Epic Saturday and Awesome (Really) Monday


Saturday was a beautiful day here in the Kansai. It was  hot one to be sure with a breeze only showing up fashionably late in the afternoon. In the kick-ass event space of Grow Space Salt Valley Ashiharabashi (in Japanese) Beer Zen held an epic keg party just about going through eight kegs of premium craft beer from the U.S. west coast.  It was great fun working the kegs and talking to so many people who make the craft beer scene in Kansai such a warm and inviting crowd.

We then adjourned to another craft beer bar, TNT (just Facebook site for now), where the size is more intimate  and the brew selection is even better.  Discussing life with friends there I made it home before long and spent Sunday recovering.

Monday, was supposed to be a day of car pooling and cleaning.  Nope. I met a friend out at Suma beach in western KOBE and we relaxed under his pavilion tent drinking a bit and swimming. The nearby Copenhagen Hot Dog shop was lunch; I always step in where the dogs are always awesome and the owner is friendly.

Now onto a week of festivals and driving. Looking forward to next Monday though.  May the force be with us.

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Yet Another Long Stretch


So the story of my bottom line—in my wallet and my forty-year-old waist—has lead me to delay the latest post to this oh so prolific blog on Japanese craft beer.  I would like to say drinking less has made me feel healthier and happier.  But that would be a rather stretched to the limits truth. I have many good days of health and cutting down on high calorie drinks like full bodied beer has contributed to that. And drinking good, really good craft beer left frequently has me appreciating it even more when I do get time to sit and ponder the ways the aromas, flavored and textures interact and delight or disgust. 

I have been busy with other endeavors still related to craft beer. The wonderful Beer Zen magazine focusing on many craft beers in the Kansai region of Japan and other aspects of the craft beer scene has been where I’ve been doing some of my writing. It’s not much on my part, just a recipe each issue for the past few years. I enjoy the chance to explore where my creativity may develop and take me. I’m currently working on an article on craft beer importing into Japan. I hope it will be ready and published by the January 2017 issue. 

Quick Asahi エクストラシャープ Review


3 out of 5 stars.  And I’m not really sure how bright those stars are.  I also give a regular Asahi Super Dry three out of five stars.

For those of you who do not read Japanese, that title says ‘Extra Sharp’.  Yes, extra sharp, like cheddar cheese yet it lacks the sharpness of cheddar cheese.  I usually avoid talking about macro-beers (no problem drinking them), but I’m really perplexed by this one and want to say something, hoping to spark some discussion.

I gave this brew the same stars as I would its sister simply because I can’t tell the difference.  The flavor is nearly the same.  The dry quality of the highly attenuated SuperDry seems to be the same with only a negligible increase in alcohol.  What is the extra sharpness supposed to be?   Even higher attenuation?  Hops?  I don’t sense them. Both seem to leave no aftertaste and only whisper their presence in your mouth passing from lips, gliding past the nodochinko (Japanese for uvula), and slipping like a ninja down your throat. Can anyone tell me their impressions and where I’m going wrong?

I must say that the Super Dry is not a terrible brew among the macro-brews of Japan.  In a way, Super Dry is a yard stick on judging craft beer.  If the more expensive craft beer doesn’t taste any better than a Super Dry, then why buy the more expensive one?  But this one just feels like a marketing job. Nice try Asahi, the price point seemed to be the only difference.  I paid ¥199 compared with nearly ¥250 on a standard Super Dry.

Come out with an IPA, and I might try it.  But don’t expect glowing words.

Blehhhhhhhh!!!!!!!  Or how to fix (sorta) an old messed up homebrew


This really is going to be short.  The remnants of my quick experiment just slid down my gullet.  It wasn’t a bad experiment, just a quick response to a need—the need to improve the flavor of an old, slightly funky homebrew.

If you may recall, a few months ago I did a SMTHbeer.  That is a single malt and two hop brew.  Usually you do only one hop but I didn’t have enough Cascade hops so I through in just enough Centennial to up the Alphas.  It turned out to be a weak beer but one I could readily understand.  The hops were clear and the malt, though merely base, was discernible. 

Fast forward to now.  I have the remaining bottles and a sense that throwing it out is a sin simply because throwing stuff out is hard.  And a bit of a waste.  So how shall I fix this?  Use a lovin’ spoon full of sugar— in the form of berry sauce.  The sauce was made for a cheese cake and was simple:  blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and a sprinkling of sugar.

So I took a spoon full of that and added it to my pint glass before filling.  The results can be seen below:

 

experiment along side its ugly parent

 
The aroma improved.  The berries were nice with the tart and sweet.  The flavor was only a bit different from the original though with the berries adding only a smidgen of cover to the old beer flowing from the bottle and glass.

Overall it was an experiment I will try again with another bottle, but with more berry sauce.  The color was a fun side effect as well.

So sad….but wait…there is possibly more


I was going to write about my weekend of awesome home brews shared between awesome friends under a glorious sun on a never ending beach.  But that didn’t happen.  It couldn’t happen.  Nature stepped in and I found myself laid low by a nasty stomach bug.  Woe was me! 

From reports, the homebrewers meeting was a success and, though I missed everyone, I look forward to the next possible meeting in the fall.  In the meantime, what I have in store for the next few weeks should help my spirits. 

Soon, depending on the weather, I am going into vacation mode and packing the family off to Florida.  While there I’ll be enjoying the usual sun and sea, but I am also looking forward to stocking up a bit on hard to find things here and maybe a treat or two there for new equipment:  Starsan, a carboy carrier, and maybe a growler for fun.

The prices are also something to look forward to.  Here in Japan, craft beer prices can be a few hundred yen per bottle. Depending on the exchange rate, that comes out to $5 or more at times for a good craft brew.  Now, in the U.S., that same $5 might get me a few more bottles.  I’m feeling like a kid in a candy store even though I don’t drink much.  I have some particular breweries in mind.  Cigar City Brewing is top on the list but there are a few newer (since last I traveled the area) spots I’m hoping to make.  So, if anyone reading this has been to the Tampa Bay Area, what breweries and particular beers do you recommend?  What are your top Florida craft brews?  I’d love to hear from you.

Comparative Beering


A SMaSH is a simple home brew:  Single Malt, Single Hop.  It’s a way to study the characteristics of one type of malt and one type of hop in a simple beer.  You can really concentrate on how malt and hop waltz across your tongue and linger, possibly, intimately in the back of the mouth.

I didn’t make a SMaSH.  I made a SMaTH.  It was a simple.  I just mis-measured.  I though I had enough Cascade hops; I wasn’t quite there.  I had to add a bit of Centennial just to get the IBUs to an acceptable level.  That is why it’s Two Hops.

I also didn’t use a neutral yeast.  I should have used a S-04 or something similar.  It wouldn’t affect the flavor much.  I used a Belgian yeast, a yeast that ended up dropping hints of banana into the brew.

I could have written about this little experiment a month or so ago but I wanted time to let it mature a bit.  I also wanted to be able to taste it at various stages of development.

The initial impression is of a very light beer with slightly higher than Budweiser or Miller level hops.  I figured out, and it was later commented on by friends, that the slight hoppiness is probably due to the base malt only light-to-none body.  An inefficient mash is most likely the culprit.  I didn’t sparge the brew-in-a-bag mash so next time I will start doing that and seeing what the outcome is.  I liked the hoppiness actually.  My wife did, something she usually has a problem with.

As the beer has aged, it has improved a bit, though the flavors and aromas have mellowed.

In a few months, once the humidity and intense temperatures of summer have retreated, I will return to a new brewing season with some fresh ideas and improved methods.  One is the importance of sparging for efficiency.  I’m looking forward to it and the beers I hope to brew.

Beer Garden Saturday Night/Sunday Morning


My last post saw me talking of recent health benefits and consequences. I talked a bit about quantity over quality. I violated that last night in a huge way. Was it merely a case of moderation in all things including moderation? Perhaps.

For many foreigners Asahi and Kirin are good, and I do prefer them over a lot of American lite beers. However none of it is craft. They are beers designed to go with food, Japanese food in particular. So I indulged in a lot of both.

The beer garden where the party we had was pretty typical for Japan. It was on the roof of a very tall building near JR Osaka. For a nice price of ¥3600 you get all-you-can-eat, and all-you-can-drink. The tables have small hibachis for personal bbqs and there is a nice selection of Chinese food. We got full and then moved on.

I got my craft beer fix with a Brooklyn Lager but that was it for the night. We wandered about watching some soccer here and there then I slept on my friend’s couch.

Drinking is a social thing so sometimes it’s just not that important what you drink as long as it’s with good friends, new and old. Of course if you can make it classy, definitely go classy.

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