Saturday, February 19, 2011

Japanese Microbrews

Until recently, beer in Japan was a lot like that in Korea: mostly mass-produced lagers, vaguely German in style, with occasional forays into other German-inspired styles. 

But in the last 15 years or so, microbrew culture has begun to catch on in Japan. Back in August, I had the chance to witness this movement first-hand, at the Kyushu Beer Festa here in Fukuoka. 
Most of the brews on hand were still German, but there was both greater variety and higher quality than is typically available from the big Japanese brewers.

I was surprised to find one brewery offering a Rauchbier--a "smoked" beer brewed with barley that has been roasted over an open flame. I happen to like the stuff, but it wasn't a big hit with my coworkers.

In the short term, the Kyushu Beer Festa was a great success: I had no idea there were so many great craft beers being made in Japan these days.

In the longer term, though, the event was a failure, as most of the beers on hand have proven almost impossible to find elsewhere. Which leads to the actual occasion for this post (and the reason I've set the world record for lag time by reporting on an August event in February): I finally found and purchased some good craft beers from the small booze shop attached to our upscale grocery, Bon Repas.

The beers come from Coedo, a brewery on Shikoku (also known as "the other main island that isn't Honshu or Hokkaido"). I was intrigued by them because they looked more British than German: one was essentially a stout, the other a kind of amber ale.

Both were pretty good examples of their styles. Nothing spectacular, but a whole heck of a lot better than Asahi Stout, and I don't think the big brewers even make anything but light lagers and black beers.

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