• World Whisky Day, 21 May 2022, AO World Whisky, Suntory

    World Whisky Day, 21 May 2022, AO World Whisky, Suntory

    World Whisky Day was started 11 years ago by Blair Bowman. Blair is a whisky consultant who contributes monthly to Scottish Field Magazine and has written the Pocket Guide to Whisky: featuring the Whisky Tube Map. According to him “World Whisky Day is an annual, global day of whisky, which invites everyone to try a dram and celebrate the water of life.” From their website the ways to celebrate are pretty simple. Simply find a way to enjoy whisky (straight, on the rocks, in a cocktail) and share on social media outlets using the tag line #worldwhiskyday. Not wanting to disappoint I felt obliged to join in celebrating this day of whisky.

    While shopping this week at the neighborhood Aeon Max Value I came across AO, World Whisky from Suntory. I saw this as a sign that World Whisky Day would best be celebrated with AO World Whiskey. Suntory has blended Scotch, Irish, Canadian, American and Japanese whiskies into one bottle. From Scotland the distilleries of Ardmore and Glen Garioch Distillery contribute a smokey with honey and heathery spice notes. The Cooley Distillery in Ireland is the youngest whiskey maker in the blend being founded in 1989. Canada’s Alberta Distillery contributes a rye sweetness to the mix. Suntory does not deliver what attributes are contributed by America’s Jim Beam Clairmont Distillery, but they do mention the prevelance of bourbon in the distilleries production and one can assume bourbon characteristics are contributed to the final product. Finally Suntory’s distilleries of Hakashu and Yamazaki contribute delicate and herbal flavors.

    The bottle describes the contents as having a various expressions such as a thick and smoky taste. It also describes a mellow scent and taste. It was named after the sea which connects all nations in the world. With all of those flavors put together this can turn out to be really good or completely undrinkable. Being from a solid whisky producer such as Suntory I have hopes that this is fantastic, but because I found this in a grocery store liquor isle it may end up terrible.

    There is a practice of making “infinity bottles” of whisky. This is when whisky drinkers take take the final bits of one bottle and collect them into a community bottle. Because new whisky is continually being added as other bottles empty this community bottle is infinitely filled. My first thought when I saw this bottle of AO World Whisky was that it seems like a similar concept except the beverage comes from a master blender from a well established whisky producers such as Suntory.

    The whisky has an amber color with thin long legs. I initial picked up a woody smokiness to the aroma. This is not the peaty smoke aromas found in Islay Scotches but more of a camp fire smoke scent. Behind the smoke I picked up an apple to pineapple aroma. A sweet caramel like aroma with a heavy vanilla scent is also prevalent. The sample definitly has many layers of aroma swirling around but none are violently or unpleasantly competing with each other. The initial flavor is a spiciness on the tip of the tongue. There is a sweet smokey flavor that caries through the entire taste and into the aftertaste. An alcohol tingliness on the sides of the mouth and tongue defines the alcohol heat to the taste. There is no sharp unpleasant burn from the alcohol. The lingering aftertaste reminds me of the background woody minty taste of Copenhagen® dip.

    I enjoyed sitting and sniffing the glass trying to pull out different flavors I was picking up. Because there are so many from the contributing whiskies it was easy to see if I could pick out the characteristics of each style. The flavor was not nearly as complex as the aroma. While still pleasant the taste was a simpler sweet woodsy herbal flavor.

    I would recommend either enjoying this by itself or you could use this in a sauce or glaze for any cooking that calls for smokiness or woody earthy flavors. If I were to pair this with a food I would go for a crème brûlée. The sweet vanilla flavors of the desert along with the toasted crust would emphasize the complimentary flavors and aromas of AO World Whisky. Overall I enjoyed the drink and was not disappointed in my grocery store find.

  • Star Wars Day; Kirishima Beer, Stout, Kirishima Shuzo Co.

    Star Wars Day; Kirishima Beer, Stout, Kirishima Shuzo Co.

    This week is Golden Week in Japan. This is a series of holidays that all fall within a weeks time. They are Showa Day, Constitutional Memorial Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day. Because of the close proximity of these holidays this is the big travel and holiday time for many in the country. Today, May the 4th, is also celebrated as Star Wars Day by fans of the interstellar franchise. What began as a small joke that relies on a play on words more than any correlation to the date has been taken by fans and Disney to promote their franchise. While I doubt my Japanese neighbors will be toasting a beer to the Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire I feel that I should at least toast my theatrical father.

    Stout 6%

    Kirishima Shuzo began brewing Shochu in May of 1916 in Miyazaki Prefecture. Like many sake and shochu manufactures in Japan Kirishima began producing beer in 1998. The beer was made with the assistance of a British Brewer. In 2017 to mark the 100 years of operation for Kirishima, the label has been redesigned and an emphasis on quality and production capacity has been made.

    The initial aromas off the glass are bread yeast notes. After those linger off a smell of roasted barley becomes more dominant. There is a subtle earthy hop aroma. It is not dominant but can be picked up eventually. Good cream head dissipates slowly into a thin tan head with many tiny bubbles. Jet black color. No carbonation bubbles are perceived in the glass. Nutty roasted flavors on the tongue. There is a good bit of carbonation felt on the mouth and tongue. The roasted barley is defiantly taking center stage. There is a slight bitterness but I would say this is probably coming from the blackened malt as much as it is coming from the hops. Much like the aroma the hop taste comes only after the flavors of roasted barley malt subside or the drinker becomes accustomed to them. Clean finish. There is an aroma of roasted malt that liners in the nose and the back of the mouth but the mouthfeel is clean after the taste. I would put this in a dry or Irish Stout category. If you are a fan of sweet stouts this may not be to your liking.

    I so wanted to pair this beer with some type of “space food”. Other than Tang and Astronaut IceCream. What I went with instead was I roasted nuts. Walnuts, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts would provide a nice nutty balance to the roasted flavors of this beer. I would avoid heavy salted nuts. The roasted or smoked nuts can provide more of the toffee flavors you find in stout beers.

  • Helios Brewery, Santa Beer, Christmas Beer, 7% ABV

    Helios Brewery, Santa Beer, Christmas Beer, 7% ABV

    As spring approaches here in Japan cleaning our house has taken center stage as we say goodbye to winter. As I was cleaning the refrigerator I found a beer hiding in the back behind the well expired left overs that were starting to take on the features of a misguided science experiment. During Christmas I received Helios Brewery’s Santa Beer a Christmas Beer. A mix of working through the Twelve Beers of Christmas and just forgetting it was there I found myself with a Christmas Beer in April. Helios is a brewery located in the central part of Okinawa. They started as a rum distillery made from sugar cane which grows abundantly on the island. They expanded into Shochu (a distilled beverage traditionally made from rice) and Awamari ( a local Okinawan distilled rice beverage). In 1996 the brewery obtained their license to brew beer.

    Christmas Beer 7% ABV

    The beer has a strong malt sweetness to start with. A toasted malt scent reminds me of the aromas similar to caramunich or crystal malt. It comes across as a great smell. Similar to walking into a brewery just as the brewer mashes in the grains to the warm water of the mash tun. The beer has a nice amber color and is fairly clear. The head is deep tan colored and has persistent bubbles coming up the side of the glass. These bubbles continually reenergizing a persistent head. The head consist of bubbles that are small and tiny. When the small bubbles burst the head opens up only to be filled by the continuous bubbles from the bottom of the glass. After multiple deep inhales, the earthy hop aroma comes through. The tastes is very balanced between the malty sweetness and a gentle bitterness from the hops that balance the taste. The beer is fully attenuated and there is not a full mouthfeel. The carbonation leaves a tingle in the mouth in the aftertaste. Good bit of carbonation gives a sharp finish to the end of the taste. There was no real aroma or flavor of Christmas spices. While there is not a Christmas Because of this I would call this beer more of a dopplebock than a Christmas beer. There were no Christmas spices that are normally found in American Christmas beers.

    I tried this beer with walnuts, dried apricots and sharp cheddar cheese. The walnuts gave the aroma I would associate with a mountain cabin that was just walked into after a long winter left vacant. The sweetness of the dried apricots was amplified with the beer malt sweetness. It made this pairing almost too bitter from the sweetness. A sharp cheddar was well balanced between the malty sweetness and milky sharp mouthfeel of the cheddar. The cheese cleared the palate of sweetness and hop bitter finish. Of the three I liked the cheese Sharp cheddar to balance with this beer. Overall enjoyable beer that I slowly consume on a cold winters night.

  • Beer & Book Review: Craft Beer in Japan, English, Mark Meli, 2013

    Beer & Book Review: Craft Beer in Japan, English, Mark Meli, 2013

    Unlike many of the books on my shelf I can tell you exactly where I was when I bought this book and I even had a chance encounter with the author, although at a separate location and time. I met the author Mark at Koyoto Brewing Company. He was one of the few westerners at the brewery and I remember we spoke about him being a professor at one of the schools in the area. The fact that he wrote a book about beer never came up. It was only later when I was at Antenna America in Yokohama, Japan did i recognize his picture on the back of the book in their beer book library. There is a Japanese and English version of this book. This is the only beer guide for Japan I have found written in english.

    What I liked about the book: The beginning of the book opens with several pages of information about beer and brewing in Japan. This includes a section on the different styles of beer (pale ale, Pilsner, Belgium). There are better books to describe these styles but Mark gives how these styles tie in to Japan and the Japanese culture. There is a section on Japanese words that are related to craft beer and beer drinking. I do like that this book even exist. The problem with activities in Japan to include breweries is the lack of english books about the subject. From what I have found there are no other books that cover just Japanese breweries written in English. At the time of the writing it appears that the book covers nearly all of the commercial breweries and all the beers made by those breweries in Japan.

    What I didn’t like about the book: It is the same thing I do not like about any of the beer guide books. As soon as the book is published it seems to be out of date. Case in point there is a section in the book where breweries that are expected to be licensed in the near future are listed. This included Okinawa Brewing Company in Yomitan Okinawa. Sadly this brewery closed just before we arrived in Japan due to the closures for COVID 19. Being almost ten years old this book is prime for a second edition.

    Will it stay on my shelf: I am going to keep this book to serve as a reference for future beer tourism that we will do while living in Japan. While I mentioned before that it may be slightly dated the list of breweries and their write ups give me a starting point to start planning and research what breweries are in the area to visit.

    Would I recommend this book for your library: If you are planning a trip to Japan or plan to move there this book is a great reference to guide you to the breweries in Japan.

  • Chapter 5: Palate Trips from Beer Pairing; The Essential Guide from the Pairing Pros, Julia Herz and Gwen Conley

    Chapter 5: Palate Trips from Beer Pairing; The Essential Guide from the Pairing Pros, Julia Herz and Gwen Conley

    Since the beginning of the year I have read and written reviews for about a dozen beer books. In many of these books are recipes and exercises the reader can utilize to reinforce lessons taught in the book. Last week I wrote a review of Beer Parings by Julia Herz and Gwen Conley, now I want to actually try some of the exercises the book lays out. The first is to do what Julia and Gwen call a “Palate Trip” According to them it is a “way of trying different foods with different beers with thoughts and intentions behind the experience.” For my first exercise I will take Palate Trip #5: Nice and Easy on page 96. Right off the bat I decided to give my palate trip a Japanese flair by choosing only Japanese Craft Beers. I selected beers from four breweries and tried to match them to the book as close as possible. Currently it is well out of season for an Oktoberfest. I ended up finding an Amber Ale to substitute for this style.

    Below I listed the book’s recommendation first and then what I used for my palate trip.

    • Raspberry Jam / Polaner, All Fruit Spreadable Fruit Seedless Raspberry
    • German-style Hefeweizen / Chatan Beer, Weizen
    • Key lime (fudge, cookie, or pie) / Edwards, Key Lime Pie
    • American India Pale Ale / Okinawa Sango Beer, Nanto Brewery, Double Up IPA
    • Aged Cheddar / Cracker Barrel, Extra Sharp Yellow
    • American Imperial Stout / Minoh Beer, Stout
    • Dark Covered Pecans / Ritter Sport, Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts
    • German style Màrzen or Oktoberfest / Baird Beer, Red Rose Amber Ale

    I first expected that I would give a description of the food and the beer where I would focus on the style elements. This would be similar to how my beer tasting post have been written. I quickly realized that the value of this test is not focusing on the food or beer individually but rather how these two played complimented and contrasted each other.

    There is a heavy sweetness with a slight tartness of the fruit in the jelly. The clove of the Hefeweizen cuts into the sweetness of the raspberry jelly. Smooth transition from hefe into keylime pie. The keylime pie to IPA was the biggest “wow” moment. The tart and sweet flavors of the pie are sharply cut by the bitterness of the IPA. The pie flavors bring out the piney flavors of the IPA. The sharp cheddar seemed to dull the bitterness of the IPA but also left a mouth coating feeling from the cheese. The transition to the Stout gave the impression of a cheeseburger flavor. The cheddar cheese and umami flavors from the stout gave those taste sensations. Going from the Stout to the chocolate covered hazelnuts delivered a sensation of continuation of flavors. Neither highlighted specific flavors from either the chocolate or stout. Going from the bitterness of the dark chocolate to the Amber beer made the malt sweetness really stand out in the beer.

    After I went around the plate twice I started to jump a bit. I tried the IPA with the Chocolate. The bitterness of the IPA canceled out the bitterness of the dark chocolate and highlighted the sweetness of the chocolate. The raspberry jam was a nice complimenting flavor to the stout. Tasting the Stout then trying raspberry jam causes the roasted smokiness of the stout to come out stronger in the flavor. The Amber with cheese was not good at all there were too many conflicting contrasting flavors. The stout just overpowers the key lime pie like a steamroller. The Hefeweizen with dark chocolate is up to user discretion. I thought it gave a pleasant flavor. My wife through it was just a weird flavor combination. The Hefeweizen and cheese served as palet cleansers for each other. The beer cleared the mouthfeel of the cheese and the hefeweizen cut into the mouth coating effect of the lactose in the cheese. I could enjoy a plate of sharp cheddar and a pint of Hefeweizen at the bar.

    I would not do this by myself again. The cost was extremely high for a single individual. The beers alone were over twenty dollars and the food was another twenty dollars. Forty dollars to test flavors is a bit much for me. Because the tasting only needed a small amount of beer and food, you could host several people with just four 12 oz beers and the food sizes I used for this tasting. The host could share with two other individuals using 4 oz tasters of beer or six total tasters with 2 oz taster pours. My favorite pairing of this palate trip was the IPA and Key Lime Pie. The most unique flavor was the stout and the sharp cheddar. This gave a flavor of a hamburger which was completely unexpected. Over all I enjoyed the experience. I will definitely do this with more people to make it more cost effective but I can see my tasting experience expand by continuing to preform these palate trips.

  • Asahi Super “Dry” Recipe Change

    Asahi Super “Dry” Recipe Change

    Asahi has been the best selling beer in Japan for years up until 2020 when another Japanese Brewery, Kirin, overtook them. Historically the preponderance of sales of Asahi come from draft form in bars. This has obviously been greatly impacted by the recent public health restrictions imposed by Japan for COVID-19. In an effort to regain their place as the leading brewery in Japan, Asahi is changing their recipe and manufacturing process to regain their old customers. This makes the first change for the brand after thirty five years. Currently this change is only happening in Japan. One of the benefits of being an American Beer lover in Japan is that I get to try the old and new recipes and give my opinion.

    In 1889 Komakichi Torii, in an effort to introduce beer to Japan, founded Osaka Brewing Company. 1892 Asahi beer was first released. In 1987 Asahi released Super Dry and was one of only a few dry beers offered in the country. Understandably Asahi has not released but they have advertised a late hop addition in the brewing process. Traditionally the wort is boiled for at least an hour during the brewing process. When hops are added at the beginning of this boil they normally impart a bitterness to the beer. When hops are added closer to the end of the boil the hops impart more aroma and flavor to the beer. The late hop addition in this recipe should deliver more aroma from the hops vice the bittering from an earlier hop addition. Claims to improve the drinkability and aroma of the beer. The change will effect the recipe and the manufacturing process and not effect the ingredients or beers specifications such as alcohol percentage, bitterness and color (ABV, IBU, SRM). The company does claim that the drinkability is increased, but do not go into detail on how.

    Original Asahi: The lager yeast is the initial aroma that hits the senses. The smell of white bread is slight along with a very faint metallic smell. The beer pours with a very large fluffy head that persist for a good amount of time. The color is light straw color that is very very clear with no apparent effervescent bubbles rising. In addition the drinker can detect a slight floral and earthy hops aroma. Very crisp finish leaving no aftertaste in the mouth leave a distinct finish to each sip. There is a bite on the back of the tongue from the hops bitterness. Not offensive but definitely noticeable. The beer is well attenuated. I see this beer as one that would completely clear my pallet after taking a sip. Neither left a really good beer lace.

    New Asahi: The aroma is of sweet malt on the initial pour. The malt flavor is more toasted malt and less hop floral aroma. The beer is a light straw color with a crystal clear look through the glass. The color is slightly darker than the original version. There is a steady stream of carbonation bubbles coming from the bottom of the glass. The finish of the sip does not have a distinct finish. The finish more so tapers off. There is a lingering malt sweetness that hangs around the mouth and in the nose. There is a little body to the beer that is detected in a slightly fuller mouthfeel than the original. This beer would go with much more savory foods due to the greater mouthfeel and malty sweetness.

    My preference: Neither one is bad. Like children, I can see the good qualities in each of them. I can definitely see the merits of the old recipe being a great compliment to sushi or other light fish foods. The new recipe I see appealing to a larger audience of beer drinkers. These drinkers who have at least been exposed to fuller body craft beers that have become more dominant in the last ten to fifteen years. In the end all recipes change. While some Belgium breweries claim to tie their histories back to beer brewing monks many of them can really only trace their recipes back to the Second World War. Over all change is inevitable and I wish best of luck for Asahi as they look to regain their market share. I would consider the original Asahi Super Dry as more of the typical japanese beer. I would see the new Asahi Super Dry as meeting the desire of a larger world market, specifically America. With that I find it interesting that this was only released in the Japanese Market.

  • Tepatche: Refreshment from food scraps

    Tepatche: Refreshment from food scraps

    With gas prices rising and the feeling that everything is becoming more expensive, more people are looking to maximizing their resources. One of these is to utilize every part of of the products you purchase from the grocery store. Starting with COVID closures our family began to get a home delivery box of fruits and vegetables. In Japan we found a similar service where without fail we get a pineapple each week. We enjoy pineapple but there was always a good deal of waste just to get to the edible part. We normally put this into our family compost pile (compost camp). I was interested to see if there were other uses I could get from the rinds before I composted them. From this desire I found out about tepatche. Now instead of having fruit with a ton of scraps for compost I can now get fruit, a beverage, a new plant and still compost the rind afterwards.

    • Recipe:
      • 1 Pineapple
      • 1 to 1.5 Cups of Sugar (sweetness to taste)
      • Spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise) to taste
      • 9 Cups of Filtered Water
      • Wide mouth jar large enough to hold it all.

    Separate the rind from the fruit: There are dozens of recipies out there here is mine. I first twist off the crown of the fruit and set it aside for later. Then I chop off the top of the fruit and cut down around the pineapple to remove the rind. For this pineapple I discarded the base of the pineapple due to some fuzzy mold growing on the fruit when we received it. This is normal and I regularly throw this part away. If the bottom of your fruit doesn’t look moldy you can add this part as well to the bottle. I then cut the core of the pineapple out from the fruit. I dice the fruit and put it into a bowl to use latter.

    Fill the jar: With the rind removed and fruit put away for later use it is time to focus on making the tepache. I put one (1) to one and a half (1.5) cups of sugar in a wide mouth one gallon jar. More sugar will make a sweeter final product. I then put most of the pineapple rinds and core in the jar. I then add eight cups of water into the jar. Once these are put into the bowl I take the final two rinds making sure that they wedge them in the jar to keep all solids under the water level. The last cup of water is put in the jar and make sure the pineapple parts are completely submerged, similar to making sauerkraut. Anything that emerges above the water line could lead to mold forming on your concoction. At this time you can add spices to flavor further. I have regularly added cinnamon sticks. And have also tried clove (one goes a long way), star anise, and nutmeg. These are all to the preference of the consumer.

    The waiting game: The beverage can be bottled at either two days or a week after it was started. The difference would be the earlier it is bottled the less the sugars will be consumed and the more sweet / less sour taste to your drink. Later bottling will produce a higher alcohol content, but not anything greater than 2%.

    Bottling: When bottling the first step should be to remove the large rind parts from the jar before filling the bottles. Once these parts are removed they can go to compost camp with the bottom of the fruit that was put in the compost when this batch was started. I put a strainer on the top of the funnel to make sure that I keep the smaller particulates. Leaving these bottles on the counter with a tight lid on will greatly increase the likely hood of making bottle bombs. Once bottled I put these in the refrigerator immediately. For us it is next to the tea kombucha and coffee kombucha.

    Growing the next pineapple: Taking the crown that was twisted off in the first step start pealing off the bottom leaves. I normally pull more leaves off than most people would think necessary. Once the lower leaves are pulled off cut off the small amount of fruit that is still clinging to the bottom of the crown. I let this dry overnight then put in a jar where the water is just barely touching the bottom of the crown. The pineapple leaves that were removed can make their way to compost camp.

    In the end, what was normally just a fruit and plenty of food scraps of rinds and crown you can turn into an additional drink and future pineapple plant. I know I am not going to save the world by making tepache and really I am not going to save our family’s budget but it does get more use out of the products we get from the store.

  • Beer & Book Review: Home Brewing Without Failures, H. E. Bravery

    Beer & Book Review: Home Brewing Without Failures, H. E. Bravery

    The book is written by Harold Edwin (more commonly H.E.) Bravery. After a good bit of digging I would not be surprised if this is a pen name for Noel Whitcomb. I make this assumption based on the forward written by Mr. Whitcomb in another Bravery brewing books, Home Wine Making Without Failures. In that forward Mr. Whitcomb describes being introduced to Bravery on a slow news day where he published a suggested brewing recipe on a whim. In the newspaper Independent obituary stated Mr Withcomb gained journalism notoriety by writing about a talking Jack Russell Terrier. So I do not completely believe everything he claims. Home Brewing Without Failures was written in 1965 only two years after Victorian era laws removed the need for a license to home brew. This was also thirteen years before homebrewing was legalized in America in 1978. The book has been out of publication for several years and inquiries to Crown Publishing about the authors information were met with a statement that they didn’t answer inquiries on out of print books. If anyone knows anything about Bravery please let me know in the comments. I have more books by him and can include what I learn in future post.

    What I liked about the book: The authors seemingly continuous encouragement that not only is brewing natural but it does not have to be highly technical and complicated. He correctly explains that home and professional brewers do not make beer, we only create wort and yeast creates the beer. The book also describes how to make cider and mead. In the writing about cider Bravery described the his memories of cider by remembering his father home brewing the drink. Just like the demystifying beer brewing, the author takes a huge effort in reassuring the reader that they can brew cider and mead at home as well. He even goes so far to say that they may eventually be better than the type you can get in a bar. While not specifically saying so he implies heavily that homebrew possesses a special “terroir” that can only come from your kitchen.

    What I didn’t like about the book: The recipes will make beer by definition because malted barley is used, but the amount of table sugar (sometimes over 50%) make a finished product more like alcohol and less like beer. Hop additions are never specified by type (East Kent Golding, Saaz, Chinook) and based upon the high amounts I would suspect that they are using homegrown hops that may or may not be dried. Steps to propagate yeast from a commercial brewery such as Schlitz or Budweiser. Leave a little in the bottle, add a quarter pint of water with an ounce of sugar plug the neck with a cotton ball and wait a day or a few hours for a pinch ready ammount of yeast for brewing. The explanation of how to create a clear cider may work but it also will most definitely make a mess.

    The primed cider is put into bottles, the stoppers are screwed home and the bottles stood in a cardboard crate upside down. This allows for the yeast to settle on the stoppers of the bottles. A gentle twist from day to day will assist the yeast to slide down the necks so that when the renewed fermentation has ceased after about a week – longer in some cases- all the yeast has settled to about a quarter inch-thick deposit on the stoppers. The bottles are then held upside down over the sink, the stopper of each is given a twist in the open direction and then back again at once. This action allows the gas to squirt out the deposit.

    Home Brewing Without Failures, page 108

    While this may work in theory there is a huge chance that you will get cider all over the kitchen and you may end up loosing the entire bottle in the process. Luckily home filtration systems can be purchased at homebrew supply stores.

    Will it stay on my shelf: This book falls into the category of if it is there don’t move it. I do not want to make the effort of listing and shipping this book to sell to someone else. Likewise I am not comfortable giving this book to another aspiring homebrewer because of the bad lessons they will take from these pages. I guess I would keep it if nothing else for a good chuckle on what not to do.

    Would I recommend this book for your library: I would not seek out this book. Now if my grandfather who made his own wine before 1978 wanted to give this to me I would not scoff at his offer. I would happily accept the book and use it as an opportunity to ask how he brewed back then and show him my brewing set up. This may be the only real use for this book; to start a dialogue between generations.

  • The Premium Malt’s, Premium Pilsner, Suntory

    The Premium Malt’s, Premium Pilsner, Suntory

    From the information page on Suntory website, “Suntory Group is a global leader in consumer packaged goods, producing and distributing a uniquely diverse portfolio of beverages, premium spirits, beer and wine, and wellness products throughout the world.” In plain speak I would say that Suntory produces a wide varieties of beverages that span from Japanese whiskey, to beer, to sodas, and wine. Premium Malt is just one of the may products that the company produces. While the larger Suntory company can trace its history to 1899 with the manufacturing of wine, the Premium Malt brand was first released in 2003. Awarded the Monde Selection Grand Gold Medal three times. It is currently the top selling premium beer sold in Japan. Suntory has four breweries that brew Premium Malt beers. These beer use Diamond Malt which has an umami flavor and the brewing process uses decoction method. This is where during the mash process a portion of the wet grains are brought to a boil and then returned to the larger mash tun. This is done to ensure full maturation of the sugars from the malt and to raise the temperatures of the mash where different conversion take place. True to style of Pilsner, Suntory uses European hops, specifically Czech Hops. These hops give an earthy spiciness to the beer.

    Premium Pilsner, 5.5% ABV

    The initial aroma of malt sweetness similar to white cracker. A floral lightly earthy aroma comes from the hops. The beer pours a clear golden color with a long persisting white head made of tiny bubbles. A steady stream of carbonation bubbles rises up from the bottom of the glass to give a great presentation in a fluted glass. Good carbonation on the tongue and mouth. Clean crisp finish at the end of each sip. The beer is well balanced between malty sweetness and hop bitterness. The Pilsner appears to be fully attenuated and does not leave any lingering sweetness or over bitterness on the tongue. The hops contribute a floral and earthy spiciness flavor to the malt sweetness. The crispness of the finish cleans the pallet of all flavors from the previous sip. The distinct but not harsh bitter finish gives a completeness to the taste and leaves the drinker ready for the next sip. I can see this being a strong compliment for any food tasting, cleansing food flavors.

    The clean crisp taste of the Pilsner would pair well with tempura foods. Specifically seafood. Tempura is made with water, eggs and wheat flower mixed together for the batter around seafood or vegetables. These pieces are quickly fried for a few seconds in vegetable or canola oil. The crisp finish of the Pilsner will cut through the grease of the tempora and essentially clear the pallet for the next bite. The Pilsner is not so dominant that the flavors will linger in the tempura taste. The heavy carbonation in the Pilsner will also assist in the cutting of flavors and grease from the tempura.

    Japan has placed the prefecture we live in in a continued quasi-state of emergency to contain the coronavirus. Because of this bottle shops and liquor stores are not open and I can only get beer from grocery and convenience stores. The Premium Malt’s being the nations best seller is always available in nearly every grocery store. For this reason and the way it is made makes this beer easy to pair with most Japanese dishes. While Premium Pilsner is not the most interesting beer for me it is a known quantity and I know it will pair with most anything I go to pick up in the grocery store here. What other food pairings would you make with pilsners.

  • Robert Burns Night, Lagavulin 11 Year, Nick Offerman Edition

    Robert Burns Night, Lagavulin 11 Year, Nick Offerman Edition

    On this day 263 years ago Robert Burns was born in Scotland. He would go on to put to word what many Scots thought of their homeland and be remembered as the poet of Scotland. As the diaspora has spread across the globe they have taken this day to celebrate the man and their heritage.

    Although there is no hard and fast rules for how this night should be celebrated there are several similarities from what I have read to to make a Robert Burns Night. There is the parading and presentation of Haggis, reciting of many of his poems to include Address to the Haggis, A Red Red Rose, Auld Langs Syne, and drams of whiskey.

    Like many Americans I can trace my ancestry to somewhere other than America, but I could not tell you for certain if I have any ties to Scotland. What I do have is an appreciation for good poetry and drink and would happily spend an evening enjoying the two. The 25th of January is any day as good to enjoy a good scotch whiskey.

    For this evening I have chosen Lagavulin 11 Year Offerman Edition. The Lagavulin distillery can trace its history back to when John Johnston and Archibald Campbell Brooks built separate distilleries on the site in 1816. The distillery is located in the Isley District of Scotland. This district is signified by a dominant smokey character. This characteristic comes from when the malt is dried with peat, a historical heat source in the region. Much like haggis this smokiness is either loved or hated by whiskey drinkers.

    As soon as the cork is popped, the smokiness of a camp fire comes at the drinker. Mixed in with the smokiness is a leather and wool blanket aroma that induces several images. The whiskey pours a golden straw color that is very clear. When swirled around it leaves narrow legs spaced a good distance apart from each other. The first sip has a strong burn on the tip of the tongue. The sip rolls smoothly over the tongue and then burned again once it hit the back of the throat. A strong retronasal smell of peat comes back through the nose with the swallow. I believe the burn on the mouthfeel and the powerful smoky scent forces me to enjoy this whiskey slowly. This leaves plenty of time for conversation and reminiscing. The smokiness the whiskey leaves in your mouth and nasal passage is the same feeling that I have when I sit around a fire for the evening. Probably cold possibly terrible weather but definitely with close friends who would enjoy this drink with me as much as enjoy each other’s company. At the end of the night my cloths and hair are permeated with the smell of smoke. While my wife would wish that I get a shower as soon as we get home I do find enjoyment in getting a waif of smoke in the morning and remembering the previous evening. I would imagine that is the same feeling that Scottish people feel when they read the words of Robert Burns.

    Even if I could find haggis in Japan I am not sure I would want to have any this evening. The best description I have had about haggis was similar to how boudan was first explained to me. Do not ask what is in it before you try a bite. If you like it, dont ask and enjoy the meal you had. If you do not like it ask what is in it and realize why you dont like the meal. As mentioned before, I would pair this best with talking to friends around a camp fire, but if I was forced to eat something I would pair a sausage with this whiskey. The greasiness from the fat will cut into the smokiness of the drink. The spices in the sausage will stand up to the alcohol heat and will not be overwhelmed from the peaty flavors of the scotch.

    The poems of Robert Burns are often reminiscent of a place that is no longer or never was. This evening as you enjoy your whiskey and celebrate your even remote Scottish Heritage read through his poems and think of your home and the fond memories of that place. I know I will be thinking of America from Japan tonight.

  • Beer & Book Review: Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer, Maureen Ogle, 2006

    Beer & Book Review: Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer, Maureen Ogle, 2006

    The news of Monster Energy Drink buying CANarchy has fanned once again the craft beer purist complaint that another brewery has sold out to the man and gone against its core foundation. This same argument has been made when Bell Brewery was sold to Lion a subsidiary of Kirin Brewing and Goose Island was sold to Anheuser-Busch and well anytime a small craft brewery is bought by a macro brewery. What these self proclaimed purist fail to comprehend is at one time these beer behemoths were also small, most founded by immigrants, often hamstrung by government regulation, criticized by society’s opinions of immigrants, and fought by unions throughout their history. Maureen Ogle goes to in detail to describe the history of what would later become the large corporations that are buying up breweries today.

    Maureen Ogle paints the picture of beer in America that starts in the mid 1800s moves through world war/prohibition/world war and finishes with the modern craft beer movement in the 1980s. She gives detail into some of the largest names in American Beer with Pabst, Busch, Schlitz, and Miller. She shows how their business decision combined with innovations such as railroads and refrigeration allowed the expansion from neighborhood breweries to regional and eventually national brands. Maureen explains how the brewery culture was different when first established in America with the presence of beer Beer halls and gardens were common staples in the brewing culture of German where many of the earlier brewers were from. She also details how anti-German sentiments caused much of this beer culture to change and ultimately led to the Volstead Act. Maureen describes how all of this combined to turn beer from a German immigrant business into a “cog in the wheel of a giant corporate conglomerate”

    From the low point of post prohibition and the consolidation of national brands Maureen begins to map out the emergence of the craft beer movement. She gives the wave-top explanation of those initial breweries such as New Albion, Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada, and The Boston Beer Company. This consolidation in the late 1960s led to the spark that started modern craft beer with Fritz Maytag purchasing Anchor Steam Brewery. The book was published in 2006 so it does not cover the boom of small craft breweries that have exploded across the country in the last sixteen years. Some of the struggles that those early innovators experienced have been resolved with changes in law as and practices. Other challenges are just as real as they were back then.

    What I liked: The book was factually driven without the author’s commentary on the actions of the brewery or political policies. She states what happened and allows the reader to confer their own conclusion. The book did not focus on one brewery rather it looked at many of the breweries at the time and tried to explain in detail to what happened to each.

    What I disliked: By covering so many breweries there was not the in-depth coverage for each one. Some breweries were given very in depth backgrounds and details on how they succeeded or failed and other received little more than a mention. While I understand the need to keep the book at a readable length if you have any interest in these breweries you will have to do more research on your own. For the casual reader this will give a good introduction to the vast number of breweries that existed back then.

    Will it stay on my shelf: While I enjoyed reading the book I am actually surprised it is still on my shelf. Before I left New Jersey I gifted sever duplicate books and books I read to a fellow homebrewer who lived down the street. I was certain that this was one of those books. Surprisingly I unpacked this book when we arrived to Japan. Ambitious Brew was a well written history book, but I have very little need to keep history books now. Like I mentioned in the reasons why I dislike this book there is not enough details for each brewery. If I need to look up some statistics or facts of one of these breweries I can find the information in a brewery specific book or another location. I tend to keep technical books or reference books and while I enjoy reading these types of books I have no need to keep the copy as a trophy of my accomplishments.

    Would I recommend it for your library: I would recommend this book for everyone who believes that new craft breweries are sell outs if they are bought by a macro brewery. Those individuals do not understand the full brewing picture and giving them this book will show the struggles that these large companies once faced. There are lessons learned from this book for the small brew house as well. Many of the breweries that no longer exist did not properly market themselves or made poor business decisions. While many areas saw laws shift in favor of breweries in the past two years these same politicians can swing the opposite direction. All those who doubt need to remember that there are still people alive who remember prohibition in America.

  • Head to Head to Head with Japanese Whiskys.

    Head to Head to Head with Japanese Whiskys.

    We have recently discovered that Flaviar ships to Japan if you have a local address. Flaviar is an alcohol subscription service where once a quarter you receive a pre-selected three sampler tasters and a full sized bottle of your choosing. We began this when the world shut down in 2020 and we wanted to continue this service while in Japan. To start our subscription again we ordered the Japanese sampler. This sampler includes whisky from Ohishi, Fukano, and The Kurayoshi distilleries.

    Ohishi, 8 Year Old Sherry Cask, Japanese Whisky, 42.1% ABV Smokey sweet aroma on the nose. A sweet sherry-like scent comes behind the smoke aroma. The color is golden straw with a slight red hue. The legs are medium and drop very slowly down the sides of the glass. Mouthfeel is smooth initially with a heat that burns the side of the mouth and the throat for the swallow. The Sweet taste of sherry is dominant with bits of spice and a slight nuttiness. Of the three I would drink this straight or maybe with a little distilled water depending on your preference. There are enough flavors to allow it to be a stand alone whisky.

    Fukano, Vault Reserve #1, Rice Japanese Whisky, 40.5% ABV Pleasant aroma of sweet fruit. Scent of tea or sweet tea on the nose. As glass warms in the hand the aroma of caramel come out more. Golden butterscotch color. Clear with medium legs that slowly drape down the side of the glass. Smooth flavor with light alcohol burn on the very end of the taste. Sweet taste that gives a complete finish that does not linger. This whisky would compliment well with the sweetness in an old fashion. Specifically I would pair this whiskey with maple syrup and an aromatic biters to form a solid cocktail.

    The Kurayoshi, 8 Year Old, Pure Malt Japanese Whisky, 46% ABV The aroma of almonds and heavy vanilla comes across on the nose. Straw color with great clarity. Legs are medium size and dissipate quickly. Light burn of alcohol on the lips and mouthfeel. Lingering tingles on the tongue in the aftertaste. High aroma and flavor of alcohol. There is a oak flavor that comes behind the heat of the taste. The almond and vanilla aroma does not come through the flavor. I would not sip this neat. I would use in a cocktail that has soda where the carbonation would highlight the aromas, which is the strongpoint of this whisky.

  • Hefe-Weizen, Ginga Kogen Beer

    Hefe-Weizen, Ginga Kogen Beer

    With a name that translates into “The Plateau of the Galaxy”, Ginga Kogen started in 1996 with a goal to brew authentic weizen beers. Weizen are beers brewed with at least 50% wheat grain as part of their list of grains used and can also be called wit or white beers. The brewery is located in the northern part of mainland Japan in the Iwate prefecture. It is situated at the base of Mount Waga in the village of Sawauchi. The annual snowfall to the mountain provides the water for this beer. The climate in that region of Japan replicates the German environment which is the area where wheat beers originated. The unique fruit and clove flavors that are found in these types of beers are created by the Hefeweizen yeast strain.

    Hefeweizen, 5% ABV

    A banana clove aroma is picked up on the nose. Cracker malt sweetness comes behind the more dominant banana scent. The color of the head is a yellow white color that slowly dissipates. The beer’s color is an orange golden hue. Traditionally Hefeweizens are unfiltered leading to a cloudy finished product in the glass. Slightly cloudy when first poured, but clears as beer warms. The beer clears to the point I can see through the glass. There are filtered wheat beers so this is not necessarily against style. A persistent steady stream of carbonation bubbles comes up from the bottom of the glass. This gives a good wheat beer look if the traditional flute glass is used to serve the beer. Carbonation is felt on the tongue and sides of the mouth. Banana flavor is present but not as dominant in the taste as is in the smell. Finish is crisp with no lingering flavors but there is a tingling in the mouth Subsequent taste give more of the esters of cloves from the yeast strain.

    Down the street from our house in Japan is the Awase Fish Market. this market is tied to the Awase fishing port where local fishermen bring in their daily catch. The market has a small resultant with limited seafood meal sets. One of these is a roasted half lobster. The clean taste of the shellfish meat would pair nicely with the soft wheat flavors of this beer. The butter and oil of the seasoning of the lobster will be cut by the crisp carbonation from the Hefeweizen. Neither the beer or shellfish are dominant enough to overpower the other and the two will marry nicely into a pleasant dining experience.

  • Beers & Book Review: The Brewers Companion, Randy Mosher, (c) 1993, 1995, 2000

    Beers & Book Review: The Brewers Companion, Randy Mosher, (c) 1993, 1995, 2000

    Prior to moving to Japan I collected a solid library’s worth of old and new beer books. The thought was that it would be harder to get brewing books overseas, but I still wanted to learn. I plan to read through them all and provide my thoughts about the book, what I liked, disliked, and if I will keep the book on my shelf.

    The Brewers Companion was born out of a collection of documents and table Randy Mosher had collected as a homebrewer. In the 1980s there was not the information about homebrewing readily available. When this book was first published there was not a fraction of the homebrewing resources and equipment suppliers available. For a reference Stone Brewing Company would open for another three years in 1996. I have the 1995 edition and Randy made revisions until 2000. In 2008 the book went out of print. Fortunately for all of us many of the more useful information found it’s way into one of his later books.

    What I liked: the writing was not dry like a textbook. The worksheets provided are comprehensive and something I will definitely use. I enjoyed the writing on roasting your own malts. This I see will become more important as shipping cost increase. Going along the same lines as grains, the chapter on equipment provides some great ideas if you need to create your own brewing equipment. The foundational information on off-flavors and mash rest have not changed. Anyone who studies these charts will have the foundational understanding of the reasons for the flavors they are tasting in their beers.

    What I disliked: Information on hops is outdated. Hop farmers have developed several cultivars that did not exist when this book was published. The same can be said regarding the information about yeast availability and home brewing equipment. New hop varieties that provide higher alpha acids for brewers are available to provide new flavors and aromas. Also several companies now manufacture equipment to enchanted the brewing capability of the home brewer. In the back of the book there was an add for two wheel charts. The Amazing Beer Wheel and Hop Go Round. Unfortunately when I reached out to the publisher these two devices are no longer available. If anyone has one of these please let me know in the comments.

    Will it stay on my shelf: Yes, because of the distance from brewing supply stores and the shipping cost I believe that this book is still relevant to me for roasting grains charts, worksheets and equipment scrounging recommendations.

    Would I recommend it for your library: Maybe, if you are on a tight budget this book can be found for quite cheep. I got a used copy for five bucks. If you are willing to spend about fifteen bucks more I would recommend one of Randy Mosher’s later books, Mastering Homebrew. This book has several of the sections that I liked and also has updated information to address the parts I did not like about Brewers Companion.

  • New Year Sake

    New Year Sake

    Since celebrating New Years in Japan in 2017, my wife and I have made it a point to enjoy a toast of sake at the New Year. This year was no different except life got in the way and we ended up celebrating New Year’s Eve several days later. To be completely honest I am not certain this was sake. I do not speak Japanese and rely on Google Translate for my language needs. From that app I believe the ingredients listed red cabbage and sugar. So either we drank cabbage wine or Google Translate once again was creative in their translation. If you are familiar with this drink let me know what we celebrated the New Year with.

    The drink has a clean aroma with a hint of cherry smells. The sake is mostly clear slightly pink cloud look. There are a few specks floating on the surface of the glass. This is most likely due to the flower blossom that is in the bottle. Sweet fruit like flavor. No burn of alcohol or any perception of alcohol level. Light mouthfeel with a sweet driven finish to the end of the sip. Not harsh aftertaste but a very slight sweetness lingers on the tongue. This is enjoyable as a single glass or two of sake as a celebration. For me it is too sweet to make this my drink for the night.

  • Twelve Drummers Drumming. Fukizakura Heights Beer, Rauch

    Twelve Drummers Drumming. Fukizakura Heights Beer, Rauch

    Traditionally the Yule log was burned through the Christmas season.  It seems only fitting that we end with this holiday tradition.  On the last day of Christmas the Yule log would be completely burnt and this season would come to an end.  To mark this occasion we finish with a distinctly unique style of beer.  The Rauchbier or smoked beer is definitely an acquired taste.  For those that enjoy smoky foods this will go well.  Our Rauchbier is Rauch from Fukizahura Heights Beer.  Started in 1997 The Fukizakura Heights Beer Company produces award winning beers at the foot of Mt. Fuji.  They focus on the German Brewing traditions of malt smoked with beech chips.  

    Rauchbier 50º – 55º F (10º – 13º C)

    A distinct but not overbearing smoke aroma to the pour.  Off white creamy head that persists a good while. Deep amber color that is slightly opaque.  Smokiness lingers on the aroma.  Slight malt sweetness and no hop aroma on the nose.  Malt sweetness on the tip of the tongue hop bitterness through the nose when swallowed and a lingering smokiness to the finish.  Well attenuated that has a light mouthfeel.  The smoke aroma travels back through your nostrils after each swallow.  This is good but the smokiness would only want me to enjoy one of these before moving on to another style.  Still a very well made beer. Just if I had more than one I feel that I would have the same sensation after sitting by a fire all night long.  Enjoying this beer definitely conjures up thoughts and senses of being around a fire.  The smoke swirling and somehow always finding you wherever you sit.  

    Because most of our food is prepared with fire and heat the smoking sense is able to pair with many if not most foods. I have two suggestions to pair and tie to the final day of Christmas. The first is the s’more. With the waning embers from the Yule log the smoke from the beer will compliment the roasted marshmallows and be balanced by the melting chocolate. The chocolate and marshmallow sweetness will quickly tamp down and whipped the pallet of the smokiness in this beer. Once the pallet is cleaned the follow on sips can draw out the malt sweetness for the beer. The gram cracker flavors will balance with the malty flavors in the backbone of the beer. The second option would be the King Cake. While 6 January marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas it also marks the beginning of the Carnival season. Especially in Louisiana this marks the beginning of Mardi Gras. This cinnamon pastry that is covered in sugar color and a baby token is hidden in the ring cake. This token marks who will host the next Mardi Gras party. So as we wrap up this beer tasting and pairing we move into a carnival time where there are more options for reveling and good beer pairing.

  • Eleven Pipers Piping. Sierra Nevada Brewing, Barrel Aged Narwal

    Eleven Pipers Piping. Sierra Nevada Brewing, Barrel Aged Narwal

    Ken Grossman the founder of Sierra Nevada began his brewery in 1980. In a time where small breweries were few and far between Ken took an unique approach to build his brew house. Taking up-cycled dairy equipment he developed a pale ale beer that was much bitter than any of the light lagers that existed at the time. These initial risks became a standard for Ken and the prevalence of hoppy bitter ales today show that his risk payed off. In taking a series of bold risks he has been able to grow this brewery from recycled material to a company that has breweries on both the west and east coast. These bold decisions come through with their Barrel Aged Narwal. Sierra Nevada took an already big bold beer and aged it an additional year in oak barrels. This provides an even greater richness to the mouthfeel and flavor of this exceptional beer.

    Imperial Stout 50 – 55º F (10º – 13º C)

    Distinct barrel oak aromas from the pour.  The beer flows thick and syrupy.  Deep roasted barley notes and a raisin.  Sweetness covers the alcohol heat and warmth in a pleasant way.    Slight oxidation light wet paper smells.  Full body flavor.  Raisin malty notes.  The aftertaste gives a definite oak aroma and taste.  Tan to almost brown head.  Lingers for a medium length, until after a few sips.  Head dissipates to a paper thin persistent head.  Jet black color.  No light passes through the glass.  Oxidized flavors of wet cardboard.  This is expected in a beer that has lingered in an oak barrel for a year.  Definitely enjoyed the beer but a pint at 11.9% makes this a one and done kind of night.  

    Cheese plate of smoked Gouda, and sharp cheddar. Strawberries would also be a great pairing with the imperial stout if you are lucky enough to live in an area where they are in season. Luckily for us Okinawa is in a tropical climate and strawberries are not only in season they are affordable. The tartness of the strawberries would cut into the creaminess of this thick stout. For those that are still doubting just think of chocolate covered strawberries.

  • Ten Lords a-Leaping, Cliff Beer, For Whom the Bell Tolls

    Ten Lords a-Leaping, Cliff Beer, For Whom the Bell Tolls

    If you have not heard of this brewery you have probably not been to the island of Okinawa, Japan. Cliff Beer began in 2019 and is run out of what is best described as a converted home in a densely residential neighborhood. To get to the brewery you have to travel down what appears to be a single lane road. Your GPS will tell you that “you have arrived” and if you do not see the 8” by 12” sign about knee high you would think that Google maps once again got you lost. The only other signs that this is a brewery is there are a few benches and tables outside and on the edge of the building the word entrance is written in English. They regularly produce well made quality beers. This is the only Christmas Ale I could find for this year’s twelve beers of Christmas. According to the bottle this beer is an amber ale base with chai, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and coriander.

    Winter Seasonal Beer (Base Beer: Amber Ale) 40–45°F (4–7°C)

    Cinnamon notes and ginger bread cookies are layered over a sweet malt base.  Chai spices also come through on later smells.  An earthy hops is detected but that could be from the spice as well.  Brown color with a tan head that persists.  As the head dissipates a gingerbread cookie aroma becomes the dominant scent.  This carries to the aftertaste with a ginger lingers forever in the aftertaste.  The beer is well attenuated and gives a medium to light mouth feel.  The finish is smooth and rolls right into a sweet aftertaste with aromas of ginger that waif up through the nasal cavity.  Hops are detected to balance the sweetness of the malt, but do not have any stand out aromas or flavors.  The flavor would be best described as enjoying an icing laced gingerbread cookie.  The sweetness of the icing is the initial taste on the mouth and the gingerbread flavor remains until the next sip.  Overall enjoyable and I would have more than one while enjoying a holiday dessert cookie table.  

    Growing up, cookie tables were a staple at family gatherings like weddings and the holidays. It is exactly what it sounds like with one table being laden with every type of cookie you could imagine. The family would not only make their dessert tray from this table, but it would be left up for the duration of the gathering and you would end up grazing off this for days. I see this beer as the perfect beverage to pair with a cookie table. Specifically this would stand its ground against desserts made with ginger, clove, anis and other potent holiday spices. The sweetness of the malt will counter with the strong scents and flavors of these spices and the gingerbread flavoring will pair nicely with them as well. I can definitely see this beer washing down plates of cookies being consumed by family and friends reminiscing holiday memories and making new ones.

  • Nine Ladies Dancing, Yamaguchi Craft Beer, Hagi Yuzu Ale

    Nine Ladies Dancing, Yamaguchi Craft Beer, Hagi Yuzu Ale

    The Yamaguchi Beer Company was founded in 1997.  Their claim of distinction from other breweries in Japan is their limestone filtered water and horizontal fermentation tanks.  This is different from what you see in most breweries that use the more common vertical conical tanks.  While these do take up more floor space in the brewery, customers claim to taste the difference in less of a dead yeast taste and less pressure.  For this ale Yamaguchi added Yuzu, a type of citrus.  It is common in Japan, but difficult to find in the United States outside of California.  Currently the US Department of Agriculture has a ban on the importation of fresh Yuzu and live plants.  Oranges have been a traditional Christmas stocking gift since at least the Great Depression.  As a child, I received an orange in my stocking every Christmas morning and New Year’s decorations in Japan all feature an orange.  

    Fruit Beer (Base Beer: Pale Ale) 45-50° F (7-10° C)

    Malt sweetness is that of white bread.  There are hints of a light peppery scent behind the malt.  Later smells bring up a bitter citrus scent.  The aroma I would associate more with the rine of an orange than the sweetness of the pulp.  The beer has a hazy orange color.  Lightly off white head that persists for a good while past many sips from the glass.  Malt sweetness is balanced with a bitter orange on the taste.  The sip finishes with a slight peppery almost earthy hop flavor on the tongue.   Fully attenuated with light mouthfeel and hops provide a pleasant finish to the sip.  The aftertaste presents a lingering aroma of bitter orange.  While enjoyable this beer would best be enjoyed with a food to balance the bitter orange taste.  

    Fruit beers are difficult for me to pair because the style can be so broad. A heavy or light fruit flavor may be present or the fruit may have fully fermented leaving more of the fruit’s bitterness all falling under the same style. After tasting this beer with gives a dominant bitter orange flavor and aftertaste I would pair this with a milk chocolate sampler box. A dark chocolate sampler and this beer would be too bitter to enjoy. The sweetness of the milk chocolate will provide balance and the different fruit fillings and nut combinations will give several sensations to compare. This should give the taster enough different types of chocolates and fillings to find something they love.

  • Eight Maids a-Milking. New Years Day, Lucky Tiger, Lucky Brew, Kizakura Co. 

    Eight Maids a-Milking. New Years Day, Lucky Tiger, Lucky Brew, Kizakura Co. 

    According to the lunar calendar, 2022 will ring in the year of the tiger. This is the fourth year that Lucky Brews have produced an ale that celebrates the lunar year. Previous Lucky Brews have been Lucky Cat, Dog and Chicken to commemorate the previous lunar years. Each year had a different style of beer with this year’s being Umami Pale Ale. While this style is not a recognized GABF or BJCP style it has appeared in several breweries here in Japan. While the word umami may be new to you as a flavor descriptor the actual taste is probably not. It is most commonly described as the savoriness of seaweed or mushrooms. Kizakura began brewing sake in 1925 and beer in 1995 out of Kyoto, Japan. The company produces two types, one is Kyoto Beer the other is Lucky Brew.

    Umami Pale Ale.  50º – 55º F (10º – 13º C)

    Piny resin aroma that quickly reminds me of American West Coast IPAs.  Hop aroma is definitely dominant over the slight malt sweetness in the back.  Deep golden color has very good clarity.  Head of off white heavy foam poured very thick eventually the head dissipated to a medium head.  Beer lace forms on the side of the glass as the head diminishes.  Smooth sweetness on the tip of the tongue gives way to a  sharp bitterness on the back of the tongue when swallowed.  The aftertaste has a lingering hop aroma.  As you speak after the sip the aromas from the hops swirl back through your nose and remind you of the previous taste.  A bitter orange or grapefruit flavor that comes through subsequent tastes.  The hops dominate over the malt flavors.  There are some malty sweetness perceived but they are dominated by the bitterness of the hop.  The beer is fully attenuated and gives a light mouthfeel.  At five percent and giving a crisp finish with slight lingering hops aroma this would be an enjoyable session beer.  This beer is probably better when paired with food rather than enjoyed alone.  

    Many cultures have special foods that are eaten the first of the year.  Growing up in Louisiana I had to eat black eyed peas for good luck every year.  Japan is no different.  To ensure that I have good luck in the upcoming year of the tiger I paired this beer with Ozouni, one of the good luck foods.  Ozouni is a soup that is made with mochi, regional vegetables and chicken/fish/seafood based upon regions. The hoppiness of the beer will pair well with the umami flavors in the soup.  While mochi (a rice and sugar dessert) is enjoyed all year long, the making of mochi is tied to the New Year.  To end this New Year’s good luck meal I would have mochi as a nice dessert.   The intense sweetness of this desert would contrast the bitterness that is persistent in this beer.  

  • Seven Swans a-Swimming, New Years Eve, Hürlimann Brewery, Samichlaus

    Seven Swans a-Swimming, New Years Eve, Hürlimann Brewery, Samichlaus

    The old man figure on the bottle depicts Santa which gives the beer its name. It could however depict father time to ring out the old year. The depiction of an old man signifies the end of another year and is normally accompanied by a tiny baby to signify the new year. Samichlaus is brewed by the Hürlimann Brewery. Through sale and consolidation the brand eventually became part of Carlsberg. It is traditionally only brewed one day of the year on 6 December. The beer is then aged for ten months and for a good reason. At 14% it needs that time to mellow and not be as harsh.

    Bavarian Doppelbock 55º – 60 F (13º – 16º C)

    Caramel malt aroma with scents of alcohol and no perceived hop aroma.  Definitely a malt forward flavor beer.  As the glass warms toasted malt aromas become more perceived.  Red color with off white head that quickly dissipates almost as soon as the glass is poured.  No lingering head.  Very malty flavor with no discernible hop flavor.  Carbonation on the mouth and a full body mouthfeel.  Sweet finish that a mild bitterness finishes the sip.  Slight heat of alcohol on the flavor.  After two sips I can definitely feel the alcohol level.  

    I am going to go against the norm here and advocate instead of pairing this beer with anything it should be just enjoyed by itself. Each year a high school friend of mine, after wrapping all the gifts and putting the family to bed, sits down to watch the pope deliver Christmas Mass at the Vatican. He takes this time to reflect on what all that transpired the past twelve months and what might come in the year ahead. So consider taking the alternative to the New Years celebrations everyone else is doing and bundle up by a fire while slowly sipping this beer. Instead of flavor senses of food consider pairing this with thoughts and memories of the past year and aspirations for the upcoming one. For me this past year was a period of immense change and the upcoming year has a great deal of uncertainty. As I close out one year and open the next I am going to take my time with the moment and enjoy this beer by itself.

  • Six Geese a-Laying. Lion Brewery, Lion Stout

    Six Geese a-Laying. Lion Brewery, Lion Stout

    The brewery that would eventually be known as Lion Brewery was started in 1849 and holds the distinction of being the oldest brewery in Sri Lanka. I was first introduced to this beer the last time I lived in Japan. My wife and I were searching for something different than the regular light lager of Japan and found Aqua Vitae Suzuki in Yokosuka. This is the season of enjoying those things you appreciate the most. Lion Stout was the first beer we found after moving in 2017 and it helped us realize that we can still enjoy good beer even though we are in a country that doesn’t have a strong craft beer culture.

    Foreign Extra Stout 50º – 55º F (10º – 13º C)

    Once poured the aromas of roasted malt are dominant.  A light caramel scent is also present with very faint earthy hops rounding out the aroma.  The smells remind me of well toasted all grain bread.  The beer is a deep black color that does not allow light to pass through the pint glass.  A thin tan head tops the pour but it does not persist.  In the initial sip there is a sweet toasty malt flavor that matches the aromas.  A nutty finish lingers in the aftertaste.  The beer has a full mouth feel and a smooth finish with enough hops to provide balance and give a finish to the dominant sweetness of the beer.  Very distinct toasted bread malt aromas that increase as the glass warms.  For being an 8.8% ABV beer the alcohol is not perceived as a harsh burn, but the sensation is definitely felt as the glass is consumed.   

    The strong beer would go well with dark chocolate, specifically raspberry jelly filled chocolates. As a child I would dread getting those chocolates from the sample box at Christmas. But now that I am older I can see how the chocolate bitterness can cut into the sweet stout flavors of the beer and the raspberry filling will give a more elaborate flavor to the pairing. Because of the nutty aftertaste of Lion Stout I would also look at pairing this with chocolates that have nuts included. Possibly chocolate turtles or Ferraro Rocher candies would compliment the nut flavors in this beer. Either way this sweet stout would compliment chocolate based desserts for your holiday event.

  • Five Golden Rings. Orval

    Five Golden Rings. Orval

    Orval began their long history in 1070 when monks arrived in the area. Over the years wars and political upheaval has caused the abbey to close several times. The modern version of the abbey began in 1926 when the de Harenne family gave the Cistercian Order the ruin buildings of Orval and the adjacent land with the intent of reestablishing an Abby. Abbey legend explains that the name Orval comes from the well told story of Mathilda of Tuscany who during a visit to the area accidentally dropped her wedding ring in the lake. She prayed that her ring be returned to her and like many of us made a promise to build an Abbey if the lord returned her ring. Moments later the legend goes that a trout surfaced with the ring in its mouth. UPon seeing the ring she proclaimed “Truly this place is a Val d’Or (Golden Valley)”. This Val d’Or morphed into Orval over the years. So in honor of the trout returning the ring this beer will be our fifth beer to represent Five Golden Rings.

    Belgian Abby Ale 50º-57º F (10º-14º C)

    Wine grape aroma comes off the glass immediately. During the initial pour an old musty scents come off. Wet blanket smells signal the presence of Brettomycyes, an expected trait of this beer. Not necessarily offensive but rather like the smells you would pick up on a farm after it rains. Semi clear amber color with a tan head of small tight bubbles that persist. Very good attenuation with little mouthfeel. Good carbonation on the tongue . Carbonation bubbles are felt over the tongue. Slight earthy hop aroma that comes through the taste as well. No lingering mouthfeel in the aftertaste. There is a slight bitterness that I would say is relatable to a red wine finish.

    This would be a fantastic beer to pair with a charcuterie plate. Specifically Orval will stand up to some strong cheeses and flavors found on the board. If you are into bold flavors I would try this with a bit of blue cheese. For those that are looking for an interesting contrast I would also try prosciutto wrapped around cheese or melon. For those that prefer the sweeter taste you can be adventurous with the dried fruit or any jellies on the plate.

  • Four Calling Birds. Kizakura Brewery, Red Devil’s Beer 

    Four Calling Birds. Kizakura Brewery, Red Devil’s Beer 

    While the birds may be calling in the song there is another character who calls upon the children at Christmas. In addition to Santa visiting the little good boys and girls homes another character visits those that have been bad. Krampus is a demon-like character who in some cultures visits the homes of children who were bad and either takes them away or scares them into good behavior. That is one way to discipline your child especially if you don’t have to pay for the counseling they will most definitely need later in life. The character of the devil has appeared in several beer names. Specifically some Belgium beers have devil or some form in their name. These are Duvel from Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat and Satan from Brouwerij De Block. But being in Japan I went with a Red Devil Beer from Kizakura Brewery. Kizakura, who brewed another beer in the lineup, created Red Devil as a highly aromatic IPA with mild bitterness. Their description plays on the name by claiming “even scary devils usually drink too much because they are too delicious”.

    IPA 45–50°F (7–10°C)

    Fruity floral aromas right out of the can. Smells from the glass are more of a citrus (orange) aroma. Vibrant red and very clear off white head that is very persistent. Leaves a delightful beer lace on the glass. The flavors are more malty than hop floral. Minimal bitterness. This reminds me of a New England IPA in flavor, but the beer is much too clear and red. The beer is fully attenuated and does not leave a lingering tartness of sweetness or harsh bitterness on the aftertaste. If anything the beer drys out your mouth just enough to desire the next sip as soon as you can. A very sessionable beer. I am normally very skeptical when a brewery hypes its own beers but when Kizakura described that “even scary devils will drink too much” I think they knew this because of experience. I am actually surprised about this beer. I fully expected that this would be a novelty beer that relied more on can design and naming than any beer development.

    Kizakura’s website states that this beer is best with fried foods or strong flavored meals such as hamburgers or spicy curry.  My favorite pairing with an IPA is fish tacos, especially ones where the fish is heavily seasoned or there is the sriracha sauce over the taco.  This beer specifically I would make sure that I had some lime juice on my tacos and make sure that there was plenty of cilantro.  Those flavors would pair nicely with the citrus hop aroma and sweet malty flavors of this beer.  I find that the hop bitterness found in IPAs does nicely to cut into the heat of the spiciness.  

  • Three French Hens, Helios Brewery, Conductor’s Porter

    Three French Hens, Helios Brewery, Conductor’s Porter

    In 1985 Chris Van Allsburg wrote and illustrated the book The Polar Express. The book tells of a train that brought children to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to visit Santa and possibly receive the first gift of Christmas. In honor of the train conductor, famously played by Tom Hanks, today’s Christmas beer is Helios Brewery’s Conductor Porter. Helios started as a distillery on the island of Okinawa, Japan in 1961. After years of making distilled spirits they began to produce beer in 1996 after the country of Japan relaxed the Craft Beer entry rules. The character on the front of the can is the conductor character from the Japanese manga series Galaxy Express 999.

    English Porter 45º – 50º F (7º – 10º C) 5% ABV

    As soon as the can cracks open the malt sweetness immediately flows out during the pour. The toasted light toffee character mixes with the lightly earthy hops for the aroma from the glass. The dark red color forms a good sized tan head that dissipates to a persistent thin film. The flavor gives a roasted start that ends with a sweet finish, but then persists with a smoky aftertaste. Light mouthfeel that ends with a distinct finish. The aftertaste leaves a tingling in the mouth that persists for a while. There is a very slight earthy hop flavor to the beer. This comes more at the end of the tasting. True to English Porter style it has a much lighter/subtle flavors than American Porters. The conductor character in Galaxy Express 999 is known to be a strictly “by the book” character. This beer follows this character trait. A pleasant English Porter that is extremely enjoyable and I am happy to finish this glass and others if they were offered to me.

    The roasted smoked flavors found in porters will pair well with food that is smoked or roasted.  For this beer I would pair a smoked chicken.  The neutral flavors of the chicken will absorb the smoky flavors and compliment this beer.  If chicken is not your pleasure I could also recommend a sausage either smoked or grilled.  The porter will cut through the grease of the sausage.  Because of the light aromas and flavors of this beer the smoked meats will add to the flavor profile of this beer.  

  • Two Turtle Doves. Kwanzaa. Derilium Red

    Two Turtle Doves. Kwanzaa. Derilium Red

    The second day of Christmas highlights that this is not the only holiday of the season. Traditionally Kwanzaa begins on the 27th and runs until the 1st of January. Kwanzaa’s founder Maulana Karenga created the holiday in 1966 and derived the name from a Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza.” This translates into “first fruits” which is celebrated as a festival in Southern African countries around the southern solstice. The beer selection ties in the first fruit theme by serving a Belgian Fruit Ale. Although the brewery that produces Derilium can trace their history back to 1654, the actual Derilium Red was released in 2010.

    Fruit Ale (with Belgian Yeast Strain) 44º – 57º F (7-14º C)

    The fruit (cherry) esters from the yeast are the first thing I perceive with the aroma.  A deep red color,  so opaque that light doesn’t pass through the glass.  Head is off white with an almost pinkish shoe.  The head is a persistent mix of tiny, medium and large bubbles that persist.   Persistent aroma of yeast on the nose through the entire glass.  Slight malt aromas but no hop bitterness perceived.  Sweet cherry taste came through but, not the medicinal I heard from previous tasters.  Slight sour bitterness on the tip of the tongue when tasting.  It almost appeared that the sugars from the fruit were fermented off and only the sour bitterness remained.  Fuller mouthfeel with no sharp bite at the end of the sip.  Bitterness comes more from the residual sugars than any hop aroma or flavor.  The aftertaste leaves a lingering sweetness that stays in the mouth.  While I enjoyed the beer there are those that believe the cherry flavor reminds them of cold medicine.  Even though enjoyable this is a single glass beer for me and at 8% that is probably a good life decision.  I would actually recommend this beer be enjoyed with something to bring and end to the aftertaste before having another sip.  

    The strong sweetness of fruit beers are normally balanced with a dark chocolate bitterness to cut the sweetness and sourness of the beer.  For the traditionalist I would recommend that route.  For those that are more adventurous I would make a recommendation of mint ice cream.  This works for me because I do not immediately think of cough syrup when I sip Delirium Red.   For those that get those connotations this pairing will only reinforce the sensation.  For me the mint provides another layer of the fruitiness where the cream clears the palate to prepare for the next tasting. 

  • A Partridge in a Pear Tree.  Christmas Day. Stella Artois

    A Partridge in a Pear Tree.  Christmas Day. Stella Artois

    Stella began its story in 1366 when the Den Hoorn brewery opened in Leuven, Belgium.  Years later in 1936 the brewery released a Christmas Beer by the name of Stella Atrois.  Stella being the Latin word for star, a reference to the Christmas star.  If you happen to find a Stella Atrois glass to enjoy your beer in you will notice a star on the stem of the chalice to visually tie the name to the story.  

    My history with this beer does not go back as far.  In 2015 I was living in Bahrain and even though it was a Muslim country Christmas Day flights were still about $1,000 dollars cheaper than anything before Christmas Eve.  So spending Christmas Eve in Bahrain left me with no excuse not to attend my boss’ Christmas dinner.  Here Stella was the beer he was offering with dinner.  I apparently enjoyed that beer and myself enough that I nearly missed my international flight back to the states the following morning.  

    A Strong Pilsner-style lager (serving temp 43º F)

    The beer pours with a golden clear color and leaves a medium crisp white head that semi-persist.  Aromas of white bread malt sweetness rise off of the head.  A light skunkyness comes through the smell behind the malt character.  The hops give a slight floral character to the aroma.  When tasted there is a light effervescent tingle on the mouthfeel.  A fully attenuated beer leaves a crisp finish and no lingering aftertaste.  The crisp finish slightly dries the mouth out and leaves the drinker wanting a second sip.  The smell continues to be a mix of malty sweetness and light skunkyness.  Not offensive enough to not enjoy, but definitely noticeable.  The taste is a clean light malt taste with no perceived flavors of sunkiness.  Hops flavor is not as noticeable as the aroma.  The hops provide more of the bitterness to finish off the beer’s taste.  Many other drinkers have noticed a skunkiness to these beers.  This is most likely due to the clear bottles they are packaged in, which is a common reason.  I would venture to say that even though I have a best by date of October 2022 on this bottle the handling of this beer from shipping in the United States brewery to Japan had some contribution to the off flavors.  

    The delicate and light flavors of Stella are best supported by the taste of grilled fish.  Lightly seasoned with lemon, salt and pepper this simple recipe gently balances with the flavors of the beer.  A bed of rice to compliment the fish and gives a vehicle for both the fish and beer.  Because I am in Japan I would pair this with a distinctive Japanese convenience food.  The nigiri, or rice ball, is just a ball or triangle of rice which may be packed around a piece of fish or seafood and wrapped in seaweed.  This convenient on the go food would be a delightful pairing with this beer.

  • Gora Brewery and Grill, Hakone, Japan

    Gora Brewery and Grill, Hakone, Japan

    When traveling across Japan I normally make it a point to stop at the local breweries. My trip to Hakone was no different and I found myself at Gora Brewing Co. This little brewery is tucked into this mountain community about four hours south-east of Tokyo. Although quite small it boast four awards from the International Beer Cup. Gold Prize in 2018 for Hakone Kohaku, Silver Prize in 2020 for Hazy Juice, Silver Prize in 2021 for Midnight Saison, Bronze Prize in 2021 for Moon Lover. The brewery offered a flight of four beers for ¥1800 ($14.00). The beers in the flight were Hakone Kohaku (wheat beer), Rising Sun IPA (IPA), Haze Juice (IPA), and Moon Lover (IPA).

    Gora Brewing is part of Nobu Hospitality that was founded by Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro & Meir Teper. The company has a worldwide distribution of hotels and restaurants. Gora Brewery and Grill opened in 2017 as a compliment to Nobu’s other restaurant Itoh Dining by Nobu in Gora. The beer is made with the natural mountain water. The location is beautifully designed by Dr. Hiroshi Nakamura who won the International Architecture Leaf Award. The placement of a large tree trunk in the center of the dining area and large boulders cemented into the foundation provide a transitional space from the outside mountain beauty to the dining area. The large window behind the bar shows a moss covered hill that was especially pretty the day we went with a slight drizzle of rain.

    I also enjoyed some beer food appetizers of edamame, grilled mushrooms, chicken bits, beer yeast bread, and beef skewers. They were all very good, but be prepared to pay prices you would find at a Nobu restaurant.

    Hakone Kohaku: Wheat aroma mixed with yeast smells. The aroma gave no strong phenolic scents. The beer’s color was golden straw with a quickly dissipating head. The glass had a mildly hazy appearance. Good carbonation on the mouthfeel with a medium body. The aftertaste had a lingering wheat taste.

    Rising Sun IPA: The beer was amber in color. The aroma was predominately bitter but a malty sweetness could be detected behind the hop bitterness. The beer was amber in color with a white head that dissipated quickly. Slight astringency on the back end. Well balanced not a hop bomb no real piney or citrus flavors.

    Haze Juice: The name was quite deceiving. I expected this to be a hazy IPA. What came out was a fairly clear light straw color beer with little to no head. The aroma citrus was dominate on the nose. No malt sweetness was detected for the aroma. In the flavor the citrus continued and the flavors were more lemon than orange. A fully attenuated beer with a clean finish. Only citrus lingered in the nose and back of the mouth in the aftertaste. Out of the four beers in the flight this is the one I enjoyed the most.

    Moon Lover: The beer was very clear with a light straw color. The head had dissipated by the time the flight came out to me. The aroma and taste were of a maltforward pale ale. There was a hop bitterness present but the malty sweetness definitely took center stage. The beer has a mild citrus flavors at the end of the taste. This citrus flavor and aroma lingers in the aftertaste.

  • Fred Eckhardt’s Birthday

    If you have read my previous post or have read much on beer and brewing you have probably already heard of Michale Jackson the beer writer. Before I read this book I thought that Mr. Jackson was the only major beer writer in the nineteen eighty’s and early ninety’s. While Jackson focused on writing about British beers Fred Eckhardt focused on American Beers. He was the writer for the beer column in the Portland Oregonian and published multiple books such as The Essentials of Beer Styles, Beer Tasting and Evaluation for the Amateur, A Treties on Lager Beer, and Sake U.S.A. After reading this book and researching this post I stumbled on a website that has collected his writing. Oregon State University has his writings collected here. Obviously reading old books on brewing interest me so I see this as a gold mine of more things to read. If you feel the same… enjoy.

    I picked up this book with a huge stack of much more modern brewing books. I saw this tiny one on the top and didn’t think it would be much of anything. It was only after planning out my writing schedule that I learned that today (May 10th) is Mr. Eckhardt’s birthday. I figured it would be fitting that I review his book on his birthday as a way to remember him on his special day. It was only after I began to read and look into Mr. Eckhardt’s life that I realized how much of a beer writer he was and how much I have been missing without knowing about him.

    The book does an early version of laying out the different styles of beer. He himself does not take full credit for this. He borrows and references greatly from Michael Jackson’s earlier work in classifying beers. He lays out beers in five different styles (lager, pale, ale, wheat) with each style having between 9 and 15 subclasses. For each subclass there are several commercial beers that mark the style. These list a beer’s gravity, ABV IBU, SRM. This is something that is not specifically in the current BJCP Style Guidelines.

    What I liked about the book: It was a great look at the origins of classifying beers and the beginning of writing about beer tasting. When this book was written The BJCP guidelines had not been established like they are today. He mentions another judging style from the one that people who are familiar with the BJCP score sheet. Fred’s judging style is based upon a 20 point scale. This is broken into four areas: prior to taste, flavor, in-mouthfeel and taste, after taste. It also gives advice on beginning to learn to judge and evaluate beers. Fred’s recommendation of testing large commercial beers multiple times until you get a good consistent score for them. He also gives a simple way to spike your beers to facilitate learning to pick up off flavors. Although there are kits available out there to spike beers to help you learn off flavors this is a simple method using ingredients you already have at the house.

    What I disliked about this book: Something’s are wrong. He states that breweries are not allowed to print the alcohol content on their labels and that states have limits on how high the alcohol content can be. While true for some states this says more about the changing times than the accuracy of Mr. Eckhardt’s book. It also provides a nice footnote of beer history.

    Will this book stay on my shelf: Yes. I think this hood provides a great early look on classifying beer styles and how beer is judged. Although there is so much more that has been written on the subject of beer this gives a good backstory of how we got to where we are today. The book also gives a bibliography of further reading books that when I have time I would like to explore these titles.

    Would I recommend this book to someone else: For individuals who are very interested in reading about beer I believe that this book is worth seeking out. It is well out of print but can be found second hand fairly easily on the internet.

  • Beer & Book Review: Beer Craft, William Bostwick and Jessi Rymill, 2011

    Beer & Book Review: Beer Craft, William Bostwick and Jessi Rymill, 2011

    I have no idea how this book ended up on my bookshelf. I don’t remember buying this book or receiving it as a gift. Before moving to Japan I bought several homebrewer’s libraries. It must have been one of the books in those collections. I have been pleasantly surprised with this book. This tiny six by five book is packed with everything you need to know to take raw grains and turn them into beer. This even goes in to labeling and brand development. While labeling and branding is not necessary for a good home brewed beer it shows the new homebrewer all the different aspects that people have explored in this hobby. There are definitely better books for individuals who are very passionate about brewing, but this book will provide enough information to get someone started.

    What I liked about the book: The 6 inch by 5 inch size makes it very portable and easy to carry around with you have time. I really like how the book is written. The book is divided into sections that cover each step of the brewing process (mashing, boiling, cooling, fermenting and bottling). If you just read the first half of each section you will get enough information to successfully conduct that step. If you read the entire chapter you can get the exact details that more experienced brewers would know. An example of this would be the mashing step. The first half of the section covers that mashing should be done for 60 minutes the later half go into detail about the glucose conversion and the science behind the transformation. For this reason I believe that this book is best for new to homebrewing readers. The book also provides 10 recipies which would creat a gallon of beer each or between 8-10 bottles. I like the small batch size because the last thing a new homebrewer needs is messing something up and having to suffer through 5 gallons of poorly made beer. The book also contains 7 one page interviews with individuals in the brewing industry. These interviews are only answer four or five questions, but they address topics such as starting or what makes their brewery unique. This will provide more areas for the interested homebrewer to explore.

    What I didn’t like about the book: The authors have their preference and this comes out in the writing. They are a fan of White Labs Yeast and Wyeast while disregarding dry yeast or other liquid yeast producers. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In New Jersey I lived down the street from the homebrew supply store Cask and Kettle and would regularly use liquid yeast in my recipes. Now that I live overseas and my beer ingredients take nearly a month to reach me I cannot use liquid yeast without it getting exploded to the heat even in the winter. There are several other brands such as Lallemand, Red Star, and SafAle. There are also several different styles such as Belgian, saison, and even Kveik. There were also several chapters on label development and brand development. While I understand some people enjoy creating a brand for their homebrew and designing labels it is not something I am interested in and it is not required to make a quality beer.

    Will it stay on my shelf: No. While I think this book is good for the brand new brewer there are better books for me about brewing. I will hold on to this book to give to someone who expresses interest in wanting to brew. Because of its compact size and detailed information this would be the perfect gift to feed the interest of a new homebrewer. The next person that expresses an interest in homebrewing I am going to give this book to them. Having it stay on my shelf will not benefit my brewing and will keep a valuable resource from an emerging brewer.

    Would I recommend this book for your library: If you are even slightly curious on if you could brew your own beer I would recommend this book. Like I said before there are better brewing books. These books may be too dry for someone who is mildly interested but Beer Craft is simple enough that a novice could read the book quickly and have enough information to successfully brew a beer. For someone who has been brewing for a while this book doesn’t have much to offer. If you already have and have read How to Brew John Palmer or The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian I would not recommend this book. If you aren’t interested in reading 300 pages of homebrewing books to see if you like to try the hobby I would recommend this book.