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Japanese Craft Beer: Born of the Fruits of the Earth

Japanese Craft Beer: Born of the Fruits of the Earth

The art of brewing beer in Japan goes hand in hand with the nation’s history of proud craftsmanship. As such, the development of craft beer in the country comes with a uniquely Japanese attention to detail. It is not just this attention to detail that earns Japanese craft beer its distinctive status, however; the ingredients used within the brewing process are often local, homegrown or naturally occurring materials that are only found in Japan. Of all the ingredients used within the process of brewing craft beer, many Japanese brewers regard water to be the most important, rendering the location of each brewery and its water supply paramount.

Water from the Sacred Mountain

DHC Beer in Shizuoka is unique for its fortuitous location in Gotemba, a city that lies at the base of Mount Fuji. The brewery uses water that has filtered through the mountain to produce a pure-tasting beer that contains a part of this treasured national symbol itself. The iconic snow decorating Fuji’s peak, once melted, filters through the mountain and becomes purified underground for around half a century, developing into a soft, mellow water that is mildly alkaline – a truly historic liquid. To complement the purity of the water from Fuji, DHC uses carefully selected ingredients and monitors the brewing process with exacting quality control, creating beers that are free of off flavors.

A Unique Approach to Filtration

A Unique Approach to Filtration

Unlike many other breweries, which filter out the malt and yeast to create a crystal-clear beer, DHC experiments with unfiltered beers. For example, in their “Golden Meister” pilsner, the malt and yeast remain in the final product. As the beer warms in temperature, the unfiltered malt and yeast produce a singular sweetness and mellowness. Similarly, “Belgian Style Beer” is an unfiltered witbier, and the remaining yeast creates a spritzy and engaging tartness.

Made in the Western Tradition

As the title suggests, “Golden Meister” is made in the tradition of German beer, adhering to 100 percent malt, and a portion of the malt itself is even from Germany. While the beer does use some German ingredients, “Golden Meister” has been developed in a new Japanese way. The yeast used is cultivated in-house, which allows the brewing craftsmen constant access to live yeast in their pursuit of deliciousness. The addition of two different types of hops then works to draw out the flavor of the unfiltered yeast and malt. Likewise, “Belgian Style Beer” offers the refreshing, fruity aromas of coriander and orange peel that are typical of a witbier, while the mellow flavor produced from the wheat is distinctly Japanese.

Delicately Balanced Flavors

Delicately Balanced Flavors

“Belgian Style Beer” combines its citrus aroma with minimal bitterness, making it a perfect beer for those who might be otherwise uncomfortable with bitter flavors. For fans of citrus fruits, the citrusy hops used in DHC’s “Premium Rich Ale” offer an aroma that is reminiscent of grapefruit. DHC recommends that this beer be enjoyed at 54 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point the flavor will spread throughout the mouth, demonstrating how varied and complex the flavors of Japanese beers can be. Like “Golden Meister,” “Premium Rich Ale” is a hybrid creature, derived from a carefully selected blend of three different malts and several different hop varietals.

Appreciation of Nature’s Gifts

Appreciation of Nature’s Gifts

Karuizawa Brewery in Karuizawa – a popular summer resort in Nagano prefecture – uses the pure water that runs beneath nearby Mount Asama with a similar devotional approach as DHC in their own beer-brewing process. Their refreshing beer perfectly fits in with the notion of a cool retreat from the heat of the city in summer. For Karuizawa Brewery, an important ethos is deep appreciation of nature – and particularly water. This is made abundantly clear in their choice of label designs for several of their beers. “Seiryo Hisen Premium” bears an image of contemporary Tokyo artist Hiroshi Senju’s Waterfall, and “Seiryo Hisen” translates into English as “refreshing waterfall.” True to its label, this golden ale is characterized by a crisp hop flavor, a refreshing aftertaste and fine bubbles, evoking the notion of a waterfall while drinking. With aromas redolent of grapefruit and Muscat grape, a creamy white foam cap and a clean finish, this beer goes well with any dish.

A More Subdued Variety

Like “Seiryo Hisen Premium,” the label of “Premium Dark” displays an evocative painting by Senju: “On the Night with Stars II.” Soft on the palate, Karuizawa Brewery’s “Premium Dark” is made using 100% malt, and is characterized by dark copper hues, toasty maltiness, mellow flavor and a subtly sweet finish to complement the dusky painting of its label. This beer uses a decoction method in which the umami and aroma of the malt is drawn out, as well as a late hopping method in which the hop aroma is added through boiling. Karuizawa Brewery recommends that “Premium Dark” is enjoyed together with a meal, especially German meats or sausage.

Japanese Craft Beer

For More Traditional Palates

Karuizawa Brewery’s “Weiss” uses selected wheat malt, and has a top fermentation, which produces a fruity scent, almost reminiscent of banana. Characterized by a light color, moderate acidity and a soft taste, “Weiss” is made in the classic German style and uses 100 percent malt. This beer has a long shelf life, and goes with most dishes, especially Italian cheese dishes.

Japanese craft beers that capture this spirit can be tried and tasted at various venues in the four West Coast cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Portland, as part of the Japanese Craft Beer Week campaign. Fifteen beers are available from the following six breweries: COEDO Brewery, DHC Beer, Karuizawa Brewery, Kizakura, Miyazaki Hideji Beer, and Yoho Brewing. These beers can be enjoyed in restaurants and bars across the four cities, with the campaign period lasting until the end of February 2020.

Kizakura beers are now available in the Greater Los Angeles area and Orange County at restaurants like Ikko Japanese Cuisine and Izakaya HONDA-YA TUSTIN. Please contact the restaurant for information about tasting events currently being held with these beers. Be sure to follow Japanese Craft Beer on Facebook and Instagram to receive announcements on the latest venues and tasting events, and to learn about the participating breweries and their distinguished Japanese beer.

Campaign Period from January 13th to January 25th

Ikko Japanese Cuisine
735 Baker St, Ste C
Costa Mesa, CA 92626


Campaign Period Begins December 20th, 2019

556 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92780


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Hashtag: #JapaneseCraftBeer

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