Being a city of expats from across the U.S. and abroad, Los Angeles has access to a lot of great beer and while the focus lately has been on hyper-local, there are also times to venture out into the wider world. I e-mailed Ry Beville, Japanese Craft Beer representative and Japan Beer Times founder, to learn more about Japanese beer.
Sean Inman: What is the biggest misconception about Japanese beer?
Ry Beville: I don’t know if I would call it a misconception, but there is a lack of awareness of craft breweries from the country. Over time, Americans got familiar with excellent Japanese sake, big beer brands and now whisky, but craft brews have not been receiving the same attention. That is until now. Our association, Japanese Craft Beer, regroups 23 craft breweries and aims to promote our craft brews in the U.S. We’re now seeing more and more beer lovers turn their attention to our products, and we couldn’t be more thrilled!
SI: What Japanese breweries that have product available here in L.A. would you recommend looking for?
RB: You can find a wide range of Japanese craft beer available in L.A. from breweries such as COEDO Brewery Kyodoshoji Corp., Ltd., Karuizawa Brewery Ltd., Kiuchi Brewery, YOHO Brewing, Baird Brewing Company and WAKU WAKU Tezukuri Farm Kawakita Co., Ltd.. Beer can be purchased in Japanese supermarkets like Marukai Little Tokyo L.A., in liquor stores like BevMo! L.A., and in specialty stores and bars like Harajuku Taproom in Culver City.
SI: How do big U.S. beer trends affect Japanese brewers? Has Hazy or Brut made it there?
RB: Japanese craft beer is also local and unique. The use of native ingredients like yuzu, wasabi, sansho, matcha, and more adds a uniquely Japanese twist on international beer styles, while the exquisite craftsmanship of these artisanal brewers simultaneously creates modern, harmonious brews that will be welcomed in the U.S. by casual enthusiasts and serious professionals alike.
SI: What do Japanese breweries do better than ones in the U.S.?
RB: I wouldn’t say we do better, but we work differently. First, in the way we brew. The Japanese craft beer movement has its roots firmly planted in traditional sake making, yet our beer is modern, well-balanced and flavorful. Some of the brewers have been making sake for generations and are now turning to craft beer.
We also use different ingredients. The use of native ingredients like yuzu, wasabi, sansho, matcha, and more adds a uniquely Japanese twist on international beer styles, while the exquisite craftsmanship of these artisanal brewers simultaneously creates modern, harmonious brews that will be welcomed in the U.S. by casual enthusiasts and serious professionals alike.
SI: Will the craft brewing scene be expanding or is it going to stay the same size?
RB: The Japanese craft brewing scene has been growing for over a decade now. We’ve seen many breweries open, as well as brewpubs and bars. As international awareness of our different beer brands increase, our market is slated to expand.
The Non-IPA Beer of the Week comes from Portland, Oregon, and a brewery that is giving Cascade sours a run for the money. Little Beast distributes a little here in L.A. so be on the look-out for Ferme Rouge. Their Oak-Aged Tart Red Ale blends together malt, notes of oak and a splash of acidity. And it is unfiltered for you hazy fans.
I know that the above paragraph conflicts with what I am about to type but there are a few red-letter beer days on the Angeleno beer calendar. The weekend of Saturday, March 2, and Sunday, March 3 is one of them. Mohawk Bend plays host to 60 California breweries who will enter their hoppy creations to the 6th Annual Los Angeles IPA Festival.
This is always a crowded and jovial crowd but this year there are some fun packages (affordably priced) that will allow IPA fans to experience the event in a different way. A No Leftovers Brunch Package on Sunday that includes beer geekery from the Mohawk and Tony’s Darts Away family. Oh and hops and brewers on hand to chat with from all over the state.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.