Monday, April 27, 2015

"Buying Beer Online," Revised and Updated

Over the past few months, I spent time updating the "Buying Beer Online" section of The Tokyo Food Page.

This is a listing of places that sell Japanese and imported microbrews online, including several general-purpose shopping sites (such as Rakuten and Yahoo), specialty beer shops in Japan (e.g. Good Beer and World Beer Market), and the retail shopping sites of over one hundred Japanese breweries. It is probably mostly of use to beer fans who live in Japan, as the shipping fees would like make the costs prohibitive for anyone who wants to have Japanese beer shipped outside of the country.

I first created it in 2009, and it really does need periodic updating. So many sites go out of business, or change URLS, and many new ones spring up. It was well overdue, having last been revised in April 2012.

There are now nineteen General-Purpose shopping sites, many of them individual shops on Rakuten, tried-and-true breweries' shopping sites in the Twenty-five Great Japanese Micros section, and 136 other Japanese craft breweries' sites.

You can see the revised site HERE

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Minneapolis, Spring 2015, Part 3: Bauhaus Brew Labs

We visited Bauhaus Brew Labs on a very cold Saturday afternoon in February. It was a bit hard to find, since the building is actually inside the block, in a courtyard area rather than directly on Tyler St.



A spacious warehouse taproom and brewery with an industrial sort of feel: cinder block walls, iron beams, ventilation tubes, huge glass overhead garage doors. A small stage for music acts; when I was there, it was full of kids playing and running around. Brewery equipment was visible in the back of the building.



The place was half full when we arrived, but it got crowded and very noisy within an hour. The group I was with said that the place was "very Minneapolis." No food was available, but a food truck was parked outside, and the food truck staff was inside taking orders.

Bahaus focuses primarily on German styles. Seven beers were on tap: four regulars and three seasonals /specials, including a schwarzbier which was run through a Randall filled with coffee. Flights of the four regulars for $7; pints for $5; growlers for $16. Pours were not really the best. Beers were all good to very good -- and their pilsner is exceptional.




Bauhaus Brew Labs was selected as the 2014 RateBeer New Brewery of the Year for Minnesota. It is a definite must-visit when in Minneapolis.



Bauhaus Brew Labs Wonderstuff Neü Bohemian Pilsner  (Czech Pilsner – 5.4%)     4 out of 5.0
Sweetish pale malt nose with a lot of grassiness and moderate pleasant hops. Clear bright straw color. Clean and very smooth grassy initial; the hoping enters and intensifies slightly through mid palate and final. Thin-medium. Mild and very flavorful stuff. As clean as they come; one of the better pils made in the US.

Bauhaus Brew Labs Stargrazer Schwarzbier  (Schwarzbier – 5%)     3.3
Delicate roast malt nose, a touch of sweet chocolate. Thin translucent brown. Mild sweet roast initial, light brown sugar, some cola notes. Thin-medium body. Okay. Very mild-mannered stuff.11

Bauhaus Brew Labs Sky-Five Midwest Cöast IPA  (India Pale Ale – 6.7%)     3.6
Good caramel aroma, with light nose-tingling hops. Copper/amber color. Chewy malt, bittersweet notes in mid, smooth hopping. Very good balance. Medium body. Pleasant and not over-the-top.

Bauhaus Brew Labs Über Düber Hoppy Bock  (Heller Bock – 7%)     3.5
Fairly malty nose, with some farty yeast and hopping and cola. Copper amber, filmy head. Solid malty initial, good roast notes, and some yeast bite. Medium body. Nice and smooth. Very rich malt. Tasty, but they need to dial down the yeastiness.

Bauhaus Brew Labs Jingle Fever  (Baltic Porter – 8%)     3.7
Toasty malt nose, marshmallow and some spiciness. Dark brown color. A creamy thick tan head, which fell and formed changing star constellation shapes. Rich dark caramel maltiness, dark sugar, lactic notes, some soy sauce (umami), and very sweet dark fruit. Medium-heavy body. Very rich.

Bauhaus Brew Labs Coffee Stargrazer Schwarzbier  (Schwarzbier – 5%)     3.5
This is the regular Stargrazer run through a Randall filled with coffee from Spyhouse Coffee (located just around the corner). Very rich sweet coffee aroma, streamed with hops. Dark brown color, good tan lace. Light roast malt, dark sugar initial. The coffee slips in smoothly. Nice rounded malt/coffee finish. Medium body. Very interesting little variant. The coffee notes give it more body and a better mouthfeel than the regular Stargrazer.


1315 Tyler St NE
Minneapolis, Minnesota United States 55413
612 387 1407

Hours:
Wed - Fri 3:00-11:00pm
Sat: 12:00-11:00pm

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Minneapolis, Spring 2015, Part 2: Surly Brewing Company



The new Surly Beer Hall is quite a different experience.



The old one, a reappointed former abrasives factory, was outside of the city, at the end of a dusty road. The taproom was fairly small, with low ceilings, painted cinder block walls, and a linoleum floor. It had all the appeal of a high school cafeteria. There were not really enough tables or places to sit, and many people lined up along the walls, which had narrow metal shelf-like counters.

The new location, which opened late last year in Prospect Park, near the University of Minnesota football stadium, is a large open space, with a modern clean industrial chic look. The big brewing area is visible at one end of the building, behind massive floor to ceiling windows.


I visited on a Friday at lunch time, and it was starting to fill up quickly and was already quite noisy. I was seated at a long table with a group that was finishing up.

14 taps were on. Most brews are priced at $3 for 8oz. and $5 for 16oz. glasses. No sampler sets available. Beers are all Surly house brews, regulars and seasonals (some available only here) and, of course, all good to very good.


Service was great, but the food menu is a bit overpriced. I had the Surly Burger and was not disappointed.

I recommend visiting during the daytime on weekdays, and most definitely avoiding week nights and week nights. I’ve heard that there is often a one- or even two-hour wait in the evenings. But it certainly is a must-stop for all beer geeks when in MSP.



Surly Doomtree  (Premium Bitter/ESB - 5.7%)     3.8 out of 5.0
Heavy caramel and roasty nose, resin, something moldy or overripe, and somehow it all balances well. Bright, dark copper color, thick off-white head, clumpy lace. Very chewy maltiness, nice mix of bittering hops, some dark fruit, and piney tracks in finish. Medium body. Very tasty. Bittering creeps in slowly in increments and doesn’t take over.

Surly Devil’s Work  (Porter – 6.7%)     3.6
Dark roast nose, with burnt pine, anise, and some molasses. Near black, thick tan head, sticky lace. Sweetish strained dark fruit, some spiciness, with a good, slightly heavy finish. Medium body. Fruit and spice emerge well but do not really develop much beyond that. Kind of a clean porter with a bit of good spice.

Surly Fiery Hell  (Dortmunder/Helles – 4.5%)     3.7
“Cask conditioned Helles Lager aged on Hickory wood and Puya Chilies.” Clean malty nose, rich, with some good pushes of fruitiness. Brilliant dark straw color, thin filmy head. Sweet light tropical fruit, and the peppery heat jumps in after a second or two. Fruit reemerges, and then there are long peppery tracks. Thin-medium body. Nicely fruity, and the heat is just right. On the edge of too hot. Interesting, how the chiles wait politely for the fruit to show off first.

Surly Witch’s Tower  (Brown Ale – 4.5%)     3.2
Roasty nose, herbal and medicinal. Very dark brown, thin tan head, good lace. Smooth dark roast initial, thinly spiced up with the cardamom, touches of dark fruits, including raisins, prunes. Thin, with a tiny astringency. Okay. Kind of understated, possibly intentionally.

Surly Mild  (Mild Ale – 4%)     3.4
Light chocolate nose. Dark translucent brown color, thin tan head, great lacing. Light chocolate initial, very pleasant, toasty sweetness. Basically just thin chocolate throughout the palate, without much development. Okay. Smooth and moderate all the way. "Mild" is an understatement.

Surly / Amager Todd - The Axe Man (Surly Version)  (India Pale Ale – 7.2%)    3.7
“…a one-off keg of the Amager/Surly Todd - The Axe Man, brewed at the Surly brewery…” Shots of citrus in the nose, dank with the Mosaic hopping, tropical fruit. Hazy straw color, finely-beaded 2cm. white head, good lace. Thin fruity initial, pale malts, nice blend of hops, a bit of alcohol warmth, and a good, balanced finish. Medium body, and very smooth. Nice development of the fruit flavors, a touch rude in spots. Very good -- but Surly’s regular IPA, Furious, is better.


520 Malcolm Avenue SE
Minneapolis, Minnesota United States 55414
763 535 3330

Hours:
Sun-Thu: 11am-11pm
Fri- Sat: 11am-12am

Minneapolis, Spring 2015, Part 1: Fair State Brewing Cooperative


Since (or perhaps even before) opening in September last year, Fair State Brewing Cooperative has been getting a lot of buzz from Minneapolis beer geeks. Certainly, the progressive co-op model is somewhat rare among breweries and offers some cachet, but it’s the beer made here that has locals crowing.


We visited just around opening time on a Friday afternoon. A long narrow room, with high ceilings that give it an open feel, and a sort of a clean, bare bones, and understated décor of scrubbed bricks and an old wooden floor. A large section of one wall is filled with large photos of the many co-op owners (who will get a hand in the brewing process); on the other side, there is a space for darts and also a selection of board games. There are bar seats for around 15 people; tables and long benches for maybe 40-50.


A very cool set of three electronic tap list menu boards sit above the bar, offering rotating descriptions of the beers on tap, as well as upcoming events and even Twitter feeds. 


Weirdly, there was classic rock, soul, and disco on the sound system; this seemed out of character for the place. Ten taps going, and a good variety of styles were represented. Half-pints for $3; pints for $5. No sampler sets available, unfortunately.




To be honest, I find the coop/crowd source brewing plan a bit worrisome. I’m not sure if it really means that all members will be able to influence the brewing, but it does not seem like the way you want to have your beer made -- the brewing design and production should probably be left to the experts.  However, I recently read an interview with the head brewer, in which he said that it would be limited to one brew twice a year or perhaps quarterly.

Fair State India Pale Ale (IPA - 6.4%)     3.4 out of 5.0
Mildly dank hop nose, citrus/pine mix. Light medium straw color, some lace. Chewy malt initial, good hop blend emerges, and it goes to balance slowly, with some good hop tracks in the finish. Medium-heavy body. A clean, flavorful, and fairly well-mannered IPA.

Fair State LÄCTOBÄC: One (Sour/Wild Ale - 5.9%)     3.3
A sourish floral aroma, crushed weeds, cat piss, and some nutty notes. Hazy light straw color with good lace. Very small sour initial flavor, apples, yogurt. Thin body, with a tiny bit of astringency. Not too bad, but rather thin and understated.

Fair State The Winkelman (Imperial/Double IPA - 8.4%)     3.4
A decent grapefruit nose, in front of the caramel base. Light hazy peachy straw color. Tangy initial, moderate bittering, rough ripe dates. Lightly vegetal in mid palate. Moderate hop tracks in the finish. Medium body. Nice enough. Doesn’t really bomb off in any one direction. It seems less of an imperial than a simple regular IPA.

Fair State Vienna  (Amber Lager/Vienna 5.2%)     3.5
Creamy malt nose, light roast, and some mild grassiness. Clear copper/straw color. Solid malty initial, rich caramel, a bit fizzy. Medium body. Well-balanced and well-constructed Vienna.


2506A Central Ave NE
Minneapolis, Minnesota United States 55418
612 444 3209

Hours:
M/W/Th: 4-11pm
Fri: 4-Midnight
Sat: Noon-Midnight
Sun: Noon-9pm

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Oregon, Spring 2015, Part 8: Culmination Brewing Company

We ended our Zwickelmania day at Culmination Brewing Company. This was the newest brewery in Portland at that time (opened in January 2015), and it was still in a pre-opening mode, with only a few beers and limited business hours.



The tap room (in front) and brew area (in back) are both one large, airy space, divided somewhat by the high bar wall. A long bar, with several high tables scattered about. 




Six taps going, two of their beers (brewed at Brannon's Pub and Brewery in Beaverton), two guest beers, and two guest ciders. Their two beers were competently made and fairly tasty but seemed a bit young.




Culmination 4 & 20 Black IPA (9.2%)     3.2
Named for its four hops and 20 plato. A rather oozy nose, with dark fruits: prunes and raisins. Some chocolate and roast notes, too. Dark roast initial flavor, but it goes thin in mid palate. The alcohol is a decided presence. Medium body, fairly flat. Low on hops, for the style. Okay initially, but it fades out in mid and then there’s not a whole lot else.

Culmination Reynard the Red Fox Belgian IPA (6%)     3.4
A fresh fruity nose, citrus hopping, and small estery notes. A slow starter in flavor. Some maltiness sneaks out and a sort of bitter peach pit hopping develops in mid palate. Nice flavor changes. A bit young and fresh, perhaps. This one shows promise.


2117 NE Oregon Ave
Portland, Oregon, USA 97232
503 353-6368

Hours:
Wed - Sat: 6-10 pm

Oregon, Spring 2015, Part 7½: Rikishi Rider

Outside Baerlic Brewing Co.....



Yoshi! Why do I have to stay here and guard your bike while you drink good beer in there?


Still waiting.....

Friday, March 6, 2015

Oregon, Spring 2015, Part 7: Baerlic Brewing Co

Our penultimate stop during Zwickelmania 2014 was at Baerlic Brewing Co., located in the same general area as Apex, Beer Mongers, and The Commons Brewery



The name of this brewery is an Old English word (bærlīċ), meaning “barley-like” or “pertaining to barley.” Open for less than a year (June 2014), they have a respectable list of five year-round beers, six seasonal/experimental ones, and have already retired 21 brews.

The taproom was crowded but a lot of fun. A long line of patrons snaked out the door and down the street, perhaps half of them waiting for the tour. We avoided that group and somehow managed to get a table. Service was surprisingly fast and also friendly. They had 10 taps on, including a few new special brews. An interesting mix of styles, too.



We focused mostly on their seasonals and experimental beers. Here are a few:

Baerlic Cowabunga! (6.2%)     3.6
A smooth chocolaty nose, a bit tangy, with some lactic notes. Dark brown color with a tan head. Mild buzzing sweetish initial, and then mild bittering throughout the palate. Medium body. Sweet but a bit fizzed up, too.

Baerlic Doug E Fresh IPA (6.7%)     3.5
A nice juicy hop nose, quite citrusy and zesty. Moderate malty flavors, with a substantial citrus/pine hop mix. Medium-light body. Very smooth. A lighter sort of IPA, but quite flavorful

Baerlic Invincible IPA (6.8%)     3.5
The only year-round beer we had here. Smooth, fruity nose with a backing of moderate caramel. Muddy amber/orange color. Well balanced from the start, with good lip-smacking hops, and long hop tracks in the finish. Medium body, and actually a bit underdone, really. Middle of the road IPA. Tasty enough

Baerlic Filbert Reynolds Hazelnut Porter (6.8%)     3.4
Sweet, coffee-ish nose. Flavors of coffee, dark roast, sugar, light hazelnuts, and minimal hopping. The hazelnuts add an extra dimension. Well-balanced finish.

Baerlic Wildcat (5.3%)     3.3.
Very fresh citrusy nose, lemon, bit of funk, yeast. Cloudy bright yellow. Small fruity tang in initial, mild bittering, and then goes weak in mid and final. Thin body. Very nice initially, but kind of gives up halfway through.



2235 SE 11th Avenue
Portland, Oregon, USA 97214
503 477-9418

Mon: Closed
Tues-Thu: 4 - 10 pm
Fri: 2 - 11 pm
Sat: 12 - 11 pm
Sun: 12 - 9 pm