Here are some craft beers good for summer, including four organic ones imported from Germany by Alishan Organic Foods. If you are interested in these organic German beers, contact email@example.com The French beer is imported by Ezo Beer in Hokkaido - details available at firstname.lastname@example.org
EuroHop (Belgium, malt, barley, cornstarch, hops, barley spirits, rice spirits, 5% abv). Ordinary medium-gold, white head, faintly grainy aroma over good-quality hops. Very much like ordinary European export lagers in flavor and texture, but just a touch watery. The malt flavor becomes more pronounced as it warms. To be honest, I bought this because it was only 85 yen at import food store Kaldi, while the "brewed in Belgium" words on the can piqued my curiosity. Essentially, it is a better version of the ubiquitous "dai-san" fake beers being offered by all four major brewers in Japan. Certainly worth the (normally 95 yen) price, at any rate.
Lammsbrau Blond (Germany, organic, all malt, 4.7% abv). Pale gold, thick white head, malty aroma with floral hops behind. Solid body and rather dry flavor, with some lingering bitterness. Rather long malty finish. Overall a very refreshing beer with rich flavors.
Lammsbrau Edel Pils (Germany, organic, all malt, 4.7% abv) Pale yellow, snow white head, strong malt aroma with floral hops in background. Very smooth texture and crisp, clean flavor. Thin body by highly flavorful with superb malt/hop balance leading to a clean, dry finish. A great session lager, though some may want more body.
Lammsbrau Alkoholfrei (Germany, organic, all malt, 0.3% abv) Gold, thick white head, malty aroma but could use a lot more hops. Thick "corn flake" flavor common to most non-alcoholic beers, but apart from that it is smooth and clean-tasting.
Lammsbrau Dunkel (Germany, organic, all malt, 5% abv) Dark reddish bronze, dense light tan head. Sweet roasty malt aroma, faint hops in the background. Smooth rich dark malt flavors with a touch of sweetness offset by herbal hop bitterness. Very smooth texture and quite drinkable, with comparatively little dark beer character.
La Maline (France, all malt, 5.8% abv) Billed as 'biere noire des Flandres' this is deep brown, with a tan head. It has a complex aroma of yeast and dark malts, along with just a touch of hops. Rich and nutty with a long, hearty finish. The yeast flavors carry out long into the aftertaste, while the tartness makes it quite refreshing for such a rich, deeply flavored beer.
This famous restaurant in Roppongi has been ramping up its beer selection in recent months, and has held a few beer-oriented events lately - quite remarkable for a place that has an impressive and well-promoted wine selection. Beers featured are U.S. microbrews from a wide variety of breweries, with an emphasis on strong, richly flavored beers.
There is also a small bar area where you can pop in and enjoy a quick pint from a selection that is likely some of the best you will find in the area. Roti is located a block behind the big police station in Roppongi at Piramide Bldg 1F, 6-6-9 Roppongi, Minato-ku; phone 03-5785-3671. Listing at Bento.com
Here's another place that is putting more emphasis on serving great U.S. craft beer. Located on Roppongi-dori between the crossing and the Nishi-Azabu intersection, Pizzakaya is known for its interesting and tasty pizza selection, this is certainly a good match. On July 23rd they offered a special all-you-can-eat pizza (2,000 yen/person) evening featuring several great craft beers, including Maui Smoked Hemp Ale, Moylan's Imperial IPA and Green Flash 30th Street Ale.
Naturally, the combination of beers and pizza was a real hit with me and my pal Mark. The good news is that they are doing it again on Saturday, September 3rd. To make reservations, phone 03-3479-8383. For more details on Pizzakaya, go to www.pizzakaya.com.
In terms of quality beer, this is easily the best news in Tokyo this year. It is a new shop from the folks at Otaru Beer, the best of the Hokkaido breweries and brewer of some of the finest German-style beer in Japan. Otaru Beer is generally available only within 100 kilometers of the brewery in Otaru, so it is not found in Tokyo. However, with the opening of Beer Horn in Akasaka at the end of April this year, their pilsener, weiss, dunkel and schwarzbier can be enjoyed in central Tokyo.
The beers all have a remarkably soft texture, and have a light, smooth carbonation that makes them quite easy to drink, one after another. The location is a bit hard to find, but it is near the 7-11 convenience store on Hitotsuki-dori at 3-17-8-B1 Akasaka, Minato-ku. They are open six days a week from 5 to 11:30 pm, and closed on Sunday. For more details, go to www.beerhorn.jp.
It's hard to believe, but a few new small breweries are slated to open here in Japan. I am really looking forward to them, but don't want to say too much until they are up and running, and until I can get their actual beer in my hands where it can be poured into my mouth right away.
Already open as pubs are Bay Brewing in Yokohama and Devilcraft in Kanda, but neither are brewing their own beer yet. The third, Brimmer Brewing, will open as a brewery only.
Bay Brewing has been opened by Shinya Suzuki, formerly a brewer at Yokohama Beer, and is near Kannai station in Yokohama. You can find more details about this operation at http://ameblo.jp/shinyabeer/
Devilcraft in Kanda has already been the site of a BEERS meeting in July. There were quite a number of different beers, including those from Baird and Shiga Kogen, on tap for that meeting. The real standout, though, was the deep dish pizza made by Jason Koehler, one of the owners.
The other owners are two homebrewers, John Chambers and Mike Grant. Apparently they expect to obtain their license to brew around the end of the year. It's open now, and a lot of good beer is being poured and some great pizza is being served. Devilcraft is certainly worth a visit. www.devilcraft.jp
Scott Brimmer worked as a brewer at Sierra Nevada in Chico, California before moving to Japan, where he has been a brewer at Gotemba Kogen Beer. I have had several of his creations at GKB, and they have been notable. Scott is presently putting together a small brewery in Kawasaki city, and hopes to get into operation before the end of this year. His brewing equipment is now being readied for setup at the site. There is a website, but nothing is up yet, but do check later. www.brimmerbrewing.com
In spite of the long-stagnant economy and the enormous disaster in March of this year, these three new breweries are certainly worth saluting, regardless of how their beers end up tasting, because they represent, more than anything else, good reasons for what we now need more than anything else - a good keg of pure optimism.
All articles by Bryan Harrell unless noted.
Early this month, there will be the Toyosu Oktoberfest from September 1 to 11 at Toyosu Park behind the Lalaport Toyosu Shopping Complex near Toyosu station on the Yurakucho and Yurikamome lines. Hours will be 3-10 pm on weekdays, and 11am-10pm on weekends. Note that on Sept. 1 they will open at 4 pm.
In addition to the many German beers, there will be quite a number of beers from Fujizakura Kogen Beer (Yamanashi) and Sankt Gallen Beer (Kanagawa). For more details, see their website.
Easily my most favorite Oktoberfest, however, happens in Yokohama and just around the time the real one happens in Munich, too. Held at Akarenga-Soko, it draws a lively crowd that frequently erupts into snake dancing through the main hall area, making it one of the most festive beer events in Japan.
Last year it was held from October 1 to 17, though the dates this year have yet to be announced. Check out the Food News section of Tokyo Food Page from the middle of September for more complete information.
Belgian Beer Weekend
This event, which got its start last year, is back for another four-day run at Roppongi Hills Arena from September 8 - 11.
More than fifty different varieties will be offered, along with frites, waffles and other Belgian foods. While admission is free, beer and foods will be sold via a ticket system.
Thursday (Sept. 8) from 4 to 10 pm
Friday & Saturday (Sept. 9 & 10) from 11 am to 10 pm
Sunday (Sept. 11) from 11 am to 8 pm
For more details, see their website.
Japan Beer Festival in Yokohama
September 17 - 19
While the the Japan Beer Festivals have been held in Tokyo (Ebisu Garden Place), Osaka, and Nagoya, my favorite one is held in Yokohama every September. This year it runs from September 17 - 19, and advance tickets are 4,200 yen, which gets you a commemorative sampling glass and an unlimited number of 50 ml samples of over 200 different beers throughout the entire event.
Saturday, September 17 - 2 to 6 pm
Sunday, September 18 - 1 to 5 pm
Monday, September 19 (holiday) - noon to 4 pm
Advance tickets may be purchased on the organization's website through September 9th at their website. Tickets may also be purchased at major convenience stores; details are on the website.
BEERS Meeting in October
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 October meeting is scheduled for Tuesday the 18th.
Beers for Books September 13th
A special Beers for Books meeting will be held with Room to Read founder John Wood at Warehouse 702 in Azabu Juban on Tuesday, September 13 from 7 pm. For details, see their website.