Japan Beer Travels: Cooper Ale’s

When traveling I always seek out breweries and bottle-shops to get a good local feeling of the area. On a recent trip to Tokyo I took a slight tweak to this plan. I found a beer bar that had several beers that are hard or impossible to find in Okinawa. Cooper Ale’s is in the shadow of the Imperial Palace in downtown Tokyo.

The common joke in Japan is if you follow the directions to get to a location, but don’t see the place you are looking for, look up. In a crowed place like Japan it is common for stores and restaurants to be on the 4th and 5th floor of buildings. Cooper Ale’s was one of those location. On the fourth floor of a non-descript building was this bar. There was an elevator but after waiting awhile for it I chose to take teh stairs that wrapped around the elevator shaft. When I got to the entrance a steel door met me only to reveal a wooden door that looked like it had been plucked from a British pub.

Inside was a full beer bar complete with multiple style glasses for the different beers they had to offer. My goal was to try beers that I could not find in Okinawa and I settled on a Rauchbier and a Rodenbach. True to form they were served in branded glasses.

Rauchbier: The beer I had was Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen which is a commercial example from the BJCP style guide. The beer had a prominent smoke aroma to the glass. The smoke was not peaty, but more on campfire or a whiskey aroma. As I continued to smell the glass it reminded me of the aromas when you open a wooden chest after it has been stored for an extended time. As the glass warmed more bacon like smells were coming in with some malt sweetness. No hop aroma was detected. The glass was served from draft and a nice tan head with a mix of tiny and small bubbles lingered on the top. The malt flavor was much more prominent in the taste with the smoke flavor coming in the retro nasal after the sip was swallowed. Although it was a late August day with the temperature in the 90’s drinking this beer elicited thoughts of sitting by a fire on a cool fall night. The carbonation was medium to high and the body was medium. There was no astringency on the mouthfeel. A herbal flavor came out towards the end of the drink. This may be from the hops or possibly the build up of smoke characteristics.

Rodenbach: This Flemish Red beer is also a commercial example of the style from the BJCP style guide. The Flemish Red is considered a sour beer and I am always wary about sour beers. When done correctly they can be fantastic, when not they can taste like cleaning solution. The initial aromas are a heavy grape juice or wine scents. Also with this are some smells of currants. No hops are detected in the aroma. The color is a deep, deep red. The head retention was low and it dissipated to a thin layer of very tiny bubbles. The taste was very light on the tongue. The beer appeared to be well attenuated and left little to no aftertaste. In the taste there were light cherry flavors with a bit of sourness but not excessively tart. A light apple flavor was also detected. This beer went down a lot faster than I expected. I could definitely see enjoying several of these beers in one sitting. I attempted to find the packaging date but a Japan import sticker was placed over the date.

This place is definitely worth a second visit. There was food available, but ales were the goal this day. Along the wall there were several bottles both opened an unopened. In the wall of unopened bottles was one from Spencers Brewery out of Massachusetts. I wonder if they know what a collectors item they have since the brewery closed.

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