I often feel lucky when I’ve sampled great beer. But tonight I feel particularly fortunate because I’ve tasted beer that I may never taste in the UK again. And this wasn’t just a bottle of grog brought back wrapped in dirty laundry at bottom of a fellow-beer geek’s suitcase: this was international award-winning beer brewed by two of Japan’s very best craft breweries.
Following changes to Japanese law in 1994 which paved the way for microbreweries, a large number opened up around the country and began introducing novel flavours to a nation of beer drinkers more accustomed to the blandness of Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo. Not all these enterprises survived, but Minoh and Ise Kadoya did, and both breweries celebrate their twentieth anniversaries this year. And what better way to celebrate than flying 6000 miles across the world to pick up a haul of prizes at the International Brewing Awards?
Minoh brewery was founded by Ohshita Masaji and is now managed by his three daughters. Minoh, based in Osaka, is a pretty happening brewery in its home country and has won numerous awards for its innovative beer. Amongst its previous offerings are Minoh Cabernet – made with a large helping of cabernet grapes – and, of course, Mino Bier – last year’s collaboration brew with Brighton Bier brewed with Mugicha (Japanese roasted barley tea). Tomorrow, they collect a gold award for their W-IPA (one of Japan’s very first double IPAs) and a bronze for their stout (which has been declared the world’s best stout on more than one occasion in the past). Samples of each of these were on offer tonight at Brighton Bierhaus as part of this special event. The W-IPA was satisfyingly viscous and bitter, whilst the rich, slight smokiness of the stout showcased the malt in a way that briefly caramel-coated the tongue in a coffee sweetness.
The other brewery showcased at tonight’s event, Ise Kadoya, represents the latest incarnation of a 450 year old family business, and CEO, Narihiro Suzuki, is the charismatic 21st generation, the man who boldly steered the company away from the production of soy sauce and miso paste, into the world of modern brewing. A renowned beer judge in his own right, Suzuki is thrilled to be collecting awards – a gold for their pale ale and a bronze for the brown ale. Again, both beers were available for sampling tonight. Both had a surprising sweetness. The brown ale was, perhaps, a little truer to type, but the pale was my favourite: an ice cream float with a dancing sparkle of tight carbonation of a kind it’s always exciting to find in bottle-conditioned beer.
I was very honoured to get an interview with Narihiro Suzuki, and you’ll be able to hear it very soon on the Fermentation Beer & Brewing Show.
And if you missed out on this Tuesday night treat from the Brighton Bierhaus, never fear: I have a feeling that this new addition to Brighton’s burgeoning beer scene has many more surprises in store for us.