Saturday, December 25, 2010

Beer Glasses #3: Weizen (Wheat Beer) Glass

Weizen glasses are taller and thinner than most, and the shape highlights the colors, the banana-like aromas , and yeastiness of unfiltered wheat beers. 

They narrow at the bottom and widen near the top, which produces carbonation that allows for a big, fluffy head of foam. German weizen glasses usually hold half a liter, but those in other countries may be smaller. These glasses can be used with any type of wheat beer, including dunkelweizen, hefeweizen and kristalweizen.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Beers

Christmas beer has been with us for a long time -- before the Christian era and hence before Christmas was established. Farmers have long celebrated the beginning of the winter season with strong beer. Europeans, especially Belgians and Germans, have a tradition of holiday beers. However, in United States it wasn't until San Francisco's Anchor Beer began producing their annual Our Special Ale (5.5%) in the 1970s that craft brewers there began to create a holiday offering.

Christmas beers almost always come with big flavors and big alcohol, and they are usually spiced with varying combinations of cinnamon, coriander, cloves, ginger, and honey. A few years ago, Minoh Beer in Japan created a wonderful holiday ale by spicing up their strong Imperial Stout with sansho (a peppery spice normally used on grilled eel).

I'm looking forward to a Christmas party at my friend's house, high in the hills above Kyoto. He's collected 15 big bombers of Christmas beers, and I and other friends will bring even more.

Here are a few classic Christmas beers. See if you can find them in time for the holidays.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (10%)                                  
Scaldis Noel (12%)
N'Ice Chouffe (10%)
Delirium Noël (10%)
La Mère Noël (8.4%)
Dupont Avec Les Bon Voeux (9.5%)
De Struise Tsjeeses (10%)
Hurlimann Samichlaus (14%)

Great Divide Hibernation Ale Colorado (8.7%)
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (6.8%)
Deschutes Jubelale (6.7%)

Hitachino Nest New Year Celebration Ale (8%)


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Beer Glasses #2: The Mug

Mugs are heavy, large glasses with handles that come in many sizes and shapes. The handles make these heavy glasses easy to pick up and set down. In Japanese, they are called jokki ( ジョッキ).

During Oktoberfest in Germany, beer is served in hefty one-liter mugs, called Maßkrug -- in Japanese, dai-jokki (大ジョッキ) --, and people have no fear in clanking them together during toasts.


A Stein (or tankard) is a variation on the Mug, made of stone, silver, porcelain, or glass. Steins are often very elaborately decorated. They may be fitted with a lid, supposedly to keep flies out of the beer.

Mugs may be used for any kind of lager beer, as well as doppelbock, porter, or Märzen.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shiga Kogen House IPA

Went to Liquor Shop Ashiya recently, primarily to pick up some Christmas beers for an upcoming year-end party. But the shop had a good selection of Japanese micros, too. And so I bought several to take home. Last night I settled in early and opened a bottle of Shiga Kogen House IPA, one of the six styles made by Nagano-based Tamamura-Honten brewery.

I've had it before, both on tap and bottled. Some time ago, Lefty and I drank it side by side with Green Flash West Coast IPA, and we both agreed that the Shiga Kogen was a better-balanced and tastier beer. 

What a beauty it is, with a dusky orange/gold color, pleasant carbonation, and some lacing on the glass. The aroma is quite hoppy and citrusy. It is a full-bodied beer, made with 100% Maris Otter malt and what seems to be a blend of hops, though Cascade predominates in the flavor. Strong taste of grapefruit, peaches, and maybe a hint of apricot. Goes down smoothly and has a long bitter finish. It leaves a slight alcohol burn in the throat, and I could feel it inside for some time afterwards. This 8.2% double IPA packs a punch.

You can find a page HERE (in Japanese) about the beers made by Tamamura-Honten Co.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Beer Glasses #1: The Pint

There are many kinds of beer glasses. Most are designed to highlight certain features of beer (for example, clarity, color, aroma, or the head of foam.

Let's look at some, starting with the pint glass, which is the most commonly used glass in American craft beer bars. These are usually thick glass cylinders that widen toward the mouth. 

One type is the 16-ounce (473ml.) American pint. The larger Imperial pint, sometimes called the English pint, contains 20 ounces (568ml.) and features a bump near the top. These glasses often have a line near the top indicating the correct amount of beer.

Pint glasses can be used for almost any kind of beer, but they are most often filled with pale ale, India pale ale, brown ale, porter, and stout. Cheers and kampai !!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Infinium: Boston Beer & Weihenstephan collaboration

This beautiful-looking beer will be available sometime in November
for around US$20 (750ml). Jim Koch, Boston Beer founder, says it is “somewhere between a Champagne, a dessert wine and the Samuel Adams Noble Pils,”

Read Stephen Beaumont's article about it HERE.

And about the collaboration between Boston Beer and Weihenstephan HERE.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

James Watt @ eni-bru

James Watt, managing director at BrewDog, will be featured at eni-bru in Sakai on November 24 – and I won't be able to go! Lefty had secured for me one of the very few reservations for this event, but I have to work too late to get to eni-bru on time. 

BrewDog has risen to fame in the past few years as the maker of some of the most full-flavored, coolest, weirdest, and strongest (actually, THE strongest – see HERE about Sink the Bismarck and HERE about The End of History) beers in the world. 

And HERE for the BrewDog site:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cheesy beer boosts sexual performance

Well, just reporting the news. A new beer made by Brauerei Egg.

Read all about it HERE

Monday, November 8, 2010

Space Beer

Testing for a new space beer will begin in November on board Zero Gravity Corporation's Boeing aircraft. 

Read about it here:

And the Australian brewery that made the beer here:

Friday, November 5, 2010

地びーる フェスタ 2010 / Local Brand Beer Festival in Kobe

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.

Kuninocho (Osaka) 
  • 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.

Ise Kadoya
  • 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 …..

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Real Ale Month 2010

An annual event held at five Kansai area beer bars.

Real ale is beer made with traditional ingredients and allowed to mature naturally, usually in casks. It is unfiltered and unpasteurized, which permits live yeast to continue conditioning the beer in the cask. The malt and hop flavors develop into a rich-tasting brew. These ales are usually served by hand pump (without CO²) at near room temperature. One problem is that Japanese bartenders often serve them at lager temperatures. If this is the case, let the beer warm up a bit before you drink it.

Here’s the schedule for Real Ale Month:

Beer Belly – Edobori  (Osaka)  November 6 ~ 12
大阪市・江戸堀「Beer Belly EDOBORI
大阪市西区江戸堀2-1-21 ファミール江戸堀101 / 06-6445-6366
【期間中無休】 17:0024:00

World Beer & Café Qbrick  (Osaka)  November 13 ~ 19
大阪市・淀屋橋「World beer & cafe Qbrick
大阪市中央区平野町4-6-12 京音ビル南館1F / 06-6203-0690
【期間中無休】 17:0024:00

eni-bru  (Sakai)  November 20 ~ 26
堺市・中百舌鳥「CRAFT BEER DINING eni-bru
堺市北区中百舌鳥町二丁71 イル・グランディB1 / 072-255-8317
【無休営業】 17:3025:00

Beer Café Barley  (Nishinomiya)  November 27 ~ December 3
西宮市・西宮北口「Beer Cafe Barley
西宮市長田町1-15 リバティーⅡ2F / 0798-65-6135
【火曜定休】 13:0024:00

Beer Belly – Higobashi (Osaka)  December 4 ~ 10
大阪市・肥後橋「Beer Belly
大阪市西区土佐堀1-1-30 大阪リバービル1F / 06-6441-0717
【期間中無休】 17:0024:00

Monday, November 1, 2010

Beer Festival at the Kobe Bay Sheraton -- Wed. Nov. 3


Come and enjoy tasting approximately 30 Local Brand Beers from nine companies of Western Japan.
Experience the great taste and original flavor of each micro-brewed beer, combined with Sheraton’s special dishes. A live jazz and pop music performance will also be featured.

2010.11.3 wed.
所 Place            4階 シェラトンアネックス「オーシャン」 
4F Annex "Ocean"
金 Price              
Pre-sale: ¥3,500 per person
At the door:  ¥4,000 per person 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

How to make bad beer better

A friend has recently informed me of his method of drinking lackluster brews, such as Corona.

To wit: “The pleasure of drinking a Corona can be significantly improved by adding a stick of beef jerky. You bite off a piece of jerky, take a swig of Corona, and then chew. Do this until said jerky is finished, Corona is finished, or your speech begins to slur.”

 My first thought was, “What a waste of good jerky!” However, I have a can of third-category beer (3のビール) at home, and perhaps I’ll try it out soon. I seriously doubt that I'll be able to get through enough of it to meg maiii sppeechh bugin tuh sllrrrrr.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Beer Competitions & Minoh Beer

Recently there was some discussion among friends about the news that Minoh Beer's Imperial Stout had been cited as “the world's best stout” at a smallish British-based competition known as the World Beer Awards.

The size of this competition –- around 500 beers -- is much smaller than that of many others. In 2010, the World Beer Cup, for example, featured 3,330+ beers from 642 breweries. The 2010 Great American Beer Festival, which claims to be the largest beer competition in the world, had 3,523 beers entered.

Even these two large contests do not reach a full range of the world's beer offerings. Many European brewers simply do not enter U.S. competitions, leaving categories such as Belgian-Style Tripel, German-Style Märzen, and Belgian-and French-Style Ale open to brewers from non-European countries. For example, Baird Brewing’s Saison Sayuri, from Japan, took the 2010 WBC gold in the last category, from a field of 57 entrants.

Further, some of the world's top brewers focus their energies entirely on making great beer and not on winning awards or other forms of promotion. Alan Sprints, of Hair of the Dog, is a case in point -- several of his beers are regularly rated very highly at RateBeer, com.

The World Beer Awards appears to be a favorite among Japanese brewers. This year, for example, Kiuchi Hitachino Nest garnered no less than four awards; Swan Lake, Ise Kadoya, and Fujizakura had three each. Even the less-than-renowned Kamakura Beer took the award for world's best Altbier. I'm sure that many self-respecting German brewers would smile wryly at this, if they knew about the contest at all. Also, Minoh, themselves, won the same award last year for their regular stout.

So, although the award winners are very likely quite good, they are probably not the “World’s Best..”

Minoh Beer, as many Japanese beer fans are aware, are quite capable of making really wonderful beer, yet their quality is sooo inconsistent. Note that on, their “world's best” Imperial Stout ranks at only the 37 percentile by style. Their once wonderful W-IPA has some of the widest range of ratings you will find anywhere on the RateBeer site, varying from 4.6 to 2.1 on a 5-point scale. 

Anyway, I'm hoping that this award means that Minoh’s Imperial Stout is back in top form... I'll give it another try soon.

The best beer? It's the one in your hand. 


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Octoberfest at Qbrick 2010

Octoberfest at Qbrick 2010

Qbrick, one of Osaka’s best beer bars, held an Octoberfest event over three days (October 9 ~ October 11) last weekend. On tap were five types of German beer, along with nine fair to good Japanese microbrews.

The prices were a bit higher than usual. The German beers were available in two sizes, 500-millimeter jokki / ジョッキ (¥1,000-1,100) and one-liter Maßkrug / 大ジョッキmugs (¥1,800-2,000). The Japanese micros were also served in the above amounts as well as smaller glasses (¥600-700).

The bar had opened at 1pm on Saturday, and the crowd seemed well lubricated by the time we arrived around 3pm. One cheerful patron was working on this third Maßkrug (he later disappeared, in a conscious state I hope!). Each time someone ordered and received fresh beer, the entire crowd launched into a boisterous version of “Ein Prosit” song and clanked the thick mugs loudly:

Ein prosit, ein prosit die gemüdlichkeit.
Ein prosit, ein prosit die gemütlichkeit ... EINZ, ZWEI, DREI - SUFFA!
(A toast, a toast, that good/cheerful feeling. / A toast, a toast, that good/cheerful feeling … ONE, TWO, THREE - DRINK!)

The owner of Qbrick, Yamamoto-san, always pays careful attention to his food menu. For this event, he worked up an Octoberfest Plate, which included two types of sausages, roast chicken, ham, a large pretzel, German potatoes, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut. Filling indeed, if a touch pricey at ¥2,200.

Later in the evening, after the crowd thinned a bit, Yamamoto-san set up a few tables outside under the minimal awning. He seemed happy to be done for the evening and able to enjoy a few beers while chatting with us, away from the noise and heat of the kitchen. It was much cooler than indoors, and we didn’t mind sitting in the occasional light drizzle. Here are the beers we sampled.

  • Irlbacher Festbier: Pilsener-like, with good malt flavor, but not really holding a unique identity.
  • Paulaner Bräuhaus Oktoberfestbier: The overriding characteristic of this beer was wet cardboard, in the aroma and more so in the flavor.
  • Paulaner Original Münchner Hell: A clean, pretty beer. Malty and light, it is Paulaner’s #1 export beer in 30 countries
  • Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier: Cloudy dark yellow, yeasty, fruity, and spicy. An exceptional wheat beer from one of the oldest breweries in the world. The mild bitterness moves to along to a lasting sweet yeasty finish. Great!
  • Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel: A beautiful deep amber. Wheat malt in the nose, not a lot of bitterness, full of roasted malt flavors, and well balanced.

Japanese Microbrews
  • Baeren Rye Beer (Iwate-ken): A beautiful cloudy orange color, with astounding carbonation, the beer gave off the definite aroma and flavor of Belgian yeast (we could not confirm if it was in fact Belgian). Pleasant and grassy.
  • Kobushi Hana Märzen (Saitama-ken): A mild, light-bodied beer with a great mouth feel, but one that didn’t stand out among the competition that evening.
  • Inawashiro Rauch (Fukushima-ken): A lightly smoky flavor (without much smoke in the aroma). Pleasant bitterness, which faded in the final. Mild and without the real richness of a good smoked beer.
  • Hidatakayama Red Bock (Gifu-ken): A deep, fruity aroma. A slight sourness, with touches of raisins and fruit. Roast malt flavors. A pleasant beer with a bit of a kick.
  • Akashi Kuro Beer Yukyu no Toki (Hyogo-ken): Dryish with some hints of coffee and chocolate. Well balanced.
  • Ushiku Braumeister Original (Ibaraki-ken): In the Dortmunder export style, with mild hoppiness. Not really very much else to say about it.
  • Fujizakura Mori no Weizen Ocktoberfest (Yamanashi-ken): One of the better wheat beers made in Japan. Somewhat like Hoegaarden. Aromas of ripe banana and overripe vegetation. Sourness took over at the finish.

(Note: There were also two beers from Onuma Beer (Hokkaido), representing the very lightest of German styles -- a Kölsch and an Alt --, but we skipped them.

The standout beers were Fujizakura Mori no Weizen Ocktoberfest, Hidatakayama Red Bock, and (for me, at least) Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier.

Now for a break….

Friday, October 8, 2010


Off to an Oktoberfest event at Qbrick in Osaka tomorrow. Yamamoto-san will supposedly have ten different types of German beer on tap. A report will follow.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

International Beer Summit in Itami 10/02 ~ 10/03/2010

Went to Itami, near the old Osaka airport, last Saturday for the revived International Beer Summit.

This event used to be called the Osaka International Beer Summit, when it was held annually at the Sky Building in Umeda. But it began a long, slow decline from around 2005, with fewer brewers and beer suppliers showing up. It was last held on a large scale in 2007, and then more or less disappeared.

This year's summit was held in an outdoor sort of park in the middle of Itami city, in Hyogo Prefecture, just over the border from Osaka. The venue was about 100 meters long and quite narrow.

It seemed to be more of a food festival than a beer event. There were many food vendors lining both sides of the area, many of them producing large clouds of smoke from the charcoal braziers for grilled meats. At times, the smoke was quite thick and interfered with the beer experience.

The beers were mostly European ales (especially German and Belgian) and Asian light lagers.
I'd had many of them before and gravitated to those I liked best. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen (bottle) was as tasty and smoky as ever. The Köstritzer Schwarzbier (draught) seemed a bit more watery than usual, not delivering the typical roast malt flavor of a black beer. Chimay's Triple Blanche (draught) was wonderfully fruity and aromatic.

Here are a few others I sampled:

Hofbräu München Hefe Weizen
Fürst Wallerstein Hefe-Weizen
Fürst Wallerstein Landsknecht Dunkel Naturtrüb
De Koninck Tripel
De Koninck Gusto 1833 Ruby Red
De Koninck Gusto 1833 Golden Blond
Achel Extra Bruin (de 3 Wijzen)

Of these, the Achel Extra Bruin was the standout. An abt/quad with a pruney punch.

I had hoped to see more Japanese microbrewers in attendance. The old summit had had so many bottled and draught J-micros to sample. Here, there were only two: one was Minami-Shinshu's Golden Ale and the other.... well, their serving equipment was broken, and so it was not available. 

All in all, a pleasant event, with a fair range of brews. 


This blog will be an occasional one. I'll write about craft beer (primarily in Japan), discuss recent beer sampling sampling sessions, and post links to interesting beer web sites, beer people, and beer places.