Brews News #77
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Brews News #77 - May 2007
All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.

Beer Here

Beer Festival 2007 at Roppongi Hills
May 24 (from noon) to May 27

Major brewers Asahi, Kirin, Orion, Sapporo and Suntory are collectively holding an event intended to increase the demand for beer in Japan. Under the theme of "Beer-tainment," the four-day festival will feature a number of live entertainment events in five separate locations in the Roppongi Hills complex along with, well, a whole lotta domestic beer. Although the beer isn't free, admission to the event is, except for the Tokyo City View location where the usual entrance charge applies.

For beer drinking, facilities with a total seating for 1,000 people are being readied. Draft beer is all 500 yen. In the Arena, Mori Teien and umu facilities, choose among Asahi Super Dry, Kirin Ichiban Shibori, Orion Draft, Sapporo Black Label, and Suntory Malt's. In the Tokyo City View facility, on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower, upgrade your choices to Asahi Jukusen, Kirin Braumeister, Orion Draft, The Premium Malt's and Yebisu. In all locations, soft drinks are only 100 yen, and food will also be available. Opening times are noon on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, and 3pm on Friday. Facilities close at 9 or 10pm, with last order an hour before closing.

For more details, visit the special Web site: www.beerfes.com and download the most recent press release in pdf form. The organizers are also seeking applicants in small groups (2 to 10) to attend the opening ceremony as special guests. Applications are made in Japanese, and to apply go to the site and click on "goshotai".

German Beer Festival in Hibiya Park
May 25 through June 3

By Glenn Scoggins

Last year's festival in Hibiya Park (essentially an Oktoberfest, re-named to avoid seasonal ambiguity) was held for one extended weekend, but this year the organizers (affiliated with Zato Shokai, the parent company of the Franziskaner chain of German restaurants) have extended it to ten days, from Friday, 25 May through Sunday, 3 June. On weekdays it will be open from 4:30 to 9:30pm and on weekends from 11am to 9:00pm. There will even be an Oktoberfest Summit this year, bringing together the existing Oktoberfesten in Yokohama, Sendai, Matsumoto, and Shizuoka with this year's newbies from Utsunomiya and Tsumagoi.

Three German bands are scheduled to perform, with the un-Teutonic names of Attica Blues, Thomas and Toni, and Jin & Jan. They will be going head to head the first weekend against the spring beer festival at Roppongi Hills organized by the Big Four Plus Orion (4+0=4). The website for the German Fest is www.nihon-oktoberfest.com, but it is not yet operational and still promotes last year's events. Instead, go to www.zato.co.jp/event/eventokt.html. While you're at the Zato site, check out their seventh restaurant, Franz Club, on the fifth floor of the newly opened Shin-Maru Bldg in front of Tokyo Station. [I wonder if Zato also plans to open a "Hans Club" where, presumably, you could visit after Franz Club in order for them to "pump you up." - Ed.] -- See you in Hibiya, Roppongi, and Marunouchi!

JBA Craft Beer Festival
Saturday, June 2, in two sessions: 11:30am - 3pm and 4:30 - 8pm

This is the 9th annual beer festival held by the Japan Brewers Association (JBA), an industry group of microbreweries in Japan. In recent years the festival has taken place in the beer garden at the Tokyo Prince Hotel, but this year they are moving the event indoors, in the New Tokyo izakaya near the Mita (west) exit of Tamachi station (JR and Toei subway lines) at 5-33-8 Shiba, Minato ku; phone 03-3453-4060. The 3,500 yen admission (3,000 in advance) includes 7 beer tickets and one plate of snacks. Extra beer and food are available for purchase. For more information and reservations, go to the JBA Web site (in Japanese only) at www.beer.gr.jp

Highlights of the beers to be served at the festival include Fujizakura Kogen Rauchbier, HItachino Nest Celebration Ale, Kinshachi Aka Miso Lager, and Ozeno Yukidoke's Heavy Heavy Barleywine and their iconoclastically named "10th Double IPA Tripel." For a complete list (in Japanese) go to http://www.beer.gr.jp/100/fan/20070602_01/beerlist.php3

Bar Beat

The Bar Hunter Returns to Osaka

By Glenn Scoggins, the Bar Hunter

Japan's western metropolis is legendary for its joyous consumption of food and drink, to the extent that the city motto is "Kui-daore" - roughly translated as "Eat until you drop." There's one neighborhood in Osaka which is so thick with good places to drink intelligently selected craft and import beer that you needn't stagger far from one bar until collapsing into another. Within a ten-minute radius of Higobashi subway station, an enthusiastic punter can find six bars of varying size and ambience, all dedicated to the discerning drinker who wants more for an evening tipple than just another Super Dry.

Higobashi lies between Osaka's northern and southern nodes, one stop south of Umeda and three stops north of Namba - far enough from either to enjoy lower rents and fewer crowds, but by no means difficult to reach. One can walk from one pub to the next through the lovely Utsubo Park (and you thought there was no green space in Osaka!). The Yotsubashi subway line connects all three stations, with Umeda station a major hub linking Osaka with Kobe, while nearby Yotsuyabashi station is the terminus of the Keihan line from Kyoto. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that all roads in Kansai lead to Higobashi.

Near the Tosabori river is the original Beer Belly, first reviewed in the June 2006 edition of Brews News and updated in April 2007 with Nevitt Reagan's review of the recent Strong Beer Festival. Maintaining close ties with Minoo AJI Beer, barkeep Yahata Yasunari also stocks the best of Japan's other craft beers, runs a small kitchen and has a friendly demeanor. Beer Belly expanded westwards several months ago into the adjacent Edobori neighborhood, and the newer establishment is a bit larger but still cozy. Pouring drinks and manning the kitchen is the amiable and talkative Yamazaki Taketo, who is joined four or five nights a week by Dave Johnson, a man with a quick wit and long experience of the Kansai beer scene.

Barfood favorites include fish and chips, fried chicken, and chicken curry, with no pretensions to haute cuisine. On my recent visit to Beer Belly Edobori, the full line-up of Minoo AJI beers was on tap: Pilsner, Dark Lager, Weizen, Pale Ale, Stout, and Imperial India Pale Ale (IIPA), with the latter two in their Real Ale incarnations. The "guest beer" was a very drinkable Hideji Dark Ale from Miyazaki, available in Tokyo primarily at the prefectural souvenir shop just south of Shinjuku station. More esoteric beer included Ganja High, with hemp seeds, and Cabernet Beer, although the mind boggles at the thought - can someone please explain to me how to make beer out of grapes?

It takes less than five minutes to walk from one Beer Belly to another, hardly enough exercise to prevent one from developing an eponymous paunch, especially if you stop midway at the latest branch of Osaka's Dolphin chain of Belgian beer bars. Although under different ownership, the Higobashi branch shares the same extensive beer line-up, reasonable prices, full food menu, and comfortable surroundings as its five siblings. In a large cellar with warm decor, red brick and chandeliers, Italian cuisine is augmented by Japanese dishes, Belgian frites (Y480) and mussels (Y850), and German sausages (assortment of five for Y750). The menu is topped off by seafood paella at Y1300, but every other item is priced in three digits, and the beer starts at Y650 for Hoegaarden, with over 120 brands on the menu. (Reviews of other branches of the Dolphin chain will appear in future Osaka bar tours; for the Shinsaibashi branch, called Grand Dolphins, see Brews News #68.

Southeast of the station is a snug, ramshackle hut mysteriously called Q-Brick, with a Wild West-style swinging saloon door and Happy Hour specials chalked up outside (Y600 for Guinness or Bass until 7:00 pm). Inside, a counter seats six while the opposite wall holds a giant projection screen for live sports events. Yamamoto Takuya opened Q-Brick in April 2005 and now stocks over 200 beers, mostly in bottles, from around Japan and the world. I had a Shiga Kogen IPA and the always-excellent Ise-Kadoya Pale Ale, made even more delicious by Yamamoto's engaging personality. He participated in last autumn's Real Ale Stamp Rally (including both Beer Bellies and Barley in Nishinomiya), despite the disadvantage of having no permanent refrigerator to store beer! He is fully committed to Osaka's emerging real ale movement and numerous brew festivals, and Q-Brick is the place to go to get information on beer events in the Kansai region.

Shoestring operations like Beer Belly and Q-Brick stand in contrast to the well-bankrolled and professionally operated Belgian Beer Cafe chain, with sixty branches throughout Europe and Australasia. Leffe aficionados in Tokyo will already be familiar with Antwerp Central in Marunouchi, the second BBC branch in Japan, but it was preceded by Barrel, where the marquee star is chief bartender Fujioka Ryusuke, a finalist in the World Draught Master Competition in Brussels two years back.

Like Antwerp Central, Barrel has a lavish interior designed and imported from Belgium, with beautiful light fixtures, windows, and doors, all reflecting the art-deco style of the inter-war period. Nestled amongst the staid, respectable Sumitomo buildings that represent the nexus of the Osaka business elite, Barrel is a dash of bright Continental color. During my lunchtime visit, tables outside on the street went unoccupied despite the warm spring sunshine, while the inside filled up with salarymen and OL's who all ordered the Y800 special (value for money, too), but without beer! (I had no such qualms and enjoyed a well-poured Leffe Blonde and then a Bruin.)

Turnover during the lunch hour must guarantee a healthy bottom line, but the repeat traffic amongst the lady guests might be due to the matinee-idol good looks of the young barmen and waiters. Smooth, reliable, profitable, predictable, and unexciting - Barrel is an excellent place for lunch or the first drink of the evening, but Osaka has other treasures just off this beaten track.

An intriguing German-style beer restaurant within the Higobashi circuit is Loreley, operated since 1974 by Rolf Kuchmann. Yamazaki (Beer Belly Edobori) and Yamamoto (Q-Brick) both recommended that I include it as I traversed the neighborhood. Alas, I felt victim to its notoriously short opening hours, and the hearty Teutonic food and smoky Schlenkerla Rauchbier for which it is also famous will have to wait until my next trek west.

What to do if you've explored the Higobashi sextet and still want to experience the best that Osaka has to offer? The one-word answer, just across town, is Masamichi. Since reading former Osaka resident Tim Eustace's review, this had become my prime destination in Osaka. Headquarters of the craft beer movement and location of Kansai's pioneering Real Ale Festivals, Masamichi seemed to me the Naniwa version of Tokyo's beloved Beer Club Popeye. How wrong I was! Masamichi is entirely different from Popeye, but just as impressive, and it provides a memorable dining and drinking experience.

Opened only three years ago by Hashimoto Toshio, the restaurant is elegant and subdued, with impeccable taste. Seven seats at the low counter and eight tables for two ensure an intimate atmosphere (although this is transformed during the festivals, with far more participants). The wall behind the counter is lined with a selection of twenty brands of nihonshu and over 140 of shochu, which are served with flair and flourish and must be the choice of most of Masamichi's patrons - none of whom were in evidence on a rainy weeknight, when my companion and I had the entire place to ourselves for two glorious hours. The establishment is welcoming to ladies of fastidious tastes, with spotless bathrooms and real cloth towels, a nice touch.

Nevertheless, it is the craft beer for which Masamichi is famous, and there are only eight taps, three of them dedicated to Real Ale, and no beer in bottles or cans. The flat price is Y650 for 330 ml or Y800 for 400 ml. On my visit, Fujizakura Kogen's Weizen (a wise choice) and Pilsner (unheard of!) were joined by Shiga Kogen's Draft Pale Ale. Bryan Baird was represented by his Yuzu Ale, still on tap after it had vanished from Popeye, and the Scottish Eighty-Shilling, in its Real Ale incarnation.

The other Real Ale taps dispensed Yona Yona and Tokyo Black Porter, both in top condition. The most earth-shattering discovery was Ise-Kadoya Imperial Smoked Porter, a thick and complex potion, better chewed than swallowed, and of necessity the piece de resistance to end the evening. While no match for the effervescent, larger-than-life personality of Popeye's Aoki, Hashimoto was unobtrusive but informative throughout the evening, answering every question on beer or sake with quiet diffidence, emphasizing the calm and civilized atmosphere.

Masamichi's extensive food menu, well-stocked kitchen, and ebullient chefs were a welcome surprise, as I had anticipated only the beer. Throwing caution to the wind, my dinner companion and I ordered two full-course meals, which were impressive in quantity and overwhelming in quality, including the best duck I have ever tasted, prepared naturally without spices. Steamed sea bream (tai) was also superlative, and traditional Osaka-style udon noodles finished off a memorable meal. If you have only visited Masamichi for a beer festival, do yourself the favor of returning for a full dinner.

The contrast with Popeye in many fields will have become apparent. But the most important qualities are identical: Hashimoto-san and Aoki-san share a dedication to the very best Japanese craft beer, are uncompromising in their demand for quality of taste and perfection of delivery, and have cultivated personal relationships with the brewers whose beer they respect. Hashimoto said, calmly but firmly, "I only serve beer made by brewers whose faces I know." These connections pay off, as I discovered the next day in a potentially embarrassing encounter - after drinking the impossibly rich Imperial Smoked Porter at Masamichi, the manager of another Osaka bar gleefully confided in me that he was negotiating with Ise-Kadoya to get a sample of this elusive elixir, maybe sometime later in the spring. I didn't have the heart to tell him that Masamichi had beaten him to the punch.

Beer Belly
1F Osaka River Bldg
1-1-30 Tosabori
Nishi-ku, Osaka 550-0001
Five minutes east of Exit 3 of Higobashi station (Osaka subway Yotsubashi line), on a small street north of and parallel to Tosabori-dori, near Chikuzen-bashi
Tel/Fax 06-6441-0717
http://www.minoh-beer.jp/direct-shops/index.html
Open 5:00 pm to 12:00 midnight (Monday through Saturday)
Closed Sundays and holidays

Beer Belly Edobori
1F Famille Edobori
2-1-21 Edobori
Nishi-ku, Osaka 550-0002
Eight minutes west of Higobashi station (Exit 2), just off Tosabori-dori: turn left at the Trajal College of Hospitality and Tourism
Tel 06-6445-6366
http://www.minoh-beer.jp/direct-shops/edobori.html
Open 11:30 am to 2:00 pm (Monday through Friday)
Open 5:00 pm to 2:00 am (Monday through Saturday)
Closed Sundays and holidays

Beer Bistro Dolphins (Higobashi branch)
B1F Showa Bldg
1-18-27 Edobori
Nishi-ku, Osaka 550-0002
Five minutes west of Higobashi station (Exit 2), on Tosabori-dori
Tel 06-6443-6869
http://www.dolphins.co.jp/higobashi/
Open 11:00 am to 2:30 pm (Monday through Saturday)
Open 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm (Monday through Saturday)
Closed Sundays and holidays

World Beer & Cafe Q-Brick
1F Kyoon Bldg Minami-kan
4-6-12 Hirano-cho
Chuo-ku, Osaka 541-0046
Ten minutes southeast of Higobashi station (Exit 5), one block east of the expressway
Tel/Fax 06-6203-0690
www.worldbeerqbrick.com
Open 11:00 am to 12:00 midnight (Monday through Friday)
Open 5:00 pm to 12:00 midnight (Saturday)
Closed Sundays and holidays

Belgian Beer Cafe Barrel
1F, Sumitomo No. 2 Bldg
4-7-28 Kitahama
Chuo-ku, Osaka 541-0041
Five minutes east of Higobashi station (Exit 1), on a small street in between two massive Sumitomo office buildings
Tel 06-6233-0455
www.belgianbeercafe.jp
Open 11:30 am to 12:00 midnight (Monday through Friday)
Open 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm (Saturday)
Closed Sundays and holidays

Deutsches Bier, Wein, und Delikatesen Loreley
B1 Kintetsu Dojima Bldg Forrester 21
2-2-2 Dojima
Kita-ku, Osaka 530-0003
Three minutes from either Nishi-Umeda station (Osaka subway Yotsubashi line) or Kita-Shinchi station (JR Tozai line), through the Dojima underground passageway (Exit C83); or ten minutes north of Higo-bashi (Exit 3), crossing two rivers and Nakanoshima island by Higobashi bridge and Watanabe-bashi bridge
Tel 06-6341-0043
http://www.loreleyjp.com/main.asp
Open 6:00 pm to 10:30 pm (Monday through Friday)
Open 6:00 pm to 9:30 pm (Saturday)
Closed Sundays and holidays

Nagomi Ryori (Comfort Food) Masamichi
1F Shinko Bldg
1-1-15 Higashi-Obase
Higashinari-ku, Osaka 537-0024
One minute from Tamatsukuri station (JR Kanjo line) or four minutes from Exit 4 of Tamatsukuri station (Osaka subway Nagahori Tsurumi Ryokuchi line)
Tel/Fax 06-6977-4466
http://masamichi.main.jp/
Open 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm (Monday through Saturday)
Closed Sundays and holidays

Six Pick

Old vs. New, Organic Delights

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.

!!!!Suntory Malt's; old (lower) and new (upper) (100 % malt, hops, 5% abv) The older version is notably richer, heavier and slightly sweeter than the new, which has a lighter body but is very slightly darker in color. The older was produced in mid-February, while the newer at the end of March. The differences are slight, and seem to be mainly in the gravity, but the flavor is the same. Both are equally good.

!!!!Yebisu Kuro (old, lower) vs. !!!! Yebisu The Black (new, upper) (Sapporo Beer; 100% malt, hops; 5% abv). My initial reaction was that these must be the same beer since the nutritional information offered is identical. Upon tasting, however, significant differences were noted, although the production dates differ. The older was brewed at the end of January, while the newer was brewed in mid-March (this was the closest match I could get). The older, Yebisu Kuro, is slightly darker with a richer taste, a heavier body with more sweetness and a more complex malt profile. The newer, Yebisu The Black, has a slightly lighter color, a thinner body and a more simple flavor, with less sweetness and a more pronounced tartness. One could say the beer has been dumbed down more a greater mass appeal, while another explanation is that the brew has been altered to better suit warm-weather drinking. Still, the differences are small, but they are perceptible.

ugh Cannabia - If you're old enough, take yourself back to the early 70s, pick up a six-pack of some off-brand cheap-ass supermarket beer, open the cans and pour it all into a bong. Then run through about a half a pound of really coarse Mexican rag-weed that might be enough to get you and half-a-dozen friends high. (Remember, there was no weed from Canada way back then.) Next, open the bong and drink the water. Quite possibly it could taste exactly the same as this poor excuse for a beer. Anyway, you've been warned - this is cheap-tasting generic beer with the eerie flavor of low-grade pot.

!!!! Wolaver's Pale Ale (Vermont, USA; all organic 100% barley malt, hops; 5.4% abv) Dark golden bronze, soft tan head. Strongly fruity aroma with some floral hop aromas. Bold juicy malt flavor but little forward hop taste or aroma except for some very bold bitterness at first, giving way to malt, which tapers off to a drop of chocolate-like richness. Quite drinkable and delicious. Plus, all the ingredients are organic. www.wolavers.com

!!!!! Wolaver's Brown Ale (Vermont USA; all organic 100% barley and wheat malts, hops; 5.6% abv) Deep reddish amber, light tan head. Rich juicy malt aroma with minimal sweetness. Smooth and creamy, with the same drop of chocolate tang at the end as in the Pale Ale. Very satisfying; made me want another one.

NOTE: Wolaver's importer Tengu Foods is offering to Brews News readers a special close-out price on cases Wolaver's Brown Ale (best by date May 19). The beer has been stored well at a stable temperature, and will likely be good through July. The normal price of 410 yen per bottle (9,848 yen/case + shipping) is reduced to 292 yen per bottle (7,000 yen/case) and shipping is included free. To order, you must contact Jack Bayles directly at bayles@alishan.jp . Only about 10 cases are left, so hurry. Also, check out their Web site: www.alishan-organic-center.com

Beer Talk

Homebrewing

by CJ (japanhomebrewer@gmail.com)

My name is CJ and I like beer. I like holding it, opening it, pouring it, touching it, looking at it, smelling it - and even drinking it. But most of all, I like making it. I am a dedicated homebrewer (although if you ask my wife, you'll hear a "slightly" different description, most likely including the words "strange," "maniac," or "out of control").

I first became interested in homebrewing around ten years ago. A chance meeting at a conference in Korea with an old friend, beers for lunch, more beers with dinner, decrying how similar most Asian beers were, drooling over the variety available in the States, and dreaming of brewing beer at home, and I was on my way. My sister and mom joined together to send me a simple homebrew kit - plastic buckets, tubing, airlocks, how-to book, and an ingredient kit - and I brewed my first batch of India Pale Ale (IPA) during Golden Week 1999. That first batch was thick, bitter, flat, and dark with a funny aftertaste, but somehow it was the best beer I had ever drunk! Now eight years later, I just finished my 190th brew - almost 1,000 gallons of beer. Just thinking about it makes my liver curl up in a ball and hide in the corner.

Homebrewing on its most basic level involves taking malt extract (basically a sugary liquid or powder made from malted barley or wheat), mixing with water, boiling with hops, and fermenting with brewer's yeast. More advanced all-grain homebrewers make their beers with actual barley or wheat malt grains, but the process is pretty much the same. And those of us who are truly fanatics, well let's just say that we take things to a whole different level.

In my apartment, I have a walk-in closet dedicated to brewing, with a beer fridge, a temperature-controlled chest freezer, and a hop freezer; around 30 beer kegs that hold 11, 19, 38, or 57 liters; more than 100 kg of malted grains; six stainless fermenters; flasks, jars, bottles, and tubes of all shapes and sizes; caps and capping tools; bottles of acids and sanitizers and tubs of cleaning powder; and more equipment than I can keep track of. Enter at your own risk - things are always falling, spilling, flowing, oozing, and at times crawling all over the place. But to me it's a little piece of nirvana. When I enter my brewery, its chaotic beauty provides me an inner peace and sense of contentment.

Homebrewing makes me happy. It keeps me off the streets and out of trouble; it makes me the center of attention at parties; it keeps me busy and out of my family's way; it keeps me in shape (well, sort of). But most of all it gives me an amazing satisfaction every time I take a sip of my own beer - I made this! Oh yeah! That satisfaction is what keeps me coming back.

In the real world, I'm a teacher. No matter how good I am, progress is hard to see, improvement is gradual at best, and success is determined by whether or not my contract is renewed for another year. But with brewing, the progress is there from the first minute to the final sip from a keg before it blows foam signaling the end of a delicious brew. Crank on the handle of the grain mill and I see the precious starches exposed and waiting for transformation. Mix the starchy grains with water and I get the sugary wort that the yeast can't wait to eat. Boil the hops for that wonderful bitterness and flavor and aroma that all great beers have. And so on and so on. Every step in the process gives me results that I can see, smell, taste, appreciate.

But beyond the simple "I did it all by myself" pleasure, homebrewing provides a way to try all those delicious beers that are usually hard to get in Japan - with a little practice and experience, you can make almost any beer imaginable. Do you like English milds or bitters? Hoppy American pale ales? Rich malty Scottish ales? Deep German bocks? Are you constantly disappointed with the beers you buy that just don't taste quite like you'd imagined or expected? Do many of the growing number of Japanese craftbeers fail to make you feel all warm and fuzzy down there? Well, get off your butt and make one for yourself - and for your friends! And after a few weeks of fermentation and conditioning, WOW - you have beer. And it'll be great beer that's better than any you've ever tasted because it's yours. Life doesn't get better than that.

My name is CJ, and I'm a dedicated homebrewer.

News

New Beers

Baird Brewing has released two new beers on April 26th. Four Sisters Spring Bock (approx. 6% abv) is brewed with one-third malted wheat and two-thirds malted barley for a zestier taste from an otherwise fairly substantial lager. Sixty-Shilling Ale (approx. 3.6% abv) is a lighter version of the classic Scottish-style Heavy Ale, and has undergone a long low-temperature fermentation for a smoother taste, and intended as a late-spring session brew. Both are now being served at the Fishmarket Taproom in Numazu, and are also on tap and in bottles at Baird Beer retailers throughout Japan. For details, go to www.bairdbeer.com

Sankt Gallen has introduced two versions of what they call "sweets beer." The Kokutou Sweet Stout is made with Okinawan brown sugar, which gives it a distinct aroma and taste. The Sweet Vanilla Stout is made with vanilla beans in place of aroma hops for a sweet vanilla aroma. For details, go to www.sanktgallenbrewery.com

Suntory Malt Selection English Malt, the second in the Malt Selection series, will go on sale May 8th. Sporting a light amber color, this beer is made with English roasted malt in a decoction mash. Carbonation is said to be lower than average, while alcohol is a slightly higher 6% abv. Suntory's Web site does not indicate whether this is an ale or a lager, but my bet is definitely on the latter, making it not particularly English, really. Suntory is also releasing on May 29th a somewhat interesting "frankenbeer" (this one is a liqueur #1) called Suntory Jokki Awauma that is said to contain both wheat malt and Cascade hops.

Events

May 9, Wednesay, 7 pm, Belgian Beer Dinner at Bois Cereste. Featured this month are various Belgian beers made with cherries, with food to match. Certainly you will be able to "down a kreik" instead of be up one. The cost is 7,500 yen, and reservations must be made by Monday, May 7; phone Yamada-san at 03-3588-6292. 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

May 15, Tuesday, 8 to 10:30 pm - BEERS meeting, location pending. For more information on this 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.

May 26, Saturday, 3 to 9 pm, the Beer Lovers Club at Bois Cereste. This quarterly event features a huge variety of Belgian beers at a substantial discount. Tickets are 3,500 yen for 10, with most beers priced at 2 or 3 tickets. Food may also be purchased with the tickets. For contact information, see the May 9th entry above.

May 27, Sunday, 2 to 4 pm, Belgian Beer and Food at Belgian Beer Cafe Antwerpen Central in Tokyo. Hiroyuki Fujiwara, editor of The Beer & Pub Magazine, will present a selection of Belgian beers paired with Belgian-style dishes. The meal will feature Quiche made with Chimay cheese, Belgian cured ham salad, mussels steamed in Belgian ale and a dessert of Belgian waffle made with beer. Cost is 6,500 yen, and seating is limited to 60 people, so make reservations now by calling Antwerpen Central at 03-5288-7370. A map and event details are at: http://www.belgianbeercafe.jp/

June 2, 3 and 4 (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) - "Horoyoi" (crazy drunk) Beer Party at Sugaya. Times are 10 am to 4 pm Saturday and Sunday, and 1 to 6 pm on Monday. This twice-yearly event is legendary among hard-core Japanese beer enthusiasts. A liquor store blessed with an astonishing beer selection but cursed by a remote location in suburban Kawasaki, Sugaya is run by perky and energetic Yukako Sugaya, a beer enthusiast herself with a taste for Belgian beers and US microbrew alike. Admission is 6,000 yen, but only 5,000 yen for first-time attendees.

This is for all-you-can-drink of about seventy kinds of beer, including four on tap, and light snacks. Beers are mostly Belgian, but some are from Austria, England, Germany, Ireland and the USA. You can bring your own favorite glass, or use one of the non-breakable plastic ones provided. Apparently all kinds of great beer flows on and on at this very casual and friendly event, and although I have yet to attend, I plan to go this time. For more information on the event, go to http://bsgy.hp.infoseek.co.jp/horoyoi.htm. To see a list of beers to be offered, go to http://bsgy.hp.infoseek.co.jp/horoyoi_2.htm. For a map and directions, go to http://bsgy.hp.infoseek.co.jp/sugaya.htm Sugaya also has an amazing selection of beer that can be ordered for home delivery; go to http://www.sugaya-beer.com/ .

Mark Your Calendar

Great Japan Beer Festivals - http://www.beertaster.org/gjbf/date.htm (in Japanese only)

Tokyo GJBF at Ebisu Garden Hall - June 15 - 16

Osaka GJBF in Umeda Sky Bldg - August 11 - 12

Yokohama GJBF in Ohsanbashi Hall - September 15-17

Errata

1. S.C. writes: "I hope you don't mind a non-resident pointing out an error, but in the "Frigo Est Opens in Nishi Kanda" article there is something wrong with the introductory paragraph. I don't know the full history of the business, but I do know that their bar in Shinjuku is Frigo (not Belgo), and I have a feeling that the Shibuya outlet (Meiji-dori) is presently called Belgo." Yes, this is correct. I inadvertently switched the names.

2. A loyal Kirin employee writes that their new ale is not "Golden Ale" (as reported in last month's Brews News) but is actually named "Grand Ale." Yes, Grand Ale it is, and I apologize for the error. - Bryan Harrell

Special thanks to CJ 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 June issue is Thursday, May 24.