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Brews News Issue #105 - June/July 2011

Six Pick

Craft Beers

Here are some craft beers which may be good for the changing weather this time of year, where a cool rainy day is followed by a lot of heat. Best to keep a range of beers around so you can choose one to match whatever temperature it gets to when drinking time comes around.

The Japanese craft beers were purchased at Tanaka-ya in Mejiro . The French beers are imported by Ezo Beer in Hokkaido - details available from Phred Kaufman at phred@ezo-beer.com

!!!!! Baeren Maibock (Morioka-shi, Iwate Pref., all malt, 6.5% abv). Faintly hazy gold, thick white head. Rich and complex aromas of malt and fruit, with floral hops in the background. Thick malty flavor with fruity highlights, and clean hop bitterness emerging later. Malt flavors continue with restrained sweetness leading to an exciting long finish. About Y400 at Tanaka-ya in Mejiro. www.baerenbier.com

!!!! Hideji Beer Tsuki-no-Dark Lager (Miyazaki Pref., all malt, 4.5% abv). Very deep reddish brown, light tan head. Roasty malt aroma, with hops far in the background. Rich roasty malt flavor with lots of tanginess, highlighted with dark caramel flavors supporting the rich flavor array. Faint hop bitterness emerges late for a nice quenching bite. Very well balanced and quite drinkable, making it particularly quenching for a dark beer. The finish is short-to-medium length. www.hideji-beer.jp

!!!! Etoile du Nord (France, all malt, 5.5% abv) Faintly hazy gold, thick snow white head. Yeasty "Belgian" aroma. Rich and bitter taste quite like Duvel, followed by strong underlying sweetness balanced by both bitterness and tartness. Surprisingly quick finish for a tart quenching sensation.

!!!! La Rouge Flamande (France, all malt, 5.8% abv) Faintly hazy reddish amber with light tan head. Sweet malty aroma. Tangy half-sweet flavor with deep malt in the background. The sweetness is mostly balanced by tartness, with minimal bitterness present. Overall, a rich and hearty beer that is graced with a fair dollop of tartness for good effect.

!!! Onidensetsu Pilsner (Noboribetsu, Hokkaido, all malt, 5% abv). Hazy yellow gold, white head. Fruity malty aroma, faint hop presence. Flaor is rich malt, with some hop bitterness to balance the minimal sweetness. Short finish with a very clean aftertaste.

!!!! North Island Beer IPA (Hokkaido, malt, hops, barley; 7% abv). This great beer is from the brewery also known as 'Canadian Brewery' in Sapporo. Clear amber gold, light tan head. Malty aroma with floral hops in background. Clean, crisp flavor with very tangy aftertaste, followed by crisp hop bitterness. Very flavorful yet light bodied and quite drinkable. A great work from a largely unknown brewery. http://www.2002cb.co.jp

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

The 2nd Annual Craft Beer Festa Kyoto

by Nevitt Reagan

The warm-weather season is finally upon us, and what goes better with that than great beer? The second annual Kyoto Craft Beer Festa was held under sunny skies on May 14. Once again organized by Kyoto's premier microbrew store - Yamaoka Sakaten - the event ran from 11am to 6pm and featured beers from over twenty breweries, representing much of the best that Japan offers.

The venue changed this year, to a small children's park alongside a covered shopping arcade (shotengai) in the heart of the city. It was fairly noisy, with loud music blaring nonstop, and intermittently smoky from the several food stalls grilling yakitori and pork slices, the atmosphere was nonetheless pleasant. Beer tickets cost Y400 per glass (Y350 in advance), for a fairly generous 80-90 ml serving.

The main group of twelve breweries, each serving 4-5 beers, was packed into a 10 x 5 meter serving area, leading to crowds of thirsty patrons around the more popular beers. Strangely, two other groups of eleven breweries, each serving one beer, were located in stalls along the arcade, one about 30 feet away from the park, and the other at least 150 meters away. Surely, many attendees never made the trek to either of them. Shame, too, because among these eleven breweries were such notables as Swan Lake and Shiga Kogen.

Lefty showed up - and after all, Kyoto is his town, and increasingly Japanese craft beer is his province. He stopped to talk with the brewers, many of whom he knows well, commenting on their new beers and noting changes in familiar ones. Chris Hainge, home-brewer extraordinaire, seemed to be the lead volunteer working the ticket booth. Yamaoka Shigekazu, the main organizer, seemed to be everywhere at once.

Ando Kohei, of "Young Beerist Mates," and formerly of World Beer and Cafe Qbrick, was loudly hawking the group's "Sugoi Beer" T-shirts from a booth near the festival entrance. These shirts are increasingly visible at many craft beer events and bars. Ando told me that the goal of YBM is to expand appreciation of craft beer to young people in Japan, as most current fans are, as he put it bluntly, "old."

During the course of the afternoon, we agreed on several standout beers:

- Minoh W-IPA (9%): The current version features a blast of bittering hops, quite different from the fruity flavor hopping of previous versions.
- Swan Lake Porter: offers a rich cocoa aroma and a not overly sweet flavor; this award-winning porter has just enough bitterness to make it close to a single stout, yet it is truly drinkable all year around.
- Shiga Kogen Indian Summer Saison: made with wild yeast, which produces a refreshing, slightly acidic aftertaste.
- Daisen G-Beer "Yago": an interesting experimental beer made with sake rice and exuding a light fruity aroma. Daisen also served their smooth, strong Imperial Stout 2010; unfortunately for latecomers, it vanished within a couple of hours.
- Ise Kadoya Mellow Wheat: a beer with hints of spice and a singularly saison-like aroma.

However, the real hit of the day was Ise Kadoya's Imperial Red Ale. It is malty and well-hopped (85 IBUs). Several of us agreed that it was the bitterest beer of the day. The owner of Tadg's, Kyoto's best craft beer bar, was also impressed and quickly made a keg order for his tap list.

Other unusual beers included Harvest Moon's Maihama Orange, with an interesting sweet aroma but tasting pretty much like diluted orange juice. Kinshachi Beer brought a Red Miso Beer, with just a hint of the bean paste emerging though a thin brown body. Minoh's Pilsner was pleasant, fresh and grassy, and approached true pilsner character.

The developing strength of the craft beer scene in Japan is evident at beer festivals and beer bars. Brewers such as Shiga Kogen, Ise Kadoya, and Daisen G-Beer have been sharpening their skills in making traditional beer styles as well as using local ingredients to create innovative Japanese ones. And they are rapidly pulling away from the stodgy pack that still produces only the German-, British-, or American-inspired brews of a few years ago. Get out to one of the upcoming Great Japan Beer Festival events and see for yourself.

Beer Talk

On vacation this issue.


All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.

Beer Here

Tanabata Beer Festa in Toyama

July 2, 11:30am-9:30pm
July 3, 11:30am-6:30pm

This event will be held at Grand Plaza, a short distance from JR Toyama Station in Toyama.

Beer from some eighteen breweries throughout Japan will be featured, including selections from Fujizakura Kogen, Minoh Beer, Isekadoya, Swan Lake, Sankt Gallen, Kinshachi, Harvest Moon, Shiga Kogen and Iwate Kura.

Several packages are available for attendees, including a deluxe Y3,600 package that includes ten drink tickets and an original glass (or the same glass with five drink tickets for Y2,200). For complete details, see the website.

Twelfth Annual Ichinoseki Craft Beer Festival

August 21, 5-8pm
August 22, 11am-8pm
August 23, 11am-6pm

This yearly event is back, seemingly bigger than ever this year. Beers from some 64 breweries from throughout Japan will be featured, along with specialty foods from around the country. Last year, some 10,000 attendees went through 5,000 liters of beer, so this year the organizers will have 6,000 liters on hand.

Admission is Y2,000 (six large drink tickets or eight medium drink tickets). The event will take place a short walk from JR Ichinoseki Station (Tohoku Shinkansen and JR lines) in Iwate prefecture. For more details, visit the website.

All American Craft Beer and Wine Festival

Saturday, June 18 noon-5pm

Roti Roppongi

Y3000 per person (includes buffet and your first drink)

Additional craft beer and wines offered at special prices

Kids eat free!

Here's a great summer idea - spend your Saturday afternoon sampling some wonderful American craft beer, tasty Washington state wines and dining on a great buffet. Plus, there is live music from Arisa Safu on guitar, followed by Kevin Carter and Ron Wood (guitar and sax). Best of all, there is no need for an RSVP - just come ready for fun! This event is limited to 120 guests and is first come first serve, so show up early!

Craft beer bottles on ice on the terrace Y500
Hawaii's Maui Brewing Co Bikini Blonde Lager, Mana Wheat brewed with Maui Gold Pineapple juice, Big Swell IPA and Coconut Porter as well as Coronado Islander IPA and North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner.

Craft beer on tap at the bar Y700
Stone Brewing Company's Levitation and IPA, Green Flash West Coast Ale and Hop Head, as well as Ballast Point Sculpin and Tongue Buckler. These beers were featured before and are available again!

Washington wines Y500
Waterbrook Chardonnay, Charles Smith's Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Waterbrook Sangiovese Rose, Delinea 300 Pinot Noir, Nelm's Rd Cabernet Sauvignon, and L'Ecole No. 41 Recess Red. If you are in the mood for a wine upgrade then try DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc, Long Shadows Sequel Syrah or the very special 2007 Leonetti Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (ask at the bar for prices). Plus there is Sangria (red or white) for just Y300 a glass.

The Buffet Menu. Created by Roti Chef Ian Tozer, featuring:

  • Tortilla chips, pico de gallo and smooth guacamole
  • Greek salad with mint and fried halloumi cheese
  • Pan-fried broccoli with chorizo, eggs & baby potatoes
  • Hummus and falafel with tahini sauce and grilled pita bread
  • Shrimp Ceviche with pink grapefruit fresh chile and coriander
  • Char-grilled vegetables, crumbled feta, virgin oil lemon and balsamico
  • Cajun Blackened catfish mini burgers with mango salsa
  • Lamb kofta mini burgers with Mint & Basil pesto and tzatziki
  • Chinese barbequed baby back ribs on chow mien noodles
  • Indonesian steak sate with peanut sauce
  • Warm Thai barbeque chicken & green papaya salad

It's all happening on Saturday, June 18, at Roti in Roppongi.


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. This month's meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 21st from 8 pm at Devil Craft in Kanda, which will be opening soon as a craft brewery but for now is craft beer bar with a pizzeria serving some amazing pizza.

The website (http://www.devilcraft.jp/) is not fully up yet, but check closer to the date and the address and map will be put on the website. Tentatively the plan is for John Chambers, one of the original BEERS founders, to talk about the pain and pleasure of getting a craft beer bar started (hopefully it will officially be started by the 21st, but that is still not 100% certain).

Meanwhile, Jason Koehler, will talk about Deep Dish pizza, something that is virtually unheard of in Japan (for pictures of Jason's art, please check out http://www.facebook.com/pages/DevilCraft-Beer-Pub-Pizzeria/203996582965197)

Given that Devil Craft still is not officially opened, the format of the meeting is still unsure. However, there will be lots of good beer to drink and lots of good pizza to eat. Regardless, please sign up ASAP, as space may be limited. Deadline for signing up is Friday June 17th - send a message to tokyobeers at yahoo.co.jp if you would like to attend.

Whisky and Real Ale Event

Sunday July 10th

Beer Club Popeye in Ryogoku

For more details, phone Popeye at 03-3633-2120


Special thanks this issue to Nevitt Reagan for his article on the Kyoto Craft Beer Festival, along with leads on the Toyama and Iwate events. We'd love your contribution, too, so send your story ideas (or story) to brewsnews at yahoo.com by Friday, July 29, 2011.

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