Monday, October 29, 2007

Sakura Steam information

I am being very indulgent with this Sakura Steam thing, but well, it is my blog and this is my 5 minutes of fame, so why not?

The WanCup organizers have put up a page explaining (in Japanese) about the beer. It contains a link to an order form, which you can see directly by clicking here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sakura Steam Beer by Loco Brewing

I have it on pretty good authority that the beer made by Loco Brewing using my Wan Cup 2006 winning recipe is on sale at Ushi Tora (Shimokitazawa) at the moment. With any luck it might last a few days, but I believe they only have a few kegs and that will be it. So if you make a special trip, it might be better to call ahead to be sure. It is the one listed on the blog as "3, さくらスチームラガー(千葉)NEW!" (Sakura Steam Lager(Chiba) NEW!")

For directions to Ushi Tora, please click on this link to my "My Tokyo" Google Map. Click on the blue marker for directions and zoom in for a more detailed map.

If you try it, please let me know what you think.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Minoh Beer

Opps, sorry, I must have dozed off. But it's time for another post.

As reported in Brews News, there is an Osaka Exhibition in the Tokyu Department store above Shibuya Station (8th floor of the west section). In among the chaff of okonomi-yaki and taco-yaki vendors there is a wee gem in the form of a booth from Minoh Beer of Osaka. I had occasion to pop in last night and try a couple of their wares.

The verdict is that their 9% DIPA (or WIPA as they were calling it, since in Japan W=double, get it?) is damned good. Damned good! As good or better than any of the rich, caramelly, highly hopped American micro-brew inspired ales you might have tried in your beery adventures. I talked to the brewer and she told me that the hops are all Perle and Cascade, which is interesting. It was certainly a very smooth bitterness and perfectly balanced. Reminded me of a Baird Red Rose Amber Ale on steroids or Dogfish head 90 minute IPA, which I once had the good fortune to try.

I tried the real-ale stout after that and it was insipid by comparison. I should have had them in the reverse order. It was a fine beer, smooth and dry with with subtle roast. But being much lower in body, flavour and overall bang-for-buck, I had to have another WIPA after that to send me on my way. They also had a pilsener and a weizen on tap, but it was simply not the right time or place.

I also snaffled a sip from a fellow-drinker of the Cabernet Ale. It was certainly very grapey, somewhat tart and sweet at the same time. I won't pretend that I would actually enjoy drinking this, but it is an interesting hybrid in the true sense of the word. My own feelings are that if you want beer, drink beer, if you want wine, drink wine. Old fashioned and fuddy-duddy you could call me. I am also a fruit beer sceptic with the exception of well-made lambics. But fruit infusions in regular pale ale's and the like invariably leave me underwhelmed. The fruit is usually a distraction more than anything else. Still, each to their own.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Steam Brew Day at Loco Brewery

So we brewed the Sakura Steam at Loco Brewery on Saturday August 25th and the beer is in the fermenter and the yeast is doing its thing. It was a pretty long day. I left home at 7 am and arrived back at 10 pm. In between I got to hang out in a brewery for the day and pretend I was being useful. It was hot outside, but it was hotter in the brewery. And steamier. Much steamier. Certainly showed the non-glamorous side of brewing. Rather than give a long detailed gory account, I think I'll just post a few pictures to commemorate the occasion.

Our chief brewer for the day, Loco Brewery's Momoyo Nittoh.

Visiting Aussie home brewer, Andrew Walsh (berapnopod) and Momoyo-san discussing tactics.

Momoyo-san stirring the mash.

Momoyo-san and brew lackey (aka her husband Koh-ichi) discussing the gravity of a sample in relation to whether it is yet time to stop the sparge.

The boil is underway. It is a steam heated mash tun/boiler.

Nerdy home brewer whose recipe was being brewed making one of the six hop additions. (Hops used were Northern Brewer, Amarillo and a touch of Cascade.)

Shit, you have to work?

That there is the lauter tank being cleared.

Yay, there goes the yeast!!
(Not the regular San Francisco Lager either, folks. Lager, yes, but think Germany.)

Let's hope we have something worth drinking in five or six weeks time.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cervesa Japonica brews...

Sorry, it has been a long time between drinks, what with marathon training and a few other things crowding out my ability to do justice to ferreting out and presenting information about Japan craft beer.

This is just a quick post to highlight the fact that I will be finally getting to brew my Yokozuna (Grand Champion) beer at Loco Brewery in Chiba this coming Saturday (8/25).

The background for this dates back to when my California Common (Sakura Steam) won the Best of Show at the 2006 WanCup homebrewing competition. The first prize included getting a 5 HL batch of the recipe made at Loco Brewery, of which I get to keep sixty 345 mL bottles. I'll try to get a few photographs on the day and post about the experience here next week. Looking forward to it immensely.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ushi Tora & Baird Four Sisters Spring Bock

Tokyo has only a handful of bars devoted to showcasing Japanese craft beer. Two of them are located within spitting distance of one another in Shimokitazawa, a cool and trendy little neighbourhood about 5 minutes from Shibuya on an Inokashira express train.

On Friday evening I visited one of these bars, Ushi Tora. I was pleasantly surprised at the relatively small size and cosy atmosphere. But it was impressive that they had some 23 beers on tap, plus three on hand pump. It seemed to be very quiet considering it was Friday night -- an undiscovered gem? The master was knowledgeable and available, but gave us plenty of time and space to make our selections.

I am always eager to try any of the seasonal offerings from Baird Beer (Shizuoka), and was intrigued to see both a Scottish 60 shilling and "spring" bock on the menu. My friend ordered the 60 shilling only for the keg to blow. I ordered a pint of the spring bock and had more luck.

I hadn't twigged to the fact that "spring" bock meant it would be a helles or maibock and was expecting a dark coloured beer. So I was initially surprised when this palish beer arrived. But my synapses re-connected and I thought, hmm OK, this could be interesting. In the end, it turned out to be a superb beer. I'd maybe even go so far as to say it was the best beer I have ever had from Mr. Baird, and that is saying a lot!

Tasting notes
Deep gold, brilliantly clear, thin white persistent head 4.5/5
Malt, faint suggestions of tropical fruit or honey 8/10
Rich malt, honey, balanced by slightly more spicy hop bitterness than you'd expect, but it worked to add complexity, alcohol warmth, all in superb balance 18/20
Full bodied without being cloying, aftertaste that goes on and on and on 5/5
Overall impression
A knockout. 9/10
Total: 44.5/50

I also had a pint of Iwate IPA. The Spring Bock stayed with me though the glass, but the IPA held its own. I should also note that both beers were served at perfect temperature and with only just enough carbonation to keep the beer fresh and pushed out of the keg. In other words, perfect. Overall, a very enjoyable couple of beers in a setting to which I can see myself returning.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Brown Beer Fest, 14-15 April, The List in English

Big tip of the hat to my friend, Tod, who translated most of the Japanese descriptions. We had fun with some of them, and used executive licence on more than one occasion. So, the list is below. If you want some more intro and the Japanese, it is here and the original festival announcement is here:


1. John Smith Extra Smooth Bitter, 3.8%.
World's no. 1 selling English ale with creamy head, bitter mouthfeel, and fruity aftertaste.

2. Kilkenny Irish Red Ale, 4.4%
Kilkenny is named after the town in the suburbs of Dublin in Ireland in which it was originally made, in a church no less.

3. Bass Pale Ale, 5.1%
Characteristically thick yet refreshing flavor from top fermentation, fine head, and abundance of rich, spicy aroma and flavors. (This is Bass we are talking about, right? Ed.)

4. Hideji Beer Smoking Mole Ale, 4.2%
Portrayed as a jolly mole puffing on a fat cigar, this ale has a rich taste and aroma. Made with fresh hops and malt, the flavor and aroma mellow after a month of conditioning. (methinks somebody’s been reading Wind in the Willows, Ed.)

5. Iwate Kura Red Ale, 5%
A deep reddish-brown Scotch ale. With a distinctive slight sweetness, this is a lightly bitter beer that goes down easily.

6. Baird Beer's The Professor Munchner Dunkel, 4.9%
This classic dark lager is brewed in the tradition of Munich Dunkel lager beers and is inspired by a Professor of German history who loves passionately the city of Munich. Brewed with German Munich, Pilsner, Vienna, Carared and Melanoidan malts.

7. Baeren Bitter, 4.5%
A florid hop aroma, easygoing mouthfeel and refreshing aftertaste make this an authentic English beer. The only light ale brewed in Baeren (i.e., Baeren, Morioka, Ed.).

8. Sanktgallen Pale Ale

A refreshing beer with a strong hop flavor. A product of the American craft beer boom, American pale ales are a new style enjoyed by beer enthusiasts around the world. Their hallmark is the use of potent American hops and strong bitterness.

9. Hakusekikan Pale Ale, 5
A beermaker's beer, with an attendant bitterness. The blend of malts gives this beer a spicy body and a judicious bitterness to whet the appetite.

10. Ishikawa Pale Ale, 5%

A top-fermenting beer with a distinctive fruity aroma.

11. Shonan Beer Altbier, 5%

Altbier is a dark-colored style that originates in Düsseldorf. Evocative of a Shonan sunset, this top-fermented beer has a fruity aroma and light taste. It makes a great accompaniment to a meal.

12. Aizu Beer Amber Ale, 4.5%
This amber ale features a restrained hop bitterness, a malt sweetness and a refreshing aftertaste.


13. Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier Dunkel, 5.3%
From the famous state-owned Bavarian brewery. Although it is the longest continuously-operating brewery in the world, the equipment is state of the art. This beer is a darker, maltier version of the typically fruity Weizen style.

14. Shigakougen IPA, 6%
With forthright hop aroma and bitterness, this beer has a flavorful impact that makes it a perfect match for spicy foods. Highly distinctive and habit-forming.

15. Leffe Brune, 6.5%
Roast malt gives this beer its deep brown color. It is full-bodied with a delicate fruity aroma.

16. Fujizakura Rauchbier, 5.5%
Rauchbier, or "smoked beer," is the local specialty of Bamberg, Germany. The malt is smoked during kilning to give this beer its distinctive flavor and aroma.

17. Nest Beer Japanese Classic Ale, 6%

An IPA fermented in cedar barrels for export to the United States, this beer is modeled on the first Japanese beer, brewed in 1853.

18. Liefmans Oud Bruin (Belgian Brown Ale), 6%
Fermented in open vats with a yeast strain passed down from the Rodenbach brewery.

19. Ozeno Yukidoke Brown Wiezen, 5
This elegant brown beer made from roasted wheat malt and dark barley malt has a rich, mellow flavor and a smoky aroma of spices.

20. Minami Shinshu IPA, 6
Made at the Komagatake brewery with the snowmelts of the Japan Alps. The generous use of aromatic hops lends it a refreshing bitterness.

21. Echigo IPA
A markedly bitter beer made with large amounts of hops.

22. Ishikawa Munich Dark Lager, 5%
Blackish brown in color, this is a bottom-fermenting (lager type) beer of rich flavor.

23. Swan Lake Brown Ale, 5%
A pleasant, refreshing beer with mellow malt notes and citrus highlights from its American hops.

24. Aizu Beer Beethoven Marzen, 6%
In late 2004 the Aizu Symphony Orchestra celebrated the tenth anniversary of the local Fugado Hall with a rendition of Beethoven's Ninth, and the Minami Aizu Brewery celebrated that performance with this Marzen, a Viennese dark lager. Originally a limited edition beer, it proved so popular it was added to the regular product line.


25. Minoh Double IPA, 9%
A seasonal beer of limited availability. Offering more than a bitter flavor, this double IPA should be savored at length for its depth and aroma.

26. Fujizakura Doppelbock, 8%
Made with twice as much malt as regular beers and given a long lagering, this full-bodied Doppelbock has a good balance of sweetness, bitterness and fragrance.

27. Nest Beer Belgian Dark Strong, 8%
This high-alcohol XH (extra high) beer is matured two months in oak barrels.

28. Queue de Charrue Bruin (Belgian Red Ale), 5.4%
A Belgian red ale produced at the Verhaeghe brewery, this beer is fermented for a little under one year in the best oak barrels to lend it a distinctive light sourness and grape-like sweetness.

29. St.Bernardus Abt 12, 10%
The Sixtus Abbey beers from Belgium were until 1992 brewed under license from the Trappist monastery St. Sixtus, brewer of Westvleteren Abt, which is considered the best beer in the world. The beers formerly brewed under license are now sold simply as St. Bernados, and this Abt 12 version has dark chocolate and aniseed flavors with mild roastiness in superb balance.

30. Rogue Dead Guy Ale, 6.5%
Silver medalist at the 2005 World Beer Championships, this superb example of a German Maibock is made with Rogue's own PacMan yeast and has a bitterness level of 40 IBUs. (Editorial Note: IBUs: means international bittering units. Most mass lagers have IBUs of 11 to 14, 25 is considered hoppy, 40 is somewhat bitter, but some IPAs and other bitter beers come in at 60+, while extreme beers can be 80+.)