Brews News #83
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Brews News #83 - December 2007
All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.

Beer Here

IPA & BBQ Day at Sal's Cafe

December 9th, 1 to 6 pm

Koji "Michael" Nomura, proprietor of Sal's Cafe in suburban Kawasaki, is pushing the envelope once again with an IPA day complete with a Pork Rib Barbecue on Sunday, December 9th from 1 to 6 pm. First of all, the beer list is impressive: Mad Hatter IPA from the New Holland Brewery in Michigan, along with a Double IPA from Baird, Ozeno Yukidoke IPA, Swan Lake IPA and Shiga Kogen's House IPA and Special IPA.

A special feature will be Swan Lake IPA run through a Randall containing fresh hops grown by Shiga Kogen. In addition, nearly 30 different bottled IPAs will be available. For food, Michael will be doing up some barbecue pork ribs with a special sauce. Pints are priced at around 1,000 - 1,200 yen, with half-pints available. Admission is 1,000 yen and you get a pint glass to take home; return the pint glass and get 500 yen back.

Sal's Cafe
3-3-12 Saginuma, Miyamae-ku, Kawasaki
044-870-5454
www.salscafe.com (in Japanese only)
A short walk from Saginuma station on the Tokyu Denen-toshi Line

Belgian Christmas Ale Dinner at Bois Cereste

Wednesday, December 12, 6:30 pm

Belgian Christmas Ales will be featured at the monthly "ni-sui-kai" (2nd Wednesday meeting) this month at Bois Cereste, along with food courses to match them. In years past, this has been quite a special event, with at least five different ales served in the course of the evening. The cost is 7,500 yen, which includes everything. If you are interested in comparing a range of Belgian holiday ales, many quite different from each other, then this event is for you. Reservations must be made by December 10th by calling Bois Cereste. Be sure to mention you want to join the ni-sui-kai.

Bois Cereste is a few minutes from Akasaka Station on the Chiyoda subway line; phone 03-3588-6292.
Map: www.bento.com/gmaps/0818.html
Review: www.bento.com/rev/0818.html

4th Annual Strong Ale Festival Report

November 18 at Beer Club Popeye

This year's strong ale festival at Beer Club Popeye was held from 3 to 5pm, but when I left at almost 7pm things were still hopping. On offer were some 15 strong ales, defined as those 8% or stronger. With the small 90ml servings, it would have been almost possible to try them all, but at 300 yen a pop, it would have been a bit more expensive than I would have liked. I decided to pick eight of them to aim for, and thanks to a friend who shared one, I managed to get coherent notes on nine of the offerings. Ratings are the same as used for Six Pick.

1) !!!!! Fujizakura Kogen Sakura Bock (8%) - Very dark reddish brown, rich malty aroma, dried fruit malt flavor with spikes of carbonation.

2) !!!!! Baird Doppelbock (8%) aged in a scotch whisky barrel - Bright red amber, port-like aroma, striking whisky barrel taste.

3) !!!!! Shiga Kogen House IPA (8.9%) - Hazy orange amber, strident hop aroma, quenching bitterness is soft but powerful.

4) !!!!! Minoh Double IPA (9.2%) - Bright orange bronze, tangy caramel flavors, fiery hop bitterness.

5) !!!!! Ozeno Yukidoke Heavy Heavy 2007 Noveau Barleywine (8.2%) - Deep reddish gold, brisk floral hoppy aroma, stiffly bitter

6) !!!! Isekadoya Imperial Smoked Porter (8%) - Opaque black, sherry highlights in roasty malt aroma, striking tartness above espresso-bite bitterness.

7) !!!! Ikspiari Smoked Dunkel Weizen Bock (8%) - Hazy light gold, not quite a dunkel, only a hint of smoke. Clean taste from seven months of lagering.

8) !!!!! Baird Yabai Yabai Scotch Ale (8%) - Reddish gold, soft malt aroma, subdued sweetness in mouthfeel and lovely malt layers. Superb in every way.

9) !!!!! Hakusekikan Super Vintage Cask Aged (14.3%) - Opaque black, aroma of raisins and fruitcake, syrupy rich, flavor of prunes, spice and alcohol. Truly in a class of its own.

Like at all Popeye events, there were many familiar faces in the crowd. Lines were long at first, partly because the traffic flows were not well considered in the layout of chairs and tables, but after about a half an hour, things smoothed out and worked well. I think the serving sizes could have been a little bigger, say 120ml. Also, the 1,000 yen admission only included one tasting; I think 2,000 yen admission with seven tastings would have been a fairer deal. Also, the mini-concert by a Japanese vocal duo was not really necessary. Other than that, it was another great event at Popeye, and certainly worth going to again in November of next year.

Bar Beat

Yokohama Beer Bar Update

By Glenn Scoggins, The Bar Hunter

The opening of the bar operated by Yokohama Beer, reported on in the October Brews News, has been delayed. Apparently, they are having big problems with the plumbing in the new location, hoping to open sometime within this year. The bar will have 25 taps, two of them handpumps. Featured will be Yokohama Beer, with five taps for Japanese craft beer, along with another 20 taps for imported craft beer. In bottled beer, they are aiming for 400 varieties from 43 countries, with limited edition beers available on a regular basis. Hours are to be from 11am to 3pm (lunch served) and 5pm to midnight. At present they are negotiating with the City of Yokohama to obtain the special license required to serve alcohol past midnight. If that comes through, they plan to serve right up to 7am, which should give some people two hours to sober up before arriving at work.

Yokohama Beer Brewery Pub / tentative name: "Blendmaster"
Heiwa Plaza Hotel 1F, 5-65 Ota-machi, Naka-ku, Yokohama
Phone/fax 045-641-6560
Provisional Web site: http://yokohamabrewerypub.seesaa.net/
Until they open, thirsty folks who find themselves in Yokohama should patronize Craft Beer Bar, just five minutes away at Ohta-machi 2-31-3, phone 045-651-0440.

Chonmage Beer in Hagi

By Mark Poirier

I had a fantastic experience during the past Thanksgiving Day holiday. My family and I decided to forgo the traditional celebration and travel to Hagi city in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Hagi is home of two microbreweries, Chonmage and Sonjuku. We decided on Chonmage, and the experience was quite enjoyable. When we arrived at 2:30pm, the brewpub was closed, but there were employees inside, one of them the brewmaster. We explained to him that we had just traveled three hours to get there and all we wanted to sample the beer. He invited in with open arms. The beer was fantastic, and I got to talk with him for about an hour.

On tap, there was a pale ale, an alt, a German-style wheat beer and a pilsner. I started with the pilsner, and found it very delicious and comparable to Pilsner Urquell. Next was the German-style wheat beer, which was cloudy and had a wonderful banana ester aroma. Next was the pale ale, which was not quite as strong and bitter as I am accustomed to. I am used to the pale ales of California, like Sierra Nevada. By comparison, this pale ale was more like Bass. Last, but not least, was the alt. It was a very clean beer, not too dark, and made an excellent finish to an excellent local beer experience. After the new year we will return to Hagi and visit Sonjuku.

Chonmage Beer - Restaurant Tal Tal 21
6080-1 Chintoh Ushirobata, Hagi, Yamaguchi
At Hagi Marina, near the Hagi Tanaka Hotel; closest station: Koshigahama (JR Sanin line) Phone 0838-24-3500 / Call ahead to confirm opening hours
Open Mondays - Saturdays 11am to 3pm, 5 to 10pm
Sundays and holidays 11am to 10pm
Closed 2nd and 3rd Tuesdays of the month
www.hagibeer.co.jp

Bacchus Craft Beer Bar

This new craft beer bar is right at Tokyo station near the Yaesu Kita exit. If the neighborhood sounds familiar, it is where the BEERS group often meets, at YLS. Bacchus is just a few doors down, on the same street. This new pub offers a good selection of Japanese craft beers. Normally, there are two "guest" beers on tap and one on handpump. The night I visited, there were Kinshachi Weizen and Isekadoya Pale Ale on tap, and Iwate-kura Oyster Stout on handpump.

In addition, there were about 25 different bottled beers available, mostly Japanese craft brews. There is also a modest food menu. It's not a large place, with space for perhaps 30 people. Be warned that it can get fairly smoky if there are a lot of smokers in the house.

Bacchus
B1 Dai-ni Yamamoto Bldg.
1-7-7 Yaesu, Chuo-ku
Phone 03-3231-4666
Open 5 pm to midnight, until 3 am on Fridays and days before national holidays. Closed Sundays and holidays.

Gambrinus in Kokubunji

Yet another multi-tap craft beer bar has opened in Tokyo, this time out on the Chuo Line in Kokubunji, on the south side of the station. The twelve taps and one handpump serve brands such as Coedo, Edel Pils, Fujizakura Kogen, Gargery, Isekadoya, Minoh, Nishi Kunitachi, Sankt Gallen and Yona Yona. Also planned is an extensive list of bottled beer. I haven't made it out there yet, but their site has some photos and it looks pretty nice. There is seating for about 20 people, with standing room for about six more. The site has lots of information, albeit in Japanese. Note that this is a NO SMOKING pub! Give thanks to your hosts, Shin and Rie.

Gambrinus Beer Cafe
#46 Tokyo Bldg. 6F
3-16-5 Minami-cho, Kokubunji-shi
042-325-0484
Open 5pm to 1am, closed Sundays unless Monday is a national holiday.
www.gambrinus.jp

Okonomiyaki and German Beer?

In Tokyo, wonders never cease, even in my part of town. Just one train stop away, at Sangubashi station on the Odakyu Line, is EN, a typical little joint for okonomiyaki (savory pancake) which also has a tight selection of German brews. In addition to Lowenbrau on tap (500 yen), one may choose among Frankenheim Alt (700 yen), Krombacher PIls (650 yen), Edelweiss (1,000 yen) and Schneiderweise (1,000 yen), along with the great surprise of Schlenkerla Marzen smoked beer. Not surprisingly, the rich and smoky flavors go great with okonomiyaki, priced from 700 - 1,000 yen. Likely the lighter beers go well with the monjayaki, at 800 - 1,000 yen. Service is friendly, and they even cooked the oyster okonomiyaki for me right at my table, doing a better job than I ever could. Also on the menu are meats for yaki-niku, salads and great sausages.

EN Okonomiyaki
4-40-6 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku
03-3376-3433
www.okonomiyaki-en.com

Six Pick

Mixed Six plus Hokkaido Six

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.

!!!! Maui Brewing Coconut Porter (Hawaii, malt, hops and hand-toasted coconut; 5.7% abv) Opaque near-black, tan short-lived head. Full-on coconut aroma over dark fruity malt, shockingly distinct coconut flavor over chocolate-like malt. Seems a lot like chocolate-covered coconut candy, but with more subdued sweetness. Don't drink it very cold, as it just smells like suntan lotion. Lightly chilled is best, since the dark malt complexity comes through in the aroma and taste. As it warms it becomes more wine-like, and even more complex and interesting. Importer: www.naganotrading.com

!!!!! Sakura Steam (recipe by Steve Lacey, brewed by Loco Beer, Chiba; all malt, 5.5% abv) Deep gold with a reddish tinge, sudsy off-white head, rich malty aroma surrounded by floral hop scents. Good heavy malt flavor with little sweetness, hop bitterness is to the fore. Nice tangy aftertaste. Steve Lacy is my homebrewing partner, and in early 2006 we brewed up this beer. At Steve's urging, we entered it into the Wan Cup, the only homebrew competition in Japan that I know of. Well, Sakura Steam ended up taking Yokozuna (Best of Show) and one of the features of the competition is that Loco Beer in Chiba brews a 500-liter batch of the Yokozuna, bottles it and slaps on a fancy label. I had nothing to do with the brewing of this version, so there isn't much conflict of interest in me rating this beer. However, I'm still proud to have had something to do with it.

!!!! Merck toch hoe sterk Extra zwaar bier (Scheldebrouwerij, Holland; pilsner, amber and caramel malts, Hallertau and Herbrucker hops, yeast and dark candi sugar; 9% abv) Hazy opaque dark brown, tan head, aroma of prunes, dates and dried fruit. Sweet complex malt flavors with tartness in background. Alcohol apparent later on, as sherry-like flavors emerge. Dark and very tangy malt profile. One of the nicest executions of deep and dark malt flavors I have encountered. One of a series of nine beers from the Scheldebrouwerij microbrewery of Holland, www.scheldebrouwerij.nl now being imported into Japan by Ezo Beer in Hokkaido; for details or purchasing, see www.ezo-beer.com/jpn/holland.html. Also sold at Kawachi-ya in Shibuya.

!!!! de zeezuiper Tripel (Scheldebrouwerij, Holland; pale and amber malts, hops, coriander, curacao, sugars; 9% abv) Hazy golden yellow, white head, rich yeasty aroma with sweet spicy notes. Nicely drinkable, though lacks complexity and verve.

!!!! Ichiban Shibori Toritate Hop Chilled series (Kirin; all malt, 5.5% abv) Bright light gold with a tiny touch of haze, sudsy white head, mild "green" herbal hop aroma with malt in background. Ordinary Ichiban Shibori flavor profile, but with some added hop complexity and a somewhat fruitier malt flavor. 250 yen.

!!! Ichiban Shibori Toritate Hop (Kirin; malt, hops, rice, cornstarch; 5.5% abv) Very bright golden yellow, short-lived off-white head, subdued hop aroma. Thin metallic initial hop taste, but apart from that it is pretty much like regular Ichiban Shibori. If you want a better Toritate (fresh-picked) experience, spring for an extra 40 yen or so and go for the chilled version.

Hokkaido Six - These are from Hakodate Beer and Onuma Beer, written about in last month's Brews News by Glenn Scoggins, who was kind enough to offer these for evaluation.

!!!! Hakodate Alt (Hokkaido; all malt; 5% abv) Faintly hazy light reddish amber, frothy tan head, nutty dried fruit aroma, rich tangy flavor for such a light-bodied beer, brisk hopping, refreshing sensation from high carbonation and clean finish. Hops emerge further in the clean, dry finish.

!!!! Hakodate Weizen (Hokkaido; all malt; 5% abv) Cloudy light yellow, short-lived white head, good Weizen aroma. Nice balance of sweetness and bitterness, but a bit under-carbonated. Still, good flavor with fruitiness up front, and a long, tapering finish.

!!!! Onuma Koelsch (Hokkaido; all malt, unfiltered; 5% abv) Hazy yellow orange, snow white creamy head. Fruity aroma jumps out at you, redolent of pears and sweet apples, with hops in the background. Crisp, tart flavor with less sweetness than the aroma suggests. Soft texture, good tangy spikes, well made.

!!!! Onuma IPA (Hokkaido; all malt; 8% abv) Bright amber gold, thick light tan head, crisp fruit aroma with hops in background. Sweet smooth malty flavors, with alcohol apparent. Enough hop bitterness, but not enough hop aroma. Makes for a soft but powerful session beer for the more alcohol-tolerant drinker. Overall, a bit too sweet, so drink chilled.

!! Hakodate Ale (Hokkaido; all malt; 5% abv) Deep hazy brown, short-lived tan head, blunt malt flavor, dull hop bitterness, rather flat and featureless.

!! Hakodate Koelsch (Hokkaido; all malt; 5% abv) Very cloudy dark yellow, huge fluffy off-white head. Yeasty estery aroma, tart lively flavor where weizen-like fruitiness battles with sharp hop bitterness and strong carbonation. Disagreeable bitter yeasty aftertaste.

Beer Talk

When Smoke Gets In Your IPA

Last month a long-time reader wrote and told me how much he liked the new Delirium Cafe, but found the place "extremely smoky, to the point of making it difficult to ascertain flavors and appreciate the aromas of the various beers."

My cynical first reaction was to applaud the establishment for capturing the true Belgian cafe atmosphere, but the reality is that I dislike excessive smoke as well. Fortunately, most all of the beer places I frequent do not have a smoke problem. Nearly everyone who drinks at Bois Cereste is a non-smoker, while over at Popeye (where even owner Aoki-san smokes occasionally behind the bar) there is rarely a smoke problem. One of the rare cases where smoke bothered the group I was in, Bar Hunter Glenn Scoggins politely asked the offending smoker to stop. At first I thought Glenn was maybe a bit too bold about it, but thinking again I realized he was right to ask the man to stop. Even though smoking is permitted there, it is common courtesy to refrain when others are bothered by it. Good on Glenn.

As far as I know, the only non-smoking places for good beer is Towers, the stand bar near Tokyo station, and Gambrinus Beer Cafe, newly open in Kokubunji.

Question for everyone -- what is the smoke situation like in the places you frequent for good beer? If anyone knows of a non-smoking drinking place (do they exist?), please let me know. For a list of non-smoking establishments, please see http://bento.com/r-nosm.html

For those who read Japanese, these sites may be useful:
http://www.kinen-style.com/special/2006-izakaya-bar.html
http://smokefree.sakura.ne.jp/

News

Ezo Beer Year-end Beer Specials

Phred Kaufman of Ezo Beer is offering these specials to Brews News readers. All beers are best by end of January 2008, but Phred says they are good at least until summer.

Rogue Milk Chocolate Porter - was \370, now \150?(355 ml)
Sara Buckwheat beer from Belgium - was \330, now \100 (250ml)
Sara Organic Buckwheat beer from Belgium - was \360, now \100 (250 ml)
Shipping is free for orders of two cases (48) or more. Tax and COD charge apply. Good while supplies last. Orders can be combined with regular beers; see what is available at www.ezo-beer.com Contact phred@ezo-beer.com or call 011-614-0191.?

Ginga Kogen Releases New Pale Ale

The folks famous for wheat beers and weizens released a new pale ale on December 1st, priced at 268 yen and coming in a familiarly designed can, with the curious designation "bitter sweet." http://www.gingakogenbeer.com/popup/pale_ale/index.html

List of Japanese Microbreweries Now on Line

The folks that brought you the great Nippon no Ji-biiru book have recently put all the brewery contact data on line at http://www.ascii.co.jp/pb/beer/breweries/index.html . Well, I have already bought the book, but certainly appreciate the convience of having on line.

Price of Beer Rising in UK

According to an article in the Guardian of the UK, the price of a pint in the UK may rise by as much as 60% in the coming year. Read about it at http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/nov/20/fooddrinks.foodanddrink

Special thanks to Mark Poirier 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 January issue is Thursday, December 27.