Beyond the Pale
On Sunday, August 1, the Nakameguro Taproom of Baird Beer held a fairly comprehensive Pale Ale event hosted by Marco McFerren, who gave a rather extensive presentation on the appeal of pale ales, accompanied by tastings of ten different examples of the style. It began at 3 pm and lasted until well past 6 pm, with about fifty people attending. In addition to the beers, everyone received a plate of tasty snacks.
Between Marco's explanations, people had the chance to talk and share impressions of the beers. Obviously, a great time was had by all, particularly since the cost was only 3,000 yen, quite a deal considering all the beer and snacks that were offered. For me, the beer list was quite impressive and included a few U.S. pale ales imported by Nagano Trading.
Leading off the beer list were three single-hop pale ales made by Baird, Moteka (a NZ hop), Cascade and Centennial (both from the US). The fourth was well timed, the ever-popular Bass Pale Ale, and this mass-produced version provided great counterpoint to the first three (which were quite superb) and to the rest of the beers.
Next up was Nakameguro bitter and Rising Sun, both Baird favorites, followed by Green Flash Hop Head Red IPA (from San Diego) and Great Divide Titan IPA (from Colorado). The last two brews were special and impressive, Baird Suruga Bay Imperial IPA and Baird NT2 Extra Imperial IPA, weighing in at 7.5%/90 IBU and 8.5%/101 IBU, respectively.
I definitely look forward to more of Marco's events at the Nakameguro Taproom, and rumors have it that another one is planned for the fall. Certainly it will be a great time to reconnect with beer friends and taste another round of selections.
Craft Beer Variety
Here is an interesting variety of craft beers. Most are available at Tanaka-ya in Mejiro.
Rogue Juniper Pale Ale (Oregon USA, all malt with Juniper berries, 5.3% abv) Hazy yellow, thin white head. Aroma of brisk herbal notes, but little malt. Very brisk initial flavor, but the juniper berries are far in the background and not sharply defined, yet match well with the clean hop bitterness. Apart from the interesting flavor, the finish is fairly typical for a hoppy pale ale. Special thanks to Phred K.
Paulaner Salvator doppelbock (Germany, all malt, 7.9% abv) Hazy reddish amber with thick tan head. Lovely malty aroma with caramel-like notes. Very rich flavor with restrained hop bitterness, along with very aromatic malt flavors that are both refreshing and restorative. Rich and tangy caramel malt flavors linger in the long, tapering finish. 298 yen at Yamaya.
Chimay Red (Belgium, malt and hops with candi sugar, 7% abv) Hazy amber, tan head which quickly diminishes, dry and dusty malt aroma with some hops present. Sweet dried fruit flavors plus a maple syrup note, followed by rich flavors which expand in the mouth. There is a rather quick finish dominated by sweet malt flavors but not particularly complex. This leaves me wishing for the more complex flavors of Chimay I remember from about 15 years ago. Interestingly, I bought this at my local supermarket for 420 yen.
No rating Shitamachiya Kodomo no Beer by Willow (Saga pref., sugars, guarana extract, citric acids, flavorings, caramel coloring, 0% abv) Very bright pale yellow, short-lived sudsy off-white head. Hey, this is a soft drink and tastes like carbonated apple juice. www.kodomo-beer.com Special thanks to Mark S.
Bison India Pale Ale (California USA, all malt, 6% abv) Bright amber gold, off-white head. Mellow hoppy aroma. Smoothly easy drinking with rich malt and good hop bitterness in great balance. Very clean tasting with an approachable softness, and a satisfying medium-length finish.
Bison Imperial Brown Ale (California USA, all malt, 7% abv) Rich aroma of roasted malt and coffee, with chocolate in the background. Very dark brown with great clarity, topped with a thick tan head. Rich roasty malt flavors are highlighted by a tinge of tartness, with smooth hop bitterness in the background. Like the IPA, it has a very smooth, clean flavor that is quite approachable, despite the somewhat elevated alcohol.
Thanks to Jack B. for the Bison beers. Both are made entirely with organic ingredients. I used to get them at the Bison Brewery in Berkeley, California in the early '90s. They are available from Alishan Organic foods for 399 yen (IPA) and 452 yen (Imp. Brown) but are being offered at a discount to Brews News readers. Write to Bayles@alishan.jp and ask for details. Be sure to mention Brews News
All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.
Belgian Beer Weekend
Roppongi Hills Arena
This is a new event sponsored by the Belgian Embassy and various Belgian beer organizations, along with importers Asahi Beer (Hoegaarden) and Konishi (various brands) and other organizations. The festival starts at 4pm on Friday, and from 11am on Saturday and Sunday, with closing time of 9pm on all days. Admission is free, with beer and food available by purchasing tickets. Some forty different Belgian beers will be served. For details on purchasing tickets in advance, and more information, go to www.belgianbeerweekend.jp/en.
Yokohama Craft Beer Festival
Yokohama Port, Osanbashi Hall
by Andrew Balmuth
The holiday weekend of September 18th, 19th and 20th is the Great Japan Beer Festival in Yokohama at Osanbashi Hall. Running from 2 to 6pm on the 18th, 1 to 5pm on the 19th and noon to 4pm on the 20th, the festival provides an amazing opportunity to taste a wide range of domestic and imported craft beers. Admission is 4,100 yen in advance and 4,500 yen at the door. The beer is served in 50 ml samples, and is all you can drink. Please check the JCBA website for more details.
This year the Brewers Association of America (BA) with the support Japan Craft Beer Association and Nagano Trading will join the festival to help promote American craft beer in Japan. The BA has shipped beer to Japan especially for this festival. Below are the breweries that will be featured at the festival in bottles and limited draft: Caldera, Deschutes, Dogfish Head, Great Divide, Lagunitas, Maui, Odell, Oskar Blues, Rogue, Shipyard, Sierra Nevada, and Stone.
Nagano Trading will also be supporting two new breweries at the festival, Revelation Cat Craft Beer from Rome, Italy, and Tuatara Brewing of New Zealand. Revelation Cat beers will include the Single Dry Hop Lambic beers, while the Tuatara Beers will include their India Pale Ale, American Pale Ale and Ardennes, a Belgian-style Golden Ale.
Nippon Craft Beer Festival
October 31, noon to 6pm
Asakusa Sumida Riverside Hall
This is the fifth year for the NCBF, which will be held in October instead of the usual September. The 3,500 yen admission includes the festival tasting glass and ten drink tickets, with additional ones sold separately. On tap are many of the better examples of Japanese craft beer. Tickets will go on sale from the middle of September, along with the completion of the website.
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. If you are interested in attending one of the upcoming meetings, please write to Tim Eustace at tokyobeers (at) yahoo.co.jp.
Beer importer Phred Kaufman is planning to place a large order for the famous Mikkeller beers so that "you can give yourself an extreme gift for the holidays." There are some 37 different varieties available, and if you order 10,000 yen worth you get free shipping, 20,000 yen worth there is no tax, 30,000 yen worth you get 10% off, and for 40,000 yen worth Phred asks that you invite him to your party.
The list is long and detailed, so if you would like a copy (in Word) please write to Mikkeller@ezo-beer.com .
No Alcohol, No Calories
From the middle of this summer, the Big Four brewers in Japan have been releasing a new round of non-alcoholic beers. While this isn't such a surprise, the fact that a few of them had No Calories was more than a surprise, and possibly a cause for alarm. I went ahead and tried two of these, one from Asahi and the other from Suntory. Despite a strong sense of apprehension, the taste of these two beers wasn't nearly as bad as I had imagined.
Certainly they are not great, or even delicious in any way, but what impressed me is that they were a lot better than I had expected. The Asahi had a distracting sweetness, but the Suntory was quite well balanced with disagreeing flavors held to a minimum.
Since the Big Four have been able to produce low-malt beers that are somewhat drinkable, I wonder how they will fare if the market for these brews really takes off and they get a lot more experience making beer that will not get you drunk or fat. Anyway, while I won't be quaffing any of these beers in the near future, it is certainly something worth another look in a few years.
Special thanks this issue to Andrew Balmuth for his contribution. We'd love your contribution, too, so send your story ideas (or story) to brewsnews "at" yahoo "dot" com by Friday, October 22.