This May the Keyaki Hiroba Beer Festival returns to the Saitama Super Arena. One of the biggest beer festivals in the Kanto area, the Keyaki Beer Fest has had more beer and more crowds every year. This year they are dong something about it, and splitting the whole festival in to two different “Seasons.” Season 1 will be from Thursday May 14th to Sunday May 17th and Season 2 will be the next week, from Thursday May 21st to Sunday May 24th. Some breweries will be there both seasons, but a few will only show up one of the weeks. If there is a specific brewery you want to try then make sure to check the list of breweries and seasons on the website.
Even though I won’t be able to attend this year, I’ve still gone through the list and picked out a few breweries and beers that look interesting. Starting in Season 1, Crew Republic caught my eye. They seem to be an American style craft beer brewery, though based out of Munich, Germany. That right there fascinates me. What sort of things do you get when a culture that has been brewing for over a thousand years picks up some of the new tricks from across the pond? Crew Republic will be bringing a variety of IPA’s, a pale ale, an imperial stout and even a barley wine. For the festival they are paired with Plank Brewery, which is bringing more traditionally German styles. They will be bringing a hefeweizen, dunkel, and weizenbock. There seems to be plenty at that booth to keep a beer lover happy!
Also in Season 1, Baird Beer is returning this Spring. They skipped last year’s festival as it was the same weekend that their new brewery was opening. While I do love the beer, one of the best reasons to swing by their booth this spring will be a BBQ pulled pork sandwich. Simply put, it is one of the best meals in the entire festival! On the beer side of things they will be bringing their session ale, helles lager, brown ale, and a seasonal india pale ale. They are calling it an Imperial Pale Ale, but at 80 IBU (International Bittering Units, used to measure how bitter a beer is) this is most certainly an American IPA by another name. They are using a lot of interesting and floral hops on this one, like the Japanese Sorachi Ace and the New Zealand Nelson Sauvin. Both of those are also in my newest home brew attempt, so I would be really interested to try this.
Another interesting group of Season 1 attendees is a set of English imports brought over by The Warrior Celt bar. They have an English IPA, a pair of bitters, and a surprise beer that is currently unannounced. I’ve not tried any of these particular beers, but I do know that a good pint of bitters can be a true perfect pint.
The Zakkoku Kobo Micro Brewery, the subject of my post just a few weeks ago, will also be at Season 1. Downtown Omiya is a little bit easier to get to then their rural brew pub, and if you do attend the first season I highly recommend a stop at their booth. They will be bringing their excellent wheat beer and their fantastic Door into Summer IPA.
Attending both seasons, Yo-Ho is bringing back last years Kimi-Biiru Boku Biiru, which I really enjoyed. They also have a new seasonal, a session ale, in addition to the mainstays of Yona Yona Ale, Tokyo Black and Aooni IPA.
Season 2 has longtime Tokyo luminaries DevilCraft. They have a nice selection of American imports, and a pair of their collaboration beers. The Mosaic X Pale ale and Red Godzilla IPA return this year. I am looking forward to the day they open their brewery, and don’t have to collaborate anymore. Another Season 2 American importer is the brand new Oregon Beer Geeks, with four Oregon based beers. They have a nice range, with an IPA, a wheat, a stout and a secret recommended beer.
Antenna America is doubling down on Sierra Nevada this year, with five of the Chico, California based breweries beers. Included in the line up is the classic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and their newer Hop Hunter IPA. I’ve had a few Hop Hunters since I have been back in America, and it is a really solid brew. Nooner Pilsner will also be on hand, for those who want a bit less hops.
North Island Brewery is also keeping things to Season 2. They always have a solid line up of beers, and are back with the Coriander Black again this year. They also have their full line up of regular styles, with a stout, IPA, weizen, brown ale, pilsner and even a special seasonal, so there is something for everyone at the North Island booth.
The Spring version of the Keyaki Hiroba Beer festival is always my favorite. With wonderful spring weather and plenty of fantastic beer, it really has it all. I’m interested in seeing how splitting things in two will work out for them. A lot of major producers like Yo-Ho, Sankt Gallen, and Isekadoya will be at both Seasons, but there are a ton of places that will only be at one or the other. Will this divide help keep the crowds down a bit? Or will it just make people upset that their two favorite breweries are there on different weeks? Will people go both weeks? Will you be attending the festival this year? Which week will you be going to? Leave a comment and join the conversation!