Went to the Great Japan Beer Festival in Osaka last Saturday. This three-day affair is the largest annual beer event in the Kansai region, and always offers an array of new beers to sample, some great and some abysmal.
The venue was the Osaka Dome, a curving hall area around the top floor, with a somewhat disconcerting spaceship feel. We linked up with several regular observers of the Japanese craft beer scene. We were also graced by the presence of visiting Hitachino Nest brewer, George Juniper, and the Grand Master Blaster Beer Taster, Chuwy (of “The Boozelist” renown). The space was packed initially, but soon thinned into small clumps of boisterous patrons, and we were easily able to avoid the crowds around fruit beer booths.
Here are a few of the beers that made an impression:
Tazawako Rauch: as smoky as possible, with a strangely appealing burnt rubber aroma and a heavy, oily mouthfeel
HarvestmoonSchwartzbier: a pleasant aroma with a roasty, bitter aftertaste, just great
Harvestmoon Barley Wine: pleasant nose, a strong punch, yet a bit light for a barley wine, and also perhaps too young and hot
Fujizakura Chocolate Wheat: a fruity choco aroma, very pleasant, a well-done wheat beer with a little pungency in the mid palate, just the right level of bitterness, and some sweetness at the end, mild and wonderful
Baird Suruga Bay Imperial IPA: malty and hoppy in the west coast manner, with what seems to be Cascade hopping but also something darker and deeper. Its flavors explode in the mouth.
Baird Single Take Session Ale: a Belgian yeasty character, citrus aroma, and strong carbonation. This light (3.5%), refreshing brew was inspired by Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” (a song that never seems to end) and is a beer that can be sampled over and over.
Isekadoya Imperial Red: a clean mouthfeel … and then the dark, dirty hops kick in
Baren Enmusubi Stout: regular stout character, with a mild smooth mouthfeel, not much in the way of aroma, but perfectly balanced
There was a larger selection of fruit/spice/vegetable beers than in the past, none worse than - Brewpub Pangaea’s Shinagawa Kabu Bakushu, made with turnips and featuring an absurd assault of overpowering vinegar fumes
- (and, okay, one more) K’s Chocolate Brewmaster, which Lefty claimed “should never have been made.”
Best of the Fest (according to Lefty and George Juniper):
Baird Suruga Bay Imperial IPA
Harvestmoon Barley Wine
Hideji Taiyo Lager
Minoh Imperial Stout
Shonan Chocolate Porter