The year 2020 brought the worst domino effect that the tourism industry has seen in a long time. The much-anticipated Olympic Games, which the whole country was prepping for, were postponed. The hospitality industry was navigating uncharted waters, facing unforeseen challenges such as excess stocked perishable edibles with no customers to feed.
One such hotel in Hokkaido, Hotel Nupka, was on the verge of throwing its in-house stock of azuki beans as it struggled to utilize them considering the hotel occupancy was zero with no signs of future business.
These azuki beans were once a staple ingredient for many regular dishes at the hotel’s café, namely dorayaki, taiyaki, red-bean onigiri, seikihan (red-bean rice), and the much-loved squishy balls of mochi.
As things looked upside down, the enthusiastic taste-makers of Jungle Brewery and Edo Tokyo Beer, two Tokyo-based microbreweries, planned an unusual initiative to control food wastage. They decided to brew beer from the excess azuki beans. This idea was born during the national state of emergency when a mutual friend of the brewers mentioned a hotel facing a challenge with its excess stock – leading to the breweries collaborating with the hotel.
To create beer from waste was the intent. An exemplary showcase of the food and beverage community coming together in times of crisis, being mindful, and sustainably supporting the local craft beer industry. This is the story of Full Moon Rabbit – the craft beer made from azuki beans during a time of crisis.
Meet the Brewers
Yuki Ohara of Jungle Brewery, established in 2019, located in Shibaura of Minato-ku, spoke passionately about his love for craft beer. He learned about brewing by volunteering at different microbreweries over the years. The 35-year-old mentions that good craft beer is a conversation starter, even in a hole-in-a-wall kind of place. Moreover, he believes that every beer enthusiast has a preferred “secret bar” where they take themselves and their friends for a distinctive brew.
Hirotsugu Taka of Edo Tokyo Brewery, operational since 2018, located in Senda in Koto-ku, has been in the brewing game for a while now. He confesses of feeling there is no better endeavor than brewing beer. The joy of creating a local brew each time, recipe testing, detailing the process down to every minute and long hours are instantly gratifying when the beer is appreciated and sold.
The brewers say, “It was heartbreaking to know that there was food getting wasted. We just couldn’t let it go. It was understandable the helplessness the hotel was facing, but we felt a responsibility too.” Soon the logistics of the airfreight delivery of azuki bean bags from Hotel Nupka were coordinated.
While both Ohara’s and Taka’s ideologies stem from the same concept of mottainai, or “waste not, want not” in Japanese. The phrase instills a sense of regret whenever something such as food goes to waste. It’s a philosophy ingrained into the Japanese community and something that Ohara and Taka try to reflect in their breweries.
The taste-maker’s say that “creating in crisis is far from a rosy picture: cost of production has an inevitable pressure and already the number of people visiting the brewery had dropped drastically. It was a definite risk. We were now operating in survival mode: thinking only about break-even, not profit.”
“After we finished processing and bottling the beans into beer at the Edo Tokyo brewery in August 2020, we felt selling online was the way to go around, keeping social distance in mind.”
How does the Beer Taste?
Taka says, “the main challenge while brewing this beer was that azuki lacks the robust taste that malted barley or wheat would naturally possess.
“But we didn’t want the beer to have an identity crisis; we needed to create a beer personality that stood out and still blended in at the same time.
“Keeping that in mind, we focused on nurturing the subtle flavors of azuki to bring out a sweet fragrant light-bodied brew which people may associate with the much-loved traditional azuki bean paste.”
The remaining process is fundamental, starting with washing the beans, and then germination after malting is complete, they move to mashing, lautering, boiling, fermentation, cooling, filtering and finishing with bottling.
During the process of brewing, they also added a dollop of hops, not too much as they didn’t want the bitterness of hops to overpower the azuki natural aroma resulting in an amber ale style with a total of 5.5 % of alcohol by volume.
“Full Moon Rabbit,” says Taka, was the right name for this beer as it was brewed on a full moon night, and the beer goes through phases just as the moon does.
Where can this beer be purchased?
Seventy-five liters of this limited-edition beer went on sale from August 29. It can be purchased from The Jungle Brewery home page priced at an ¥1,200 a bottle from the link below: https://shop.jungleandbrewery.com/
*Full Moon Rabbit is produced in limited quantities and may be sold out.