Brews News #95
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Brews News #95 - September/October 2009
All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.

Beer Here

Nippon Craft Beer Festival

Sunday, October 11, 1 to 5 pm, Y3200
Sumida Riverside Hall, Asakusa, Tokyo

Some twenty-four of Japan's better brewers are participating in this friendly annual event, which is known for running out of beer just a bit early. Still, it draws a friendly crowd and always sells out, so get your tickets early. They are likely available at your favorite pub; for a list of places where tickets are sold, go to http://www.craftbeerfestival.jp/ticketpublist.php . The Y3200 admission includes a commemorative tasting glass and ten sample drink tickets, with extra tickets sold at the event. For more details on the event (in Japanese) go to www.craftbeerfestival.jp

Beer There

Dieu du Ciel Beer at Ushitora

A very pleasant selection of craft beers from the Dieu du Ceil brewery in Montreal, Canada were served by Brewmaster Luc Lafontaine at Ushitora in Shimokitazawa on Sunday, August 16 from 1 pm. I didn't have the capacity to try them all, but among my favorites were the Solstice d'ete, a sour wheat beer with cherries, the Derniere Volonte, a Belgian abbey-style blonde ale, and the Corne Du Diable, a U.S. West Coast style IPA.

Beers were served in half-pint sizes at just 500 yen, making it easy to try several. Overall, the beers were of excellent quality, with the combinations of flavors no less than stunning. Just as impressive were the labels, which were reproduced on large posters. As yet, the beers are not available in Japan, but for more information, see www.dieuduciel.com

Bar Beat

Baird Harajuku Taproom

Opened on August 8th, this is the third Baird beer establishment, and I have a feeling it will become my favorite. The fact that it is close to my home and office is only the start. The new location specializes in yakitori, grilled meat (mostly chicken) on skewers and other light izakaya-style dishes, and prices are remarkably low.

On a recent visit I had tebasaki (chicken wing) for 200 yen, which was expertly grilled. I also had the special gyoza with Baird Kurofune Porter used in making the wrappers, and only 400 yen for three rather large ones stuffed with plenty of pork.

The beer selection is, of course, all Baird-brewed, with taps for the seven regular beers, two Nide (pronounced "need") beers and six special beers plus two handpumps for the real ales. At 900 yen a pint, 650 yen for half sizes and 350 yen for taster sizes, I am fairly sure you won't find beer this good any cheaper.

A good friend of mine, who lives close to the Nakameguro Taproom, says that the Harajuku Taproom is now his favorite. Apparently, he has logged six visits during their first three weeks of operation. He has superb taste in beer, and is a great home brewer. I have a feeling I will follow his lead, and will be running into him more at the Harajuku Taproom.

At present, there is little information on the place on Baird's web site. It is also a bit hard to find, located on a side street off Takeshita-dori. From the entrance to Takeshita-dori, across the street from the lower entrance to Harajuku station, walk straight and take the first left past McDonald's. The Baird Taproom will be at the end of that street, on your right.

Baird Beer Harajuku Taproom
Jingumae 1-20-13
03-6438-0450
Open 5pm to midnight, Monday - Friday
Noon to midnight, weekends and holidays

Six Pick

Craft Beer Selections

Here is a selection of good Japanese craft beers to keep you cool in the months ahead.

Fujizakura Weizen - (Yamanashi pref., all malt, 5.5 abv) Hazy whitish yellow, with a thick, white head. The aroma is powerful with weizen beer esters, while the taste offers a solidly quenching combination of acidity and hop bitterness. The texture is very creamy, particularly toward the finish.

Shonan Liebe - (Kanagawa pref., all malt, 5% abv) Deep reddish brown, with a tan head. There are hints of coffee and dark caramel in the aroma. The rich flavor of coffee and dark toffee exhibits minimal sweetness, with good tanginess. There is just enough hop bitterness to keep everything in balance. The tangy finish is long with roasty flavors.

Bayern Meister Prinz Pils - (Yamanashi pref., all malt, 5.5% abv) Pale gold, with an off-white head. In the aroma, there is perfect balance between malt and hops, while in the taste the malt flavor has a remarkably high definition, with a very soft mouthfeel leading to a dry, quenching finish.

Echigo Pilsner - (Niigata pref., all malt, 5% abv) Bright medium yellow with remarkable clarity, with a thick off-white head. The aroma is clean and brisk, with a slight hop emphasis, while the flavor reflects a good balance of malt and hops. Very well made, it is clearly in the Japanese premium lager style, with minimal aftertaste and a quick finish.

Sankt Gallen Yokohama XPA - (Kanagawa pref., all malt, 6% abv) Very bright gold, with an off-white head. There is brisk hoppiness in the aroma, backed by pale malt. The rather rich malt flavor is balanced nicely by herbal hops. In the end, the malt flavors give way for a brisk, hoppy finish.

Hitachino Nest White Ale - (Ibaraki pref., malt, unmalted wheat, flaked barley, orange juice, coriander, nutmeg, orange peel, 5.5% abv) Hazy light golden yellow with a short-lived white head. There are faintly citrus and sweet spice aromas. The flavor is largely wheat beer joined by coriander and nutmeg, with tangy citrus notes. The finish exhibits both creaminess and tangy flavors.

Beer Talk

Hitachino Nest Brewery to Brew Brooklyn Lager

This famous Ibaraki microbrewery has recently concluded an agreement with Brooklyn Brewery of New York to brew the famous Brooklyn Lager in Japan. BB's brilliant brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, will be coming to Japan at the end of September to direct initial production. Brewing will commence sometime in October, and the beer will be sold in 20 liter kegs.

When word of this got out in August, my first reaction was "this makes sense" since it reminded me of the pitch that Trumer Brau of Austria used when they bought a brewery in Berkeley, California and started producing Trumer Pils there in October 2005. Their pitch was something like "we didn't import just the beer, we imported the brewery." The underlying message was that the beer was much better fresh and made close to where it will be consumed.

How Brooklyn Lager's Japan production will pan out remains to be seen. Of course, Hitachino Nest is capable of brewing this beer to spec, particularly in their new, well-designed brewery. While Hitachino Nest doesn't have the greatest distribution in Japan, Brooklyn Lager's importer, Nippon Beer, certainly does. No doubt they will be involved with selling the beer that Hitachino Nest brews under license. More reports to come after the beer is released in October.

News

BEERS Meeting on Tuesday, September 8 in Shimokitazawa

The monthly meeting for the Beer Enjoyment, Education and Research Society (BEERS) will be held a week early at Beer Rock, a relatively new craft beer bar in Shimokitazawa. Starting time is 8 p.m. as usual. To confirm that you will attend, please write to Tim Eustace at tokyobeers@yahoo.co.jp

Antwerp Six 2nd Anniversary September 16

The Belgian Beer Cafe Antwerp Six in Ginza will be celebrating their 2nd anniversary on September 16 with a Belgian beer and buffet party from 6 to 10 pm for just 5,000 yen per person. To reserve, phone 5568-0091. For more details on Antwerp Six, see http://bento.com/rev/2755.html

2009 JCBA Festival in Yokohama

Yokohama Osanbashi Hall 3,800 yen in advance, 4,300 yen at the door All you can drink (in 50 ml pours) of about 120 different beers
Saturday 9/19 - 2 to 6:30 pm
Sunday 9/20 - 12:30 to 5 pm
Monday 9/21 - 11:30 to 4 pm
For details, see www.beertaster.org

Nihon Oktoberfest in Yokohama

October 9 - 18 at Akarenga Soko For details, see http://www.nihon-oktoberfest.com/spot/yokohama/index.html


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