Randen Eki Beer – Kirin Brewing

OK, OK, this is brewed by Kirin, a macro, but bear with me on this.  Two points can be made in favour of this beer being “craft”.  One, macro brewers in Japan work a little differently than they do here in North America.  While they do have an overarching national brand that encompasses a standard macro lager they also have small batch, carefully brewed beers for limited, seasonal, regional or event release, often with interesting ingredients or recipes that have been painstakingly created.  Check out Mike’s review of the Sapporo Oyster Black for one of Sapporo Brewing’s offering. Two, this particular beer is a release for the Arashiyama Station Beer Garden in North West Kyoto, a local festival.  Only available at the festival this beer really is created to match both the hot, humid weather of Kyoto in August and Japanese festival street food.

A slightly cloudy dark hay yellow with big, coarse carbonation bubbles.  The head is snow white with much finer bubbles and pretty good staying power.

The nose is grainy with a light sake tinge and that beery lager scent.

Such a good summer beer with good flavour, there are lots of grass and hay notes with a round malted barley flavour to add body.  A touch of sourness at the first sip gives way to a light bubblegum note.  A nice, clean finish with a long lingering malt note finish off the sip.  Good, rough carbonation tingles on the tongue while the mouthfeel is pleasantly light.

Best drunk on a hot summer day, possibly with tempura or dango.

Side note: if any of our readers can read Japanese I would love to know what the can actually says, I can only muddle through a few pleasantries and read a few Kanji.


Shikkoku Black Lager – Coedo Brewery

From Miyoshi in the Iruma District of Japan comes their “Shikkoku Black Lager”. The beer pours a deep brown to black colour with a tan head.  The aroma consist of roasted malts, toffee and some sweetness.  The flavour is of roasted malts, toffee, caramel, mild earth, sweetness and very mild hops.  The alcohol content comes in at 5%.  While not one of my favourite black lagers this was still pretty good.

Commercial Description:  Shikkoku is a Japanese word that evokes the jet-black color of onyx, perfect for this enchantingly dark, slow-aged brew marked by an elegant, mellow flavor profile.  Enigmatic shadows contrast sharply with the brightness of its fine, tea-colored head, while the fragrance of aromatic hops delights the nose.  The types of black malt join six other malt varieties for a black lager that is smooth, light, and balanced- never cloying.  Japan proudly offers this dark jewel to stand among the best dark beers in the world.


Kyara India Pale Lager – Coedo Brewery

From Miyoshi in the Iruma District of Japan comes their “Kyara India Pale Lager”.  The beer pours an orange colour with a slightly off white head.  The aroma consists of citrus, tropical fruit, sweetness, floral and some mild caramel.  The flavour is of citrus, tropical fruits including pineapple, sweetness, caramel with some mild earth.  The beer has almost no bitterness present but has lots of flavour.  The alcohol content comes in at 5.5%.  I wish this beer had more bitterness due to the style but it is a really enjoyable beer anyways and I am really happy it was brought back from Asia for me.

Commercial Description:  Kyara is the Japanese word for a deep golden brown colour tinged with red, and gives its name to this beer of the same hue.  Aromatic hops carry notes of white grapes and spicy citrus, while a fresh, clean bitterness unfolds on the palate.  Six different malts are combined with a slightly higher than average alcohol content, bringing a more expansive flavour to this well-rounded, medium-bodied brew.  Low-temperature lager yeasts make this a stand-up beer with a pleasant, crisp finish.



Oyster Black – Sapporo

Sapporo is not a craft brewery I know but they do make some small batch beers that they only sell at the brewery in Hokkaido, Japan.  Steve went to Japan recently and brought back a bottle of their “Oyster Black” a Schwarzbier to share.  The beer pours a deep brown colour with a light brown head.  The aroma consists of roasted malts, smoke and a mild metallic note that is normal form Oyster beers.  The flavour is of roasted malts, chocolate, mild metallic, salt, earth and a semi sweet finish.   The alcohol content comes in at 5%.  I don’t ever reach for beer from Sapporo but if you make it to Japan make sure to head to the brewery and pick up a bottle of this beer as it is very enjoyable.


Suruga Bay Imperial IPA – Baird Brewing Company

From Baird Brewing out of Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan comes their “Suruga Bay Imperial IPA”.  This was an exciting find in Victoria BC recently as it is the very first Japanese craft beer that I have tasted.  The beer poured a cloudy orange colour with an off white head with some lasting lacing.  The aroma consisted of floral hops, orange, citrus, malts, sugar and a sweetness.  The flavour is of oranges, caramel, candied sugar, earthy, herbal and a mild bitterness.  The alcohol content comes in at 8.5%.  I will have to agree with Beer Advocate (88/100) and rate beer (96/100) in saying this is a great double IPA and I hope to try many more from this Japanese brewery!

Commercial Description:  This extraordinarily complex yet balanced Double IPA is dry-hopped twice with whole flower cones and then krausened at packaging. The hop character (bitterness, flavor, aroma) is profound – vast and impactful like our local Suruga Bay is deep and magnificent.