Finding decent beer in Tokyo used to be as bitter as a custody hearing.
But beer lovers have more to smile about these days. Domestic craft breweries have stepped up, and importers are sourcing decent brews at (increasingly) reasonable prices. Don’t believe me? You can’t do better than to read through the Japan Beer Times for ongoing commentary on Japan’s growing relationship with craft beer.
Unsurprisingly, macro brewer Kirin recently purchased Yo-Ho Brewing in order to stay abreast of the trend towards small(er) batch beer and drinks with more complexity and depth. Nagano-based Yo-Ho makes the surprisingly easy to find Yona Yona (American Pale Ale) as well as Aooni (American IPA), Tokyo Black (Porter), and several Karuizawa Kogen branded labels. Now that they’re privy to Kirin’s distribution network, look for them to pop up just about everywhere in the coming months. They won’t blow a true beer otaku’s kilt up, but they’re a good deal superior to anything that the macros have ever made.
Shots have been fired, so to speak. Consider this the first obvious example that Japan’s biggest brewers are going to start absorbing decent craft outfits. Expect several more before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, all of which will stab beer geeks straight through the heart.
Another one of Japan’s macros, Suntory, is about to throw its hat into the ring with a pair of “craft” beers on May 12th. They plan to offer canned pale and brown ales to their suddenly choice-flooded fans under the “Select Craft” label. The pale ale allegedly uses cascade hops which guarantees that many folks will try at least one.
All of this raises an important question, however. Should beer lovers be receptive to the sudden change of face on the part of the macro breweries? After all, they’ve resisted, and in many cases actively thwarted, the rise of Japanese craft for about 20 years, a mirror image of what’s happening in many other parts of the beer-adoring world. Sam Calagione, the head of the inimitable Dogfish Head, argues that we most definitely should not give them our money because their endgame is to limit choice.
And at this point, Japan Eats agrees. Remember, the battle to find good beer in Japan isn’t nearly as bitter as it used to be. So no matter where you are, support your local brewer.
John Bailey and Rachael White join host Christopher Pellegrini in blind tasting awamori, Okinawan firewater.
Awamori is a beverage native to Okinawa, the island chain to the south of Japan. It is made from long grain indica rice (usually imported from Thailand) which is washed and soaked before being treated with a black koji mold. Yeast and water are then added to bring about fermentation. Finally, the moromi is heated and distilled. The result is a drink not unlike shochu, with a alcohol content of anywhere between 20 and 40 per cent.
On this episode of Japan Booze Blind, guests Rachael White (producer of the blogs tokyoterrace.com, rachaelwhite.me) and John Bailey (arts journalist, noted Japanophile) blind-taste three very different types of awamori: Donan, Nanko and Sashiba. The show was recorded at Dynamo, a skate themed bar in Koenji.
Thanks to Julien Arnaud for allowing us to film at Dynamo.
Japan Eats is now two years old. Huzzah!!
It has been two years since we unleashed the Japan Eats website on an unsuspecting public. In that time we’ve posted over 160 stories on every aspect of the Japanese dining experience: recipes, restaurant reviews and special reports. We’ve also featured video exploring such diverse topics as umeshu, Tokyo’s annual Thai Festival and how to prepare kabocha tempura.
– The most popular search term is ‘negitoro‘, closely followed by ‘tantanmen‘. Other search terms used to find our site include ‘marunouchi fish domburi‘, ‘how to make kakubin highball’ and ‘work for a Japanese curry shop in japan’ (good luck with that).
– A majority of visitors to the site come from Japan followed by the United States, Canada and Australia. Quite a few of our Japanese guests read us through the magic of Google Translate.
– We also have a healthy following in China, particularly for our videos. People of China! 谢谢!
From the comments, tweets, and emails we’ve received, it’s clear a lot of people don’t just want to read about Japanese cuisine, nor do they merely want to know the best place in Tokyo to order yakiton (Akimotoya in Nogata, by the way). What they really want is to prepare Japanese dishes themselves. Naturally, we’ll do our best to keep the recipes coming. In the meantime, email or tweet us your recipe requests!
What’s next for Japan Eats?
As Chris wrote in the last Japan Eats update, our stories now appear as a regular feature on the Tokyo Weekender website. Please share the love by visiting their site and clicking on EVERYTHING IN SIGHT. Especially the advertising.
This month we published a story from new contributor Justin Potts, and we plan to introduce other writers in the coming months. Remember, we’re always on the look out for new authors. Contact email@example.com for details.
For those of you in Tokyo, Japan Eats resident drink guru Christopher Pellegrini has started a shochu group on meetup.com. Called CAST (Curious About Shochu in Tokyo), Chris describes the group as “a group for shochu nerds and novices alike. It’s a beverage that is wholly under-appreciated, in all its many forms, and there’s a lot of sage shochu knowledge out there just waiting to be mined. Much of that knowledge is trapped in shochu specialty bars. If that’s where we have to go to find it, then so be it.”
We’re pleased to announce that Tokyo Weekender has picked up some of our content and is featuring it exclusively on their site.
Click here to read the October exclusive which presents a list of healthy restaurant, supermarket and general dining options in Tokyo.
Marcus and I were also featured in this interview piece a couple of months ago in which we answered a bunch of questions about eating out in Tokyo and our culinary preferences.
Please swing by Tokyo Weekender and check out what they’ve done with their site. We’re hoping to get some more articles published over there, so feel free to share what you like on Facebook and Twitter.
This week: food photography, the CAST shochu group, and the brand new Baird Taproom in Bashamichi, Yokohama.
The Japan Eats Podcast is presented by Garrett DeOrio, Marcus Lovitt, and Christopher Pellegrini. To listen, click play on the audio player below.
You can also subscribe to the fortnightly Japan Eats feed via iTunes or directly with our RSS feed. Find the Japan Eats Facebook page here. Have something to say? Drop us a line.
Here are some links to the things we discussed this week:
- Curious About Shochu in Tokyo
- Baird Bashamichi Taproom
- Tokyo Real Ale Festival, Feb. 13th from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m., Sumida Riverside Hall, 3500 yen
- Tokyo Beer Monthly Meetup 18th Feb. Hosted by Marco McFarren
Intro/outro: “Aguamala” by Carne Cruda
You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
So you think you have what it takes to write for Japan Eats?
We’re currently looking for food and drink obsessives (even casual ones) to contribute recipes and restaurant reviews as well as feature articles (e.g., a story on the changing Japanese diet, a brief history of Japanese whisky). The only rules are that articles must be related to Japanese cuisine/food or drink in Japan and that they be well-written.
While we’d love to hear from people in every tower and hamlet of the country, we’re especially seeking writers living outside metropolitan Tokyo – especially those from such culinary capitals as Fukuoka, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, or Sapporo.
While the ability to speak Japanese is helpful, it’s not mandatory. You should, however, be able to negotiate a menu and have a basic knowledge of Japanese food-related terms.
If this sounds like you, please email us with a sample of your writing: email@example.com.
Japan Eats is also looking for people to help us produce our video content. If you think you’re the next panelist on Japan Booze Blind or could operate a camera on Tokyo Bites, we want to hear from you. The only requirement is that you live in or near Tokyo (unless of course you’re willing to pay for us to come to you!) Again, contact firstname.lastname@example.org if this sounds like you.
Unfortunately, we’re not in the position to pay for articles or your skills as a videographer. You’ll be doing it for love, people. You will, of course, get credit and the invaluable esteem of your fellow food and drink aficionados.
It seemed simple enough: make few short videos introducing Japanese drinks to the widest possible audience. We’d give it a funky title and film ourselves bar hopping around Tokyo.
That was the plan, anyway. Several months and countless ‘tastings’ later, the fruits of our labor are finally online for all to see. And of course, it all took a little more work than we had originally anticipated.
Hosted by Christopher ‘I’m a lover, not a fighter’ Pellegrini and filmed on location in some of Tokyo’s best bars, Japan Booze Blind is the product of a dedicated cast and crew.
Producer Garrett ‘I wrote the Wikipedia’ DeOrio not only did the research, he paid for most of the drinks as well.
Alastair ‘I took these in Burma’ Slade and Kayo ‘I don’t have time for sleep’ Shimizu shot the show, finding the best angles in cramped kitchens and on Tokyo’s crowded streets.
Brian ‘The Boom’ Parker battled nearby construction and an overweight bag of sound gear to provide sound on those episodes in which you can’t hear the Director shouting at the cast.
Editor Takeshi ‘The Adjuster’ Fumimota cut the show, as well as provided much-needed Karmic advice.
We were lucky enough to convince many great bars to let us shoot in their establishments. Thanks to Hide (Kadozakura), Traci (The Pink Cow), Johnny (Las Meninas), Take (Garuda) Duncan and Hana (The Lighthouse) for waking up early to open up for us.
Then there’s the guests. To James, Tony, The Daves, Melinda, Simon, Duncan, Alby, Dusty, Naima and Mieko we say thank you. You’re welcome back on the show anytime.
As always we at JBB remind you to drink responsibly – take the blindfold off before pouring for a friend.
Japan Eats: Yokoso!
Welcome to Japan Eats, your portal to the wonderful world of Japanese food and drink.
Here you’ll find all kinds of content related to Japanese cuisine. There are videos (our drink show, Japan Booze Blind), restaurant reviews, recipes and plenty of delicious-looking food porn.
Japan Eats can also be found on elsewhere on the web. There’s our Facebook page where you can join in the conversation on the discussions page. And of course, we can also be found on Twitter.
We welcome your feedback. If you have questions or comments, email email@example.com.
We hope you have fun on the site!
The Japan Eats team