Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Craft Beer Live 2017

I somehow managed to miss Craft Beer Live last year. This is really one of the less-exciting annual beer events on the calendar. I generally go to it with rather low expectations, and they are usually met. This year's was held on May 27-28 in the spacious Minatomachi River Place behind Namba Hatch.

It is limited to Kansai-area breweries, some of which are rather small and not terribly proficient. A number of them, such as Sakai Harvest Hill are attached to farm-resort parks, while others (e,g,, Izushi Shiroyama Garden) are connect to hotels.

This festival is, however, a chance to catch up on newer breweries and also to check out the latest beers from these smaller ones, which rarely, if ever, appear on tap lists in local craft beer bars.

This year's event featured the following 27 breweries who supplied 130+ different beers:

Osaka Prefecture
Dotonbori Beer   (4 beers)
Kuninocho Beer   (6)
MARCA   (6)
Minoh Beer   (9)
Sakai Harvest Beer (Harvest Hill)  (4)

Kyoto Prefecture
Ichijouji Brewery   (5)
Kizakura Beer   (5)
Kyoto Brewing Company   (12)
Machiya Beer   (5)
Tango Oukoku Craft Beer    (7)

Hyogo Prefecture
Izushi Shiroyama Garden   (3)
Awaji Beer   (3)
Akashi Beer   (7)
Kinosaki Beer   (4)
Konishi Beer   (5)
Rokko Beer   (4)
BrewPub Starboard   (2)
Harbor Beer Kobe   (3)
Zigzag Brewery   (8)

Nara Prefecture
Soni Kougen Beer   (4)
Golden Rabbit   (3)

Wakayama Prefecture
Heiwa Craft   (4)
Nagisa Beer   (6)
Sandaime   (3)
Voyager Brewing   (2)

Shiga Prefecture
Biwako Iimichi Beer   (4)
Nagahama Roman Beer   (5)

Of course, the quality of beers presented varied considerably. A few breweries (Sandaime, Biwako Iimichi, and Zigzag) really need to work on their brewing techniques (or perhaps sanitation? or maybe get better ingredients?). I'm hoping that they shock me next year with some worthy beers.

One pleasant surprise was a collaboration beer, Hidamari Saison, made by Dotonbori and Akashi. Both are long-established, yet Dotonbori has never really impressed me much. Akashi, on the other hand, makes great pilseners and weizens. This new saison was clearly a step in a new direction for both of them.

Kyoto Brewing Co, was serving their relatively new Mirage of Darkness, which I enjoyed tremendously -- until a small cicada splashed right into my glass. I feel it is the best Black IPA (sans cidaca) currently made in Japan.

BrewPub Starboard has hired a new brewer, and he produced an excellent IPA.

Overall, the event was well-organized, fun, and filled with beer (from the ghastly to the very good, the execrable to the excellent), and I'm looking forward to going again next year.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

地ビール祭京都 2017 / Craft Beer Festa Kyoto 2017

I intentionally did not go to the Craft Beer Festa Kyoto last year. I remembered the 2015 event, and the discomfort of being stuck in a more or less immobile and thirsty crowd, trying to navigate the ridiculously long lines at the beer booths (and, of course, also at the toilets). The venue is an 800-meter long shopping arcade, which is much too narrow for the number of people who show up.

This year, I decided to chance it, since there were a few breweries attending whose beers I had rarely or never had the chance to sample..

I arrived at just after opening time, and the crowds were already swarming. Long lines at the beer booths were snaking down the street, around into the side streets, and in some cases morphing into hairpin shapes in the main street.

But I soon discovered that most of the breweries I was interested in had fairly short waiting times and that those situated at the extreme ends of the arcade often had no lines at all.

Thirty seven breweries were on show, with a heavy emphasis on Kansai-area companies.

I had wanted to try more of Talmary, a relatively new brewery from Tottori, whose beers have not yet shown up much in this area. I was not disappointed with their Spring Blonde, Smoke Brown, and Tripel Triple. Talmary is noted for producing a variety of wild yeast beers, but it seems they are also making more styles now.

Another brewery whose beers are hard to get is Zakkoku Kobo (Saitama). We chatted with the brewer and enjoyed glasses of Irodori (saison), Sansho Porter. and the thick, smoothie-like Berry Much (fruit beer)

The fast-rising Kyoto Brewing Company was also in attendance, showcasing many of their beers, including two new ones: Sandomemashite (Double IPA) and Minami Hankyuu no Yuuhi (Sunset Down Under), a wheat ale brewed with New Zealand hops. Also, although some breweries show up with only three or four different beers, Kyoto Brewing had fully ten on offer.

Strangely, a couple of the other Kyoto representatives -- Kyoto Machiya and Kizakura -- seemed underappreciated, with swarms of people moving right past the loud touts who were attempting to draw customers in.

                                                         ... perhaps some Kyoto Machiya beer...???

Mark Meli, author of Craft Beer in Japan: The Essential Guide, was at the Japan Beer Times table, talking with all who stopped by.

I honestly enjoyed the festival this year. That said, I really hope that the organizers can find another, more spacious, venue for future festivals....  and one with better toilet facilities (where a sign such as the one below will not be warranted) .....

                                                     ..... I think we need a "No" here....

 However, I was somehow able to get to most of the beers that I wanted to try without feeling exhausted or frustrated. I'm sure it's not an easy task to put together an event of this scope, and I am thankful that there are people willing to do it.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

BarrelHouse Brewing Co. Speakeasy (San Luis Obispo, CA)

BarrelHouse Brewing Co. Speakeasy is the San Luis Obispo outpost of the Paso Robles-based  BarrelHouse Brewing Co.

The smallish taproom is located in a basement below Mike's Barber Shop, half a block down from the Mission. Just find the stairs on the left side of the barber chairs, and head on down. The interior is dimly lit, with old brick walls and a ceiling of old wood, pipes, and rusty cast iron beams.

There are seats for six people or so at the bar and maybe 30 at small tables and on one big sofa. A shuffleboard game table sits at one end, and along one wall there is a small cooler full of bombers and six packs for sale.

There were about 20 customers on an early Thursday evening in mid-February, and it was a bit noisy.

16 taps, all of them BarrelHouse Brewing Co. beers, and including a selection of sour and wild ales (Salvaje de Robles series) and non-sour barrel-aged beers (Reservado de Robles series).

Variable pricing for taster sets, glasses, 32oz. growlers, and 64oz. growlers.
Tasting flights consist of five 4oz. glasses.
No food, except for popcorn.

This is a not a bad place to stop when in town. The beer was good to very good, and included a fair range of styles.

1033 Chorro Street
San Luis Obispo, California 93401

Tel: (805) 296 1128

Tuesday - Wednesday: 3pm-10pm
Thursday - Friday: 3pm-Midnight
Satuday: 1pm-Midnight
Sunday: 1pm-8pm

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tap It Brewing Company (San Luis Obispo, CA)

Family-owned Tap It Brewing Company is located in a sort of industrial park area just south of downtown San Luis Obispo.

You enter through a sort-of promotional anteroom, which also stocks merchandise and bottles for sale, and then the taproom is on the right. 

 There is rather large open outdoor area with long tables and a long oval fire pit. The taproom itself feels like a sports bar, with many high stools and small circular tables. The colors and font for their logo reminded me of that of the San Francisco Giants. A large window behind the bar gives onto the production area, and you can watch and hear the bottling line slowly clanking away.

The decor is kind of old-timey automotive themed, with an ancient gas pump in the bar area and old rusted out stock cars set up high on the outdoor area wall. There was some fairly loud reggae on the sound system and a couple of sports TVs going. 

For their regular beers, flight of four beers for $6; pints for $5; pitchers for $15. Specialty brews have variable pricing. Bottles are also available: 6-packs, 12-packs, and 22oz. bottles. It wasn’t terribly crowded on a late Wednesday afternoon However, given the size of the outdoor area, I could picture it filling up with college kids on weekends. 

The service was friendly and beers were pretty good, all in all. It’s probably one of the better beer places to visit in San Luis Obispo. 

Tap It Brewing Company
675 Clarion Ct.
San Luis Obispo, California 93401

Tel: (805) 545-7702

Sunday: 12 pm-6 pm
Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 12 pm-7 pm
Wednesday: 12 pm-8 pm
Thursday – Saturday: 12 pm–10 pm