Thursday, October 11, 2018

Craft Beer Holiday 2018

Each year, as the Japanese beer festival season draws to a close, one of the best events in the Kansai region pops up on the radar. Craft Beer Holiday, which is held over four days in the spacious Osaka Jo Koen, provides a good selection of beers from well-established breweries -- unlike, say, the Craft Beer Live event, which focuses entirely on Kansai-area beer makers, including very new or small outfits, many of which are simply side projects of hotels or rural resorts.

The venue is wide enough for the crowds. two long lines of beer/food stalls, with a 15-meter space in between, and plenty of park space for those wanting to spread out a ground cover and enjoy their beers in the shade.

This year's event was on from October 5 to 9, and featured 21 breweries, including some of the most highly regarded ones (Shiga Kogen, Fujizakura, Kyoto Brewing) and 15 food booths. We strolled around, taking our samples here and there. Here are some of the high(and)lowlights.

Fujizakura 20th Anniversary Autumn Ale
Spritzy, fruity, nose with citrus, wheat, light banana, and gentle spice. Hazy medium straw, good lacing. Delicate fruit, peach, loquat, and gets richer in mid palate, with overripe pears and apple. Rich and balanced. Works out nicely at all palate stages.
Note: Fujizakura produces some of the best wheat beers in Japan.

Kyoto Brewing Kirisute Gomen (License to Kill) Imperial Stout
Nice chocolate, roast malt nose, fresh and sweet. Pitch black, with a tan head. Deep semi-sweet chocolate, some berries, dark bitterness. Medium body (just a touch light for the style), somewhat warming, and back-end thickness on the tongue. Rich and tasty, this one should only get better with age.

Outsider Pit Bull Barley Wine
Big fruity nose, with toffee, chocolate, prunes, dark fruit, sugar, and lots of alcohol fumes. It is listed at a whopping 15%. Medium dark reddish-brown color, small tan head. Very sweet, ripe dark fruit, a mixture of thick stone fruits, cherries, berries, and baked apple. Smooth, heavy, and slick on the tongue. Nice aroma, indeed. Though it's been aged for two years, this one certainly need more time to develop the flavors.
Note: The brewer at Outsider formerly worked at the now-defunct Hakusekikan, where some 20 years ago he produced two legendary beers, Hurricane and Super Vintage. The long-aged versions of these two are remarkable, if you can ever find them. When I asked the stall staff if Pit Bull was an attempt to recreate Super Vintage, he said, "No, we're trying to surpass it."

Y Market Funky Monkey Haze
 Sweet weird tropical fruit and stone fruit nose. Very pale and hazy (murky) pear juice color Tropical fruit, thick sweet candy slop, peaches pears, mango, with almost no bitterness. Thins out after mid palate. Typical for the style, or maybe a touch light on the flavor profile. Okay, sort of.
Note: I'm hoping that we have run the course with this "hazy" and "juicy" NEIPA style of kiddy beers (one person calls them "teen pop" drinks).
Note 2: The brewery staff had the effrontery to ask for four tickets, double the regular price, for a full glass of this mess; I gave them one and got a quarter glass -- and I didn't finish even that amount).

                         Two Japanese master brewers: 
                            Sato-san, of Shiga Kogen, (center) and Fujizakura's Miyashita-san (right).

So, though the festival season is now pretty much over for the year, there are many bar anniversary, tap takeover, and meet-the-brewer events. Get out and enjoy what you can.