This year’s Keyaki Beer Festival, Spring Edition, is right around the corner and I could not be more excited. Held in spring and fall every year, the Keyaki Beer Festival is one of Japans premier craft beer events. Between May 29th and June 1st over sixty craft breweries from around the world will be present in the area around the Saitama Super Arena, a short ride from central Tokyo.
While craft beer is certainly becoming a “thing” around Japan, it can still be very difficult to find. Many breweries find it hard to distribute outside of a pretty limited area, so big events like this are very important for both the producers and consumers. It makes it much easier for us Kanto-dwellers to try beers from places like Kyoto, Osaka, and even Fukuoka.
This year has a wonderful line up, though I am sad that it seems Baird Beer will not be represented. Baird, based in Shizuoka prefecture south of Yokohama, is one of the stalwarts of the Japanese Craft scene. Their normal lineup is top notch, and they offer a regular assortment of seasonal and one off brews. The good news about their non-attendance is that June 1st marks the grand opening of their brand new, and much larger, brewery. So while they may be missing this event, there is the promise of even more excellent beer in the future.
With that one omission, this year’s festival is looking great. For the first time Northern California based Lagunitas will have their own booth, with three of their standards represented, Lagunitas IPA, A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale and New Dogtown Ale. I have yet to try New Dogtown myself, but their IPA is a measuring stick for the style, and the A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is one of my favorite beers hands down. It’s a crisp, heavily hopped wheat beer and it is aromatic and delicious.
Another interesting stop this year will be the DevilCraft booth. DevilCraft is a pizza and craft beer bar with two Tokyo locations. They have made their name with classic deep dish pizza and a huge and ever rotating number of Japanese and American craft beers on tap. Devilcraft have also been gearing up to brew their own creations at the Hammamatsucho location. They have been working on recipes and doing collaboration brews with other local brewers for months. It looks like they will have three of their own beers as well as a pair of imports on tap at the festival.
There are plenty of other breweries both foreign and domestic set to be there this year. One among them is the Scottish Brewdog, who recently opened a bar in the Roppongi area of Tokyo. Along with some of their flagships, Brewdog will be bringing along an exclusive pale ale recipe for the event. My home state of Colorado will be represented by Left Hand Brewing and their creamy Milk Stout. Kanto area producers like Nagano’s Yo-ho Brewing and Saitama’s Coedo will be there too. While local beers like this are relatively easy to find in cans and bottles, beer festivals are a great place to try these on tap.
Japan has many beer festivals, especially during the hot summer months. But I will always be a fan of the Keyaki Beer Festival, for its ease of access, nice prices, and vast selection. For more information on this spring’s event, including a rundown of beer and food offerings check out their webpage at http://www.beerkeyaki.jp/ . I look forward to toasting you there in a few weeks!