I went to the beer festival at the Kobe Bay Sheraton on Rokko Island last Wednesday (Nov. 3), which was a national holiday here.
The hotel venue was an unusual one for a beer fest. We had to make our way past wedding parties to get to the 4th floor “Ocean” room. The crowd seemed slightly older and more nattily attired than usual as well.
On a large stage at one end of the room, a J-Pop group alternated sets with a jazz ensemble. Along one wall, servers provided a range of hotel snack foods. I pretty much ignored the music (or at least tried to) and the food so as to focus on the beer.
Nine brewers from western Japan set up taps and promotional materials in a large ballroom setting.
The nine brewers and their beer:
Daisen G-Beer (Tottori):
- Lager - one of the tastiest lagers I've had in Japan, with a strong grain flavor and well-matched hop aroma.
- Imperial Stout (9%) – aged for a year, it was the best beer of the day. Dark, smoky, and punched the tongue with a crisp alcohol kick.
Shimane Beer Co. “Hearn Beer” (Shimane)
- Chocolate No. 7 (7%) – this was served Real Ale style. It was a bit too syrupy-sweet and cloying. A bit hit with the women, but ….
- Weizen (5%) – A tart, smooth wheat beer, with great banana aroma. Lefty says it’s one of the best wheat beers in Japan, and I agree.
- Apple Barley “Eve” – made with dried apples (in the boil). Beautiful, rich brown color and rocky head. The apple came through in the aroma and the flavor. Unusual that among so many kinds of fruit beer, so few brewers use apples. This one is truly special.
Minoh Beer (Osaka)
- W-IPA (9%) – Well, what to say? This used to be one of Japan's exceptional brews. The latest version is not bad, but it doesn't provide the tongue-to-throat blast of thick malt and shocking hops that the original did.
- Imperial Stout (8.5%) – Well, what to say? They ran out of this beer, assumed to be the “world's best stout,” in less than two hours, or just about the time we arrived.
- Marihana Brown (6%) - A pleasant amber color. Contains about 10% sake, and that flavor comes through clearly. Somewhat unusual, to be sure, but the balance is more or less there.
- Yuzu Ale (5%) –This is their Pale Ale, with dried yuzu (citron) peel added in the fermentation phase. Pleasant aroma of yuzu with a nice fruity palate. A bit harsh in mid-palate, and too much so in the finish. The bitterness of the yuzu peel is somewhat similar to a strong, rasty hop.
- Scotch Ale (7%) – This beer has the reddish hue of a Scotch Ale, but not much of the aroma or flavor. Fruity and somewhat sweet, it was pleasant enough.
- Maple Cinnamon (5%) – Very sweet, pleasant aroma, with both maple and cinnamon coming through. The flavor is much too sweet and eventually becomes cloying.
There were a few other brewers in attendance, but they shall remain nameless.
For the most part, they were primarily sake brewers who make beer as a sideline or as an omiyage (souvenir) for people to take back after a brewery visit. These are the ones who make a Kölsch, and an Alt, and that's all. It was a bit sad to see them sullenly looking on as the crowds eventually gravitated toward the brewers who served good, or at least interesting, beer – and no one at all at their booths.
So, all in all, it was a pleasant, manageable event, with many good beers and several very good ones.
Now for a break …..