan Paradise Breeze Beer (by Kamakura Beer; all malt, 5.5% abv). Said to be an English-style ale, but bright deep yellow like a lager. Almost lageresque in flavor. A sturdy beer, with no noticeable defects, but not particularly distinctive in aroma and taste. http://www.kamakura-beer.co.jp
Wind Valley Dark Lager (by Kamakura Beer; all organic malt, 5.5% abv). Opaque black, short-lived tan head, treacle taste in initial flavor, dark syrup-like sweetness prevails. A sort of milk-stout flavor kicks in during the middle even though this is supposed to be a lager. The tastes runs from treacle-ish deep toffee to sweet licorice. Not unpleasant, but unexpected.
Motomachi Brown Faintly reddish amber, very clear, tart aroma and slightly sour flavor indicative of a possible infection, but hops are in balance. At best, this is journeyman home brew, run through a filter to take away the murkiness. Made by Virgo Beer (http://virgobeer.com/) in Tokyo, and commissioned by boosters of Yokohama's Motomachi neighborhood.
Motomachi Black Opaque dark brown, loose tan head, pleasing aroma of fresh roasted coffee beans, molasses and dark caramel, all with, unfortunately, a bit too much tartness. This parade continues into the flavor, with a surprisingly light body for this much darkness.
Kamakura Flower Brown Ale (all malt, 5.5% abv) Very dark brown, with red highlights, dense tan head. Tangy, with malt and hops in great balance, but fairly nondescript flavor profile.
Kamakura Moon Alt (all malt, 5.5% abv) dark orange bronze with dense off-white head. Well made, but lacking in aroma and distinctiveness. Could use a slightly heavier malt profile.
Expanding the Definition of Beer
by Bryan Harrell
This month I wrote two articles in local magazines about chocolate beer. Plus I'd planned to mention it in this issue, but new announcements of chocolate beer continued to pour in even as I finished this issue. So I decided to wait.
Thing is, some of the beers contain actual chocolate, while others rely on chocolate malt and various sugars to create the flavor. Not surprisingly, some are fairly passable, while many others are dreadful, particularly the new ones that seem to be jumping on the chocolate beer bandwagon as February 14th approaches.
So this sudden push of chocolate beer is a bad thing, right? Actually, not. The appearance of so many kinds of chocolate beer from Japan's microbreweries is a gimmick, but one that ultimately expands the definition of beer, enhances mainstream understanding about it each time chocolate malt is explained and, most importantly, underscores the seasonality of beer. Yeah, so while most of these chocolate beers are hardly drinkable, the sideways role they play in beer education is quite significant.
February 14, Wednesday, 7 pm - Belgian Beer Dinner at Bois Cereste. This month's dinner will pair various aged Belgian ales with several courses of food. The cost is 7,500 yen which includes a multi-course meal and lots of beer. Bois Cereste is a short walk from Akasaka Station on the Chiyoda Line; see details and map. Reservations must be made by Friday, February 9th; phone Yamada-san at 03-3588-6292.
February 24th, Saturday, 3 to 9 pm - Belgian Beer Lovers Club. This event is held four times a year at Bois Cereste, one of Tokyo's classiest beer bars, and offers a great chance to drink good Belgian beer at surprisingly low prices. Buy a book of tickets for 3,500 yen and use them to purchase beers at roughly 30% less than normal prices. Tickets may also be used to purchase light foods off their menu at corresponding discounts. Bois Cereste has by far the largest selection of Belgian ales in Tokyo. For directions, see above.
February 27th, Tuesday, 8 pm - BEERS meets in Tokyo. Details are still pending; send an e-mail to "tokyobeers at yahoo dot co dot jp". BEERS (Beer Enjoyment, Education and Research Society) is an English-speaking beer club that meets monthly. Meetings are open to everyone.
A "Craft Beer Campaign" is scheduled to run from March through June at selected pubs in the Kanto area (Aldgate, Ale House, Beer Club Popeye, Yokohama Cheers, Inishmore, Kura Kura, La Cachette, Sal's Bar, Slash Zone, Trafalgar and Ushitora) offering craft beers from leading microbreweries, including AJI Beer, Baird, Fujizakura Kogen, Hakusekikan, Hida Takayama, Hitachino Nest, Isekadoya, Iwatekura, Sankt Gallen, Shiga Kogen, Swan Lake and Yona Yona. Details in the next issue.
Mark your calendars:
Tokyo Beer Festival at Ebisu Garden Hall - June 15 - 16
Osaka Beer Festival in Umeda Sky Bldg - August 11 - 12
Yokohama Beer Festival in Ohsanbashi Hall - September 15-17
to Glenn Scoggins for his 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 March issue is Monday, February 26th.