Craft Beer Live, a two-day annual event, is limited to breweries operating in the six prefectures of the Kansai region of western Japan. Many of these are small operations located in remote areas, such as Kinosaki (Hyogo) and Soni Kougen Beer (Nara); others are attached to farm theme parks, such as Harvest no Oka (Osaka). These are breweries that rarely appear on bar menus, and thus this festival is a rare chance to sample their latest beers. This year, 21 breweries (an estimated 90% of all breweries in the region) brought around 100 different beers.
Newcomers to the festival included Marca Beer Factory (Osaka), Heiwa Craft (Wakayama), and Kyoto Brewing Company.
It was a bright day, but many large coverings were set to keep visitors out of the hot sun. In years past, we had been left to our own devices to escape the heat. One group of fellow craft beer enthusiasts (and home brewers) had staked out a cool shady picnic spot for friends and family under a nearby ivy-covered bridge, with cooler air wafting in from the river.
Live music and other entertainment acts performed on the wide stage at one end of the fest area. I saw at least two different hula dance troupes. Thirteen bars and restaurants set up food stalls.
Beer tickets were available, either singly or in sheets of seven for ¥2,800. Specially designed event glasses were available in two sizes: 420ml-size for two beer tickets, and 210ml-size for one ticket. Plastic cups could be bought for ¥50.
My two top brews of the festival were both from Kyoto Brewing Company, one of the newest outfits in Japan (full disclosure: I know the head brewer and have sampled many of his home brews over the years):
Kyoto Brewing Himitsu
A gose made in collaboration with Luc Bim LaFontaine. Nice wheaty nose, with some citrus tart aromas. Pale cloudy light apple juice color. Rounded fruity initial, wheat, slight sourness and saltiness in mid palate, and it levels out and blends in late mid and finish. Light body, with a very nice carbonation jumps in mid palate. A style that is rarely made in Japan, this "Secret" beer is very refreshing stuff.
Kyoto Brewing Tribute to Snow Monkey
Fresh, spicy, and (with the power of suggestion) minty nose. Cloudy medium straw color. Great initial burst of citrusy flavors. Good bittering emerges in mid palate. Light fruity peachy and citrus again in mid and final. Great stuff, with true saison character. These guys are making wonderful brews.