Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Ok, I've not posted in a long time partly due to fatherhood but also as Google decided to discontinue their blogger app (did they ever replace it?). Anyways, in June I went to Toronto for a family wedding and picked up  Bu Woo at Bellwoods Hafis Rd location and then when I was at Burdock I saw they had their own version in 375ml bottles. I'm a sucked for collaborations so I had to pick both up.

I brought them to Japan and shared them with a fellow Beer Lover in Kyoto.

Burdock x Buwoo 6.1%
A cloudy peach juice milky color with a sour tart Riesling grape and plum aroma. Full bodied with a round carbonation and tart flavor but it goes down smoothly.

Bellwoods x Burdock Buwoo 6.4%
Green Tea & Mango BA Sour Ale
It has an incredible mango aroma that is like freshly diced/cubes mango or purée. Very round soft prickly carbonation with lots acidity and tartness plus tons of mango. Very drinkable though I don’t see any sign of the aforementioned green tea. 
Those Bu Woo were good but not stellar, burdocks had more going on but didn’t stand out while the Bellwoods tasted better but was mostly mango. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Mitsui Taika Renfa aka Birrerria Ristorante Le Mani

I recently realized I hadn't published anything on here since 2016, life got in the way as I had a baby girl and so had little free time to devote to blogging.

A few weeks ago, I was able to visit Okayama Prefecture and I was impressed by the increased availability of craft beer there and Doppo Breweries overall rise in quality.

One of my best finds was that in the picturesque town of Kurashiki there is now a craft beer speciality restaurant/bottle shop that focuses on beer from Okayama Prefecture.

The name of the shop is Kurashiki Kura Beer Tei and that is where I saw bottles from a brewey I'd never heard of. If you want you can read my review of that place on ratebeer here. The prices for these 500ml bottles to go were about 650 yen including tax.

Once I got home, I tried to dig up more information on the brewery. I discovered they're locate in a pretty little valley near Bizen (of pottery fame) Okayama. The castle on the label is actually a representation of the brewpub/italian restaurant. The closest station to the brewpub is Yoshinaga but it looks like it is in the middle of nowhere and tough to get to without a car. If you want more information you can find it on their website or this website will show you photos of the castle like exterior.

They seem to make two beers a 4% Day beer and an 8% Night beer.

Dream or Real Door Night

The 8% Dream or Real Door Night  was a dark Japanese ale that poured a deep mahogany brown with an impressively thick tan head.

The aroma was fruity berries with a chocolate fudge component that smelled pretty decent.

In the mouth I felt it was quite full bodied with a sharp finish. The taste was earthy berries and chocolate but also a somewhat harsh acidic almost metallic character. I wouldn’t say it was obviously off but it wasn’t really completely right. That finish gave me gas... burp.

However, while gassy the beer did grow on me and it was by no means a drainpour. Think of it like a semi-successful homebrew in quality.

Dream or Real Door Day 4%

It poured an opaque amber orange brown with a foamy tan head. A good looking beer for a sunny afternoon.

The aroma was earthy dank and kind of skunky actually. Maybe brewed by someone who missed skunky Grolsch or Heineken. 

Light bodied, sharply carbonated and it had a dry finish. The taste was also fairly homebrew like featuring notes of spice and fruit but it also had a herbal earthy edge. 

Overall, I though it wasn't bad and I did get the impression it’d pair well with a spaghetti bolognese. A touch better than the Night version.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tuesday Tasting: Baeren Monthly Set for September 2016

Baeren beers sell some of the best priced craft beers in Japan, make consistently good German Style beers plus they have a nice range of ciders as well. 

I signed up for a 3 month beer of the month club that will feature beers made to celebrate 500 years of the Rheinheitsgebot. Apparently, they do this every Fall starting in September and the theme changes each year.

September 2016 featured: 

On to the beers.

Wiesenbier 6%

I was expecting a straw gold but it poured a dark orange with a thick beige head. Unexpected but I think it suits Fall just fine. 

The aroma is super bready, cotton candy spice with cloves - pleasingly sweet aroma. Medium to full bodied, smooth mouthfeel and the taste is bready, spicy cloves and white pepper, tangy citrus and caramel fudge covered spongecake. I'd say this is on it's way to being halfway to dunkelweizen territory though ratebeer has it listed as an Oktoberfest/Marzen. Solid brew for Fall.

Having it again in a dimpled mug it is definitely a malt-forward Oktoberfest beer (apparently Wiesen is the field where Oktoberfest is held). Malty, sweet nutty caramel and some sharp hoppiness. It remains a nice Fall beer the second time around.

Now let's look at the two Alts which I've heard should be drunk side by side.

Baeren Herbst Alt 4.5%

A deep ruddy brown with a thin beige head. The aroma is of a sharp caramel with nuts. Medium to light bodied, it's got a bone dry finish. It goes down very smooth with a bitter caramel, brief hit of sweetness and a biting lightly bitter finish. Very crisp and well done.

Baeren Herbst Alt Celler 4.5%

A slightly lighter brown than the regular Herbst Alt with a thicker more resilient head of foam. A softer, nuttier caramel aroma greats you while the body is fuller (Med-full) and sweeter. The carbonation is a touch less aggressive and the flavor is nutty, roasty, caramel, chocolate with a herbal hop bite. The hops are definitely more pronounced in this version. 

On it's own I think I prefer the Herbst Alt but when you have them side by side it brings out an earthy bitter caramel in the Alt Celler and the semi-dry finish is quite quaffable making the Celler version go down a touch smoother and it seems a touch closer to my expectations when I think of Alt. Both are very solid brews.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Tuesday Tasting: Tête d'Allumette

Today's Tuesday Tasting will feature 3 brews from Quebec. Last July buddy's group, Boucan Sound System,  was hired to play a gig at the 3rd year Anniversary bash of Tete d'Allumette (Match Head) Brewery out in the wilds of Eastern Quebec in Kamouraska. Here's a clip of my buddy's music:

As I was going to visit him shortly after, I asked him to try and pick up some of their brews for me to try. They kindly hooked him up with three 1-liter growlers of:

Tête Carrée a 4% English Style Bitter that's in Ratebeer's Top 50 for the Style, Apache a 5.5% Smoked Ale 5.5% and Pioche a 5.5% Saison.

Cool looking 1L growlers

 And now on to the beers!

 Tête Carée

Bitter Anglaise Minerale 4.2% 28 IBU 

A cloudy matte gold with a crazy  aroma  of grains that honestly made me think it smells like the countryside when the malts are ripe for harvesting. 
The taste is malt forward, lightly nutty but with a herbaciously bitter edge. Cool stuff, drinks dead easy.

A nice looking brown with reddish highlights. Cracking the growler released a huge aroma of citrus and apricot, in my mug I got more of a flavor profile that features malty caramel with a touch of smoke.

The taste is surprisingly smokey with bitter nutty chocolate and floral hops. Good. 

We shared this bottle with the good folks at Beau's. 
A golden orange color with s filmy head and a bready Orange and wheat aroma. 

The taste is cloves, wheat, soda bread, a slight hit of acidity but quite smooth. Tasty stuff.

If you ever find yourself out in that part of rural Quebec pop in and  treat yourself to some solid suds.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Gorilla Brewing Co. - Busan

Well, it's been about 6 months since Gorilla Brewing opened in Busan, South Korea and it is time to go back to my notes and finally publish my blog post from my visit there. I intended to post it before they opened but due to a technical glitch with blogger I lost my whole post and had to start over. Sorry guys but better late than never!

So last January I decided to take my wife to Busan and shortly after that decision was made I heard of a new brewery opening up. I reached out to find out if it'd be open when I went and heard probably not.

Luckily for me, Wayne Gold the owner of Wolfhound introduced me to Andy Green at Gorilla Brewing and helped organize a pre-opening visit.

Located at the far eastern end of Gwangalli Beach, Gorilla Brewing when combined with the newly opened Akitu Taproom help spread out the Busan beer scene from it's birthplace down by Geumnyeonsan Station - home of Wild Waves Taproom, Owl & Pussycat and Galmegi Brewing one of the best craft brewers in Korea.

nice terrace and paint job
the building

After reaching the brewery's location, I saw a building built into a slope. The outside has a nice terrace for warmer weather that should be a cool place to chill out in the future pre or post beach.

Entering, you find a very welcoming space with big windows looking in on the brew house with a convenient  bar to rest your drinks.

The long bar's got six taps and they started out with a Pale Ale, Session IPA, Stout and IPA. 

This has subsequently been joined by a Blonde Ale.

 A nice way to start off strong is to get experienced help and Gorilla enlisted Calum Bennett the Head Brewer of Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick, London who signed on as a partner. 

Coincidentally, I was in London last summer and got to meet him at Crate. He's a really friendly guy and talented brewer who enjoys objectively tasting his brews and doesn't pull any punches in judging his own work which really earned my respect. 

Calum Bennett at Crate in London
But let's get back to Gorilla's Brewery in Busan.

The beautiful brew house in back is pretty cool and they had a few unusual fermenters that lay on their sides. They brew 100L batches and chose the name Gorilla as it is the same in English and Korean. On top of that they could come up with some really striking imagery and branding.
Side-mounted fermenters

It's time to talk about the most important thing for any brewery: the beer.

Andy serving up my first taste of Gorilla's beer

I started off by having a pint of their Pale Ale 5.5%

It's a nice copper color with a classic piney hop bouquet. 

Medium-full bodied this is a pale ale aimed at those who enjoy a balanced hoppiness. I found it really easy to drink.

So in no time I was ready to sample the rest of their starting line up. From left to right: IPA, Stout & Session IPA. 

The IPA 6%

Straight from the tank, not even kegged yet! A great looking copper color which is what I want out of an IPA with a more aromatic hop profile than the Pale Ale featuring tropical fruits - quite fragrant and mouthwatering.  It was incredibly smooth and drinkable - this went down like a dream.

The Gorilla Stout poured a deep black with a tan head. 

With an aroma of chocolate fudge at first that then opened up to reveal roasty and oat notes. I thought it was a very solid stout though for my personal tastes I’d enjoy a bit of a fuller body. 

According to Andy, at the launch party it was by far the crowd favorite among Korean craft drinkers.

The Session IPA 4.5% is a nice copper gold with a subdued nose that slowly opens up to become more aromatic. 

The taste is maltier than most Session IPAs I've had making it more British in style and providing it with a fuller body which is a nice touch. The taste is sweet and hoppy - good but I felt this initial batch needed a touch more aromatic hops to make it really pop.

My favorite was their IPA which I've since learned is proving to be their most popular brew since they've opened. After my visit, I felt the Gorilla Brewing was off to a promising start and could start giving Galmegi a run for the money in the race for Best Brewery in Busan.

From everything I've seen online in the last six months, Gorilla Brewing's been embraced by the Korean craft beer scene as a very strong neophyte brewery doing all the right things.

Keep it up guys and I look forward to visiting again someday! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Akashi Brewery

I'd been meaning to come out here for a few years and finally had the chance with friends on a Thursday afternoon.

To get to Akashi Brewery by train I took the JR line to Akashi station and then switched to a local train on the Sanyo line going towards Himeji & Aboshi for 9 minutes. 

A short walk towards the coast brings you to what looks like a highway rest stop complex that houses the brewery & restaurant complex. 

 When you get to the brewery you find there's an Italian or Japanese style dining option. You can also enter a corridor with a display of the brewing process, ingredients and Akashi's beer line up. Behind this you'll find some windows allowing you to peek in on the brewery.

A view through the looking glass...
The Brewery restaurant had two lunch options: an Italian style pasta lunch with a salad bar (1400¥)  or burgers (8-850¥).  Service was pretty slow though our burgers were quite good.

lunch menu

salad bar

1st floor dining area

As we had ordered burgers we were directed to a spacious 2nd floor where we were pretty much the only customers on a weekday afternoon.
Eigashima burger

burger menu

Akashi brewery also has a gift shop full of souvenirs from the area as well as a wide variety of their bottled beers. I've heard this place sometimes gets tour buses who're visiting the nearby Akashi bridge connection Honshu & Shikoku. 

The gift shop

The octopus beer has no octopus in it -_-;
They have a variety of bottled beers including: Himeji (Alt), a Schwarzbier, Weizen, Brown Ale and a variety of pilsners but it can be confusing as the labels differ but lack stylistic information. So all in all, they make maybe 6-8 brews.

their beer line up

Akashi Brewery also hosts a museum of traditional Japanese drinking vessels in a back room. The glass cases house hundreds of pottery vessels and surround several large tables making the museum a kind of large banquet hall.

The 1000¥ tasting set of 4 includes a Schwarz, Brown Ale, Weizen & Pilsner and was brought to the table using this cool contraption that had staff carrying four wine glasses suspended below a wooden rod.

Here's my take on the beers from my notes:

The Schwarzbier is a deep cola black with a beige head. It';s got a nice soft sweet chocolate aroma. The taste matches the aroma giving you roasty chocolate. Medium bodied with a dry finish. 

The Brown Ale is a matte brown color with a filmy light beige head. It has a mild nutty caramel aroma. Light bodied with a chalky bitter finish. The taste is caramel, some fudge/butterscotch and slightly nutty. Kind of alt like.

The Pilsner  is cloudy gold with a thick foamy head. I’m guessing it is an unfiltered pilsner on tap. It has a bready light malt aroma with hints of  lemon zest.  Light bodied with a smooth mouthfeel. The taste is earthy bitter and green hops. 

The Weizen was virtually identical in look to the Pilsner. It had a spot on yeasty clove aroma which I really liked.  Light bodied so I found it  a bit watery but the tangy clove flavor complemented by chewy wheat was pretty good. 

On the second floor they also had a small display of a bunch of old Japanese beer bottles which was kind of cool.

Prices were tax excluded so my Eigashima burger and tasting set came up to 1950¥. It was really quiet on a Thursday afternoon for lunch but a nice spot to chill out.

When I was at the gift shop asking questions about their beers the staff couldn't answer so she fetched one of the brewers who was kind enough to give us a short tour of the brewhouse.

The best way to cap off a visit to Akashi Brewery is by getting some to go beers to enjoy by the sea...