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Brews News Issue #104 - April/ May 2011

Six Pick

Beers for Spring

Here are some craft beer suggestions for the spring months. Since the weather is still unpredictable, with a few cold days here and there, I have included a good, warming stout from Oregon. The Soba Beer and Fucking Hell can be obtained from Ezo Beer; write to phred@ezo-beer.com for details. Others can be purchased at Tanaka-ya in Mejiro.

!! Ginga Kogen Pale Ale (Iwate Pref., all malt, 5% abv). Hazy orange amber, ivory head. Dusty, grainy aroma, very little hop aroma, way too much yeast in solution, leading to a somewhat unfocused flavor and undesirable non-hop bitterness that is rough. 280 yen at Yamaya.

!!!!! Fucking Hell (Germany, all malt, 4.9% abv). Very bright pale yellow, white head. Fine malty aroma with hops in background. Crisp and quenching flavor, with an intriguing complex fruitiness in the taste, with some kind of "woody" flavor in the background. Yes, about that name - since there is actually a town in Austria named Fucking, and Hell is a conventional German beer style, these were the rationalizations by the producer to give the beer this name. Under the theme of "full of good intentions..." it is brewed by an unnamed brewer in Germany, and is surprisingly tasty and of high quality. The name, however, is the big draw here for this gimmicky beer, imported by Ezo Beer in Hokkaido. For information on how to get it, write to Phred Kaufman at phred@ezo-beer.com.

!!!!! Deschutes Obsidian Stout (Oregon USA, all malt, 6.4% abv) This is a remarkably tasty beer, and certainly worth seeking out. Almost opaque dark brown, with a tan head. Malt-based aroma, with little roastiness apparent. Bitter initial bite, with complex roasted flavors emerging as the taste unfolds. Good match of hop bitterness and dark roasted malt mineral-like bitterness. Long, complex finish.

!!!! Ezo Soba Beer (Oregon USA, buckwheat, malt, hops, 35 abv) Hazy orange yellow, ivory head, grainy aroma with faint, fruity malt sweetness in the background. Distinct buckwheat flavor, with hops in background. Full-ish body but with only 3% alcohol. Taste is obviously healthy - and refreshing. I found it a great pairing with yaki-nori and ebi-sembei. A good, hearty summer beer for those slightly cool rainy days.

!!! Preston Pale Ale (Ibaraki pref., all malt, 5% abv) Hazy orange bronze, pale tan head, light malty aroma with hops in background. Tight and focused malt flavor with hops appearing soon after. Medium richness with a somewhat non-descript flavor profile. Still, despite lack of character, it is decently brewed.

!!!! Coedo Kyara (Saitama pref., all malt, 5% abv) Light amber, white head. Fruity malt aroma, and while a famous beer website calls this a Vienna (lager), I will add that it struck me as a craft beer with training wheels. Still, it is a decently made beer with a moderately rich malt flavor, some hop bitterness in the background, but little hop aroma. As it warms, it seems to turn into a more full-bodied session beer. A richer, more interesting alternative to mass-produced Japanese beer, for sure, but that is about it.

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.

Beer There

Tokyo Real Ale Fest

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This year's TRAF held few surprises, apart from most ales running out even earlier. Still, the average quality was noticeably better this year, with standouts being the Double IPA from Ise Kadoya Beer of Mie Pref, and a tasty Porter from Gotemba Kogen Beer.

Since the event is run entirely as a volunteer undertaking, I don't expect much change in the future as far as maintaining the variety of beer available during event hours. However, it is a good yearly festival and a great way to reconnect with beer friends.

US Craft Beer Party at Roti Roppongi

Saturday, March 19, 2011

There was no shortage of good beer OR great food at this well-organized event, put on by the Roti restaurant in Roppongi with the cooperation of Nagano Trading Company, importers of the great selection of seven fantastic U.S. craft beers on tap.

The brews ranged from strong-and-hearty to massive hop and malt bombs that left my tastebuds reeling. Indeed, it is hard to pick the one I thought was the best, but several did stand out. Mind you, this is all based on my personal preferences, but the Hop Juice Double IPA from Left Coast and the Ballast Point Tongue Buckler Imperial Red were both deliciously memorable, while the Stone Ruination IPA and Moylan's Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale - beers I have had many times before - were as tasty as ever.

No less impressive was the food selection, created by Roti chef Ian Tozer, who has been drawing praise in Tokyo for many years now. His baby back ribs pretty much stole the show for me, though I have to admit having more than a modest share of the black bean chili, burgers, bratwurst dogs, buffalo chicken and more, along with several servings of the great salads that accompanied them.

I have been to several events where Nagano Trading has provided the beer, and they have all been great. This time, owner Andrew Balmuth pulled things up another good notch, and with the great food, the day just couldn't have been better.

Beer Talk

Disaster Notes

As I am sure you are all aware, a series of massive earthquakes in Japan have left the northern regions of Japan's main island of Honshu a complete disaster. The toll of casualties is expected to exceed 20,000 in this disaster, the worst in recorded Japanese history.

While reports have not come in from all the small brewers in Japan, the following is based on the information received so far. Locations are listed from north to south.

In Aomori Prefecture, two small breweries have reported no damage, but have been affected by electricity blackouts.

In Iwate Prefecture, three small breweries have reported no damage, and are continuing operations as usual. However, Iwate Kura Beer has reported a ruptured fermentation tank, which will cause them to stop operations for about a month. However, there were no injuries to any personnel.

Three breweries in Akita Prefecture report no damage or injuries, but one reports losing 100 liters of beer from an open fermenter, while another notes that lack of gasoline has prevented them from making deliveries.

In Miyagi Prefecture, the Tori-no-Umi microbrewery reports that their facility in Watari-cho has been entirely washed away by a tsunami.

In Fukushima Prefecture, two breweries report that operations will continue, and one will find ways of obtaining gasoline to make deliveries.

In Ibaraki Prefecture, the makers of Hitachino Nest Beer report some damage to facilities, but they expect to be back in operation within a week. Ushiku Beer reports they will be affected by electrical blackouts in the coming week, but are continuing operations. Shimotsuma Beer is taking a break from operation for inspections, but haven't said when operations will restart.

In Tochigi Prefecture, two small breweries have reported no damage, and expect to continue operations. In Gunma Prefecture, two small breweries report no damage. In Chiba Prefecture, the Harvest Moon brewery closed for a few weeks, but no damage was reported. In Nagano Prefecture, Shiga Kogen Beer reports that they haven't sustained any damage to their facilities.

There was even an earthquake as far south as Shizuoka Prefecture on Tuesday, March 15. Baird Beer located there reports that there was no damage to their facilities, and they are continuing operations as usual.


All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.

Beer Here

Tohoku Benefit Beer Tasting

Sunday, April 17, 1 to 5 pm
Bunkyo Kumin Center

This is a beer tasting event for charity sponsored by the Japan Craft Beer Promotion Association and the Japan Beer Journalists Group, with the cooperation of the Good Beer Club. The beers and cost of the event venue will be provided by the Japan Craft Beer Promotion Association.

The event is a benefit for the Tohoku region, so in place of an admission charge, donations of any amount will be accepted at the event. In addition, an auction of beer and beer goods will be held, with all proceeds going to the cause.

Beers served will be donated from over ten craft breweries in Japan, and while types and brands have yet to be decided, there will certainly be a good and interesting selection of great brews to be enjoyed. Please arrive at opening time to be assured entrance, which will be limited to about 300 people. Also, please bring a beer glass and chopsticks for your own use.

The Bunkyo Kumin Center is located near Korakuen and Kasuga Subway stations, served by both Eidan and Toei subway lines. The address is 4-15-14 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo. For a map (Japanese only) go to http://www.bunkyoku-town.com/map/bn013206/

'Beer School' at Kimono Wine Bar

Saturday, April 16 from 4 - 6 pm

I will be giving a basic presentation on craft beer on Saturday, April 16, at the Kimono Wine Bar in Nogizaka, Tokyo. The 4,000 yen fee will include five kinds of beer, along with light snacks and the bar's new handmade pretzels.

The focus will be on beers for spring, and will include three beers from Echigo Beer, Japan's oldest craft brewery - Echigo Blonde, Echigo Pale Ale and Echigo Red Ale - along with a wheat beer and a surprise beer which will be announced on the day of the event.

Reservations are required, and can be made by contacting Lauren Shannon at (03) 6438-1685 or lauren@kimonowinebar.com


Beer Rise Festival

Yebisu Garden Place (The Garden Room)
Near JR Ebisu Station
Saturday, May 28 (1 to 5 pm)
Sunday, May 29 (noon to 4 pm)

This is a new event that will be held the weekend before the large annual Japan Beer Festival held in Ebisu, this year on June 4 - 5.

The Beer Rise Festival is organized by a new committee managed by the owner of La Cachette Craft Beer Dining Bar in Iidabashi (03-3513-0823, http://la-cachette.jp/), where tickets are now on sale.

While contributing breweries have yet to be announced on the event site, a number of breweries are expected to participate and offer several kinds of beer.

The cost is 3,000 yen in advance (3,500 yen at the door), which will get you six 180 ml servings, and a commemorative glass for the first 300 attendees.

For more details on the event, the site (in Japanese only) is at www.beerrise-festival.com .

Kansai Beer Events

By Nevitt Reagan

Craft Beer Festa Kyoto / 地ビール祭京都 2011

May 14 (Saturday) 11:00-18:00
in Kyoto @ Sanjo Omiya Koen

The 2nd annual Kyoto craft beer festival will feature more than 20 Japanese breweries. Advance tickets: 10 for Y3,500; On site: 1 for Y400

The announcement: http://kyoto-jibeer.com/

Craft Beer Live in Namba 2011

May 15 (Sunday) 11:00-20:00
in Osaka @ Minatomachi Riverplace Plaza 3 Open Space

Fifteen Kansai-area brewers offering 50 varieties of beer

Tickets: Advance: Y2,000, On site: Y2,400 (for six 7-oz. samples)

See the official event blog for more information: http://craftbeerlive.blog97.fc2.com/


Belgian Beer Lovers Club

Saturday, May 28
Bois Cereste in Akasaka, Tokyo

Held four times a year, this event offers remarkable savings on Belgian beers in the cozy, comfortable atmosphere of Bois Cereste in Akasaka. The next event is slated for Saturday, May 28 from 5 to about 9 pm.

The 3,500 yen admission gets you 10 tickets, and most Belgian beers require only two tickets, representing a significant savings over regular prices. You may also use the tickets for food - just one ticket for fried potatoes, for example.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend this time because I will be in California.

Map . Review

BEERS Meeting

BEERS stands for Beer Enjoyment, Education and Research Society, a Tokyo-based English-speaking beer club that usually meets on the third Tuesday of each month.

The schedule for the May meeting has yet to be released, but if you would like to attend, please send an email to Tim Eustace tokyobeers (at) yahoo.co.jp .


Special thanks this issue to Nevitt Reagan for his contribution on Osaka events. We'd love your contribution, too, so send your story ideas (or story) to brewsnews "at" yahoo.com by Friday, May 27.

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