Monday, December 30, 2013

The Summing Up

I had been thinking of writing a sort of overview of the best brews I sampled in the past year. But beat me to it and did the work for me with their new year-end feature, “My 2013 in Beer.” This is a compilation/summary of all the beer ratings I entered on that site during the year. Or what one (better) blogger calls a "listicle."

And so, I learn that I “entered 878 beer reviews in … from 336 breweries. 191 breweries were tried for the first time, 5 of which opened in 2013.”

I had 107 IPAs (at an average rating of 3.5 out of a possible 5.0)
57 Pale Lagers (2.17 avg.)
46 Imperial/Double IPAs (3.6)
43 American Pale Ales (3.32)
41 Belgian Strong Ales (3.6)
and 36 Saisons (3.69).

My favorite styles are Imperial/Double IPA and Saison, but those types are harder to come by in Japan than are Pale Lagers (which are everywhere).

By nation, I rated 399 brews from the United States (avg. 3.48)
165 from Japan (2.98)
107 from Belgium (3.45)
46 from Germany (3.19)
and 27 from Denmark (3.66).

On the road, I had chances to visit the following bars, breweries, and brewpubs for the first time:
Craft Beer Bar Marciero (Osaka)
Doll Dress (Osaka)
Beer Belly Tenma (Osaka)
Concordia Ale House (Portland, OR)
Grain and Gristle (Portland, OR)
The Commons Brewery (Portland, OR)
Alameda Brewing Co. (Portland, OR)
Breakside Restaurant & Pub Brewery (Portland, OR)
Bend Brewing Company (Bend, OR)
10 Barrel Brewpub (Bend, OR)
Silver Moon Brewing (Bend, OR)
Three Creeks Brewery (Sisters, OR)
Double Mountain Brewery and Taproom (Hood River, OR)
Arch Rock Brewing Company (Gold Beach, OR)
Surly Brewing Company (Brooklyn Center, MN)
Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA)
Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie (Agoura Hills, CA)

Finally, here are the beers I rated at 4.0 or higher during 2013:

Firestone Walker Double DBA (4.4)
Three Floyds Behemoth Barleywine (4.4)
Hill Farmstead Arthur (4.4)
BFM √225 Saison (4.4)
Mikkeller George! Barrel Aged (Bourbon Edition) (4.3)
Oude Gueuze Tilquin à l’Ancienne (4.3)
Hill Farmstead Vera Mae (4.3)
Hill Farmstead Juicy (4.3)
Russian River Blind Pig IPA (4.3)
Harviestoun Old Engine Oil (Bottle) (4.3)            
Nectar Ales Nectar IPA (4.2)
Mikkeller Monks Elixir (4.2)
Founders Nemesis 2010 (4.2)
Bush Prestige (Scaldis Prestige) (4.2)
Schneider Aventinus (4.2)
Firestone Walker Sucaba (4.2)
De Ranke XXX Bitter (4.2)
BrewDog Abstrakt AB:13 (4.2)
De Dolle Dulle Teve 10º (Mad Bitch) (4.2)
The Bruery White Chocolate (4.1)
Grassroots Arctic Saison (4.1)
Grassroots/Stillwater/Mikkeller Gypsy Juice (4.1)
Evil Twin Falco IPA (4.1)
The Bruery Black Tuesday Imperial Stout (4.1)
Fuller’s Golden Pride (Bottle/Keg) (4.1)
Jandrain-Jandrenouille IV Saison (4.1)
Green Flash Imperial IPA (4.1)
Gigantic IPA (4.1)
Weyerbacher Sour Black (4.1)
Firestone Walker Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA (4.0)
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale – 2004 vintage (4.0)         
Deschutes The Dissident – 2008 vintage (4.0)
Mikkeller Draft Bear (4.0)
Firestone Walker Walkers Reserve (4.0)
Ladyface Chesebro IPA (4.0)
Firestone Walker Pivo Hoppy Pils (4.0)
Shiga Kogen Far East Triple IPA (4.0)
Maine Beer Lunch (4.0)
8 Wired iStout (4.0)
Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Jack & Kens Ale (4.0)
Logsdon Seizoen Bretta (4.0)
Malheur Bière Brut (Reserve) (4.0)
Lagunitas Maximus (4.0)
St Feuillien Grand Cru (4.0)       
Fantôme Saint-Roch (4.0)
De Leite Ma Mère Speciale (4.0)
Upright Captain Beefheart (4.0)

Here’s to 2014!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

Walking around the Grand Front building in Umeda, we came across a beer tree near the World Beer Museum. This is the kind of tree beer geeks would surely like to have in their homes during the Christmas season.

Happy Holidays to all!

Monday, December 9, 2013

BrewDog Bar in Tokyo / 東京ブリュードッグバー

The dogs are coming to Japan.


According to several news sources, including BBC, Scotland’s BrewDog will open a bar in the Roppongi district of Tokyo next March. This will be their second bar outside the UK, after a Stockholm venue opened in summer 2013, and their first one in Asia.

The Tokyo bar will reportedly have 20 taps for BrewDog's core line as well as limited edition brews and guest beers from other craft breweries.

Friday, December 6, 2013

New Beers from the Japanese Majors in 2013: Suntory / 日本の大手企業からの新しいビール 2013: Suntory

One more month left to go until 2014. It's time to look around and take stock of new beers brought out in 2013 by the four major breweries in Japan: Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo, and Suntory. I'll discuss them each in a separate post. I'll also give the style, alcohol by volume, and the current RateBeer weighted average score followed by my rating score (out of a possible 5), keeping in mind that most of them have fewer than ten ratings.    

Finally, we'll check out nine new beers from Suntory.

Suntory Kohaku no Kutsurogi (2013 version)
Suntory Kohaku no Kutsurogi - 2013 Version     
(Amber Lager/Vienna 5%)     2.89 /  3.2
Fruity and good roast malt nose, some decent stinky hop in the background. Clear orange//amber color, with a 1-cm head. Opens smooth and then goes to a tangy fruitiness / mid has roast notes and then balance / little licks of bitterness in the finish. Pretty good. All is in order here. Saaz hops. Lively and tasty. Glad they brought this one out of retirement.

Suntory Full Body Beer
Suntory Full Body Beer     
(Strong Pale Lager/Imperial Pils)     2.86 / 3.3
Bready, light grass, some stinky hop, and light fumes. Crystal clear, bright medium straw color. Fairly rich initial, with some grass and medium-strength hops. Some minor fumes. Finish is somewhat candyish and then balances as the hops linger. Not a phrase typically associated with mass market Japanese lagers, but it does have a fairly full body. "Strong stimulus"? Is this the beer to celebrate Abenomics?

  Suntory Royal Blend
Suntory Royal Blend     
(Amber Lager/Vienna 5%)     2.85 / 3.1
Meaty malt, with some fruitiness, and what really seems to be smoke. Dark amber, off-white head, some lace. Decent caramel and bittering / moves to sweetness in mid / bittering lingers for a moment. Medium body. Not bad at all. A surprise from Suntory (which made a number of interesting one-offs back in the late 90s, but which hasn’t been impressive in the interim). Strong caramel for a lager -- approaching the character of amber ale.

  Suntory The Gold Class
Suntory The Gold Class     
(Premium Lager 5.5%)     2.78 / 2.7
Light caramel, flowery hops, and a hint of cardboard in the nose. Medium straw color ("gold," if you are imaginative). Light cake-like sweetness / mild hopping in mid / finished with small bitter tracks. Thin-medium body. Seems to be a blend of a pils and a happoshu (with a cardboard/spirits note), or dangerously close. Not Suntory’s best effort.

  Suntory Extra Rich
Suntory Extra Rich
(Pale Lager 5%)     2.77 / 2.9
Slight sewer stink, some metallic notes. Medium straw color. Thick pils-like maltiness / somehow an extract note enters and then a little bittering / finish is balanced and ends with touch of sweetish malt. Medium body. Aroma ain’t much, flavors are okay.

 Suntory Premium Malts Koku no Blend
Suntory The Premium Malts's Koku no Blend     
(Amber Lager/Vienna 5.5%)      2.68 / 2.5
Warm roast grain nose, with some light extract-like stink. Pretty reddish-brown color. Mild grainy roast malt initial / rises into a moderate fruity tanginess and then flattens quickly / final is a bit unpleasant, with light hop bitterness and some metallic notes. Thin body. Hmmm.... this is a blend of regular Premium Malt’s and Premium Malt’s Dark (two beers blended -- or more likely just dumped together > then lagered > then filtered). It’s like an underdone Vienna. Looks like an amber, but...
Suntory Kuchi Doke no Fuyu Komugi   
Suntory Kuchi Doke no Fuyu Komugi     
(Pale Lager 5%)     2.55 / 2.2
Typical happoshu sewer nose, light lemon notes, and no hint of wheat. Greenish, white wine appearance, with an initial fluffy white head that "melts" away in a flash. Light grain, gentle and gradually increasing cardboard, mild sweet finish. Thin body. Pretty lousy stuff, but relatively drinkable. Wheat spirits, no wheat.

  Suntory Sweet Rich
Suntory Sweet Rich     
(Pale Lager 4%)     2.39 / 1.6
Thin cardboard, light powdery sweetness. Bright lemony color, small head, fat tonic water bubbles. Thin fruit, all watered down, small bitter note in final. Thin body. Really toned down, almost no main flavors (except for the minimal sweet malt, cardboard, and baby hops). Maybe aimed at the distaff happoshu crowd?

Suntory Gran Dry
Suntory Gran Dry     
(Pale Lager 5%)     2.36 / 1.8
Dog poop and rotten veggies. Light straw, frothy head. Cardboard, some sugary extract-like malty (?) notes. Thin body. Fizzy. Nothing "gran" about it; not dry, either.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

New Beers from The Japanese Majors in 2013: Sapporo / 日本の大手企業からの新しいビール 2013: Sapporo

One more month left to go until 2014. It's time to look around and take stock of new beers brought out in 2013 by the four major breweries in Japan: Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo, and Suntory. I'll discuss them each in a separate post. I'll also give the style, alcohol by volume, and the current RateBeer weighted average score followed by my rating score (out of a possible 5), keeping in mind that most of them have fewer than ten ratings. 

For number three, we'll check out this year's new beers from Sapporo Breweries.

 Sapporo Yebisu Joel Robuchon
Sapporo Yebisu Joel Robuchon   
(Premium Lager 5%)     2.96 / 3.3
This limited brew has a lightly stinky hop aroma from a healthy amount of Nelson Sauvin hops. The color is a very bright clear yellow, with a really fluffy, strangely shiny white head (like a slick baked meringue). The mild grassy initial flavor has some punch to it, then the hops emerge nicely, for just a moment, finally the  flavor goes flatl, with some prickly hop bites in the aftertaste. Thin body. The aroma is great for a lager like this, but flavor does not impress so much. Some people think that this was the best new beer of the year from any of the major beer companies. Unfortunately, it pretty much disappeared from the shelves about a month after it was released. Hoping it makes a come-back next year.

Sapporo Yebisu Premium Black     
(Schwarzbier 5%)     2.92 / 2.9
This beer has a small nose of chocolate and a bit of prune. A very mild roast initial is followed by decent balance in mid palate, and the finish has very minimal flavors, for a dark brew like this. The body is thin-medium body, and maybe just a bit too thin. Very drinkable stuff. I certainly liked the regular Yebisu Black Beer better than this one. However, what I’d love is to have the old Sapporo Black again -- haven't seen that one for several years. That was a superb schwarzbier beer (see Michael Jackson's books for his opinion on that one).

 Sapporo Mugi To Hoppu Zeitaku Hatsudzumi
Sapporo Mugi To Hoppu Zeitaku Hatsudzumi      
(Pale Lager 5%)     2.71 / 2.5
This brew has a light sewery scent, along with lemon and peaches -- but the advertised Czech hops don’t come through. It offers a moderate and slightly rasty maltiness, but is fairly nondescript overall. However, the typically nasty happoshu flavors are not really present. This "Mugi to Hoppu" happoshu series by Sapporo is by far the "best" of any from the Japanese majors.

 Sapporo Mugi to Hoppu Aka
Mugi to Hoppu Aka     
(Amber Lager/Vienna 5%)     2.7 / 2.4
The aroma is of light sweetish malt, roasted grain, and dark fruit. It pours out brownish-amber with a thin head and big carbonation bubbling up. The flavors is primarily candyish roast malt, there is also an off-flavor sort of bitterness (not like hops). It's not ot really terrible. Somehow the roastiness covers the normal roughness and crude character that most happoshu has.
Sapporo Goku Zero
Sapporo Goku Zero     
(Pale Lager 4%)     2.59 / 1.5
This lousy brews has an aroma of apple juice and soap. It's a bright golden straw color with zero head. Flavors of peaches, cardboard, apples, with almost no bittering. The final is a touch harsh. This is fruit juice beer. Although it is close to zero ... I’ll give it 1.5.
Sapporo Kuradashi Draft Beer
Kuradashi Draft Beer     
(Pale Lager 4.5%)     2.59 / 2.4
A mild sweet aroma, with an extract notes. Light straw color, frothy head. Very bland sort of malty initial, with a bit of tang and sweetness in mid palate, and light bitter traces with metallic notes in final. Thin-medium body. Not so bad. But it seems to tend toward happoshu characteristics.

Sapporo Toko Natsu Ki Bun
Toko Natsu Ki Bun     
(Pale Lager 5%)     2.55 / 1.6
A very sharp, sewage-soaked cardboardy nose. Thin, hazy apple juice color, small head. Tart, harsh fruit, which fades into mild sauerkraut. The finish is a typical happoshu dusting of light sugary sweetness. Thin body. Nothing special abut this one. A total waste of the Apollo and Cascade hops, which really aren’t detectable.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

New Beers from the Japanese Majors in 2013: Kirin / 日本の大手企業からの新しいビール 2013: Kirin

One more month left to go until 2014. It's time to look around and take stock of new beers brought out in 2013 by the four major breweries in Japan: Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo, and Suntory. I'll discuss them each in a separate post. I'll also give the style, alcohol by volume, and the current RateBeer weighted average score followed by my rating score (out of a possible 5), keeping in mind that most of them have fewer than ten ratings. 

This time we'll check out the rather limited range of new brews from Kirin. 

Kirin Grand Kirin The Aroma
Grand Kirin The Aroma     
(Golden Ale/Blonde Ale 5.5%)     2.98 / 3.4
A new version of Grand Kirin (which debuted last year). It has a deep raw greeny fresh hop aroma, a bit sulfur-like, penetrating and curiously pleasant. Initial flavors are severely hop dominated. In mid palate, some tang and then sweet malt emerges. A light coating of bitterness remains in the final along with tiny sweet notes at the end. Thin to medium body. The initial aroma hit is substantial, but the nose soon grows accustomed to it. Interesting use of Bravo (if that is, in fact, what was used); it's a high-alpha acid bittering hop, whose main contribution here is in the aroma. Also, ale yeast is employed instead of lager yeast. Very pleasant stuff, a notch above the regular Grand Kirin. Never had quite so hop-dominated a brew like this from any Japanese major brewery. 

Kirin Koi Aji Deluxe
Kirin Koi Aji Deluxe     
(Strong Pale Lager/Imperial Pils - Happoshu 6%)     2.51 / 1.5
The happoshu has an aroma of light prunes, ashes, tsukemono. Flavors of harsh cardboard, a bit of rust, rotten veggies, and some metallic note, too. Ouch! Medium body. Pretty bad. Really pretty bad. But just a bit stronger than most pretty bad ones.
Kirin Koi Aji Toushitsu Zero
Kirin Koi Aji Toushitsu Zero     
(Low Alcohol - Third Category 3%)     2.36 / 1.8
This beer has 60% less purine than the regular version and only 19 calories per 100ml. Good for those with gout and weight problems. No much good for anyone else. It has a rusty rainwater nose, with some molasses notes. Slight sugary initial, along with some unidentifiable (but probably malt extract or spirits) chemical flavors , light extract tea, nearly no finish, except a coating of light sugar and some fizz. Thin-medium body. Pretty bad. One of the more taste-free brews you can drink (... or not drink).

  Kirin Sumikiri
Kirin Sumikiri     
(Pale Lager 5%)     2.32 / 1.9
This silver bullet contains a bad-ass cardboard and sewer pipe nose. A thin papery initial with some overripe lemons emerging soon after. Finish is fairly small. Thin body. The bad aroma doesn’t really influence the flavors so much. But still.... pretty bad stuff.