Wednesday, May 27, 2015

地ビー ル祭京 都 2015 / Craft Beer Festa Kyoto 2015

"A madhouse..."

This year's Craft Beer Festa Kyoto, held in early May, was much like last year's ... only worse.

This annual event, organized primarily by Kyoto's Yamaoka Sakaten, has oh so definitely, completely, and absolutely outgrown its venue. Except for the inaugural event six years ago, which was comfortably ensconced in the courtyard Shimpukan shopping mall, it has always taken place in the Sanjo Association Shopping Arcade, an 800-meter-long (and very narrow) shotengai near the south side of Nijo Castle.

For the first couple of years, the festival had a fun and friendly sort of atmosphere, but since then each year has seen the number of visitors increase -- to the point where it is unpleasant, noisy, and even dangerous to try to navigate around to the beer booths.

The many food shops along the arcade like get in on the action, setting up tables outside their entrances. This brings a wide variety of food choices for hungry visitors, but it also makes the available walking space much smaller.

People on bicycles added to the crowd and slowed the pace of movement, trying to maneuver their way to their homes or to the supermarkets. Cars waited impatiently at side street intersections for a chance to cross the arcade lane, and apparently one visitor had his foot run over by a car.

And... this year the lack of toilet facilities was again a serious problem. There is only one public toilet in the children’s park in the center of the arcade. A few porta-potties could be found, if you knew where to look. Many people, as before, casually traipsed through the Seiyu supermarket, beer glasses in hand, to the 2nd-floor restrooms

In the late afternoon, after spending over 20 minutes in a line, waiting to use the facilities at a Lawson convenience store at one end of the arcade, I finally decided I wasn't interested in plunging back into the crowd. And I left...

Due to the crowds, the noise, and the waiting time required to get a small sample of beer (for ¥400) a few of my beer-geek friends have said that they won't attend next year.

Thirty-four breweries were present and serving, one more than last year, There were several newcomers, including Mabi Chikurin Beer (Okayama), Brewery Songbird  (Chiba), Bell Beer / TokorozawaBrewery  (Saitama), and Kyoto Brewing Company  (Kyoto). Last year's pick for Rookie of the Year, Y Market Brewing from Nagoya, was a no-show.

Best of the Fest

Shiga Kogen 10th Anniversary IPA  7.5%
Ridiculous, amazing tropical fruit nose, rude and ripe citrus and some thick dates, maybe even tobacco. Hazy pale straw color. Thick deep fruity initial, then ripe peaches and sweet dates. Mild but persistent bitterness. So flavorful. Alcohol seems higher than 7.5% (I’d heard that this is an imperial....) Complex flavor changes throughout the palate. Love it. 

Kyoto Brewing Hajimemashite  6%
An American Pale Ale, the first offering from this new brewery. Nice blended hop nose (Cascade, Amarillo, and some Chinook, according to the brewer). Very hop-forward stuff, with a pleasant jump of bitterness between the initial and mid palates, with the malt breaking through later. The finish features medium-strength hop tracks. Very well-hopped as a pale ale. Delicious. "Pleased to meet you, too!"

Fujizakura Height Mandarina Bavaria  5% 
A massively fruity banana nose (the nose seems to have body and texture). A citrusy opening, quite wheaty, with light cloves, hisses up into a loud sweet fruitiness in mid palate. A small but persistent bittering through mid and final. Smooth all the way, great flavors, and excellent carbonation. A wonderful hefeweizen from Japan’s premier wheat beer brewer.  

Shonan Chocolate Porter  7%
A big, even severe, chocolatey nose. Chocolate and mild dark roast, fairly light and sweet through mid and final. Thin-medium body, but very creamy. Impressive aromas. Quite a porter, really stretching out towards the feel and flavor of a stout.