The twice yearly Keyaki Hiroba Beer Festival returns to Omiya in just a few days. This fall it runs from Friday the 19th to Tuesday the 23rd of September, a little extra since Tuesday is the Fall Equinox and a public holiday. This festival remains one of the best beer gatherings in Japan. There will be a world’s worth of brewers and beer there. A lot of the line up will be similar to what we saw in the Spring, but there will certainly be interesting seasonals and unique beers ready to sample.
Yo-Ho Brewing, based in Karuizawa Nagano, brews one of my favorite Japanese craft beers, Yona-yona Ale. Yona-Yona is a well hopped pale ale and is one of the more widely available Japanese craft beers. It is also one of the cheaper ones, running at under 300 yen a can in most stores and convenience stores. When so much of what you can buy here goes for around 500 yen ($5) a bottle you really begin to appreciate the brewers who keep things a little more wallet friendly. Yo-ho will have all of their standard brews at the festival, a selection that includes Yona-Yona Ale, Suiyobi no Neko (Wednesday’s Cat), Tokyo Black, and Aooni (Blue Demon) IPA. Even more exciting, they are bringing along a pair of seasonal beers, a new IPA and a white ale.
Baird Brewing could not come to the spring festival due to the opening of their new brewery complex in Shizuoka prefecture. The new brewery has now been up and running all summer and so Baird are coming back to the Keyaki Plaza with a strong line up. They will have three of their regular beers, Wheat King Wit, Rising Sun Pale Ale and Suruga Bay IPA. They will also have a new seasonal, the Yabai-Yabai Strong Scotch Ale which should be very nice in the cooler fall weather.
Speaking of ale and Scotland, BrewDog will also have a presence. Their regular beers will be represented by Punk IPA, Dead Pony Club Pale Ale and Fake Lager. To spice that up they are also bringing the limited edition Paradox Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrel Stout. I always enjoy a good Bourbon Barrel Stout and the mixing of rich and dark malts with the sweet whiskey and dry wood flavors that you get from the barrel aging. It is pretty interesting to think how the barrels were shipped from Kentucky to Aberdeen Scotland, used to age the stout and then the stout was shipped to Japan!
Saitama prefecture home team Coedo will also be bringing a very interesting new beer to this falls gathering. They have a steam beer, which is a unique style made famous by Anchor Brewing in San Francisco. Steam beer, also called California Common, is a lager that has been fermented at ale temperatures. The higher temperatures act on the lager yeast and make a beer that straddles the line between ale and lager. This sort of beer is both clean and fruity, and I am excited to see a Japanese brewery take on this uncommon style.
This past spring Johana Beer made an impression on us with their Earl Grey Beer. It was strange, but likeable. This fall they are back, but sadly the Earl Grey Beer is not returning with them. Instead there will be two new beers, a golden ale and an IPA sitting along side the Great Blue and Tropical Pink fruit beers. I am a bit disappointed since there will be tons of great India Pale Ales and Golden Ales from around the world; but there was only one tea beer.
One brewery that I really wish I could drink more of is Kiuchi Brewery, the makers of the famous Hitachino Nest Beer. Nest and their owl logo are increasingly famous world wide, I even saw two of their beers on tap in Baltimore! Kiuchi is making a strong move into the Korean market, where consumers are just starting to wake up to the flavor possibilities of craft beer. They will have a small selection of their beers at the festival, and one that I am interested in is their Daidai Ale. I really enjoyed Bairds use of the native Japanese daidai fruit in an IPA, and I am very curious to see what Kiuchi does with it.
What beers are you looking forward to? Check out the complete list, and post a comment!