Brews News #79
Home >> Eating & Drinking in Tokyo >> Brews News

Brews News #79 - July 2007
All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.

Beer Here

Baird Beer's 7th Anniversary Summer Beer Fest

Baird Beer is planning a huge event over the July 14-16 weekend at Baird's Fishmarket Taproom in Numazu, Shizuoka. The occasion is their seventh anniversary, and the taproom will be open from noon to midnight on those three days.

Saturday 7/14 heralds the debut of Baird's 7-Year Ale, a Belgian-style Strong Golden Ale, with 500-yen pints and 400-yen glass-size servings all day Saturday only. Food? There will be a buffet of beer-inspired cuisine for just 1,000 yen per person and, from 3 to 7 pm, a yakitori yatai outside in front of the Taproom serving 100-yen sticks of yakitori. Music? Live acoustic Celtic music from 1 to 5 pm.

Sunday 7/15 will feature a selection of long-maturation beers conditioned for at least seven months. These are Ganko Oyaji Barley wine (9/06), Oktoberfest Lager (9/06), Cool Breeze Pils (6/06 and 2/07 to compare!), Munchner Helles (8/06), Muncher Dunkel (1/07). Each will be matched by an a la carte dish, while the 1,000-yen buffet of original beer-inspired cuisine will also be offered. Live Celtic music returns from 1 to 5 pm, along with the yakitori yatai outside from 3 to 7 pm.

Monday 7/16 (a national holiday) is when things get really interesting with the Fruit & Beer Festival featuring ten beers made with additions of real fruit. Available for 700 yen a pint (or 500 yen a glass) are: Asian Beauty Biwa Ale (2007 debut), Strawberry Field Milk Stout, Protruding Nail Citrus Porter, Shizuoka Summer Mikan Ale, Saison Sayuri, DaiDai Dark Wheat Ale, Temple Garden Yuzu Ale, Yamanashi Apple Ale, The Carpenter's Mikan Ale, and Country Girl Kabocha Ale (a vegetable, not a fruit, but close enough). Plus, original beer cuisine made with, and to match each, of the fruit beers (served a la carte). There will be a live DJ from 1 to 5 pm.

For all three days, reservations will not be required, nor will there be a cover or music charge, but visitors are encouraged to spend the night in Numazu and enjoy the event in a relaxed and unhurried fashion.

The Fishmarket Taproom is a 25-minute walk, 10-minute bus ride or 900-yen taxi ride from JR Numazu station on the Tokaido and Gotemba Lines. There's no place else like it on earth. For details, see www.bairdbeer.com or phone the Taproom at 055-963-2628.

The 4th Annual Tohoku Craft Beer Festival July 14-16

Craft beer from 19 breweries in the six prefectures in Tohoku will be featured at this event held on the grounds of Koiwai Farm (separate admission required). In addition, an all-you-can-eat lamb barbecue party will be held on July 15 from 6 to 8:30 pm, with craft beer available separately. Reservations required by July 9 for this dinner. For inquiries and reservations, phone 019-692-4321.

July 14 (10 am to 5 pm)
July 15 (9 am to 5 pm) + special dinner event (6 to 8:30 pm)
July 16 (9 am to 3 pm)
Venue: Koiwai Farm, 40 minutes by bus from Morioka station.

Morioka Double Magnum Party on May 12th

By Jason Koehler

On May 12th I had the pleasure of attending the Double Magnum party hosted by Mr. Koshikawa, the organizer of the annual Koiwai Farm Tohoku beer festival. The event was held at the CUCINA New York Kitchen, a delightfully warm and stylish bistro tucked away in the heart of Morioka, in the northern prefecture of Iwate.

The party featured more than 15 types of beer, most served in double magnum bottles, which are twice the size of the standard 1.5 liter magnum champagne bottles usually used to christen battleships and celebrate world championship sports victories. With so many beer heavyweights in the lineup, our group knew we had our work cut out for us; but we were up to the task. The theme gravitated primarily towards Belgian styles, but some unique and unexpected selections from the United States also made for a warm welcome.

The evening kicked off with a tasting of Heineken, which seemed slightly out of place in its trademark green amongst the other dark and imposing bottles, yet set the palate for good things yet to come. New offerings came at a fast and furious pace, often with scantly enough time to wash our glasses before the next selection arrived!

Somewhere towards the middle of selections (despite notes, recollection remains hazy likely due to the increased gravity levels that were present nearby in the room!) was Corsendonk Pater, a malty-sweet Belgian brown near to what some might call a dessert beer with a rich caramel zing and creamy mouthfeel; the massive bottle stayed precariously close to me after it had made its way around the table. An excellent Belgian brown I wish I could sample more often!

Towards the end of the evening, just as I was ready to call it quits and make the long and arduous journey back to my hotel room a distant two blocks away, two new selections were revealed that sealed my fate, and subsequent headache the following morning. The first was a welcome sight from home, Ezo Beer's Phred's Night Cap (Rogue Old Crustacean), which really does the trick if you're looking for something to send you off counting sheep to three or four before slumber; and the pinnacle of the evening, a 2001 double magnum bottle of Stone Brewing's Double Bastard Ale!

The double magnum version of Double Bastard was impressive in both taste and packaging, complete with a padlock and key chained around the swing-top neck, and an inscription on the painted bottle explaining to the prospective drinker how they are unworthy of such a fine beer! The beer itself was FANTASTIC for lack of a more suitable word, rich in malt notes, high in hops aroma and flavor, yet smooth, creamy, and surprisingly easy to drink due to its tender aging. On a side note to show just how small the world of brewing really is, several weeks later at a Tokyo meet up, Mr. Toshi Ishii of Yoho Brewing here in Japan informed me that he likely bottled said beer during his tenure at Stone Brewing! Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I could hear Disney characters singing "It's a Small World."

Many thanks again to Mr. Koshikawa for hosting such a great event. His Tohoku Craft Beer Festival will be held July 14-16 at Koiwai Farm (see above article). He is also the owner of the Beer Field Pension, a lodge that specializes in hard-to-find beer offerings from around the world. More information can be found below.

Links:
Beer Field Pension - http://homepage2.nifty.com/~beerfield/ (Japanese)
Koiwai Farms - www.koiwai.co.jp/english/guide/kanko.html (English and Japanese)
La CUCINA New York Kitchen - http://homepage2.nifty.com/CUCINA/ (Japanese)

Beer Lineup Notables:
Leffe - Brown
Leffe - Blonde
Heineken - Special Edition
Chimay - Grand Reserve
Regal - Christmas
St. Feuillien - Triple
Duvel - Double Magnum
Triple Karmeliet - Double Magnum
Deugniet - Double Magnum
Stone - Double Bastard Ale in Double Magnum
Ezo Beer/Rogue - Phred's Night Cap/Old Crustacean
Corsendonk - Pater

Festival Reports

This has been a great season of beer festivals, and the fun continues on through this month as well. The 10-day German Festival in Hibiya Park, finishing up on June 3, turned out to be a great time, thanks mostly to the presence of the lower-priced craft beers from Fujizakura Kogen and Yokohama Beer. I mainly drank Fujizakura's Weizen, and while the quality of Fujizakura is well known, the surprise of good flavors and stable quality from Yokohama made me go back to their Alt a number of times on my two visits.

Next up was the JBA Craft Beer Festival on June 2. This event has normally been the poorer cousin of the huge Japan Craft Beer Association's annual Japan Great Beer Festival in Yebisu Garden Place, but this year I ended up attending the JBA event while passing up the GJBF. I was rewarded with a lower-key atmosphere with no lines whatsoever, easy access to brewers and their staff, and some truly interesting beers, including the quite remarkable Heavy Heavy Barleywine from Ozeno Yukidoke, a brewery I never much cared for in the past, but is now one I seek out. Like a handful of Japan's older microbreweries, they have really come up in terms of quality and consistency. I was also able to talk to them about their oddly named "10th Double IPA Tripel" and found that it was a double IPA fermented with Belgian Tripel yeast. Go figure, but it was a great-tasting heavy beer, though not the thing for a warm June day.

The basement venue in a large-scale izakaya was surprisingly comfortable, and the 1-minute walk to the station made the return more pleasant. Although many of the breweries at this event offered unremarkable beers, the majority did, and for the money it was a great event indeed.

Bar Hunter Glenn Scoggins checks out the wares at Sugaya in Kawasaki.

The next day, June 3, Glenn Scoggins (aka the Bar Hunter) and I trekked out to the "Horoyoi" (Crazy Drunk) Beer Party at Sugaya, a liquor store with an AMAZING beer selection, hampered by its remote location in suburban Kawasaki (about halfway between my house in Tokyo and Glenn's digs in Yokohama). It was my first time to attend, and now I fully understand the logic of charging newcomers 5,000 yen, and repeat visitors 6,000 yen. Imagine yourself turned loose in a liquor store with over 80 kinds of beer, four of them on draft, and you get to drink as much as you want of anything, from 10 am to 6 pm, for the price of admission. This is exactly how it was. Plus, proprietor Yukako Sugaya kept bringing out delicious home-cooked food, such as a wonderful Beef Burgundy made in the proper style with loads of Belgian ale.

Needless to say, Glenn and I had a great time, as did everyone else. The crowning event of the day was the opening of a huge 9-liter bottle (equivalent to over a case of beer) of St. Feuillien Tripel, poured into enormous glasses and passed around the crowd. This party is held twice a year, with the next one slated for November. In the meantime, check out Sugaya's amazing selection of beer that can be ordered for home delivery: www.sugaya-beer.com . For a map and directions, go to www.bsgy.hp.infoseek.co.jp/sugaya.htm

The next festival attended was the Soggy Beer Fest Stage 1 ("Get Wet with Craft Beer, Not Rain!") on June 29-30, which was also a Sugaya production, together with Sal's Cafe, the amazing craft beer and bourbon bar in Saginuma a few stops away in Saginuma where the event was held. Here, 1,500 yen got you enough tickets for three small draft beers from a remarkable selection: Baird, Celis White, Fujizakura Kogen, Liefman's Kreik, Lucifer, Spaten Festbier. In addition, a huge number of bottles were available, some at frighteningly high prices. You could also use tickets for several food items.

Finally, just before finishing this issue, I attended the 2nd annual Style Selection event at Beer Club Popeye on the afternoon of July 1st. Featured this year were twelve porters and stouts from small breweries in Japan. The quality was surprisingly good overall, with standouts being (in order) Iwate Kura Stout, Shiga Kogen Porter, and Isekadoya Stout. The Daigen G Beer Imperial Stout was one of the best brews I have ever had from that brewery, while the HItachino Nest Espresso Stout had an incredibly well-defined coffee aroma, and when I plopped a scoop of ice cream in it for a Coffee Stout Float it was heavenly. I was expecting more from Hakusekikan and Baird Beer, finding but the former's Dual Porter suffering from a very odd yeast flavor, and the latter's Strawberry Field Milk Stout 2007 too unfocused with little evidence of the fresh strawberries it was said to contain.

There is more to come this season, with three separate beer events scheduled during the long weekend of July 14-16. Choices, choices!

BEERS Nagano Beer Safari Report

by Tim Eustace

The BEERS overnight beer safari to Nagano on the June 23-24 weekend went relatively well, considering we had to skip Tyrolean Forest due to time constraints and missed Matsumoto castle by five minutes. In fact, we were very late for most things, but it didn't stop us from having a great time at the places we visited:

* Minami Shinshu - Awesome beer, awesome scenery at the restaurant and great food. I highly recommend them.

* Azumino Brewery - Cheap looking restaurant, good food and bad beer (save the amber, which was OK). Would not return there. (hard to find)

* Shinano Brewery - Beautiful remote location (though easy to find) and a nice pub. Good beer and great food.

* Shiga Kogen - A sake factory that has been around for eons, in the suburbs of Nagano city. No restaurant, but a tasting room. The atmosphere is classical Japanese with the owner's house across the street. Mr. Todoroki, one of two brewers, came across as being very passionate about craft beer, and a very interesting guy. He took us upstairs of the tasting room, where they have a beautiful display area featuring Japanese traditional arts and crafts. He also let us try all of the beer for free and gave everyone a glass to take home. A real class act, these guys will be leading the craft beer movement in the very near future.

* Oh La Ho - Beautiful scenery over looking the Ueda valley. Great beer, including a very authentic Weizen seasonal that stood out. The young and fun brewery staff treated us to unfermented malt ice cream, which was fabulous (you could pour unfermented malt over the ice cream to make it even sweeter if you wanted). Great food.

A survey at the end of the trip suggested the top beers were: Shiga Kogen House IPA,Minami Shinshu Dunkle Weizen, Minami Shinshu Amber and Golden Ale, and Oh La Ho Golden Ale. People are already asking about the next trip.

Bar Beat

Bar Beat: Bulldog in Ginza

By Tim Eustace

The May BEERS meeting was held in Ginza at what seems on the exterior like a somewhat drab pub in most definitely drab surroundings on the second floor of a 60s era building, long past its heyday (as many are) amongst many other eating and drinking establishments. However, one step into Bulldog and you notice sleek beer glassware (and how it feels like a Ginza Lion), the first sign things are getting better. In what is a rarity in Japan, there is actually a Guest Tap signboard, listing three featured beers that day. I liked this feature a lot. It was in the middle of the pub and almost discourages people from even opening the menu, and just go for the guest list. And with Hideji Kitsune Pilsner, Baird Daidai Dark Ale and Isekadoya Scottish ale on tap, none of which I had tried before, but all from breweries I love, my mind was set.

I started with a pint of the refreshing, well-balanced and moderately bitter Hideji Kitsune Pilsner. Unlike many Japanese pilsners, the body on this doesn't suck. In fact, the body had somewhat of a smooth silky feel and I thought it was a very good rendition of a Czech pilsner (I have beer-toured Czech Republic as my credentials). At this point I decided I needed some food, the menu is reasonably priced pub grub and I decided on a nan curry pizza (780 yen) as I wanted a bit of heat to match the hop bitterness of the beer. Turned out to be a good choice.

Next I went for a 'regular' sized Baird Daidai ale. The unusual sizing system at Bulldog has half pints as the smallest option (650 yen), regular (14 oz? for 850 yen) as the middle option and at the large end of the scale, Imperial Pints (20 oz or about 570 ml) for 1,050 yen across the board. I found the Daidai to have a nice soft body with some great European hop character (East Kent Goldings?) and lots of orange peel and Cointreau notes, but wasn't exactly sure of the style, yet overall found it enjoyable. (Later, to my embarrassment, I found out that Daidai is actually a type of citrus fruit). I did regret missing the Saison Sayuri, though, which ran out the night before, since it got rave reviews from friends.

To finish off the night I decided on a pint of the 7% Isekadoya Scottish Ale. At 1,050 yen for a full Imperial Pint, it was one of the best beer deals I've had in Tokyo. However, the beer went down very slow, and I wished I gotten a smaller portion. The alcohol was very well hidden and the body showed great depth of caramel, apples and oranges. It was another excellent take on the style.

While I was on the verge of finishing the Scottish ale, the Daidai ran out, so the bar switched the beer on the Guest Tap list to Baird's Wheat King. I was really impressed that towards the end of the night they just switched and had a different beer already to go. I don't remember seeing this in Japan before. However, I was more impressed when a BEERS group member ordered the Wheat King, an American wheat ale which is one of my least favorite of beer styles, and found it tasted phenomenal. It was so fresh and delicious, it was the perfect summer beer I thought. If you aren't the biggest fan of Wheat King, but have never tried it fresh, I highly recommend you give it another shot. You may be pleasantly surprised.

We were very lucky to be in a on a Tuesday night as the pub's magician puts on magic shows at each table. I am usually only mildly amused by pub magicians, but this guy stood above anything I have seen before. His hands were fast as lighting and I was frustrated several times since I could not figure out what he did. I also liked the fact he let us in on a couple of magic tricks. Considering he does a roughly 15-minute show at your table for no cost, this will definitely be the highlight of many peoples' night.

All in all, the Bulldog is a fun, friendly, homely place with some of the best prices for quality beer in the city. Not only does it have a formidable draft list of seven non-guest beers, but it also has an excellent bottle selection, where Blue Point Lager and Hoptical Illusion were prominent on the menu for a very reasonable 850 and 880 yen. In fact there were several American micros on the menu including the wonderful Brother Thelonius from North Coast Brewing. The next time you're in Ginza and thirsty, Bulldog is the place to go.

Bulldog Bar: Ginza
Bar data and map

Six Pick

Baseball beers, hops and more...

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.

!!!!! Otaru Pils (Otaru, Hokkaido; all malt, 5% abv) Bright clear light yellow, white head. Superbly balanced aroma of light pale malt and complex but subdued hops. In actual drinking, the hops come forward, but the balance is so remarkable; not one element stands out. Perhaps this is why it is so hard to say why this beer is as great as it is. Light and drinkable, but rich and bitter in a Northern German way. You can't get this beer in Tokyo, and they won't ship any farther than 100 km from the brewery. Maybe a good reason to visit Hokkaido soon? www.otarubeer.com

!!!!! Numazu Lager (Baird Brewing; all malt, 5% abv), Deep golden amber, very pale amber head. Good, solid malt aroma, hops in background. Rich, chewy flavor, great balance, perhaps a tad too bitter, but who will complain? A superbly delicious lager from a brewery known mainly for its ales. This would be an excellent beer for late fall drinking, which makes me wonder why Baird released it in June. www.bairdbeer.com

!!!! TY Harbor Pale Ale (Tokyo; all malt, 5% abv), Hazy bright bronze, citrus-like Cascade hop aroma, backed by dry malt notes. A juicy malt tang carries over into the flavor, in good balance with the fine Cascade hop bitterness, tapering off to a medium-length finish. Just when this beer has gotten to the point of uniformly stable quality, TY Harbor has stopped bottling their beer for outside sales! (www.tyharborbrewing.co.jp/index_e.html )

!!! TY Harbor Amber Ale (Tokyo; all malt, 4.5% abv) Deep reddish brown, faint haze, rich and thick tan head. Faint hop aroma, little else to smell. Surprisingly dry taste, with a flinty mineral-like edge, which shift to dark caramel when it warms. Still, minimal sweetness and fairly strong (but blunt) hop bitterness makes this an appealing dark beer for lager fans.

!!!!! Shiga Kogen Pale Ale (Nagano; all malt, 5.5% abv) Fiery amber gold, light tan head, hop-forward aroma. Tangy and lively with a thrillingly sharp West Coast hop dropkick. A bit of salty butterscotch flavor slides in, then slowly fades out in this thirst quencher with shifting balance and a lovely appearance. The labels are cool, too. From a sake brewer with 200 years of experience. Made using their own well water. Started in September 2004, this brewery is the one to watch. www.tamamura-honten.co.jp/frame-beer.htm

!!!! Suntory Premium Malt's Black (all malt; 5.5% abv) Opaque black, dense tan head, surprisingly hoppy aroma, with little malt present. Very soft and smooth texture, with rich, juicy deep-roasted malt flavors and surprisingly little sweetness. The strong hop bitterness melds nicely with the almost-burnt dark roast flavors suggesting a very bitter chocolate. The bitterness lingers long. Even after it warms, sweetness is minimal, with hops and roast flavors prevailing. Said to be brewed with a double-decoction method, as with regular Premium Malt's. Quite remarkable from an industrial brewer, and a sign that the majors are working harder in the premium beer market. www.suntory.co.jp/beer/premium/black/black.html

Beer Talk

Beer Talk: Pioneering the Art of Homebrewing in Japan

By Junko Saito

Beer Club of Japan, Kobe

In 1993, I visited a friend from Seattle, and there I learned about home brewing. I brought back a homebrew supplies catalog, and decided to order a beer kit for myself. After brewing my first batch of home brew, I decided to import them into Japan and sell them.

My husband runs a company selling ship supplies, and under that company's name we opened a home brewing supplies shop selling kits and ingredients we import ourselves. This really turned out to be a huge undertaking requiring perseverance and a lot of capital.

Not only do edible products have to have authorization, but also anything that they come in contact with (even a length of tubing!) requires a material analysis. This has to be done only at labs authorized by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Naturally, it is expensive, and after this is done, materials must then be sent to the Food Quarantine Station, then on to customs. There is no way we can avoid all these procedures, so it is a pretty stressful job.

After the confusion and panic of starting up, we finally began our retail operations in the summer of 1994. But in January of 1995 we were dealt a huge blow with the Great Hanshin Earthquake that hit our town of Kobe very hard. A shipment from Seattle sent just days before got caught in a total stoppage of cargo, and we were also forced to stop our business for a few months. Fortunately, we were able to have our Web site created at no charge by volunteers who came to assist businesses damaged by the earthquake. Thanks to this, our business over the Internet continues to increase each year.

In 1998 we obtained a license to brew, and opened up our Beer Club Mini-Brewery. Since we imagined that the huge brewing facilities in regional cities fall deeply into disuse, we decided to install BOP equipment with less than 100 liters of capacity and brew on that. This turned out to be the right decision.

Nevertheless, the craft beer business never really met our expectations. There is a lot of work that is rewarded with very little profit. It basically wore my husband out, and in August of last year we decided to give up our license. We sold all of the equipment, from the boiler to the large-scale cold storage room.

Yet after eight years of brewing we'd gained a lot of knowledge and expertise, so we are now able to do consulting work. Presently we give advice not only to home brewers, but also to craft beer producers who are really down on their luck. With the exception of the Japanese translation of The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing (Japanese title: Jibun de biiru wo tsukuru hon - The Bible of Homebrewing), most Japanese books on home brewing are really quite awful, but I guess it can't be helped.

Anyway, there is so much information on the Internet these days, and if Japanese people just do a search, overcome their allergy to English, and have a thirst for knowledge, they can easily get more knowledge about brewing.

Recently, quite a number of foreigners living in Japan have become our customers. While some have been buying from us for over 10 years, new customers are on the increase.

The yen has dropped in value compared to the dollar, while we still have to deal with strict regulations, so our costs continue to grow. However, our willingness to keep giving out friendly and honest advice has been one reason for our survival. Our hope is that we can continue doing this business here in Kobe.

The Beer Club of Japan offers a complete array of home brewing supplies and equipment. Their site is very easy to understand and use, and is also in English. Manager Junko Saito is fluent in English, and is ready to answer your questions.
www.bcjkobe.com
078-651-1437
info@bcjkobe.com

News

Events

Saturday, July 7, 3 to 5 pm, Beer School at Fujimamas restaurant in Omotesando. This is a basic hands-on class and tasting of six different beers. Bryan Harrell will explain the basics of beer, how to appraise it, and the difference between ale and lager. Class fee is only 2,500 yen, which includes light food at the end. Next, on July 17, a beer dinner is planned, matching various beers to Fujimamas's signature dishes. For details on the restaurant, see www.fujimamas.com, for information and reservations for the events, write to Lauren@fujimamas.com .

Nippon Premium, an all-malt beer from Kirin made with high-quality domestic malt and hops, will go on sale July 11. This is another new entrant in the premium beer category.

July 11, Wednesday, 7 pm, Belgian Beer Dinner at Bois Cereste. Featured this month are Belgian beers recommended for hot summer weather. Yes, they exist beyond witbiers amd fruit lambics! They will be served with several dinner courses to match the beers. The cost is 7,500 yen, and reservations must be made by Monday, Jul 9th; 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 www.bento.com/rev/0818.html

July 15, Sunday, 2 to 4 pm Malt meets Malt: Whiskey + Beer event at Beer Club Popeye
Admission: 5,000 yen (4,000 yen for Popeye club members)
Lots of single-malt whiskies and craft ales will be served for comparison and enjoyment. Tickets on sale at Popeye; phone Aoki-san for details at 3633-2120.

July 17, Tuesday, 8 to 10:30 pm - BEERS meeting at YLS near Tokyo station. This month's theme is "10 Japanese beers you have probably never tried before, but should," with explanations on each beer by BEERS founder Tim Eustace. For reservations or 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.

August 18-19 GBC Ichinoseki Festival Overnight Trek The Sumida chapter of the Good Beer Club is organizing a bus trip from Tokyo for the Ichinoseki Craft Beer Festival (Iwate Prefecture) on the weekend of August 18-19. The bus leaves Ryogoku, Tokyo at noon on Saturday the 18th, arriving at the festival in at 5:30 pm, and staying until 8:30 pm, when the bus leaves for the nearby hotel. At 9am the next morning the group goes to Iwate Kura Brewery for a short tour, and then on to the festival at 10am, staying until noon. The bus back to Tokyo leaves at 12:30, arriving in Ryogoku at around 6:30. Total cost is estimated at around 21,000 yen (with double-room accommodation). For details on the trip, contact the group's organizer (in Japanese) at sumida (at) goodbeerclub.org . Information on the this years festival has not been released, but you can view details of last year's event at www.city.ichinoseki.iwate.jp/index.cfm/6,4400,107,html

Ezo Beer Specials Special offer to Brews News readers! Ezo Beer has some interesting new beers from Holland and Belgium. Pick out any 24 beers and get 24 free. Some have ripped labels, and some are out of date but totally drinkable. We will try to give as much variety as possible. To see the selection, go to www.ezo-beer.com. The English section is not up to date so you might want to look at the Japanese page also. Any questions? Contact phred@ezo-beer.com . Offer is only good for July!

Ezo Beer going to the dogs? Phred Kaufman of Ezo Beer will soon begin importing Happy Tail Ale, a beer for dogs from the Dog Star Brewing Company based in (of all places) Napa, California. He's now planning a press conference in Tokyo, and doggedly attempt to publicize this non-alcoholic, non-carbonated, vitamin-enriched malt-based brew with a base of chicken stock. Don't say you haven't been warned. For more details, see www.ezo-beer.com/jpn/dogbeer/index.html

Baird Ice Cream - Now that you've heard about Phred's beer for dogs, the appearance of Baird Ice Cream containing real Baird beer will certainly not surprise you. Coming soon to a high-quality gelateria in Numazu.

Mark Your Calendar

Great Japan Beer Festivals - www.beertaster.org/gjbf/date.htm

Osaka GJBF in Umeda Sky Bldg - August 11 - 12

Yokohama GJBF in Ohsanbashi Hall - September 15-17

German Beer Festivals for 2007 -- www.nihon-oktoberfest.com

Matsumoto (July 25-29), Sendai (Aug 28 - Sept 2), Shimizu (Sept 12 - 17) and the biggie, Yokohama (Sept 28 - Oct 8)

Nippon Craft Beer Festival 2007 - September 30 in Asakusa, Tokyo (details pending)

Special thanks to Tim Eustace, Jason Koehler, and Junko Saito 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 August issue is Monday, July 30.