Saturday, February 26, 2011

24-Beer Festival at Yokohama Brewery

Yokohama Brewery will host a 24 Beer Festival on March 12-13. This is a chance to taste the full line of beers (regulars and seasonals) made by the departing head brewer, Suzuki-san.

Dates: Saturday, March 12  &  Sunday, March 13
Time: 12:00 – 20:00
Venue: Yokohama Brewery
Price: ¥2,000 for 10 beer tickets (each good for a 130ml sample)
For more details, call the brewery at 045-640-0271 or send e-mail to:

Yokohama Brewery is about a 5-minute walk from JR Sakuragicho and JR Kannai in Yokohama. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bell's Two Hearted Ale

“The train went on up the track out of sight, around one of the hills of burnt timber.”

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, named  after a river in Michigan, might also be familar as the title of the two-part final story* in Hemingway’s 1925 collection, In Our Time. This wonderful IPA is touted by the brewery as being just the thing for trips to Michigan’s upper peninsula. However, most of us will likely find it perfect for trips to the den, sofa, or favorite bar stool.

Two Hearted Ale scores a perfect 100 overall, as well as 100 by style, on Currently available in only 17 US states (as well as D.C,, the UK, and one bar in Sweden), it is the third-highest rated IPA on RateBeer’s Best Beers of 2011, just a few ticks lower than AleSmith IPA and Ballast Point Sculpin.

Its mild orange color flickers to a clear pale yellow when held up to the light. A substantial initial carbonation gives it about an inch of foam, which eventually settles into a steady stream of large, slowly rising bubbles, creating a very light lacing on the glass. The first takes on the aroma seem pungent, extremely floral, piney, and citrusy as well.

Initial sips produce a fairly strong hop shock to the sides of the tongue. As it descends toward the back of the palate, a distinct and pleasant malty sweetness emerges, and it carries a very long tail of determined but balanced bitterness.

This is clearly one of the best American-style IPAs, with plenty of bittering -- from Centennial hops alone -- to satisfy any hophead. However, it is not overdone, unlike several popular West-coast hop-bomb ales. It is subtle, yet displays the effortlessness of a strong trout slowly swimming in place against a swift current. A beautiful beer, indeed.

 “He looked back. The river just showed through the trees. There were plenty of days coming when he could fish the swamp.”

* “Big Two-Hearted River”

Friday, February 18, 2011

Back in Athens

Now back in Athens, GA, which is where I spend most of the "off-season," i.e, vacation.

I've already made the requisite trips to the better bottle shops in the area (Five Points Bottle Shop and Village Wine & Spirits) and have come away with several interesting beers to sample. The selection of craft beers here just keeps getting better and better, and each time I find new beers to try and old reliable ones to revisit.

The other day at Five Points Bottle Shop I picked up several, including:
Hoppin' Frog B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher
Founders Nemesis 2010
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA
Terrapin Maggie's Farmhouse Ale
Bells Two Hearted Ale

I also had a long chat with the Five Points' owner about the current state of the Japanese craft beer scene. He stocks the most commonly exported Japanese micros, including Baird, Hitachino Nest, and Yona Yona. When I mentioned my friend, Chris Poel (lead brewer at Baird), he mentioned that he knows someone who used to work there.

The two Five Points stores in Athens have one of the best selections of beer in the southeast US. You can see the store's web site HERE.  Also, have a look at the store's many positive reviews on RateBeer HERE.

I had gone into the Five Points store looking for Sierra Nevada's Hoptimum and the Boston-Weihenstephaner collaboration, Infinium. But apparently he had received only a case or two of each, and both had sold out very quickly. However, he called a bottle shop, Turtle Creek Wine & Spirits, located in Winder (about 25 miles away), and that shop still had some bottles of Infinium. So, the next day I drove down there and bought the following:
Ommegang Zuur
Southern Tier Imperial Choklat Stout
Bells Hopslam Ale

Some of these will return with me to Japan for sampling sessions with Lefty and the brew gang; others, will be tasted here in Athens; while still others have been stashed away for aging.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Putting the ji in ji-bīru" -- March 14, 2010

My colleague, Alexis, just informed me of an upcoming presentation dealing with the development of the Japanese microbrewery industry. It will be given in English and should be informative for those interested in Japanese business, policy studies, and ... of course, good beer. The CEO of COEDO Beer will provide beer for sampling after the presentation.

"Putting the ji in ji-bīru"  

"This presentation examines the evolution of the Japanese micro-brewery (ji-bīru) industry from its initial establishment through deregulation in 1994 to the present. Drawing on archival data as well as first-hand interviews, I show how deregulation of the brewing industry merged with a larger policy goal, the rejuvenation of regional prefectural economies. This policy agenda subsequently resulted in a discourse and logic that shaped the entire industry and its economic trajectory. In particular, the emphasis on regional revitalization served to mobilize a particular group of both entrepreneurs and support actors and institutions. I show that deregulation is not simply the removal of rules, and that entrepreneurs are not simply independent and atomized actors. The very identity of entrepreneurs in the ji-bīru industry, the definition of the ji-biru product and the standards by which it was judged, were a result of the interaction of entrepreneurs, supporting actors and institutions, and the state through the process of deregulation. I also examine how these various aspects impacted the long-term survival and growth of the industry as a whole."

Location: Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien / ドイツ日本研究 / German Institute for Japanese Studies
Tokyo  (see HERE for access)

Date: March 14, 2011 at 18:30

Speaker: Jesper Edman, Director of the Stockholm School of Economic’s European Institute of Japanese Studies Tokyo Office

Addedum February 27:
After Jesper Edman's presentation, Mr. Shigeharu Asagiri, CEO of COEDO Beer microbrewery, will give a short introduction about his company, followed by a sampling session of COEDO beer. To ensure that there is enough beer, the organizers request that participants register by March 10th with Florian Kohlbacher (

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Drinking less... liking it even less?

Consumption of beer and beer-like beverages in Japan recorded an all-time low in 2010. The Asahi Shimbun (Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011, p.23) reported that the four major Japanese brewers shipped the fewest cases since statistical record keeping began in 1992. Last year, shipments declined 2.8% from 2009, down for the sixth year in a row.

Regular beer sales dropped to 50.2% of the total market, also a record low, while low-malt "happoshu" sank to 17%. Third-category beer, which contain no malt, rose to 32.8%.

Breweries claim that the declines are due to the rising popularity of cheaper imported third-category beer as well as increased sales of non-alcohol beer and canned cocktails.

Anyone visiting a liquor store in Japan will see case upon case of happoshu and third-category beer being toted out by by price-conscious customers. The price differential between these types and all-malt beer is considerable.

Here is the breakdown of the four majors' market shares for 2010:
37.5%   Asahi Breweries Ltd.
36.7%   Kirin Brewery Co.
12.9%   Suntory Ltd.
12%      Sapporo Breweries Ltd.

These figures add up to 99.1, leading me to wonder whether the total market share for microbrews in Japan is less than one percent. I once talked with Bryan Baird about the wisdom of expanding his business, and he claimed that the market for craft beer is there, ripe for the taking. Yet, if Japanese drinkers are becoming habituated to the raw, rasty taste and the low cost of happoshu, etc,, will they ever feel like spending more on higher-quality, tasty craft beer?