The craft beer industry is booming here right now and naturally Japan’s largest alcohol brands all want a slice of the action.
Leading the way is Kirin. Already a minority stakeholder in the country’s number one craft beer enterprise, Yo-Ho Brewing, it last year acquired a 24.5% stake in Brooklyn Brewery. As part of the deal the two companies recently began a joint venture in this part of the world which includes the Japanese debut of the New York brand’s iconic beer, Brooklyn Lager.
To celebrate its launch a food and beer pairing event was staged at Kirin’s very own stylish brewpub, Spring Valley Brewery in Daikanyama, Tokyo. An assortment of tasty light dishes served with a wide range of craft beers, it certainly made for a fun event that was followed by a private party the next evening. An enthusiastic team flew in from Brooklyn including the company’s brewmaster Garrett Oliver. The editor-in-chief of The Oxford Companion to Beer, he chose a selection of ales and food for us to enjoy. Here’s what we thought of it all.
Brooklyn Lager The event kicked off with the company’s flagship beer, Brooklyn Lager. A true original and one of the instigators of the craft beer revolution, it is brewed to a pre-prohibition recipe that dates back over 100 years. An exceptional amber-gold hoppy lager that has a rich taste and dry finish. It’s a good beer to have after a tiring day or when watching a sports game. Paired with a whitebait pizza, it was the perfect way to get things started.
Sorachi Ace A beer with a strong, distinctive personality that got its name from an area in Hokkaido. It is a saison (pale ale that is generally around 7% ABV) with unusual flavors and a unique citrus/lemongrass aroma. Light-bodied, smooth and very refreshing, it tasted great alongside the salmon meuniere dish it was served with. Oliver also recommends sushi, steak and salad.
Framboisie Arguably the pick of the bunch, Framboisie is a high-end Belgian-inspired beer that comes in a champagne-like bottle with a cork (though Oliver argues that it’s the other way around and champagne comes in a beer bottle). A complex, sour ale with the right amount of raspberry character and a nice tart finish, it should be enjoyed at a leisurely pace with sips rather than being guzzled down. A very enjoyable drink paired with a sumptuous goat’s cheese salad.
East IPA/Defender Mixing British refinement with American boldness, East IPA is the kind of earthly hop that Oliver suggests you would have tasted in England during the 19th Century. Defender, by contrast, is darker in color, but not as strong. Bitter and very juicy, it is a nicely balanced IPA. Despite being very different ales, East IPA and Defender both paired very well with the spicy crab cakes that came with them.
Top Spin This started out as one of Brooklyn Brewery’s so-called ghost bottles, i.e. an experimental brew, shrouded in mystery, only available at selected events. It’s a Belgian-style quadrupel (an alcohol by volume of 10% or more) with Brooklyn attitude that tastes of dark fruits, raisins and sweet caramel. According to Oliver it was bottled in 2014 so certainly ages well. Combined with beef spareribs and fries, it was simply divine.
Black Ops The ghost bottle series actually began with Black Ops back in 2007. Initially hidden under tarps at the company’s warehouse, it was eventually released to the public a few months later. A nice blend of vanilla and coconut flavors, it tastes almost like a coffee and that is why Oliver paired it with both a cheese and chocolate cake. Aged for six months in bourbon barrels, it is bottled flat and refermented with champagne yeast.
SVB x Brooklyn Murakami Seven A nice little extra, Murakami Seven is still in the development stage. Oliver informs us that this collaboration is less than a month old and he’s very excited as to how it will turn out. As things stand it already tastes pretty good to us. Like Sorachi it’s another Saison, but with a floral aroma as opposed to lemongrass. At 8% it is quite strong, yet feels quite light.
You can sample some of Brooklyn Brewery’s liquid wares at Spring Valley Brewery over in Daikanyama: www.springvalleybrewery.jp/tokyo/