Brews News #91
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Brews News #91 - March/April 2009
All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.

Beer Here

Delirium Cafe Reserve First Anniversary on May 5th

This glittering Belgian beer cafe burst upon the scene in Akasaka a year ago, and was soon joined by Antwerp Port, an outpost of Antwerp Central, bringing the total of Belgian beer bars in Akasaka to four, after the venerable Bois Cereste the lovely Chez Mikawa, a French restaurant with an extensive Belgian beer menu.

The Anniversary party will be held in conjunction with Belg Aube, with seven kegs of beer imported and tapped for the event. At Delirium Cafe Reserve, in Akasaka Sakas, a special reception will take place from 6pm on May 5th, followed by a short party from 9 to 10 pm. Admission for the event is 5,000 yen, and all food and drink will be included. From 10pm, they will remain open for business as usual. For details and reservations, phone or fax 03-5545-7730. http://www.deliriumcafe.jp/

New DeKonnick Beers meet Japanese Spring Vegetables on May 11th

The "ni-sui-kai" is a monthly Belgian beer and food event at Bois Cereste which always comes up with something new while following the seasons. Held on the 2nd Wednesday (ni-sui) of each month, the event attracts a small number of hard-core Belgian beer fans, with the 7,500 yen admission including all food and beer, usually including some last-minute additions by the ever-enthusiastic proprietor Yamada-san.

In March, new spring vegetables will be introduced in various dishes, along with new beers from the DeKonnick brewery. The meal starts at 7pm, and reservations are required; phone 03-3588-6292. For details on Bois Cereste, along with a map, see http://bento.com/rev/0818.html

Grande Biere in Tokyo Midtown March 14-15

This is a new style beer tasting event held by Grande Biere Committee in conjunction with the Japan Craft Beer Association (JCBA), sponsor of the annual Japan Beer Festivals in Ebisu (June), Osaka (July) and Yokohama (September). The event will be held at Tokyo Midtown Hall, between Roppongi and Nogizaka stations, and will offer unlimited 50 ml samples of over 60 varieties of beer from over 30 small Japanese and U.S. brewers. Event hours are 14:00 to 17:30 on March 14, and from 11:30 to 15:00 on March 15.

The tentative list of brands to be served includes Fujizakura Kogen, Gotemba Kogen, Harvest Moon, Hitachino Nest, Kinshachi, Nasu Kogen, Sankt Gallen, Yokohama Beer, Yona Yona Ale, as well as Green Flash, Kona Beer, Speakeasy and Stone from the U.S. Food will also be available at the event. Advance tickets are 5,000 yen (5,500 at the door) and are available from the JCBA, as well as Family Mart, Lawson and Sunkus convenience stores. For more details, see http://www.beertaster.org/english_gb/date.htm.

BEERS Meeting on Tuesday March 17th

The Beer Enjoyment, Education and Research Society (BEERS) will meet from 8 pm on March 17th at Pangaea in Senzoku. The date is probably the most famous beer drinking day in the world - St. Patrick's Day. The day is typically celebrated at faux Irish pubs all over the world, with people dressed in green, getting very drunk and drinking disgusting green beer. On the other hand, BEERS will take a more tempered approach to the day, with the theme of "Stout: its origins and transformation."

If you are so inclined, please wear green, though note that NO GREEN BEER will be served. See the Pangaea site at http://www1.cts.ne.jp/~pangaea/top.html. There will be five stouts on tap and one other ale. There may also be some special bottles. Please sign-up by Friday March 13th by writing to leader Tim Eustace at tokyobeers "at" yahoo "dot" co "dot" jp

German Beer & Food Fest at Sea Castle in Kamakura on March 20th

Sea Castle is a German restaurant open since 1957, operating under the slogan "Sea Castle ist der Platz, fur gutes Essen un Trinken." Located a short walk from either Yuigahama or Hase stations on the colorful Enoshima line, they will be having a beer and food fest on March 20, with a limited number of seats available. The cost is 8,000 yen for all-you-can-drink beer and food, with live German music for entertainment. For information and reservations, phone 0467-25-4335. http://www.shonanportsite.jp/seacastle/seacastle.htm

Golf-n-Brew Tour

Gotemba Golf Club and Belle View Nagao Golf Club have teamed up with Gotemba Kogen Resort and Brewery to offer a great day trip from Tokyo featuring 18 holes of golf, along with a buffet dinner and all the brew you can drink (five beers on tap) at Gotemba Kogen Beer at the foot of Mt. Fuji. All this for just 15,000 yen per person (minimum 3 players) on weekdays or 23,000 yen on weekends. This remarkable offer is the work of Bennett J. Galloway, resident golf expert at both golf clubs. Have Bennett send you the tempting PDF file with all the details; contact him directly at 090-8475-4512 or by e-mail at info@golf-shizuoka.com

Beer There

Strong Ale Week at Qbrick and Beer Belly
(Jan. 24 ~ Jan. 31)

by Nevitt Reagan

An annual winter event held at the Beer Belly pub in Osaka, this year the Strong Ale Week expanded to World Beer & Cafe Qbrick as well. On tap were 14 beers - seven at each location -- listed at 7% alcohol or stronger. The proviso was that when the beer was sold out, the event would be over. So, on a near freezing, wind-swept evening, Big Al and I trundled across Osaka to warm ourselves with these big winter beers.

We stopped first at World Beer & Cafe Qbrick and then moved on to Beer Belly (Higobashi). Although Lefty was on a business trip, he flew back to Osaka the next day, going directly from the airport to Qbrick, and later shared his impressions with us. Here's what we imbibed and what we thought of it:

Miyoshi Becken Beer Dunkelbock (7%) - Beer Belly

This beer had an aroma of banana, spice, and chocolate. The predominant flavors were burnt coffee and moderate hop bitterness. Weak in mid palate, it also had a negligible tail. Indeed, too feeble for a bock beer.

Barbar Belgian Honey Ale (8%) -- Qbrick

Smelling faintly of straw and perfumed orange blossom, this lone import didn't seem to fit on the evening's menu. It had notes of chamomile, green tea, and a subtle Belgian yeast aroma. With a tang of sour green apples, oranges, honey, and a hint of mold, it was reminiscent of Rodenbach Grand Cru. The bubbly, tingly mouth feel was certainly refreshing. Yet, despite its name (Winter Bok), it does not truly seem to be a winter beer.

Ise Kadoya Real Ale IPA (7%) - Qbrick

Ise Kadoya's hazy orange IPA had a bright citrus scent and a rather yeasty character. Spice (perhaps coriander?) was noticeable in the first sips, in a pleasant but not too complex manner. Somewhat thin in the mid palate and the finish was slightly metallic.

Yo-Ho Brewing Barley Wine 2006 (9%) - Beer Belly

This was not available the evening Big Al and I went to Beer Belly. However, Lefty sampled it, and damned it with the faintest of praise, "Good, but just not all that interesting or complex." Translation: For a barley wine, not very good.

Fujizakura Weizenbock (7%) - Qbrick

Big Al and I passed on this one, having had it several times before. Lefty is a huge fan of wheat beers, and he said it was "spicy and flavorful, with a restrained sweetness and just enough sourness to balance out."

Ozeno Yukidoke Heavy Heavy (8.5%) - Beer Belly

This clear ruby-tinted barley wine exuded a pure, fresh Cascade hop bouquet, along with orange peel, and a raisin-like malt aroma. It had a smooth balance of several malts and good hopping to boot. The finish, though, was sticky sweet and cloying. A filling beer, but relatively lacking in character compared to the company it kept that evening.

Baird Beer Double IPA (8%) - Qbrick

Baird brewed this beer for release on December 31, 2008. It had a mildly floral, citrus bouquet. The malt taste rose on substantial carbonation. A very well-balanced beer with a long finish.

Hitachino Nest XH (7%) - Qbrick

One of Kiuchi Brewery's more interesting beers, XH ("Extra High") Belgian ale is matured in oak casks previously used for making sh?ch?. The aroma was peppery with a touch of cinnamon, but Big Al also noted "bologna," and I scribbled "chalk." It was well-hopped and backed by solid malt. The pleasant finish had slight coffee notes.

Daisen G Beer Wheat Wine (9%) - Beer Belly

An intriguing high-gravity wheat beer which got big thumbs up from Lefty: "Complex and well balanced." Strangely, it had no head, and gave off a mild barnyard straw bouquet, with notes of ripe orange, apricot and a suggestion of banana. The noticeable alcohol overpowered the distinctive flavor of wheat beers. Sweet pear, peach, and apricot flavors were apparent with a tinge of supporting bitterness. Heavy for a wheat style, it was full-bodied with a very smooth mouth feel.

Hakusekikan Super Vintage (14.3%) - Qbrick

Brewed in 2000, and released periodically, Super Vintage had a dark ruby appearance and a slick surface with absolutely no head. It featured a resplendent bouquet of pear, licorice, and hints of coffee. The taste was intricate: we detected pear, tropical fruit, and cherries packed into a Chardonnay-like body. However, it was served too cold, requiring a patient pair of warm hands on the glass in order to coax out its true character. Lefty grumbled that it was "too sherry-like" for a barley wine.

Minoh Beer Double IPA (9%) - Beer Belly

Minoh fans have long noted variations in the character of their beers. When they are on target, they are great. And the Double IPA was definitely back to form. The powerful bouquet included the typical fruity Cascade hops but also a more earthy variety which we could not identify. The hop intensity grew with each sip, accompanying apricot, peach, and cinnamon flavors. The finish was long, fruity, and savory.

Hakusekikan Hurricane (15%) - Beer Belly

Thank you, Lord, for another chance to sip this dark bawdy beer! Held up to the light, it was clear brown with a yellow rim. Somewhat like the Vintage Ale, it had a pear character, but also chocolate, coffee, banana, sour prunes, and coriander. The vinous rich taste contained elements of pear, cinnamon, pepper, and spice. The slightly mineral finish went on and on and..... Overall, it had excellent balance, with a silky warm mouth feel. Big Al declared it a solid-bodied brew with finesse, one that imparted a series of multifaceted flavors from initial to finish. Lefty, once again, differed, saying that it was way too sweet and strong, without much else going on.

12 Strong Beers: Very Subjective Average Ratings (on a 50-point scale)
(Scale: 28-36 Good / 37-43 Very Good / 44-50 Excellent)

33.5 Miyoshi Becken Beer Dunkelbock (7%)
35 Barbar Belgian Honey Ale (8%)
37 Ise Kadoya Real Ale IPA (7%)
37 Yo-Ho Brewing Barleywine 2006 (9%)
38 Fujizakura Weizenbock (7%)
38.33 Ozeno Yukidoke Heavy Heavy (8.5%)
39.66 Baird Beer Double IPA (8%)
40 Hitachino Nest XH (7%)
40.33 Daisen G Beer Wheat Wine (9%)
40.66 Hakusekikan Super Vintage (14.3%)
41 Minoh Beer Double IPA (9%)
42 Hakusekikan Hurricane (15%)

Go to the following web sites (in Japanese, except for Baird and Hitachino Nest) for more information on the breweries featured during this strong beer event:

A.J.I. Beer (Minoh): http://www.minoh-beer.jp/index.html
Baird Beer: http://www.bairdbeer.com/home.html
Daisen G Beer: http://g-beer.jp/index.html
Fujizakura Weizenbock: http://www.fuji-net.co.jp/beer/
Hakusekikan: http://www.hakusekikan-beer.jp/pc/
Ise Kadoya: http://www.kadoyahonten.co.jp/index.html
Kiuchi Brewery (Hitachino Nest): http://kodawari.cc/engpage/kodawari/html/index.htm
Miyoshi Beer Co.: http://www.miyoshi-becken.co.jp/
Ryujin Shuzo (Ozeno Yukidoke): http://www.ryujin.jp/ (site currently undergoing renewal)
Yo-Ho Brewing: http://www.rakuten.co.jp/yonayona/

Nevitt Reagan quietly serves as amanuensis to the Kansai major players, Big Al and Lefty, during their frequent beer excursions. In his free time, he teaches at an Osaka area university.

7th Tokyo Real Ale Festival Sunday February 15

A relatively newcomer to the Tokyo beer scene was the most succinct when summing up TRAF7. "There were about 5+ beers I liked..." which doesn't take Japan's premier Real Ale festival very far. I personally felt it would be better to become a regular at Beer Club Popeye and sample the same beers over the course of several months, with the beers served there in far superior shape than those served at Riverside Hall, the venue for this event each year.

As usual, the beer ran out one by one starting from about the halfway point in the event's four-hour lifespan. I was going to pass on TRAF this year, but with so many friends attending, I decided at the last minute to go. Apparently, there will be a different group organizing it next year, so I may once again attend.

California Microbrew Fest at Popeye Sunday, March 1, 2009

Nagano Trading Company and Beer Club Popeye pulled out most all of the stops to put on a very pleasant session of great beer tasting, featuring the beers of Bear Republic Brewery of Sebastopol, Green Flash Brewery and Stone Brewing both from the San Diego area. The 2,500 yen admission got you one plate with a remarkable variety of food, plus tickets for six tasting glasses of beer. Additional tickets were only 200 yen each, with four tickets getting you a half pint, and six tickets a full pint of beer.

I pretty much stuck with the small samplers, then decided to splurge for four tickets (800 yen) for a half pint of the hefty Red Rocket ale. The event was brought to a fever pitch with a drawing for pint glasses, t-shirts and, for four lucky winners, six-packs of Bear Republic beers. With some 11 beers on tap, it was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Bar Beat

BAR BEAT is on vacation this issue.

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.

Something Old, Something New

This month we balance three heavy beers with three light beers. Two of the heavy ones have been aged, which smooths out the rough edges and mellows down the sweetness and bitterness, allowing the elusive "middle" flavors to emerge. Three are beers featuring wheat malt, with each of them expressing an entirely different take on what wheat can do. While these beers are available at many places around town, the best place to look for them is at Tanakaya in Mejiro (03-3953-8888), which consistently has the most complete stock.

!!!!! Chimay Blue 2006 (Belgium, Trappist, barley and wheat malts, sugars, hops, yeast; 9% abv). Deep hazy mahogany brown, mnimal aroma of dried fruit and hard candy, very very smooth with balance created by interplay of malt sweetness, acidity and subdued hop bitterness. This seems about the perfect amount of aging for this beer.

!!!!! Bear Republic Red Rocket (California U.S.A., barley malt, hops, yeast; 7% abv) Stunning reddish monster self-styled as a "bastardized Scottish style red ale." Huge malt, off-the-meter west-coast hopping levels, and tons of flavor. It's a good package; let's give it a few years of aging and see what happens.

!!!! Baird West Coast Wheat Wine 2007 (Shizuoka, wheat and barley malts, sugars, hops and yeast; about 9% abv) The softening of the hop impact with age has left this a very sweet beer with a strong tang, and it seems to have a lot in common with icewine. It didn't work too well with typical salty or crunch beer snacks, but was heavenly when paired with bitter chocolate. To paraphrase a popular title, "Like wheat for chocolate?"

!!!! Yebisu Silk (from Sapporo Beer, wheat and barley malt, hops, yeast; 5.5% abv) This is the latest in a growing line of Yebisu Variations, with an emphasis on the creamy smoothness possible with wheat malt. Yes, it is creamy, but has the characteristic Yebisu hop bite and a slightly elevated alcohol level.

!!!! Gotemba Kogen Weizen (Shizuoka, wheat and barley malts, hops, yeast; 5.5% abv) Quite a good execution of an "ordinary" weizen, with no surprises in its sturdy, well-structured body. Slightly higher alcohol contributes to forward aromas often described as banana, clove or chewing gum. Good balance all around, with no weird edges.

!!!! Gotemba Kogen Pils (Shizuoka, barley malt, hops, yeast; 5.5% abv) This is a typical Japanese lager, but with an edge on quality and drinkability. Good malt body and flavor, but still not heavy like many German pils despite containing no rice, starch or other nonsense. It would be good to put this in a blind tasting with Asahi Super Dry and see which one is chosen by the Asahi fans.

Beer Talk

Beers for Books

By Gary Bremermann

As part of my support of Room to Read's activities in Japan, I've come up with a fun fundraising concept called "Beers for Books" that is really simple but one which I hope will spread throughout Japan and beyond. In fact, my goal for this is to have at least one "Beers for Books" event take place in every prefecture in Japan and I need YOU to help.

The basic idea is this: You approach your favorite bar/restaurant and ask if they'd be willing to host a B4B night. You spread the word about the event and gather all your friends and go there to have a good time. The bar/restaurant will take 100 yen from every beer (or all drinks if they agree) sold and donate it to Room to Read. One beer = 100 yen = 1 local-language book for a child in countries where Room to Read operates (Nepal, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Zambia, etc.). Simple, right?

Rusty at Sam & Dave kindly offered to host the first event on February 26, which was a kick-off and introduction to the Beer for Books concept. Andrew of Nagano Trading (http://www.naganotrading.com/category/products/beer/) brought some really tasty craft beers from California microbreweries, while Adam of Zubrowka Vodka (www.zubrowka.jp) mixed up some special Bison 4 Books cocktails too.

Future Beers for Books meetings will be announced in Brews News, but don't wait for one to be listed, plan one of your own. I encourage you to think of your favorite bar that might be interested in supporting a B4B event, especially somewhere outside of Tokyo. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun, so feel free to spread the word. Hope to see you there!

Contact Gary Bremermann at Robert Leonard Consulting Ltd. (gary@robertleonard.jp) phone 03-5363-5894 or 090-2469-3700

News

2009 JCBA Festival Round-Up

For details on these events, contact the Japan Craft Beer Association, www.beertaster.org
March 13-15 Grand Biere festival at Roppongi Mid-town
June 6 - 7 Japan Beer Festival in Ebisu Garden Place, Tokyo
July 18 - 20 Japan Beer Festival in Osaka
September 19 - 21 Japan Beer Festival in Yokohama

Special thanks to Gary Bremermann for his Beers for Books idea, and Nevitt Reagan for his brilliant Osaka contribution to this issue. We'd love your contribution, too, so send your story ideas (or story) to brewsnews "at" yahoo.com Deadline for the next issue is Friday, March 27th.