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.