Monday, October 24, 2011

Brewing Your Own at Kiuchi Brewery

HERE's an entertaining description by Stars and Stripes' reporter Trevor Andersen (along with a YouTube video) of how the brew-on-premises operation works at Kiuchi Brewery in Ibaraki. Will more craft breweries in Japan start offering customers the chance to make their own beer?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Overview: Osaka Minami 2011 International Beer Festa

Went to the Osaka Minami 2011 International Beer Festa last Sunday. This was a second round attempt by beer-related companies and restaurants to resurrect the former Osaka International Beer Summit, an annual three-day event which used to draw 20-30,000 people. In recent years, the festival venue had gone from the large plaza at the Osaka Sky Building all the way down to a few small bars along the Tanimachi subway line. The resuscitation began in earnest last year at a park in Itami city. This year's event was held at Minato River Place in Osaka's Namba ward.

The day was sunny and rather windy, sponsors' flags whipping amid swirling smoke from the grilled meat stalls. It was family-friendly event, with dogs and children wandering freely, and never got too crowded. A stage at one end offered periodic entertainment: a rousing Janis Joplin-like folk singer, gamelan music and dancers, and, most popular of all, a lively belly dancing troupe.

Overall, the venue was bigger -- but with a somewhat smaller variety of beers at higher prices than last year. Eight breweries, all from western Japan, manned their own taps, including Ise Kadoya (Mie), Minoh (Osaka), Nagisa (Wakayama), Beer Hearn (Shimane), Johana (Toyama), Brewmaster (Fukuoka), Kyoto Machiya, and Daisen G Beer (Tottori). There was also a range beers available from Rogue, Anchor, Brooklyn, many lagers from the Philippines, Korea, Singapore, and numerous styles from both Germany and Belgium.

Among the Japanese microbrews, Minoh's WIPA (8.5%) was unfortunately still not up to par; the most current version is an unattenuated, muddy mess. Even worse, the owner refused to acknowledge that anything was wrong with it. Ise Kadoya's Imperial Red was dark, deep, and bitter, but somewhat lighter than earlier versions; their Autumn Amber Ale, however, was tasty and well-hopped. Beer Hearn offered their Orochi Rice Barleywine (8.5%), lightened with additions of rice and given a fruity character by koji yeast; it was much milder than most barleywines, more like a weizenbock or a even a wheat wine. Johana's IPA and stout were both insipid extract malt lightweights.

The organizers chose an unusually random selection of Belgian beers. Lefty sampled some, and I joined him for a few. Tongerlo Prior Tripel (9%) had a fruity aroma but an overly honeyish mid palate and final. Oud Beersel Bersalis Kadet was bland and mild. Charles Quint Blonde Dorée/Keizer Karel Goudblond was pleasant enough, but without much flavor to mask its 8.5% alc. Even the regular De Koninck (bottle) seemed dull. However, we finished the afternoon with a strong, heavy Malheur 12, which was, thankfully, the best beer at the event.

Near the end of the day, Lefty and I lamented that many Japanese brewers are now retrenching, scaling back on their more adventuresome and experimental beers, and settling for milder lineups. The once wonderful Minoh WIPA has not been really tasty for at least a year; Ise Kadoya's Imperial Red seems to be much tamer than what they offered at the Kyoto Beer Fest. Perhaps these brewers are reacting to popular taste and focusing on their best-selling and least flavorful brews. And, my word, just look at how popular Johana's absurd light pink and blue happoshu beers have been at festivals.

The beer festival season is now winding down. Those in the Kanto region should attend the upcoming Nippon Craft Beer Festival and prove me wrong.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Japan's Beer Revolution" recap (by 2 beer queers)

HERE is an overview, by the bloggers at 2 beer queers, of the "Japan's Beer Revolution" event held at Japan Society in New York on October 5th. The writers discuss the talk given by Bryan Baird and Stephen Hindy (founders of Baird Brewery and Brooklyn Brewery, respectively), and then evaluate some of the Japanese craft beers served at the tasting session which followed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Osaka Minami 2011 International Beer Festa / 大阪ミナミ 2011 インターナショナル・ビアフェスタ

For those in the Kansai area this weekend:

The Osaka Minami 2011 International Beer Festa will be held over three days.
at Minato River Place.
10/14 (Fri) 15:00-20:00
10/15 (Sat) 12:00-20:00
10/16 (Sun) 12:00-20:00

The selection of beers will likely be primarily European, especially Belgian and German, but a variety from other countries, including Japanese microbrews, will be available.

Access map is HERE.
(Namba Station JR/Kintetsu/Nankai - Exit 26-B)