Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Upcoming Beer Events in Western Japan

The weather is warming up, and so is the beer season in western Japan (or, as they say in "Spinal Tap,"  in "the world and elsewhere." Here's a quick rundown of beer events where you can find out what the nation's brewers have been up to.

Kyoto Craft Beer Festival / 地ビール祭京都 5/11
Now in it's fourth year, this has grown into a very pleasant festival. Centered in a small children's park, it stretches for 100 meters or so along a quaint Kyoto shopping arcade. You can stroll from booth to booth, pop into a restaurant for a meal, and do some shopping if you like.

大阪・CRAFT BEER LIVE 2013 in なんば -- 5/25 ~ 5/26
This festival focuses on Kansai (or western Japan) area breweries.

 Belgian Beer Weekend - Osaka / ベルギービールウィークエンド大阪 6/05 ~ 6/09
A large event, featuring a variety of high-octane brews from the little country that could, can, and has been brewing great beers in myriad styles for about 1,000 years.

Tanabata Beer Festa Toyama 2013 / 富山・タナバタビアフェスティバル・トヤマ -- 7/05~7/07
Very much a local festival, but it attracts beer lovers from far and wide.

Great Japan Beer Festival - Osaka / BeerFes大阪 7/13~7/15 
The big one, which has always had the potential to be a great one. High-priced, small pours, but probably the widest variety of any event.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Winter 2013 -- West Coast -- Zwickelmania in Portland

Our visit to Portland coincided with the annual Zwickelmania event. On a single day every year, breweries across Oregon open up to the general public for tours and free sampling. This year it was held on February 16, from 11am to 4pm, with some 80+ breweries participating, more than 30 in Portland alone.

What is a "zwickel," and why should we be maniacal about it? It's a small valve near the bottom of fermentation or conditioning tanks, from which brewers sample the maturing beer for quality control. This event offers people the chance to taste beer the same way the brewers do.

Anyway, my friend and fellow beer blogger (who has the good fortune to live year-round in Portland) picked us up early and off we went.

First stop was Gigantic Brewing, which was voted one the top five new breweries in the world for 2012 by Rate Beer. We sampled the IPA and The Royale (Belgian Blonde), both very tasty.

Next we went to Hopworks Urban Brewery, where the owner and brewmaster, Christian Ettinger was serving up the excellent HUB Lager.

Third up, Coalition Brewing, which offered their very pleasant Cascadian Dark Ale.

Then to Migration Brewing, which was celebrating its third anniversary. We had the very sessionable Glisan Street Dry Hop Pale Ale. Also, the Triploid IPA, a 8% 100+IBU brew made especially for the event.

For lunch, we headed to Columbia River Brewing Co. and had two beers with our sandwiches: Stumblers Stout and War Elephant Double IPA.

At this point, we decided to get serious, and moved over to Hair of the Dog Brewing Co. This is one or Portland's most respected breweries, and the crowd was among the largest of the day. We got very generous samples of unfiltered Blue Dot IPA, which is certainly one of the best exemplars of the style.

Last stop, best stop? Maybe so, since it was Upright Brewing, which makes ambitious, often very experimental and open-fermented beers. We had Captain Beefheart, which contains actual beef hearts..., and Saison Truffle Rahsaan, aged in a rum barrel with black truffles that had been preserved in Fernet Branca. Whew! Those Upright guys really do push the limits.

Well, the day ended, and we were somehow still upright ourselves.Thanks to Red, who ferried us around and gave us a great time. Check out his Japanese-language blog: オ州酒ブログ