Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japanese Craft Breweries in the Earthquake Zone

Here is a quick update on the situation of some of the Japanese craft breweries in areas affected by last week’s 9.0 earthquake and the subsequent tsunami. (note: most of this information was taken from the Japan Craft Beer Association web site; that page has now been removed from the site).

Chateau Kamiya reports no significant damage (3/13)
Towadako Beer will resume operations today (3/13)

Baeren: the staff and facilities are safe, and will reopen somewhat on March 14
3/16 update from Baeren siteshipping conditions uncertain until recoverynot so much damage to buildings and facilities
Ginga Kogen Beer: no trouble except for some power outages
Iwate Kura Beer (Sekinoichi Shuzo): fermentation tanks were destroyed; cannot brew for about a month (3/15)

Aqula: the company store and staff are safe (3/13) 
Tazawako Beer: no damage in the plant  (3/13) / will be closed from March 14 to March 20 (3/14)
reopened April 9th (4/16)  
Kohan no Mori Beer will reopen in 16 days / all staff safe and sound (3/14)

Inawashiro Beer is not ready to resume operations (3/13) / from another source: seem to resume brewing next week(3/14)
Michinoku Fukushima Beer: some plumbing leaks and other damage (3/14)

Hitachino Nest (Kiuchi Brewery) will resume work in about one week (3/13)
The sake brewery was damaged. The brewery is now bottling water to help meet emergency needs.They are hoping to organize a special event to raise money those who have lost their homes and loved  ones. (note: this information on Hitachino Nest was taken from a report on beernews.org
Update3/16: Kiuchi has put up photos of the damaged brewery on its web site: SEE HERE 
Chateau Ushiku: no significant damage (3/13)

Nasu Kohgen Beer: some  brewing equipment needs repair (3/13)
Tochigi Micro Brewery: not much damage (3/13)

Kawaba Beer: no damage at all (3/13)
Ozenoyukidoke: facilities are safe (3/13)

IKSPIARI Harvestmoon: sales suspended until March 21; equipment withstood the earthquake (3/13)

Shiga Kogen Beer: all is safe (3/13)

Sankt Gallen Brewery: safe and operating as usual (from company web site 3/16)

Baird Beer: "very little damage from the earthquake and numerous aftershocks." (3/18)
See brewer Chris Poel's posts on the Baird Beer blog from March 18 HERE and from April 11 HERE.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Buying Beer Online -- Updated List

I've recently updated Buying Beer Online, my list of resources for buying beer online in Japan

The list is divided into three sections:
English-language Shopping (three sites)
General-purpose Beer Shopping Sites (16 sites)
Japanese Microbreweries
    - Twenty-three Great Japanese Micros
    - Other Japanese Microbreweries (109 sites)

All three lists offer information on a wide variety of great imported beers and Japanese microbrews available for home delivery in Japan. Orders can generally be handled online, with payment by credit card, bank or postal transfer or COD.

Have a look at Buying Beer Online HERE.

The Buying Beer Online list is part of the Tokyo Food Page, which is a valuable collection of reviews, maps, links, and recipes. It is also linked to Brews News, a monthly online journal devoted to good Japanese beer.

Please let me know if you find any mistakes or dead links, or if you know of other good Japan-related beer shopping web sites.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Yona Yona Ale

Yona Yona Ale (5.5%), an American style pale ale and the flagship beer of Yo-Ho Brewing, is probably the most widely available craft beer in Japan. It is also one of the least expensive, generally costing around ¥270~290 per can (approx. US$3.25~3.50), or just a few coins more than the bland mass-market Japanese lagers. It can be found in many of the nation’s convenience stores, even outside the main cities. Thus, for a craft brew, it is a “regular” beer – and it has long been a staple among beer fans in Japan.

It pours out a deep orange-amber, certainly much darker than a typical pale ale. It gives off a strong citrusy aroma with mild apricot and pine notes. The initial hop flavors are quickly balanced by a sweet satisfying maltiness. Brewed with UK malt and hopped with Perle and Cascade, it blends the UK and US west coast IPA styles well, bitterer than the former and sweeter than the latter. On RateBeer.com, it has earned a respectable 87 by style and 85 overall, with a weighted average of 3.34 out of 5.

Yona Yona, which means “every night” in Japanese, was developed by Toshiyuki Ishii, who studied and worked at Stone Brewing from 1998-2001. When he returned to Japan, he began making beer for Yo-Ho in the summer resort area of Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture. He had planned to brew a beer similar to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale but ended up with something quite distinct.

Ishii introduced real ale to Japan in 2002 with a cask version of Yona Yona Ale, and he helped launch the annual Real Ale Festival in Tokyo and Osaka. He also created several other beers for Yo-Ho, including Tokyo Black Porter, Aooni India Pale Ale, National Trust Porter, Wild Forest Blonde Ale, and Yo-Ho Barleywine. The last-mentioned became a featured brew in Michael Jackson's Rare Beer Club.

Ishii is no longer with Yo-Ho, but the quality of Yona Yona Ale has not suffered. It is one of my “every night” go-to beers, and it can be appreciated by both beer novices and hard-core hop heads. Although perhaps not the most exciting or original of Japanese craft brews, it is however one of the most dependable and satisfying.

Note: This post was written as part of The Session #49 (regular beer) on Appellation Beer: Beer From a Good Home

Please have a look at the roundup of blog posts on this theme HERE.

*Update, October 2014: Yona Yona is no longer the beer it once was. Many people have commented/complained that the rich flavors and superb hopping are not as clearly present these days. The brewery has been expanding and perhaps quality control is not as good as it used to be.