Brews News #88
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Brews News #88 - September/October 2008
All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.

Beer Here

Japan Craft Beer Festival

Sunday, September 14 from 1 to 4 p.m.
Sumida Riverside Hall in Asakusa

Although word is that ticket sales are a bit slower this year, it is still certain to sell out, so get your tickets early. This is the big event for craft beer, now in its third year, said to have been started by a group of small brewers who wanted a festival where they could go "direct" to the consumer.

Held in cooperation with the Good Beer Club (a non-commercial consumer group), there seems to be an endless supply of volunteers doing all the work. This festival has a much more personal club-like feel, with a seemingly endless program of speeches that seem to border on the self-congratulatory. Still, most attendees are more hard-core beer geeks (rather than just hard-core drinkers found in other festivals) so the beers served tend to be much higher in quality overall.

This year, over 50 beers from some 24 small breweries throughout Japan will be served. As of eight days before the festival, the list of beers have yet to be put up on the web site, though there is a list of pubs selling tickets; see

Sumida Riverside Hall is on the grounds of the Sumida City Office next to (ironically) Asahi Beer HQ across Azumabashi bridge from Asakusa station. The 3,200 yen admission gets you ten drink tickets (for 120 ml pours; extra tickets 200 yen each) and a commemorative tasting glass.

Popeye OctoBEER Fest

September 16 - October 18

Beer Club Popeye's formidable army of 70 taps will dispatch a regiment of around 10 taps to be put into service dispensing Octoberfest brews during their OctoBEER Fest month. Beers on tap will change every 4-5 days during the event. For details, drop in to this legendary pub in Ryogoku.

Microbrewery Beer Festa in Hiroshima

Sunday, September 28 noon to 5 pm

With a great website and a colorful flyer to match, this event looks remarkably promising, particularly for Hiroshima location, far from the big cities of Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. The 3,300 yen admission (2,800 yen in advance) gets you an unlimited number of sample pours of craft beers from 16 small brewers mainly from Western Japan.

It will be held at the Rijo Kaikan, which also has a hotel offering discount room packages for festival-goers. Full details are on the website at

Gotemba Kogen Oktoberfest

September 22 - 26
Still no details on this event, but check the web site from time to time.

Gotemba Kogen's new brewer, Scott Brimmer, is a nine-year veteran of Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, California, and has recently brought some new beer recipe ideas to this large, regional brewery run by sausage-maker Yonekyu.

Yokohama Oktoberfest at Akarenga Soko

Friday October 3 to Monday October 13

This is one of several "Oktoberfest" events held year-round, but probably one of the best owing to its long 11-day run and the lax crowd control policy that seems to allow most of the patrons rising from their long bench seats and snake-dancing through the venue to the strains of OommPAPA music provided by an orchestra of mostly German musicians.

The energy is remarkable, but so are the beer prices. If you don't mind Japanese craft beer instead of German mass-produced beer, get yourself over to the booths serving the local stuff. There is also a deposit on glassware, which is cheerfully refunded when you bring the glass back intact. Yokohama drinkers sure know how to party, so expect a much more relaxed atmosphere than can be expected in Tokyo.

Beer There

Sankt Gallen Open House -- Sunday, August 31

One day a year, Sankt Gallen opens their brewery in Atsugi to a lawn party. (Actually, it is in the parking lot.) This year's event also featured a fireworks display set off from the nearby river.

The fireworks were done by a pro, with Sankt Gallen footing the bill. Popular Sankt Gallen varieties were on rotation off two taps; since it was a very hot afternoon, I had a Golden Ale and a thrilling light fruit ale with Shonan Gold (a type of citrus fruit) that imparted a bewitchingly bitter citrus flavor. Virtually all current Sankt Gallen bottled beers were on offer, along with a few limited edition hard-to-find ones. I will provide information in advance for next year's event.

GJBF Yokohama Japan Beer Festival in Yokohama

September 6th (14:30 to 18:30)

This year's festival, the 3rd annual in this location, was the most crowded ever on the first day. Craft breweries throughout Japan offered over 120 kinds of beer. Suspiciously absent was Baird Beer, which was certainly missed, though almost all other good craft beers were served at this event.

Organizers send out publicity the entire week before the event, urging people to attend on Sunday. By noon on Saturday, a huge line started to form at the entrance, some two and a half hours before the 2:30 opening time. The crowding got most intense around 3:30 pm, when the venue became uncomfortably hot, but by 4:00 pm the crowds began to ease and lines for beer shortened markedly. Overall, it was a good festival, thanks to the high ceiling and huge windows on each end of the hall, creating a spacious feeling.

Bar Beat

Yokohama Update

By Glenn Scoggins, The Bar Hunter

There are a few more reasons for Tokyo readers to make the short journey down to Yokohama: three, to be exact, corresponding to Belgium, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

Belgium - Cafe Flower, open since 2004, is a sunny, pleasant restaurant a block away from Yamashita Park in the heart of the port city, with thirteen Belgian beers on the menu. Most of the commonly available labels are in bottles, including Leffe (Blonde, Bruin, and Vieux Cuille), Duvel, Orval, Rochefort 6, Gueze Boon, and Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel. Hoegaarden is on draft. Prices hover around Y1000, not inflated more than usual in Japan!

The menu features "cafe-meshi" rice-based dishes, which include Okinawan taco rice, "namban" chicken and California roll. Another category is "hot sandwiches" (made, appropriately enough, on a waffle iron), such as margherita pizza, seaweed/cheese/spam, and spam/avocado/tomato. (I can hear a Monty Python song...) The most expensive item on the food menu is Belgian-style steamed moules for Y950; nothing breaks four digits.

Cafe Flower has a bright, relaxed atmosphere, mainly due to its friendly staff of four, all wearing primary colors (and a smile). Despite the unfinished grey concrete walls and the pipes and heating vents clearly visible on the high ceiling, it does not have a post-industrial atmosphere. The light molded plastic tables and chairs are convenient to re-arrange for live music or dancing, but they are too flimsy and insubstantial to provide much support (especially if you've just invested Y1000 in a beer now perched precariously atop a shaky table).

The restaurant seats about 30 and is thoroughly dog-friendly and non-smoker-friendly (except at the sidewalk tables). Full-length windows on opposite sides provide plenty of people-watching opportunities. Best of all, it's open from lunchtime seven days a week! Try it for a mix of Belgian beer and Okinawan atmosphere - only in Japan.

Cafe Flower
24-7 Yamashita-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0023
Tel/Fax 045-662-3787
Open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 am until 11:30 pm
Open Sundays from 11:30 am through 6:00 pm
Located behind Kanagawa Kenmin Hall one block west of Yamashita Park
Five minutes on foot from either Motomachi-Chukagai station or Nihon-Odori station (Minato-Mirai Line, direct from Shibuya on the Tokyu Toyoko Line)

Germany - Bier Bar Bouchere is a cozy German-style restaurant (despite its hybrid French name) specializing in sausage, ham, pates, and other delights from Bavaria. Owner and chef Maruyama Tomihito, winner of numerous culinary competitions both in Japan and Europe, has traveled widely in southern Germany with his wife Ayumi. This energetic couple opened Bouchere in March 2007 to provide authentic traditional German cuisine, with beer and wine to match.

The extensive menu (in German and Japanese) starts with selections of cheese and home-made bread, as well as salad (all below Y500) or a heaping plate of hors d'oeuvres for Y1280, but if you arrive with a heartier appetite, flip through several pages of meat-based dishes, including (by prior arrangement) eisbein. Vegetarians, this is not your kind of place!

Seventeen beers from Germany (including Erdinger and Lowenbrau on draft) are available, as well as twelve others, mainly Belgian. I enjoyed Frankenheim Alt from Dusseldorf, not widely available in Japan, and was tempted by Kurrenbacher. Other German favorites include Dom Kolsch, Kostritzer Schwarz, Radenburger, Paulaner, Weihenstephan, and Jever Pilsner.

Prices per 330 ml bottle are reasonable for Japan: most are between Y750 and Y900, climbing to Y1000 for Westmalle Tripel or Y1150 for Schneider Weisse. Draft Lowenbrau costs Y600. It's rare to see Belgian beer in three digits, but you can drink Leffe Bruin, Duvel, Chimay Red, Saison Dupont, or Moinette and get Y100 change from a Y1000 bill. Wine is also available, not only from Germany but also France, Spain, and Chile. Glassware for each type and brand of beer is lovingly displayed and used.

The low ceiling, white-washed walls with heavy brown beams, wooden door, and small glazed windows enhance the Bavarian atmosphere. This restaurant would not be out of place in a tale by the Brothers Grimm set in the Black Forest. If Snow White and the seven dwarves were to show up, though, they'd need a reservation: the counter seats only three, while the six tables can barely accommodate twenty diners.

The walls are covered with certificates and memorabilia from German brewers, attesting to the extensive travels around Europe by the Maruyama couple. Barely audible German radio streams subliminally in place of background music, a welcome change from the "oompah" marching bands favored by more stereotypical German restaurants in Japan.

Bier Bar Bouchere
40-2 Miyazaki-cho, Nishi-ku, Yokohama 220-0031
Tel 045-262-0081
Open from 6:00 pm until 11:00 pm (last order 10:30 pm); Y300 charge per person. Reservations recommended for best results: check website for irregular closing days and for various guidelines and information
Located on the small lane to the left of Momijizaka hill leading to Iseyama Kotai Jingu shrine, as you climb the hill from Route 16 towards the Kanagawa Prefectural Library
Ten minutes on foot from Sakuragi-cho station (JR Negishi Line or Yokohama Subway Blue Line)

Czech Republic - Pivovar (the Czech word for "brewery") was opened in late July by the Yokohama Brewery. The small new brewpub has four taps and a good selection of bottled Czech beer. The Bohemian connection comes from a month-long pilgrimage by newly-promoted head brewer Suzuki Shin'ya to brewing centers such as Strahovsky Klaster near Prague, which has led to an ongoing flow of information and liquid from his contacts in the Czech Republic.

The small capacity of the brewery means that Suzuki brews one at a time, rotating amongst Bohemian Pilsner, Hefeweizen, and Dry Hopped IPA (made with Fuggles hops). The fourth tap alternates between a Czech import, currently a 30-liter keg of Pivo Svetly Lezak (Genuine Draft Beer) from Kozel brewery, and a Czech-style microbrew from Japan.

The latter category includes Nihon-kai Pilsner and Dark Lager from Niigata and Kirishima Kogen Pilsner from Kagoshima, both of which boast brewers with Czech experience. Other Czech beers available in bottles (and soon in the tap rotation) are Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus, Radegast, and several varieties of Kozel.

There is not much in the way of atmosphere in the cramped area used for the brewpub, unless you bring your own. Five seats are available at the counter, with room for about six more patrons inside and three large tables outside, on a veranda looking out on a quiet side street. The air is suffused with the smell of brewing, and Suzuki and his staff are visible at work in the brewhouse through the tall glass windows (often fogged) behind the counter.

Food is limited to pickles, sauerkraut, and beef jerky, but the second floor restaurant above the brewery, Sul Ponte (also called Umaya no Shokutaku) has an excellent Italian menu with specials which provide value for money, as well as the entire Yokohama Beer line-up. The first floor sales counter also sells 300-ml bottles and gift sets.

Pivovar Yokohama and Yokohama Brewery (1F)
Ristorante Sul Ponte, also known as Umaya no Shokutaku (2F)
6-68-1 Sumiyoshi-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0013
Tel 045-640-0271
Open from 5:00 pm until 11:00 pm on weekdays and from 1:00 pm until 11:00 pm on weekends and holidays
Three minutes on foot from Bashamichi station (Minato-Mirai Line, direct from Shibuya on the Tokyu Toyoko Line) or five minutes on foot from Sakuragi-cho station (JR Negishi Line or Yokohama Subway Blue Line)

If you'd prefer to pick up a few beers to drink at home, don't miss the expanded selection available at Yokohama's oddly-named World Porters supermarket, in the Minato Mirai area. One section, called Farmer's Gift, is devoted to all of Karuizawa's products, and of course it features the various Yoho Brewing beers, all in 330 ml cans: National Trust Porter, Wild Forest Blond Ale, Sun Sun Organic, the current seasonal ESB, and their most famous, Yona Yona Pale Ale.

The main wine and beer section of the SATY supermarket includes most of the nearby craft breweries, mainly in bottles: there are a total of 16 separate brands from Yokohama Brewery, Kamakura/Enoshima Beer, Sankt Gallen (Atsugi), Gotenba Kogen, and Coedo (near Kawagoe). The remaining "World Beer" shelves are dominated by Belgian brands; I counted 34 different labels. In addition, you can find some less common bottled beers such as Erdinger Pikantus Dunkler Weizenbock, Schofferhofer Hefeweizen, and Baltika #4, #6, and #8.

Certainly the oddest concoction on sale was proudly labeled "BILK." A product of Abashiri Beer in northeastern Hokkaido, it contains the milk of the region's Nakashibetsu cows, mixed with barley, hops, and barley extract. Don't say you weren't warned!

Farmer's Gift (and other food and drink sections)
1F, World Porters
2-2-1 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0001
Tel 045-479-9510
Five minutes on foot from either Minato Mirai station or Bashamichi station (Minato-Mirai Line, direct from Shibuya on the Tokyu Toyoko Line)

Craft Beer in and around Kobe: Part Two

By Glenn Scoggins, The Bar Hunter

Loyal readers of Brews News will already have had their first gulp of Kobe's best in the last issue. For those who are still thirsty, here are a few more recommendations.

Where can one drink in Kobe on a Sunday afternoon? I was spoiled for choice. While Osaka is famed for its joie-de-vivre and culinary obsession, the city operates on business hours and shuts down on Sunday. Kobe and its surroundings, to the contrary, are bursting with prosperous burghers enjoying the weekend and pursuing hedonistic pleasure.

As an international harbor city since 1868, Kobe has been the port of entry for many foreign products, so why should beer be any exception? After all, to paraphrase Frank Zappa, a city needs an Irish pub and a Belgian bar or two to be taken seriously. I checked out six bars of note in downtown Kobe and its eastern suburb, Nishinomiya.

Beer Cafe de Brugge carries a wide variety of Belgian beers in a surprisingly expansive two-story building, located directly next to the train tracks just west of Kobe's main JR station but a world apart with its sophisticated interior and subdued lighting. Connoisseur and bon vivant Fujiwara Hiroyuki fittingly described it as "a film noir set or a medieval European castle." I wished I could have stayed longer - but I was on a mission.

Beer Cafe de Brugge
1-1-3 Kita-Nagasa-dori
Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi
Tel 078-333-0887
Three minutes walk west of Sannomiya station (JR, Hanshin, Hankyu, and Kobe subway). Open 11:30 am to 11:00 pm daily year-round.

As a ji-biiru devotee, I had long yearned to make my pilgrimage to the Lourdes of Kansai craft beer bars, Barley, in the Kobe suburb of Nishinomiya. Run with understated determination by Tokyo native Hattori Kazuo (a JCBA-accredited senior beer judge and instructor of beer tasting), Barley boasts over one hundred Japanese craft beers and Belgian brands, including real ales served with a hand pump.

The bar was smaller than I had expected, given its reputation, seating eight at the counter with a few tables taking up the remaining space. I was the only customer on a rainy evening as I ordered a reliable Baird Rising Sun-but then who should walk in but Ishida Toshihiro, the encyclopedic event organizer from Beer Club Popeye in Ryogoku, Tokyo?

A veteran traveler who has relentlessly ridden the rails in search of interesting local beer, Ishida had spent the day at Kyoto's Shuzan Kaido brewery and was wetting his whistle before catching a midnight sleeper train to Sasebo, there to investigate the westernmost brewery in Japan's main islands. In my experience, if you stay at Popeye for a few hours, you'll meet everyone you know in the craft beer world, and Barley seems to create the same magical synergy. (Check out the VIP page on the Barley website for photos of all the brewers who have stopped by recently.)

Beer Cafe Barley
2F, 1-15 Nagata-cho
Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo-ken 663-8034
Tel 0798-65-6135
Five minutes walk northeast of Nishinomiya Kitaguchi station (Hankyu line)
Open 1:00 pm until midnight every day except Tuesday

Wexford Tavern, also in Nishinomiya, is a friendly Irish neighborhood pub where Japanese and foreign guests rub shoulders, throw darts, trade jokes, and generally enjoy life, in true Hibernian style. Everything you would expect at an Irish pub is there, but the prices are at least 15% lower than in Tokyo. The regulars are effortlessly welcoming, as is the American barman, who takes such pleasure in his job that I wonder if he ever draws his paycheck. I almost gave this place a miss, as it is a bit off the beaten track in a quiet neighborhood, but I'm glad I went.

Wexford Tavern
2F, 8-13 Minami-Koshigi-iwa-cho
Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo-ken 662-0075
Tel 0798-70-6471
Two minutes walk from Kurakuen-guchi station (Hankyu line-transfer from the main line at Shukugawa to branch line towards Koyoen)
Open year-round from 6:00 pm: until 1:00 am Monday through Thursday, until 2:00 am on Fridays and Saturdays, and until midnight on Sundays

Capall Uisce, another Irish pub in Nishinomiya, is equally popular and bustling but less interesting, as a cog in a soulless corporate machine (a bit like Dubliners). Guinness and Kilkenny go for Y850 a pint, and the staff are well-trained to take your order and then leave you alone. There's no place to sit at the counter, so it's better to come with your own group of friends. I noticed that the antique Irish clock above the bar was stopped at one minute before six, and I asked the waiter if it was broken. "Oh, you'll have to figure that out for yourself," he grinned, and then offered me only one hint as to its significance, which I will pass on to you, dear Reader: you should assume that the clock is stopped at 5:59 p.m., not a.m.!

Capall Uisce
2F, 1-4-15 Kofuen
Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo-ken 662-0832
Tel 078-66-5399
Five minutes walk northwest of Nishinomiya Kitaguchi station (Hankyu line)
Open daily year-round from 11:00 am until midnight (until 2:00 am on Fridays and Saturdays)

Another clock has a graver significance in one of Kobe's great landmarks, a place I've loved for over thirty years. The confusingly-named Sapporo Kobe Taishikan (operated by New Munchen restaurants, a subsidiary of Sapporo Beer) is a true survivor, having cheated the land speculators and the wrecking ball during Kobe's Bubble Era boom and wriggled out from under the rubble after the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.

Now restored to its former architectural splendor, it anchors a block of upscale shops and banks connecting Kobe's Meiji-period extraterritorial foreign settlement with the ancient Ikuta Shrine, dating back to the 3rd century. In location, atmosphere, and tradition, it closely resembles the venerable Sapporo Lion Beer Hall in Ginza, Tokyo.

The small brewery in the basement of the five-story building produces only two kinds of beer, both served in the same three sizes and glasses: a pilsner glass for Y630, a slightly larger mug for Y650, and a large jug for Y1250. Kobe Taishikan Beer is an uncommon Vienna style, using Saaz hops, with a thin head and minimal carbonation. Minato Kobe Weizen has a pronounced fruitiness, more so than Fujizakura or similar wheat beers in Japan. A full range of Sapporo's products is also on offer, along with wine, whiskey, and sake. The 150-item food menu ranges from the usual bar treats to full-course meals.

German and Bavarian flags fly outside the gray stone building, inviting the thirsty drinker in past the gleaming brass tank decorating the foyer. (Tours of the real brewhouse in the cellar can be arranged in advance for at least two people.) The beauty of the interior design is breathtaking: from the stained glass windows to the porcelain taps, from the polished surface of the long wooden counter to the warm glow of the lamps overhead, every detail indicates a love of the central European culture from which beer made its 19th century journey to Japan.

Generations of Kobekko have treasured this bar as a symbol of the mix of Western and Eastern influences in this port city. They rolled up their sleeves to help rebuild it, after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake devastated it on 17 January 1995 and killed 6,434 of their fellow citizens. Thus it is more than a bar or a business-it is part of the Kobe resurrection, a responsibility recognized even by the college students working as part-time waiters. There is a clock over this bar too, but its hands are permanently stopped at 5:46 a.m., the moment of the earthquake, the time dividing Old Kobe from New Kobe. For a powerful reminder of the destructive power of tectonic plates and the indomitable spirit of civic pride, look at the photographs at Kobe University's website:

Sapporo Kobe Taishikan Brewery (B1F)
New Munchen Kobe Taishikan Beer Restaurant (1F through 4F)
2-5-18 Sannomiya-cho
Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi 650-0021
Tel 078-334-3146 (brewery) or 078-391-3656 (restaurant)
Information in English available at
Seven minutes walk south of Sannomiya station (JR, Hanshin, Hankyu, and Kobe subway) or five minutes walk north of Kyu-Kyoryuchi-Daimaru-mae station (Kobe subway)
Open daily year-round from 11:00 am until 11:00 pm
Other branches in Kobe, serving but not brewing craft beer, are located at Tor Road, Flower Road, Motomachi, and Harborland. There are also six branches in and around Osaka, including the atmospheric main restaurant in Sonezaki, near JR Osaka station.

Six Pick

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.

By Jay Holmes, Guest Reviewer

!!!! Laughing Dog Devil Dog Imperial IPA (Ponderay, Idaho USA, abv 10%) Bottle from Tanakaya. Super sweet caramel smell from the off white head and hazy cloudy orange pour. Mouthfeel is huge...a big round malty sweet thick syrupy glob of hops, sugarcane, biscuits soaked in gin, rye, pumpernickel....not an aggressive IPA--but certainly intense. Big on flavour, kind of light on the finish--but well made.

!!!! Ballast Point Black Marlin Porter (San Diego, California USA, abv 5.5%) Bottle shared with a friend who brought it back from a trip to California. Very smooth mouthfeel coupled with a well-balanced slightly roasted semi-chocolatey taste. Finish is subtle and somewhat dry with the hops showcased in a balanced context. Nice fishing motif on the label, as well.

!!!!! Mikkeller Draft Bear Imperial Pilsner (Copenhagen V, Denmark. abv 8%) Bottle from Tanakaya. Pours a nice rose-lemon colour with a heavy, hoppy floral nose, and a nice cloudy head that lasted the full pint. Retains a stable malty taste with hints of bitterness and a gentle feel on the palate. Low in carbonation and finishes with a crisp, peppery sensation with some more of that zesty bitterness lingering.

!!!!! Stone 11th Anniversary Ale (Escondido, California USA, abv 8.7%) Bottle at Thrash Zone. Very malty, hoppy black IPA that manages to be aggressive, yet mild and medium bodied at the same time. Poured a black ruby brown from the bottle with a nice tan creamy head. There is some brandy on the nose and a heavy roasted taste. Then the finish kicks in! The finish is incredibly complex, with at least 4 stages of subtle change on the tongue. A tingling sensation followed by some sharp hints of bitterness, then a rollicking wave on the tastebuds that settles into a smooth, refined exit. Truly great.

!!! Boulder Beer Obovoid Empirical Stout (Boulder, Colorado USA, abv 7.5%) Bottle from Tanakaya. This one held some promise upon initial sips, but eventually just fell a bit flat. Taste is focused on the roasted elements...low in carbonation, slight malty backbone, subtle smoked chocolate flavours, but the mouthfeel is a bit thin and the balance just wasn't quite hitting all the right buttons for me. I would drink it again, preferably on a crisp autumn night.

!!!! Oggis Torrey Pines IPA (Del Mar, California USA, abv 6.8%) Bottle shared with a friend who brought it back from a trip to California. When first tasted, I thought this was just too bitter and seemed a little off base. As it warmed up, it quickly became a quality beer. As I said, the bitterness is deep here, but the brew's character comes shining through. Superb balance, well crafted beer. Hit the spot.

Jay Holmes is a 33-year-old American residing in Yokohama who has been living and drinking in Japan since 2003. You can usually find him at Thrash Zone ( Be sure to check out his new t-shirt designs for the bar while there.

Another Six

By Bryan Harrell

!!! Lindeman's Apple (Belgium; malt, wheat, hops, yeast, 25% apple juice, fructose, flavoring; 3.5% abv) Hazy yellow gold, short-lived off-white head, apple cider aroma without any hops present. Decent tart apple juice flavor, subdued carbonation, malt in background. Not much else to say, but instead go buy some club soda and apple juice, and throw in a splash of vodka .

!!!!! Cuvee Des Trolls (by DuBuisson of Belgium; malt, hops, sugars, orange peel; 7% abv) Listed as "filtered beer" on the label in French and Flemish, this is far more interesting than most unfiltered beers. Dense off-white head, very hazy dull yellow color. Rich yeasty spicy aroma, complex and well-balanced taste that's a playful interplay of dry malt tones, spices, and rich yeasty notes, with hops in the background. Finish tapers quickly, but a tiny bit of flavor lingers long.

!!!! Akashi Kaigan Beer (Hyogo Pref; all malt, 4% abv) Strikingly ordinary lager, but then that's what 90% of beer drinkers seem to prefer anyway. This one is competently made, and has no off flavors, just a good, solid honest beer. Rather enough flavor, thank you. And the totally sane 4% alcohol level (pretty much the norm back in the 1970s) gives it a slight retro edge. Your grandfather's beer. Yeah, I liked this. Thing is, it costs 400 yen, and I don't like that part. But it was a gift from Glenn. Hooray for the Bar Hunter. I owe him a beer or ten.

!!! Catfish Head (Preston Ale) This is sort of a self-conscious parody (or homage?) of Dogfish Head beer made by a real handful of crazy guys at Preston Ale. Said to be a double IPA, it is oddly high gravity and low alcohol but doesn't really taste like the result of a stuck fermentation. It is surprisingly low-key, with a thick body and a so-so taste. Available only at Beer Club Popeye, so far.

!!! Sankt Gallen Yokohama XPA (Kanagawa; all malt, XX% abv) Hazy golden amber, crisp hop bite, but not excessive. Very smooth and drinkable, with great malt/hop balance.

!!!! Edelpils by Sapporo (all malt; 5% abv) It's BAAAACK in cans for a limited time. First made in 1987, this is far and away my favorite mass-produced Japanese lager. Edel Pils is made from some of the best malt and hops money can buy, and it sure tastes like it. Said to be brewed with three times the amount of hops normally used in normal Sapporo Beer, which means there is a fairly strong hop flavor, though not on the U.S. West Coast level. Now in a convenience store near you!

Beer Talk

Putting the FU in "furyoh-gaijin" Part II

Last month, we posed three questions:
1. What should be done about gaijin who make nuisances of themselves?
2. If you were a bar owner, what would you do about an abusive gaijin?
3. How do you think the bar owners mentioned above reacted?

To see the original article, go to

Thanks to the few people who did write in, with common sense suggestions like "ask such customers to leave" and "threaten to call the police" or more to the point "kick them out" and "call the police."

Surprisingly, the bar owner in question said it was my fault since I "didn't ask permission" to write about his event. Naturally, I was taken aback because journalists do not need permission to write about publicly announced events. For eight years I wrote a jazz column in The Japan Times, and never once asked permission from a club owner. For over ten years, I have written about beer events at Beer Club Popeye and other venues around Japan with nary a complaint. In the past, I had even written about beer events held at the bar in question with no complaints. Actually, my words had brought him new customers.

Now, he suddenly forgets the past, and complained that I had written about his events without permission, and that I needed THAT - AND, that I didn't write all of the "rules" he published on his web site. Well, the rules were all common sense things like 1) behave, or get kicked out, and 2) don't bring in any outside food or drink. Now had these rules been put in Brews News, I don't think the fu-ryo gaijin types would observe them anyway. In fact, I don't think any Brews News readers are furyo-gaijin types.

I responded that if he insist on telling me what to write, it would be considered an advertisement and I would consider charging him for it. I also responded that as a bar operator, he is responsible for taking care of any and all customers who misbehave.

I did say that I could possibly find the culprits and ask them to visit and apologize. His reaction was that he doesn't want their apologies, he just wants them to stay away and that he also wants me to stop writing about his bar in Brews News. Well, no problem with the second request, but I assured him that troublemakers will always be back, and he'd best learn how to deal with them. It is not a convent he is running, after all.

Well, it turns out that one the misbehaving people went to the event at the invitation of someone in the beer business. But the ultimate result is that a few bad apples have made it impossible for the huge majority of English-speakers who behave well to hear of his beer events. Fortunately, there are countless other beer bars running events on a regular basis, and that one bad one doesn't spoil it for the entire bunch. Cheers!


Osaka and Minoh Beer Return to Shibuya

September 18 to 30, 10 am to 9 pm (to 8 pm 9/21, 23, 28 and to 5 pm 9/21)

A huge Naniwa Umaimon Ichi (Osaka Delicious Market) will be held in Shibuya on the 8th Floor West of the Tokyu Toyoko Department Store at Shibuya station, with all manner of Osaka food, drink and more on sale. Minoh Beer of Osaka will be there, offering several of their superb beer varieties, including a few on draft. Drop by, have a beer, and say hello to brewery staffers. If the timing is right, you may be lucky enough to meet the famous Minoh "Shacho" and his beautiful daughters. Photo from last year's event:

Japanese at 2008 World Beer Cup in U.S.

Special U.S. report from Steve "Pudgy" DeRose

Japanese Craft Brewers made a significant showing at the 2008 World Beer Cup(r) in San Diego, sponsored by the American Brewers Association. Beers were judged blindly in ninety-one (a great number) categories. A surprising number of Japanese entries won medals:

Category 8: Coffee Flavored Beer - 24 entries
Bronze = Hitachino Nest Beer Espresso Stout

Category 13: Experimental Beer (Lager or Ale) - 27 entries
Silver = Iwate Kura Beer Oyster Stout

Category 19: Cellar or Unfiltered Beer - 34 entries
Bronze = Baird Brewing Big Red Machine Fall Classic Ale

Category 29: German-Style Schwarzbier - 30 entries
Gold = Shonan Beer Liebe

Category 57: Scottish-Style Ale - 24 entries
Bronze = Scottish Ale; Nasu Kogen Beer,

Category 61: Robust Porter - 49 entries
Bronze = Swan Lake Beer Porter

Category 69: German-Style Kolsch | Koln-Style Kolsch - 36 entries
Bronze = Kaorino Nama; Loco Beer, Shimono Co. Ltd.; Chiba

Category 71: South German-Style Hefeweizen | Hefeweissbier - 71 entries
Silver = Fujizakura Kogen Beer Weizen

Category 83: American-Style Amber | Red Ale - 53 entries
Silver = Swan Lake Beer Amber Swan Ale

And with all the news about Budweiser being acquired by InBev, here is this thought: How swiftly can somebody at Pabst revive the Falstaff Brand? More seriously, what will the new A-BIB corporation do about (the former) A-B distribution arrangement for non-affiliated brands which A-B felt were complimentary to its brand portfolio? Specifically, A-B's arrangement with Goose Island, Widmer and Redhook? Would (the former) IB decide that it now makes more sense for it to brew Hoegaarden for North America in New Hampshire and California? Would it perceive it doesn't need or want these other breweries with their competing wheat beers? And what if A-BIB decided it was not going to let Goose Island out of its distribution network, even if it was de-emphasizing it? Would Larry Bell get a crucial telephone call from John Hall?

Chiba Hippy Ruining Tastes for Guinness and Kilkenny

By James Gibbs I live in Gyotoku on the Tozai line and an old friend mine runs a local so-called Aussie bar (I guess because he's Australian) here called Hippy Dippy Doo. I actually knew this guy from 1998 and hadn't seen him since, but in 2005 I walked into this bar by chance and he was not only behind the counter, he was also the owner. We were both saying, "Haven't I seen you before... I've think we've met before, etc." until we figured out where we had met before.

Anyway, I convinced him put some microbrew in his bar. I don't drink that much these days, but if I do I prefer to have just one good beer with a lot of flavor. Initially it took a lot of pleading for him to stock microbrew. He was certain that the regulars wouldn't pay 800-900 yen for a beer and would stick to 600 yen Corona.

First as a favor to Phred Kaufman of Ezo Beer, I got him to carry St. Rogue Red (my favorite of Phred's line). To his surprise it became quite popular among some of the regulars who included it in the beers they pounded one after another.

One night when he was out of stock and I had dropped by for my favorite beer, I told him I would fix the problem and went home to bring a six pack of Baird Beer (which I had bought as a gift for another friend.) He really liked that as did some of the regulars. So, he started carrying it. I was a bit surprised at his carrying the Baird stuff since it's more delicate and has to be refrigerated, special ordered and so on. But apparently the popularity of it has been more than the trouble. Actually the place is rather small with not a lot of refrigerator space so he is really outdoing himself by carrying it.

I had related a story to him about how after having a good beer like Rogue or Baird it's hard to go back to Guinness or Kilkenny. It just doesn't do it for me. He laughed and said one of the other customers made the same "complaint" to him saying, "You've ruined my taste for Guinness; I only like this stuff now; I can't go back."

Hippy Dippy Doo offers St. Rogue Red and some Baird beers, and also serves a huge hamburger with fries that should take care of the biggest appetite. It is a short 2-minute walk from Gyotoku Station, so drop by for a cold one if you are in the neighborhood. 2-12-18 Gyotoku Ekimae, Ichikawa-shi,; phone 047-395-5910. There is a map on the side at

Vedett Extra White

No, it's not an extremist organization, it is a delicious new beer from Duvel now being imported by Konishi, the former importer of Hoegaarden White (now being imported by Asahi!). Vedett is a very interesting alternative with a striking sourness and a velvety texture. Now served at Beer Club Popeye and several other pubs around Tokyo.

Special thanks to Steve "Pudgy" DeRose, James Gibbs, Jay Holmes 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" Deadline for the next issue is Friday, October 17th.