Tuesday, May 22, 2012

地ビール祭京都 / Kyoto Craft Beer Festival 2012

The third annual Craft Beer Festa Kyoto was held on a beautiful sunny Sunday in mid-March. The location was the same as last year, the Sanjo Association Shopping Arcade, but attendance (one estimate was 5,000) seemed to be way up over last year's event.

This year this beer booths were spread out along a stretch of the shopping arcade, instead of being mostly concentrated in the small park at the center. That park area was reserved for the four Kyoto-based breweries, food stalls, and a small music stage. And, instead of being shuttered up for the day, many arcade shops joined in the fun, selling a wide range of food.

The event map/guide listed 28 breweries, but I counted only 24. No matter. There were more than last year, and better ones, too. Two new breweries in Japan also showed up: Brimmer Brewing and Outsider Brewing. The guide also contained short informative bilingual description of the beers available.

In spite of the crowds, it was a very pleasant event. Only problem was a shortage of places to pee. There was one small toilet in the park, at times with fairly long lines. Eventually, some desperate folks discovered a restroom on the second floor of a supermarket in the arcade, and soon thereafter a steady stream of imbibers was winding up and down the stairs. First time I'd seen people carrying glasses of beer in a supermarket.....

Some standout brews of the day:

Outsider Brewing Innkeeper Bitter Lager
Strong grassy nose, with some hoppiness. Clear as a bell. Great initial bite of flavor, lingers a bit with a fairly distinctive Pils character. Nicely done by one of Japan’s newest brewing outfits.

Baird Suruga Bay Imperial IPA
Astounding citrusy, grapefruit aromas. A dusky orange beauty. Malty, thick, with a long piney aftertaste. Such a pleasure to drink.

Daisen G Beer White Nelson Sauvin
Stinky, barn floor aromas, wheaty notes as well. Packs a lemony and grapefruit punch, with a sharply bitter aftertaste. The wheat and Nelson Sauvin hops complement each other well.

Fujizakura Kougen Rauch Beer
Aroma is purely smoke, with a touch of sweet malt. Flavors are smoke and more smoke with some solid malt underneath. A real treat. It just won a gold medal in the smoke beer category at the World Beer Cup 2012.

Harvestmoon Schwarz
Near pitch black with a strong chocolate roast malt aroma. Rather heavy flavors for a schwarz. (maybe more like a porter). A pretty well-made black beer.

Shiga Kogen Indian Summer Saison
Sharp, stinky barnyard nose with a load of great hopping. Sweet and sour with a big mid-palate explosion of yeast and hops at the back of the throat. Very light body for all this flavor. I’ve never had a bad beer from this brewery. 

Many thanks to Chris H. and his helpful, yellow-shirted staff of volunteers. They made it all work.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Japanese Breweries at the 2012 World Beer Cup

The 9th bi-annual World Beer Cup ended last Saturday (May 5) in San Diego. It was the largest competition ever held, with a total of 3,921 beers entered by 799 breweries from 54 nations and 45 U.S. states. The judges awarded 284 prizes in 95 categories. Whew! A lot of numbers and a lotta beers.

The largest category, and the one with the largest growth over the previous event, was American-Style India Pale Ale (with 150 entries), followed by Imperial India Pale Ale (with 93). The smallest was German-Style Sour Ale with only 11 beers entered.

Twenty-one Japanese brewers participated, bringing a total of 96 beers to the competition. They were the following: AJI (Minoh), Aqula, Asahi, Baird, Chateau Kamiya, Coedo, Fujizakura Kogen, Ise Kadoya, Kinshachi, Kiuchi, Konishi, Kumazawa, Moku-Moku, Nanto, Rokko, Sankt Gallen, Swan Lake, Tamamura Honten (Shiga Kogen), Warabiza, Yo-Ho, and Yokohama.

And how did they fare? Four breweries were awarded medals:
Gold: Minoh Beer Yuzu White Ale (Fruit Wheat Beer)
Gold: Fujizakura Kogen Beer Rauch (Smoke Beer)
Silver: Swan Lake Beer Amber Swan Ale (American-Style Amber/Red Ale)
Bronze: Kumazawa Chocolate Porter (Robust Porter)

Over the years, Hitachino Nest has been a standout brewer in this competition, with six medals, as has Nasu Kohgen, with a total of five. Swan Lake Beer’s Amber Swan Ale has won three times, and their Porter has picked up four medals. Fujizakura’s sublime Rauch and Rauch Bock have been awarded bronze and silver medals in the past, and this year the Rauch took the gold medal in the Smoke Beer category. Yet perhaps no brewery has done better than Baird Brewing did in 2010, with three gold medals in three diverse categories. 

Congratulations to all the brewers. Look for those award-winning brews at your favorite craft beer bar.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

ポートランドのビール -- 日本語醸造所ツア

Here's great news for Japanese who love craft beer. The writer of オ州酒ブログ  is working with the folks at Brewvana Portland Brewery Tours to provide Japanese-language tours. The tours will start this summer. A great chance for people to discover the wonderful brewing scene in Portland, Oregon. Have a look at the site HERE. And be sure to tell your beer-geek tomodachi tachi.