Thursday, June 19, 2014

Craft Beer Live 2014

Certain annual beer events are greatly anticipated. We look forward to seeing familiar breweries, tasting their newest brews, as well as discovering interesting newcomers to the beer scene.

However, the annual Craft Beer Live event is not one of them.

Held in Osaka every spring for the past five years, Craft Beer Live showcases small breweries, primarily from the Kansai region, including many that rarely take part in other festivals and whose beers do not appear often in beer bars or bottle shops. Many are rural brewpubs, agricultural cooperatives, or farmland-themed resort parks -- most of whom offer ill-conceived and
poorly-made beers strictly for for the tourist trade in their more remote regions of Japan.

So, why go at all? Mainly to see what breweries might have improved their techniques. And to discover diamonds in the rough (or rather any gold among the cups). And because a few beer geek friends were attending (some avoid this event). And simply because I hadn't been out to a beer event for some time.

So, on a hot, sunny late May morning, I set off for the Minatomachi Riverplace just behind the Namba Hatch concert hall, with rather low expectations. And they were, with a few exceptions, met.

Here are those few exceptions:

Tango Rye Lager
Big punchy grass hits the nose right away. Light creamy sweet malt, big grassiness, hay, but not much rye evident. Very nice back-end bittering. Good pils character that jumps out at you

Konishi Aki Marron
Super sugary and treacly nose, treacly. Refreshing tangy fruit, some spiciness (from more than chestnuts alone), light bittering, and a syrupy extract-like finish. Thin body. Slightly cloying, but not bad at all. Seems like it should have a little more body. 

Tamba-Sasayama Zigzag Z'IPA
Good mild citrusy nose, grass, flowers. Moderate citrus initial of light oranges, lemons. The malt emerges and takes it down a step in mid palate, with a bit of rough fruitiness behind. Decent bittering throughout mid and final. A pleasant surprise from this brewery. 

Akashi no Kimi Weizen
Akashi has long made one of the best pils in Japan. Their weizen has a wheaty banana nose. Tangy and citrusy initial, with good wheat character coming in mid palate. This is light, fresh, and creamy. Nothing really over the top, but a very solid weizen.