Made-in-Japan Craft Beer recommended by an alcohol connoisseur
Writer: Noe, who can’t get enough of alcoholic beverages
Craft beer is popular all over the world, partly because you can see what the producer feels towards the beer and enjoy different local characteristics. It has recently become popular in Japan, too, and various kinds of great craft beer are being produced using local craftsmanship all over Japan. You may want to go to your local store to buy craft beer readily available or order one from the area you are interested in. Let’s dive into the deep world of craft beer.
◆Craft beer in JapanIn Japan, due to the law revision in 1994, the minimum production volume to qualify for a beer manufacturing license was changed from 2,000 kl down to 60 kl, making it possible for small-scale breweries to make beer, which in turn triggered the production of craft beer all over Japan. Some kinds are made with local ingredients and some others are brewed featuring individual craftmanship, so you can enjoy various unique tastes of craft beer.
◆Do you know different types of beer?There are mainly two methods for beer brewing in Japan.
AleThe fermentation process takes place at a range of room temperature to a higher temperature. It is made with a traditional method, called “top fermentation,” where the yeast comes up to the surface as the fermentation progresses. It takes three to four days to complete the fermentation. Ale beer is characterized by a mellow aroma and a rich taste.
LagerIt is made with the yeast for “bottom fermentation,” where the fermentation takes place at a low temperature around five degrees Celsius for seven to ten days and the yeast will go down to the bottom of the tank. This method became popular after the 19th century. Lager beer is characterized by a refreshing taste and its great feel going down.
In Japan, lager is more common, but recently, due to the vogue for craft beer, you can enjoy various types of ale beer as well.
◆My craft beer recommendations!I’ll introduce three among many, first from the north.
Otaru Beer: “good old” German craft beer made at the brewery along the canalOtaru Beer was born in 1995 at a corner of the brick warehouses along the Otaru Canal, which is a famous tourist spot. Based on 1516’s “Reinheitsgebot,” a series of regulations limiting the ingredients in beer in Germany, the traditional manufacturing process has been handed down, in which beer is made only with malt, hops, water, and yeast.
At “Otaru-soko No.1,” a beer pub inside the brewery, you can enjoy fresh draught beer. A tour to observe the beer making in a large brewing kettle is also offered. If you love beer, it is a place to visit.
Otaru Canal Warehouse Group, 5-4 Minatomachi, Otaru City, Hokkaido
Minoh Beer: Osaka’s craft beer with a unique monkey designMinoh beer is produced in Minoh City located in northern Osaka Prefecture. There are six regular items, including Pilsner, which is an easy-to-drink lager, and Stout with a unique combination of slight bitterness and mildness. Created from the recipes developed through trial and error with different ingredients, Minoh beer has a tasty robust flavor but no strong taste nor aroma that people might either love or hate. So, even if you are not a beer drinker, you will enjoy it.
Not only the taste but also the appearance attracts people. I wanted to line up all the kinds of beer and try them all.
Even the bottle cap is cute. It stimulates your collecting instinct.
3-14-18 Makiochi, Minoh City, Osaka Prefecture
Kibidoteshita Bakushu: A great beer from Okayama, attracting the local peopleIn Okayama Prefecture, there is a brewery/restaurant called “Kibidoteshita Bakushu Brewery, Fudan-nomiba,” which is well known to beer lovers. As the name suggests, it is a small restaurant located at the bottom of the bank (dote in Japanese) of the Asahigawa River flowing through the city. The Pale Ale, Session IPA, and Stout all have a mild taste based on the sweetness of wheat. The brewery produces 20 to 30 kinds of beer per year, including lager that is popular with beer lovers and fruit ale made with fruit from Okayama.
The beer is mainly available at the brewery-operated stores and within Okayama Prefecture, but sometimes it is sold at some events and festivals in the Kansai and Kanto regions. If you see this beer, you are lucky! Please enjoy a glass of beer with rich flavors of the ingredients.
4-2-18 Kitagata, Kita-ku, Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture
These are some of the craft beer from all over Japan, which I really think you should try. I think the spirit of inquiry and persistence of the Japanese, which created sake, has been utilized in beer making. With a glass of beer in your hand, think of the history of the beer and the brewery, and you will be able to enjoy the taste of the beer more deeply.
If this article made you interested in craft beer, I highly recommend you check out craft beer made at a place of your interest!
*The information herein is as of May 2021.