Brews News #75
Home >> Eating & Drinking in Tokyo >> Brews News

Brews News #75 - March 2007
All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.

Beer Here

Baird "Lucky Seven" Stout Week
Saturday March 17th to Friday March 23rd

Molly Browning, assistant brewer, and Sayuri Baird at the Fishmarket Taproom.

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day is the ultimate tribute to stout, though you will likely need the luck of the Irish to drink a pint each of these without passing out while trying. In addition to six stouts previously released, Baird has also created a Snow Melt Chocolate Wheat Stout to round out the seven, while tossing in one more dark beer, Spring Thaw Dark Wheat, for good measure.

The intriguing Snow Melt Chocolate Wheat Stout (7.1% abv) is based on wheat malt, and uses chocolate malt as the primary roasted color grain (in place of black patent malt or roast barley. As Bryan Baird puts it, "The flavor result is interesting. The initial impression in the mouth is rich and luxuriant. This robustness, though, quickly gives way to a bone-dry dark bitter chocolate character. In effect, the wheat provides roundness and body but readily bows off the flavor stage in favor of the roasted chocolate malt. A strong, unsweetened espresso-like flavor lingers in the aftertaste accentuated by a warming alcohol dryness." Wow, who isn't waiting to try this?

His other new offering, also based on wheat malt, is Spring Thaw Dark Wheat Ale (4.4% abv) and it sounds just as intriguing. "The wholesome, biscuity aromatics of malted wheat are joined harmoniously with floral and spicy hop notes," says Baird. "A first swallow reveals an extremely refreshing quality that manages somehow to also be pleasantly satiating. This really is a hybrid beer that is a unique cross between a Wheat Ale, an Amber ale and a Dark Mild." Geee, gotta try that one, too.

Limited quantities of both will be available on draught at select Baird Beer retailers. Additionally, a small quantity of the Spring Thaw Dark Wheat Ale has been bottled and will be available direct from the brewery or through Baird Beer retailers in Japan. For a list, see http://bairdbeer.com/html/retailers.html

Snow Melt Chocolate Wheat and Spring Thaw Dark Wheat will also be featured at the Fishmarket Taproom during Lucky Seven Stout Week, along with Shimaguni Stout and five other Baird seasonal stout releases: Dark Sky Imperial Stout, Lucky Seven Toasted Oatmeal Stout, Mama's Milk Stout, Midnight Oil Foreign Export Stout and Morning Coffee Stout.

The Fishmarket Taproom is a brisk 25-minute walk (or short taxi ride) from Numazu station in Shizuoka Prefecture, phone 055-963-2628. For directions and more information see www.bairdbeer.com

Celebrating one year in operation, the Baird Brewery is just a three-minute walk from the Fishmarket Taproom.

White Beer Festival at the "White" Lion

By Steve Lacey

They say a leopard can't change its spots, but apparently a lion can change its coat. Well, at least the Black Lion in Meguro did for the day of Sunday, February 25 when it held the second of a three-part series of beer fests inspired, perhaps, by the Three Colors Blue trilogy.

The first installment, the "Black Lion Black Beer" festival was held in December. Now, April 15 has been earmarked for the third in the series in which we will see another change of coat to get a brown lion bearing brown beer in its furry little paws. Black, white and brown. Perhaps not quite as evocative as red, white and blue, but poetic enough for your average beer-o-phile.

February's White Beer Fest featured 11 beers on tap from Japanese, German and Belgian breweries. The "white" theme was mostly followed in the form of either true white (or wit) beers, in the style of the famous Hoegaarden, or by Bavarian Weizen style wheat beers. The wit beers included Celis White, St. Bernardus Blanche and, of course, Hoegaarden White (all from Belgium). I would have liked to have seen Hitachino Nest White Ale alongside these to allow a comparison of the local product with its more credentialed Belgian cousins. Wit beer, by the way, is characterized by replacing about half the malted barley with raw wheat and adding spices like dry citrus peel, coriander, or even ginger during the boil.

The other beers were all weizens with one exception, Chimay White. From the birthplace of weizen, Bavaria, we had Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier, Franziskaner Weissbier, and Paulaner. While all excellent, as you would expect given their pedigree, the pick of these for me was the Weihenstephan with its balance toward the richer, fruity end of the weizen taste spectrum. The Japanese craft weizens were all completely serviceable, and I am sure Brews News readers would be familiar with the excellent offerings from breweries such as Fujizakura, Minoh Beer and Swan Lake (though I felt this latter brewery's dunklewizen stretched the definition of "white"). A complete list of beers on offer was printed in last month's Brews News #74.

Beer aside, the event was extremely well run by Tomoaki Inaba, duty bar manager and brains behind the events. The food was, by all accounts excellent (I was too busy drinking to partake) and the atmosphere friendly and lively without being overcrowded. The format of selling tickets (three half pints for 1,500 yen, three pints for 2,700 yen) worked extremely well. The half pint deal meant you could try most of the beers on offer without getting too juiced.

I am also sold on the concept of having more frequent (bi-monthly?), small, themed festivals focusing on a particular corner of the beer world rather than the scatter-gun approach of the larger festivals. I don't necessarily think that color is the best way of defining future themes, but it has been a good kick start and I do hope the idea will continue. Readers with suggestions for other themes, please send them to me at stlacey at gmail dot com.

Osaka Real Ale Month Report

by Nevitt Reagan

Kansai area beer lovers had a "real" treat from late November to mid-December last year in what was called Real Ale Month: a month of Japanese microbrewery real ales at four Kansai area beer bars. World Beer Cafe Qbrick, Beer Belly, Beer Belly Edobori, and Cafe Beer Barley each took week-long turns featuring two to four real ales at a time.

Not pasteurized, filtered, or artificially carbonated, real ales offer a distinctive change from canned, bottled, or even ordinary kegged beer. The yeast is still active and fermenting; thus, these beers are still evolving, and the first glass out of a cask will often have a markedly different character from the last. When served, cask-conditioned real ales should be hand-pumped, without pressurization, and served at around 10-12C.

Somehow we missed the first week, 11/20 to 11/26, held at Osaka's World Beer and Cafe Qbrick, where Ise Kadoya White Ale and Hitachino Nest's 8% spiced, hop-loaded Celebration Ale were on tap. However, we made sure to try every offering at the three other locations.

11/27 - 12/03: Beer Belly

We started out at the Osaka favorite, Beer Belly. The atmosphere here is cozy, the staff attentive, and the food menu a collection of reasonably priced pub fare. The three beer tasters were your humble narrator, Big Al and the indomitable Beer Queen. Al hails from the U.S. Pacific Northwest and can often identify a brew's hops and malt bill after a few sips. The Beer Queen works in one of Osaka's larger liquor stores and is a lady who definitely knows what she likes.

We began with the Yona Yona Real Ale (5.5%) from Yoho Brewing in Karuizawa. This may have been a mistake since it was so fresh, fruity, and well-balanced, that it pretty much spoiled us for what was to follow. In fact, we ordered several more half-pints between sampling the other brews. If you've had only canned Yona Yona Ale, be sure to try the Real Ale version; the long, bracing Cascade hop finish will follow you all the way home.

Next up was Iwate Kura IPA (7%). We had mixed opinions on this one. The Beer Queen gave it her unmistakable smile of approval; Big Al nodded more-or-less, appreciatively; I found it a bit too restrained, too timid. Perhaps intended to be more an original British version of what is now primarily a more hearty North American style, it was well balanced; yet the flavor somehow died in the glass.

Our third beer was Minoh's Espresso Real Stout, a mild coffee-flavored brew that was a real letdown. Expecting a thick, Seattle-style stout, we all found it thin (indeed, nearly transparent) and flat, perhaps partially due to a bad pull from the tap by the barmaid.

Sankt Gallen's Barleywine (9.2%) was a return to life. With a beautiful dark ruby color and warming alcohol presence, this ale's powerhouse blend of malty sweetness and lingering hop bitterness (81 IBU) had us marveling.

One problem with our sampling on this evening was that the kitchen of Beer Belly sits directly behind the bar. When the crowds arrive and the chef gets going, the smoky smells emanating from the woks and deep fryer fairly defeat one's nose. It becomes practically impossible to detect a beer's range of hops and malt when a pungent cloud of sesame oil smoke permeates the air.

12/04 - 12/10: Beer Belly Edobori

The following week four more real ales were featured at Osaka's newest beer bar, Beer Belly Edobori. We started with Minoh Pale Ale, which had a very light body, but also some great aroma hopping. Not bad, said Big Al.

We moved on to Minoh's Double IPA. We had sampled it the previous week at the Higobashi Beer Belly and had found it unremarkable. Yet, one week later, our glasses from a freshly-tapped cask were full-bodied, well-hopped, and very fruity. ("Juicy mango!" said the woman next to us.)

The third brew was Isekadoya Dry Stout, supposedly made from the same recipe which won a bronze medal at the 2006 World Beer Cup. We tasted caramel and coffee notes, yet a somewhat oxidized aroma also accompanied each sip. Overall, a bit disappointing.

Once again, the best was last. Hitachino Nest XH (short for Extra High). This 8% Belgian style strong ale went down smoothly. The light, spicy fruitiness combined well with the strong malt backbone. A winner all around.

12/13 - 12/22: Beer Cafe Barley

Our third week was at Nishnomiya's Beer Cafe Barley. The knowledgeable owner gave us informative overviews of the four brews. We started with Ikspiari Brown Ale, an appropriately restrained, smooth, yeasty, yet unexceptional, brew.

Next, we tried the astounding Sankt Gallen Special Pale Ale. Sankt Gallen makes a special batch of this beautiful orange-tinted ale exclusively for Beer Cafe Barley. Its malt aroma was reminiscent of pumpkin, and the complex bouquet had us all guessing: coriander? (no, said the owner), pine needle? (probably not), orange peel? (perhaps). The women in attendance all said, "O-hana no kaori." The ever-helpful owner tried to call the brewers, but no one was there to answer our question. We sampled this several more times, and became more quizzically fond of it each time.

The final two brews on the lineup were Swan Lake Robust Porter and Yaho Brewing Tokyo Black. The former was well below par, especially for a beer that has won multiple World Beer Cup medals. It was weak-bodied, with a strange BBQ chicken aroma and an aftertaste redolent of potato chips. We were informed that the medal-winning variation of Robust Porter was a bottled version and not the cask-conditioned real ale we were drinking. The Tokyo Black, however, was a welcome change. With its thick, vigorous roast malt flavor and pitch black color, it edged toward a stout in character.

It's definitely worth looking for future real ale events or asking at beer bars if they serve real ales. Be aware, however, that the character of real ales can change rather quickly; it may be a good idea to ask when the keg was tapped. The quality of carbonation and head retention may also vary, depending on how the beer is pumped from the tap. Yet most of these ales will provide an enjoyable, and very real, experience.

To sum up the three weeks' worth of real ale sampling, here are our very subjective averaged ratings (on a 50-point scale):

41.5 Minoh Double IPA
41 Sankt Gallen Pale Ale (Beer Cafe Barley Special)
39.5 Sankt Gallen Barleywine
39.5 Tokyo Black
39 Yona Yona Real Ale
37.75 Hitachino Nest XH
35.2 Iwate Kura IPA
32.25 Ikspiari Brown Ale
31 Minoh Pale Ale
29.5 Swan Lake Robust Porter
28.6 Minoh Espresso Real Stout
NR Isekadoya Dry Stout
(Scale: 28-36 Good / 37-43 Very Good / 44-50 Excellent)

[A rumor is circulating that another real ale event will be held in Osaka in April or May, but this could not be confirmed as of this writing. Real ale evangelist Toshi Ishii revealed that there are plans to hold a fall event similar to Tokyo's Real Ale Festival held in early spring. The search for a Kansai site is now underway. - Bryan Harrell]

[Next Month, Nevitt Reagan is back with the Beer Queen, Al and newcomer Lefty to report on the Winter Beer Fair at Beer Belly in Osaka.]

Bar Beat

Bar Beat: Craft Beer Bar (Yokohama) & Cervoise (Setagaya)

By Glenn Scoggins, The Bar Hunter

Not too long ago, Japan's second-biggest city was a wasteland for lovers of intelligent beer. Surprisingly, Yokohama is a birthplace of beer, dating from William Copeland's Spring Valley Brewery in 1870, and here one could easily find its successor, Kirin, but rarely anything produced on a smaller scale. However, this has changed radically with the advent of Cheers, The Green Sheep, and Thrash Zone (all near the west exit of Yokohama station), joining the well-established Copa in the northwestern suburb of Aoba-dai. Yokohama Beer and its brewpub, Umaya no Shokutaku, provide interesting beer (amidst the occasional dud) and inventive Italian cuisine in pleasant surroundings in Bashamichi. Unfortunately, these gains have been offset by the closure at the New Year of Brausturberl, the German-style beer hall which had been operated for the last decade by Kawagoe's Koedo Brewery.

February 17, 2007 saw the newest entry into Yokohama's revival as a beer heartland. Craft Beer Bar (both name and description) is an elegant and sophisticated venue to enjoy carefully selected beer and whiskey. Operated by Kansai native Suzuki Tetsuya, it is modeled on Osaka's Beer Belly and naturally features Minoo AJI as its flagship brand. The bar has an intimate environment, ideal for sharing the pleasures of drinking, eating, and conversation. The counter seats eight, with two tables doubling the capacity, yet the high ceiling and low, wide counter give it a more spacious feeling. The array of ten glistening taps (with two reserved for real ale) are dedicated solely to Japanese microbrew, with no concession to less rarefied tastes.

The standards are Minoo AJI, with Double IPA as the real ale representative, joined by pale ale, stout, weizen, and pilsner. There is also Baird Beer, with Coffee Stout as the real ale when I went, joined by the entire Baird line: Rising Sun Pale Ale, Red Rose, Teikoku IPA, Angry Boy, Kurofune Porter, Shimaguni Stout, and Wheat King. Plus, there are Sankt Gallen's golden, amber, and pale ales as well as brown porter. And Fujizakura Kogen's award-winning Weizen and smoked Rauchbier. The debut guest beer is an American wheat ale from Wakayama's Nanki-Shirahama Nagisa Beer.

All brands cost the same: 1000 yen for 500 ml or 700 yen for 320 ml. If beer is not your tipple of choice (then why are you reading Brews News?), there are 30 single-malt Scotch whiskies to satisfy you. The brief food menu (with all items between 600 - 900 yen) features ham and sausage from Yume-Ikki, which has won competitions in Germany over the last three years.

Craft Beer Bar is a light-hearted establishment that takes beer seriously. Dedicated drinkers should make the effort to find it, located on an alley in a business area of downtown Yokohama, almost across from a parking lot. Landmarks nearby include the soaring Yokohama Media Center (headquarters of Kanagawa Shinbun and TVK television), a small post office, the Heiwa Kotsu taxi dispatcher, and a Toyota dealership. Among its many virtues is a 4:00 pm opening time!

Craft Beer Bar
1F Copo Sunrise Ota-machi (ground floor)
2-31-3 Ota-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0011
Five minutes on foot from either JR Kannai station or Nihon-Odori station (on the Minato-Mirai line, which is the extension of the Tokyu Toyoko line direct from Shibuya).
The alley on which the bar is located is roughly six blocks east of Kannai station or four blocks west of Honcho-dori, under which runs the Minato-Mirai line. There is no website yet, so it's best to use the address to generate a detailed map before your first visit.
Phone/Fax 045-651-0440
Open 4:00 pm to 11:30 pm
Closed Sundays

Up in Tokyo, Cervoise is a tiny, charming Belgian beer bar occupying one corner of an otherwise unremarkable apartment building in the midst of suburban Setagaya. It's easy to overlook and hard to find at first, but its relaxed ambience and cozy intimacy make it worth the search. Vivacious proprietor Rie Shimizu will welcome you with light-hearted conversation while she whips up a dish in her minuscule kitchen. While Cervoise also offers coffee, tea, and cakes for the neighborhood crowd, the well-designed beer menu lists over twenty Belgian bottled beers, representing all popular types, each served in its own distinctive glass. There are also Hoegaarden and Heartland on tap. Prices are reasonable for Tokyo, hovering on either side of 1,000 yen. Don't bring the rugby team here after practice, though, since there are barely three places at the counter, plus two small tables and a sofa, capping the capacity at about ten!

Cervoise
1F Daiya Heights Sangenjaya
2-46-1 Sangenjaya, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Phone/fax 03-5486-1777
Open 2:00 pm to 12:00 midnight
Closed on Sundays and the third Monday of each month
Ten minutes walk from Sangenjaya station (Tokyu Den'en-toshi and Setagaya lines): From the station, walk down Setagaya-dori, and just past the huge Carrot Tower building, make a left (diagonally) and with Carrot Tower to your back, continue on past the next stoplight; Cervoise is on your left just before the intersection with Kan-Nana-dori. There is a map in Japanese.

Six Pick

Canned Curiosities

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.

This month's selections are, for the most part, beer curiosities. Two of them, found on a recent visit to the U.S., are not available in Japan but are presented as, well, curiosities.

!!!! Tokyo Black (porter) by Yoho Brewing, brewers of Yona Yona (all malt, 5% abv) Near black, opaque, dark tan short-lived head. Faint subdued aromas of dried fruit, sweet coffee and chocolate cake. Smooth mouthfeel with rich, dark malt flavors, but very little deep roast bitterness. A session ale for dark-beer lovers.

!!!! Suntory Canadian Malt (all malt, 6% abv). Straight medium gold, very bright, snow-white head. Light, malty aroma. Sharp initial hop bitterness, quickly backed by solid malt, slightly richer than normal mass-produced Japanese beer (said to contain 1.2 times the malt of normal Suntory beer). Very smooth mouthfeel, with the emphasis remaining on malt. This is Beer #1 of Suntory's new limited edition "Malt Selection" series. I rather like it, and look forward to future offerings.

!! Kirin Enjuku Black (happoshu, 6% abv). Deep bright reddish brown, light tan head, faint roasted malt aromas. Thin body with a very mild toffee flavor, yet surprisingly light despite the darker appearance. In the end, the rich malt flavor one expects isn't really there, but it is surprising how much can be done with 25% malt.

! Suntory Jokki Hohjun limited edition "koi aji" (rich flavor). (5% abv; ingredients: Apart from a small amount of roasted malt, you really don't want to know. This isn't even a happoshu, but rather a "liqueur" made with happoshu and wheat spirits, among other things. Said to contain over 20% malt, though.) That said, ahem, what's this self-proclaimed "rich flavor" brew like? It's a glorious, bright reddish amber, with a short-lived off-white head. There is little aroma except for a few maltish whiffs. There are hints of amber-ish malt flavor in its amazingly thin body. Well, the picture on the can makes it look tempting. To me, it's another example of what even a tiny amount of roasted malt can do for a brew.

! Charles Reibenbach Ice Ale (5.8% abv, ingredients not available) Rich, bright bronze, off-white head, faint sweet aroma. Initial strong, sweet flavor and thick, high-gravity body. Not much off flavor, but not great tasting either. Sort of a toned-down version of the 8% abv Steel Reserve lager. This, and several other varieties in the CR brand, were just 49 cents at a discount store. That's a bit over $3.00 for a six pack including tax.

!! Charles Reibenbach Amber N/A (less than 0.5% abv, ingredients not available) Clear amber color with gold highlights, thick off-white head, the typical "corn flakes" aroma of a non-alcohol beer, but much less of that in the flavor thanks to the use of some roasted malt, which seems to do wonders in masking the cheap, grainy flavor of adjuncts like rice, corn, starch, sugar and what have you. Good substitute for a cola on a hot day.

Beer Talk

Beerapalooza Report

by Bryan Harrell

Home to Anchor Steam beer, San Francisco can technically be called the birthplace of U.S. microbrew beer owing to the revival of the Anchor Steam brewery in the mid-60s. But back then, home brewing was a real rarity (since it was still illegal then) and the concept of microbreweries hadn't even been thought up. Anchor Brewing was simply an anomaly, the enterprise of a daring investor who simply wanted to keep a historic brewery alive.

Fast forward 40 years and there are now about nine microbreweries and brewpubs operating within city limits, and quality craft beers can be found on tap at most bars in the city, not just the famous beer specialty places like the Toronado, and the seven brewpubs and two microbreweries within city limits. This was just one of the events during Beerapalooza - a week of beer excess and debauchery.

Beerapalooza kicked off on February 11 with the Double IPA Festival held at the Bistro in Hayward (across the bay). I had to miss that event in order to attend the 5th Tokyo Real Ale Festival held on the same day.

I left for San Francisco the next morning, and on February 14th attended the Beer & Cheese Pairing at the Rogue Ale House in SF's colorful North Beach neighborhood. (http://www.rogue.com/locations-sanfran.html) There were eight pairings, six of them with artisinal local cheeses.

1. Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale with Rogue Creamery Soba Beer Cheddar.
2. Bison Belgian-style Ale with Bellwether Farms Fromage Blanc.
3. Rogue Monk Madness Belgian-style Strong Ale with Laura Chenel Chevre goat cheese.
4. Moylan's Hopsickle (an incredible hop bomb with superb balance) with Bellwether Farms Carmody, a lovely hard white cheese.
5. Lagunitas Censored strong ale with Vella Italian-style Table Cheese (a Fontinella, really).
6. Marin San Quentin Breakout Stout with chocolate, dried cherries and almonds.
7. Rogue Chocolate Stout (a.k.a. Ezo Choco Bear) with Rogue Creamery Chocolate Stout Cheddar.
8. Rogue Mocha Porter with Chocolate Macaroons made with the same beer. The pairings were all designed by Sheana Davis of The Epicurean Connection (www.sheanadavis.com), with excellent bar service provided by Rogue SF Ale House manager Dan Pearson and his staff.

February 16th featured the most decadent event, Bruce Paton's Belgian Beer & Chocolate Dinner. Executive Chef at the Cathedral Hill Hotel, Paton has garnered a superb reputation over the years as one of America's most noted beer chefs. The dinner started out with an open bar pouring Orval and Chimay white, with chocolate accented hors d'oeuvres of various kinds - one was small discs of foie gras coated with dark chocolate - you get the idea.

First Course: Lobster Bisque infused with Milk Chocolate and Creme Fraiche, served with Westmalle Dubbel and Chimay Red. Second Course: Breast of Squab with Sweet Potato Chocolate Flan and Natural Jus, served with Rochefort 6 and Westmalle Tripel. Third Course: Angus Beef Short Ribs Braised in Chimay with Parsnip Puree and Dark Chocolate Port Wine Reduction, served with Chimay Blue and Rochefort 8. Dessert was an "Exploration of Chocolate Delights" served with Rochefort 10 and De Koningshoeven (La Trappe) Quadrupel. The price for all this? $85 inclusive, a bit higher than the usual $65 for Chef Paton's regular Dinner with the Brewmaster events. Should you ever visit San Francisco, don't miss one of these dinners if your schedule allows. See Chef Paton's site for event information, www.beer-chef.com.

Saturday, February 17 was the first day of the famous Toronado Barley Wine Festival, featuring (drink 'em) 54 ultra-strong beers on tap, available in 3, 6.5 and 11 ounce servings. I only had one day to attend, but managed to try six, the most memorable being Hops on Rye brewed by Pizza Port in the San Diego area. The use of rye malt made the beer seem lighter and zestier. The Toronado is one of the most amazing beer places on the West Coast (toronado.com). It's recommended to visit there during the daytime, when it's Happy Hour between 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. and most pints are just $2.50. At night it is very crowded, and the music is LOUD! They serve no food, but are happy to let you bring in whatever you want to eat - I suggest some take-out from the barbecue place across the street, Memphis Minnie's, which is also one of the best places of its type on the West Coast. www.memphisminnies.com

The final and most amazing Beerapalooza event is the annual Celebrator Beer News anniversary party. This year it was on Sunday, February 18 at the Trumer Pils brewery across the bay in Berkeley. Live bands, tons of barbecue, endless beer and more were enjoyed. Photos of the event are now up at www.celebrator.com

All in all, the week was just a bit much for me, but chances are I'll return next year. Air fares from Tokyo are at their lowest in February, which makes it even more tempting.

News

Kyushu Region Craft Beer Fair - now underway at Jha Bar (pronounced "ja-ha bar") in Kanda. Each day, four beers out of a selection from 10 breweries are on tap. A regular 330 ml glass is 850 yen, and a larger one is 1,100 yen. The event will finish sometime soon, when all the kegs run out, so before you run out there, call first to confirm what's left. A nice place with a friendly owner and an astonishing beer selection, Jha Bar is quite close to Kanda and Awajicho stations at 2-5 Kanda Tacho, phone 03-3252-3258. http://www11.ocn.ne.jp/~jhabar/

New Baird Seasonals: Temple Garden Yuzu Ale (5.7% abv) is a real winner, with astonishing yuzu citrus aroma, which dovetails very nicely with the citrusy hops in the actual flavor. This one is five stars! The Professor Munich-style Dunkel (4.9% abv) is also a winner, rating 4.5 stars for its lovely, subtle roasted malt flavor that graces its smooth, malty backbone, with just a kiss of complex hop bitterness. Read about these at http://bairdbeer.com/html/2007-bulletin-archives_0.html and look for them where you normally find Baird Beer, or check out http://bairdbeer.com/html/retailers.html

March 14, Wednesday, 7 pm - Belgian Beer Dinner at Bois Cereste. This month's dinner will feature cheese in various dishes, paired with different Belgian ales. The cost is 7,500 yen. Bois Cereste is a short walk from Akasaka Station on the Chiyoda Line; for details and a map, see http://www.bento.com/rev/0818.html Reservations must be made by Monday, March 12; phone Yamada-san at 03-3588-6292.

March 22nd, Thursday, 8 pm - BEERS meets in Tokyo. Toshi Ishii, brewmaster of Yona Yona ale brewmaster, will give a presentation on cask conditioned ale. For more information on either event, send an e-mail to "tokyobeers at yahoo dot co dot jp". BEERS (Beer Enjoyment, Education & Research Society) is an English-speaking beer club that meets monthly. Meetings are open to everyone.

April 22 (Sunday) is the date of Beer Club Popeye's annual 100 Beer Selection Event where teams of drinkers rank over 100 beers from microbreweries across Japan, all in real time. Get your ticket early to be in on the fun. For details, inquire at Beer Club Popeye. www.40beersontap.com

Interesting New Beers from The Big Four

* Kirin Grand Ale -on sale March 7th. This unfiltered, unpasteurized ale is the latest in Kirin's Chilled Beer series, sent by reefer trucks to convenience stores. This ale is made with caramel malt, and is said to have a distinctive hop flavor. http://www.kirin.co.jp/brands/chilled/grandale/index.html
* Kirin The Gold - on sale March 20th. This lager is made with Czech fine aroma hops and Czech malt. Kirin and Pilsner Urquell have been cooperating for years on brewing technology; could this be a happy result? www.kirinthegold.com
* Yebisu "The Hop" - on sale April 4th. This newest version of Yebisu is said to have a generous dose of Czech Saaz fine aroma hops. Look for the green can. http://www.sapporobeer.jp/product/beer/yebisu_hop.html
* New Suntory Malt's - on sale April 10th. Once again, Suntory is remodeling this 100% malt beer. According to Suntory's Web site, they are using a higher percentage of two-row barley malt to achieve a richer, smoother flavor. Also, the hopping method will be altered to realize a better hop flavor, while the boil will be extended for a richer, fuller flavor. http://www.suntory.co.jp/news/2007/9705.html

The "Craft Beer Campaign" mentioned in last month's Brews News has apparently disappeared, with no information available as of this writing. When we hear something, we'll let you know in the next issue.

Mark your calendars

Big Four Beer Festival 2007 at Roppongi Hills - May 24 - 27 Featuring beer, food and entertainment, this event will be held by Asahi, Kirin, Orion, Sapporo and Suntory to promote the consumption of beer, which has been in a slow decline since 1992. The official website is at http://www.beerfes.com/
Japan Beer Festivals - details in Japanese at http://www.beertaster.org/gjbf/date.htm
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

Special thanks to Steve Lacey, Nevitt Reagan 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 April issue is Monday, March 26th.