Thursday, May 23, 2013

Craft Beer Festa Kyoto / 地ビール祭京都 2013

Do rain and beer mix? Yes, indeed.

The 4th annual Kyoto Craft Beer festval was held along the Sanjo Association Shopping Arcade on a dreary, drizzly Saturday afternoon in mid-May. But the rain really didn't matter, as the arcade is covered and a few drops didn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm.

More breweries were serving this year (I counted 29), and the booths stretched the entire length of the shopping arcade, maybe 500-600 meters. Lots of the arcade shops and restaurants, too, got into the action, setting up impromptu storefront stands and selling a range of snacks (best deal: Y100 cups of edamame).

It was also certainly much more crowded than in the past. At one point it became nearly impossible to move from one beer stand to another.

This is a festival where one needs to pick and choose carefully, as some of the regularly participating breweries are fairly well known for making less-than-stellar brews, many of them omiyage beers for their regional tourist trade. But the top brewers in attendance had some very satisfying and interesting quaffs.

Here are a few:

Shiga Kogen Even Prime White IPA
Nice fresh whiffs of lemony saison-like notes, great stinky hops. Cloudy unfiltered honeyish color. Deep bittering from the start (dry-hopping?), wheaty notes, and a good balance in mid palate. Hops reemerge right at the end. Very smooth palate. This done just right ... from the best brewery in Japan.

Shimane Golden Sparkling
Interesting nose of cat piss and some shoe polish. Slightly hazy amber/straw color. The hops (Nelson Sauvin) are right there, front and center, in the initial / light sweet malt in mid / finish drops out fast. Clean and palate-cleansing stuff. Those hops give it a little extra punch.

Akashi Kuro Beer Yukyu no Toki
Nice roasty nose, sweet and with some light coffee notes. Dark, near black, thin filmy tan head. Good mild chocolate initial / mid palate is much the same. Not so complex. But a smooth, solid schwartz brew.

Baird Pawa-hara Golden Ale
Fruity aroma of pears ad peaches. Some honey, too. Very hazy light straw color. Good, deep maltiness in initial / subtle hopping in mid / maybe some wheat in the mix, too? Smooth, light/medium body. 6.5% seems a bit high, but the alcohol is not apparent. Good stuff ... with a weird name.

This festival, like so many, seems to be growing too large for its venue. The toilet situation was unchanged from last year, with a single small children's park toilet that had a near-constant line of imbibers in search of relief.

In any event -- and in this event --, the beer and cheer took precedence over any inconveniences. Raise a glass to the main organizer,Yamaoka-san (of Kyoto's Yamaoka Liquor Shop), and his staff of volunteers.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Japanese Craft Beer Exported to the UK / 日本の地ビールは、英国に輸出

Japanese craft beer has made modest inroads into the beer scene in the United States. If you visit a large liquor or specialty beer shop, you'll easily find bottles of Hitachino Nest, Baird, and Yona Yona. Addtionally, a few Japanese-oriented restaurants and bars, especially in U.S. large cities, feature some of the nation's microbrews

Now, a few representative Japanese brands are making their way to Britain.

Number One Drinks Company, which has been exporting British craft beer to Japan, will begin selling Japanese brews in the UK. The company, which began business by importing smaller Japanese whiskey brands, will sell beer from three Japanese micros: Baird, Minoh, and Brimmer.

For more details, see the report on the Just Drinks site HERE.