Blog

CRAFTBEERU Vol. 7 – Wakayama Craft

ts2_1145

Wakayama City sunrise from Wakayama castle

Christmas day was a bit of an eye squinter. That is to say our eyes were quite sensitive to the day’s light being that we had greatly drank a great amount of great beers the night before. Luckily, practice of both drinking and filming, and filming the day after drinking, has left us with a hardwired drive to prepare our equipment for the next day. So when we awoke, though a bit troll-like in the face of the morning/noon light, we well knew we could relax for one more hour, being that our batteries were charged and cables were wound. Gathering our things we headed off for Nest, a very quaint little craft beer spot, always with good company present (a craft beer bar M.O.) We had plans to interview Majime-san, which turned into an absolute blast. We were fortunate to have socialized with Majime-san before the interview, and played a positive role in having a great conversation and interview.

ts2_1033

Takagi-san, Heiwa Craft’s brewmaster

We got back from our pre-afternoon venture only to rest for a moment before heading out once again to back to Nest to meet the head brewer for Heiwa (peace) Brewing, Takagi-san. A newer addition to a generations old Sake company, Heiwa Beer is the project of the company’s next generation, intended at progressing the company forward as sake’s popularity dwindles. We received a tour of the Sake factory and we’re in awe at the amount of work and craftsmanship that goes into the product, which in Japan is referred to as Nihon-shu. In the States we have no concept as to the depth in both tradition and work that goes into forming Nihon-shu, which is very common throughout Japanese culture and history. Especially in the ancient religion of Shinto, in which Nihon-shu is commonly seen as being the purest essence of rice, the main food staple for millennia.

 

Together with Yasuhito, Majime-san, and a Nara based artist who painted and designed the Nest bar we were treated very well. Takagi-san even showed us end of the tour the super-large sake filter that is used in the final phase of production. We were lucky enough to taste some of the finest grade Nihon-shu they make, filtered just that day. The rice grains are polished down below 45%–so more that half of each rice grain is ground away so the sweet inner core is the only thing remaining, creating only the finest flavor. We were quite impressed by the quality of the facilities. The brewhouse was much smaller than the rest of the facility having been a much more recent addition to the company. They gave us samples of the beer as well. They are intent on producing beers that people want to drink again, so they only have two varieties at the moment, in an effort to hone the recipes as best they can.

ts2_1036

A sip of some of the finest

After an interview with Takagi-san, we interviewed the son, owning manager of the company, and the brains behind the beer project, Yamamoto-san. You could tell that this man had a great drive and was very committed to his company, his family legacy, all those around him, and to the beer. And this is always great to see, especially in a place where craft beer’s popularity is still quite stunted. We spoke about his company and his ambitions in creating a child company to the Family Sake company. Incredible. Not to even mention he gifted us with three bottles of Nihonshu, one of which a Yuzu (a Japanese Citrus) variety, quite rare as its seasonal and only in limited local production.

We left with a smile, great memories, and the ever-stronger impression that those in the Japanese Beer World are truly amazing people. Heading back to Wakayama, we enjoyed some left-over cake from the Holiday festivities at Nest while unwinding and chatting with everyone before returning home to relax, have some beer and noodles and head to bed.

ts2_0955

Fishing below the cliffs next to Nagisa brewing

Next up was Nagisa Beer in 白浜町 (Shirahama) a small beach town South of Wakayamashi. Shirahama, is notable for its hot springs (onsens), its white sandy beaches (as the name suggests), as well as being the area of Japan with the most pandas. Of course among these other things it is the home of Manabe Kazuya, the head brewer of Nagisa beer, who was born and raised there. Nagisa’s beer headquarters is located in a completely fenced in area shrouded by trees and sitting on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Next to it is situated Isogi park that has more clear views of the ocean. Immediately we imagined a small music beer festival at the grounds. It would be perfect for it. Manabe-san said he had not done one yet, but that it was a good idea, so we will see. After a tour of the brewery, which is impressive in size and one of the largest for craft beer in Japan, we took a walk through the park with Manabe-san chatting with him about how he began, where he thought craft beer was going and how he was going to help it get there.

We finished off with some tasters of their local brew, and were impressed with the Stout and their seasonal Mikan (mandarin) Ale, the latter being something rather new to us. Thanking him we headed into Shirahama city, because what trip to Shirahama would be complete without soaking our feet in some onsen water and savoring the flavor of the Local grub (takoyaki).

Truly appreciative to all those who Read this content and are contributing to our success and the mutual success of Craft beer in Japan.

All the best to you all. May this day and all your days be filled with Beeru.

Kanpai!

-Tnイ

ts2_0969

May the rocks be with you!

Advertisements

CRAFTBEERU Vol 6. – Talmary

Our next stop on this grand Japanese beer adventure was Talmary. Up in the mountains on the edge of Tottori-ken and about 4 hours away by car. So, of course, we decided that we had to rent a car to get there.

vlcsnap-2017-02-01-14h28m00s156

The rental went fine was no problem and soon we were off. It was a 3.5 hour drive there and we needed to interview multiple people and take plenty of b roll then we had a 3.5 hour drive back to get the car back by 8. Giving us a rather tight schedule especially considering that it was pretty contingent on us not making mistakes on the road and getting lost. And obviously driving on the left side of the road in the right side of the car is a bit nerve racking and disorienting especially in terms of spacial awareness of the car. We learned the radio is funny and often just as lame here in Japan. We learned that some roads are quite narrow and terrifying to pass by oncoming traffic with the previously mentioned spacial awareness issue. But most of all we learned that there is no way to travel in Japan like driving. I know I have mentioned it before, but having the freedom to truly go where you can’t and stop is wonderful.

img_5547

So we were off into the mountains of Tottori, a prefecture to the north west of Osaka. The final stint especially was incredible because now very few other cars were on the main highway and especially when we got off the highway we were the only car. Into a mountain village we went. The history and feeling of peace in these places was palpable. Up and up and up we went. We saw beautiful landscapes from the top, though much of the land, similar to oregon, was quite blatantly scarred from checkered patterns from logging. Down the other side and into their town.

vlcsnap-2017-02-01-14h47m39s189

TalMary, (http://www.talmary.com) called so from half the names of the couple that started it, inhabited an old elementary school and sat next to an abandoned middle school–a sign of the sad fading youth in the rural countryside. The atmosphere however was still warm and loving. The play structures were freshly worn and frequently played on and the smell of fresh bread and brewing barley comforted the air. Enter the space you saw some small tables for eating and a large case with all the fresh baked goods. Mariko-san (Talmary’s ‘Mary’) greeted us warmly and showed us around. Kids were playing around the rooms and you could tell this was an open communal environment. This place gives true meaning to words like homie. The brewery, which occupies just a small room and only produces 1 barrel (500 liters) per batch, sat in the back corner next to the main baking room which took up twice if not three times the space. The brewer Miura-san has worked hard with Tal, the owner, to cultivate two wild yeast strains that they use in their beer. Harvested directly from the surrounding forrest and after years of cultivating it to its current state, they are making many farmhouse/saison style beers. Additionally, they are making bread with the left over yeast after ferment! 

vlcsnap-2017-02-01-14h45m00s85

In the other direction was a bar positioned in front of the kitchen space and next to their six tap handles. In the other direction were whole other rooms for relaxing. These rooms were quaint and comfortable and though they were no desks there were still cubbies, chalkboards, and other remnants of when they were classrooms. Finally on the far side was an old gym. Smaller than american standards but still very spacious for an elementary school. Later we actually helped the couple open up some speakers they had bought second hand, they have plans to make the gym into a small community movie theater.

31836810171_c24bccc5f7_z

Everyone really should visit just to remind themselves that beautiful, slow, peaceful community life is still a valuable lifestyle. And we talked to much of these points in the interview. Not only did they have their opinions on why a rural lifestyle was better for them, for their children and for happy living of all community members, but they also took very seriously issues of sustainability, environmentalism, and personal health. Along with their bread there were organic oils and some body care products for purchase at the front. Sitting down and talking with a truly gorgeous family couple about their lifestyle choices and philosophies got us very close with them very quickly. Not to mention just meeting people like this that give you hope in a world where there is much hope needed is a wonderful truly inspiring thing–one we both hope to be able to pass on through our film. Sawada-san whom we had met at the future conference , and who had recommended we go to Talmary, had joined us and was a great help when trying to translate some harder concepts of nature and lifestyle. We got to play soccer with their kids, two awesome kids, and after eating some wonderful bread and both buying and receiving some gifts we took our leave and left quickly getting on the road to meet our schedule. After a few hicups getting lost on the way back–navigation systems suck here as well–we made the long journey home, grateful for the peace and tranquility that this loving couple has created throughout their brewery, bakery, and life.

img_5567

CRAFTBEERU Vol. 5- Minoh Brewing

Up early on a cold morning before Christmas we met Kaori, the brewmaster of Minoh brewing. Located just outside of Osaka Kaori had agreed to pick us up at the station to let us tag along for their venture of picking Yu-Zu, a Japanese citrus that they use in their White Ale. We traveled 40 minutes into the the countryside outside of Osaka. To which direction we went we cannot say, but when we arrived it was up a small driveway that veered out of a valley, to an old style house at the base of a large mountain. Next to the home up this driveway was a Jinja, a Shinto shrine–spirits or gods (Shinto literally meaning “the way of gods[spirits]”) are believed to live and embody natural forms like rivers, mountains, rocks, trees etc. We parked and followed Kaori up a path that led to what seemed like a backyard except much larger and lined with yuzu trees.

This was the orchard we were going to be harvesting from. The property was quite interesting and seemed to be filled with history. We met the crew, had some coffee, and they all got to work. As did we, filming and getting plenty of b-roll. The amount of yuzu they needed was going to take hours so when we were were satisfied with our filming, we joined our new friends on the ladders and with pruners in hand began harvesting the fruit. Now unlike many fruit trees, we learned that with yuzu if you prune the branches the fruit comes back smaller and less tasteful the next year. The trees looked crazy, amplified by the fact that this particular variety of citrus tree is riddled with long sharp thorns that exist on the trunks, out the branches, and all the way up to the fruit.

We went with the whole Minoh crew on the car ride back. We chatted about car games and similarities and differences. We taught them how to play Jello, and about the license plate game. And they told us about a name/word (shiritori) game where you have to say a word and then the next person has to use the last syllable in starting a new word. We headed to the brewery, got a full tour before stopping at the brewhouse where Kaori treated us to a wonderful meal and a sample of all their beers. We learned more about the family nature of her brewery and we complemented a great deal of the design. It was a true treat.

A few days later we went to interview Kaori at the Minoh headquarters. We had also been graciously invited to their Bonenkai (end of the year party) which we were thoroughly looking forward to. Prepping on the trains, grabbing an Onigiri mid-stride, and running through the rain, we made it to Minoh in time, set up, and conducted a interview, albeit a little soaked. It was a fabulous interview mostly due to Kaori being a total angel. She is very strong and you can tell she cares a great deal about all those she works with.

31787202582_fb39772b25_z
After the interview, we packed our stuff up and went to meet all of the staff. This party was clearly for everyone to just enjoy, and everyone was. Kids, parents, families, couples; all parties were represented. And though this wasn’t a huge gathering, with the aforementioned diversity it was such a cohesive one. It was one big family that loved one another. All the food came to the table: fish, seaweed, rice, some small pizzas, pickled things, and of course KFC fried chicken (a Christmas tradition).

We ate it all and enjoyed it with a plethora of good beers. It wasn’t before long that Talon had to have a little wasabi contest with an older gentle man there. He started it. And Talon finished it. Ha But quite seriously we ate some wasabi and it was hot. We chatted about culture as often people do when from such different cultures, we even had the lovely experience of guessing people’s ages and having them guess ours. It’s probably the beards and the fact that they are quite rare in Japan that placed their guesses so high. Anyway it wasn’t before long until kids were playing and many of the adults had turned to other entertainment: specifically armwrestling–which was a blast. Talon even got involved as many wanted him to. He beat some and was beat by others. We had a riot of a good time.

As the party wound down, those who wanted to, went out to a local bar and had some more drinks and some oden. Popular during the cold season oden is essentially stuff cooking in broth–like potatoes, daikon, fish cake, and this place even had cow tongue. With big smiles we gave our goodbyes and headed back to our hostel.

 

CRAFTBEERU Vol. 4 – Rise and Win

Continuing with our trend of early morning’s, the 19th came fast. Yusuke, picked us up and we again traveled to the wonderful Zero waste town of Kamikatsu. He was a lovely host and explained much as we drove. We had a bit of time to waste so we got some pick-up shots and prepped the interview. Elijah has been doing the majority of the Japanese interviews, with me asking any questions that come to mind during the process. Elijah and I get along like a Hammer and an Axe. These objects can be blunt and combative, but wielded correctly they can sharpen and strengthen one another–you give them some wood to whittle or a project to pursue and you can create something beautiful…or tear it all down. Anyway, what I mean to say is that we’re really enjoying working together!

31787207202_ab1d8e6a9a_z

In the morning while we waited for Tanaka-san to arrive, we filmed the process of beer making. Yusuke was a gracious host especially for a brewer at work. He chatted with us about times for brewing and where we would like to set up. As the steam from the kettle rose in the air, that familiar smell filled our nostrils and our hearts. Yusuke and his assistant (who happened to be a wearing a blazers sports cap) completed the whole process on their small system.

31787208252_df3f6c97fb_z

The brewing assistant wearing some Portland swag. A souvenir from Yusuke’s recent trip. 

Little after noon Tanaka-san arrived, and excited to interview him we sat down and started chatting right away. He enlightened us further to the principles that drive the Rise and Win brewery and the efforts they are making to spread the movement. He also let us know of a Zero Waste School he is working on, in collaboration with the local University. He hopes to provide beer lovers with a way to study its process as well as students the opportunity to understand how zero waste is possible and an important philosophy for the future. Then for some reason or another some local drone company stopped by for the first flight of their new drone. They were actually from Kamiyama, a business that had a secondary office in a rural area in connection with the future conference where we had been the night before. Pretty amazing to see in action and out of complete serendipity.

screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-7-44-51-pm

Drone, drone, drone…to be honest, it kind of scared us.

I asked Tanaka-san if he knew them or knew what they were doing and he said no, he had only just met them and had only just heard that they were doing their maiden flight. Impressed and smiling I replied, “Small towns right”. To which he said, “Yup, small towns”.

To our luck Tanaka-san was actually returning to Osaka later that night, but would of ended up taking a bus, then a taxi, then a ferry, then a taxi then a train to get to. So after interviewing, laughing, and chatting–some about Japan’s rich history with Marijuana (it has been used for Shinto Spiritual Practices, along with hemp, for thousands of years and still is), we left.

ts2_0514

We love cars and driving and especially through rural country-side with so many people and places and evolving landscapes, it truly gives perspective of the visual world within which we all move.

We learned new words and spoke about other national issues, some of which are sadly commonplace throughout much of the world: corruption, intergenerational justice, disparity among the sexes. But in Japan specifically, there is a great problem with Large cities taking all the resources. When people leave, the private bus lines leave, and with cars being so expensive and impractical to own many towns are literally being abandoned. Historically, a family passes down a house to their children, but all the young ones are off to the big cities, which ultimately sucks more money out of the small communities as they try to help their children achieve their goals. But of course in the city, much of this money is frivolously spent on things that are solely necessary in the city: travel, various forms of entertainment, high priced meals, etc. But of course they get paid more. And this is truly the irony of it all. They aren’t paid more because the jobs are better, they are paid more because of the cost of living in and around the big cities. So at the end of the day having a lower paying job, somewhere further outside of the cities would essentially yield you the same if not more money to do things YOU truly want to do as compared to a much “better” job in the city. These are the issues that we keep hearing about here and in the states. As Tanaka-san says, ‘if you can talk about an issue, you can better understand it, so that why I’m interested in beer, it’s a communication tool!’.

31125337803_c69b002fa9_z

Nonetheless, the ride mellowed out as we approached the city and the conversation turned less heated. We talked about things everyone loves like beer, boobs, bells, bacon, bacations (no letter v in Japanese, its starts with a b), and many other things starting with B. Along the way we even got to take a pitstop at their supporting company and meet their friendly pet goat, who only seemed to want to fight.  

img_5513

In Osaka, after a quick but large meal ordered from a vending machine and handed to the waitress, we got to our hostel. This night we got to sleep quickly. Tomorrow was another early in the morning but an exciting one. We were going to meet Kaori-san of Minoh beer and head into the mountains to pick Yuzu for their winter ale!

CRAFTBEERU Vol 3. – Tokushima

So plans changed a bit as they often do, and often everyday when traveling. When we first started this journey we were very excited and we really thought it could be something great. Now we are thoroughly elated and are convinced this project will blossom into something great. And this is very much all thanks to the abundant support we continue to receive, so Thank you, everyone, even just for reading this, it’s hard to describe–especially through such an interface–but we are very thankful to have every bit of help and support. And though you have by no means heard the last of this appreciative oration, I’ll continue onto to the nuts and bolts.

20161217_074620

We traveled to Wakayama city, the largest city in the Wakayama prefecture located to the South of Osaka. After checking into Rico, a lovely guesthouse with a particular love for Portland OR, we headed off to Nest, a local beer bar run by Majime-san a good friend of Yasuhito. The spot is awesome and a definite recommendation to everyone. It’s located in what was the ticketing room on the bottom floor of a old movie theater. Lots of wood, and walls covered in amazing original artwork by a wildly incredible Nara-based artist we actually more recently got the pleasure to meet. (Whos name I will have to find later). And besides the amazing art along all the walls and counter, all the wood and the four taps of local joy, the attached once movie theater was renovated into an indoor rock gym. Pretty Cool. We met the local staff and some local patrons and gave Yasuhito a special bottle we had brought, which he, in spendid fasion, wanted to open immediately with everyone–shout out to Plough Mondays, we love your Breaky Porter http://ploughmonday.com/ Drink thier beer, its organic and delicious, out of Veneta OR. 

Though quite tired from travel, with all our luggage, we could not refuse having a second round as the company and environment was just too stellar. This quickly turned into getting some Takoyaki at a local spot, another friend of Yasuhito’s. The place is called Eight and it consists of a single bar stretching maybe 14 seats and darn is it good. Not sure if you reading this have ever had takoyaki, but essentially it’s a savory ball pancake with a peice of octopus in the middle. Might not sound that appetizing to many westerners, but it’s well worth trying–just please be careful because takoyaki more than any other Japanese food has a tendency to burn the tiddlywinks out of your mouth. As it was late at this point I recall having a few alcohol induced conversations, most of which climaxing at the point of both Elijah and I being  わかいーな[wakai](so young). Of course I suppose this is true, and boy did it blow people away when we pulled out our multilingual card and proclaimed we were making a documentary. =) Oh the joy of life in Japan.

Heading back to Rico we found ourselves heading to the roof to check the scene of wonderful Wakayama. If you ever get a chance it is a wonderful town with kind people, excellent ramen, good beer, and an cool castle in the center! Soon there after we got hit the hay. Tomorrow was early up as we were going to travel quite a ways to Kamikatsu’s Rise and Win Brewery.

31934383235_7bd8af305e_z

Yasuhito, our ever-present and benevolent guide on the way to Kamikatsu. 

The next morning came without hesitation. Elijah and I, most likely out of excitement, were quite on time, even after having to organize all our luggage and equipment before embarking. To our surprise though, we had to wait a few minutes and I was able to once again bound to the roof and catch the morning mist as it caressed the warmly lit buildings of Wakayama. Yasuhito and Majimesan picked us up and we headed for the ferry. It was a two hour trip from Wakayama city harbor to Tokushima on Shikoku island which is the island to the south of Honshu (Japans main island), and to the west of Osaka. The ferry was a nice opportunity to relax and regain a bit of sleep lost the night before. Interestingly enough, but not surprising, the ferry had its own pair of two young anime characters which showed up around the boat, like in the bathroom, cafeteria and even on the hull itself. I also remember commenting on how most westerners would probably not know what to do in the lounge because the majority of the hang out area was essentially just flat carpet space where people would take off their shoes. It even took me a minute to figure out what exactly the space was used for. 

img_5400


Driving out to the country-side always makes me personally feel a bit nostalgic and it’s a nice buffer time relax into a more rural feeling, from the quite fast paced cities of Japan. Rise and Win brewery is just beautiful.

20161217_113728

20161217_113609

Sitting on a hill, you are confronted with a beautiful red building, one face of which is made entirely of windows of different sizes and shapes. The entire building actually is made of 100% recycled materials and this definitely comes through into the character of the building. It sits on top of a hill overlooking the small town of Kamikatsu, which itself is nestled into a small valley at the base of 3 converging mountains. The scenery is stunning. The brewing portion and the shop portion are separated by a covered entryway. Both entries are made of full glass allowing viewing into both the shop and the brewery. Entering the shop, you see a magnificent wine bottle chandelier. They were cleaning this day and it was beautiful seeing the contrast of the windows and the man with his pole scrubber washing them. We met various employees of the brewery and were given a full tour. After taking some B roll, we headed up the road to have some lunch and learn more about the town. After a wonderful traditional lunch, consisting of many small dishes with rice, we stopped at a recycle center and and began to learn more. Turns out this town was once known for its trash.

img_5415

Kamikatsu like many small towns had a bit of a trash problem. There was no trash service this far out and so most people burned their trash and reused what recyclables they could. But Kamikatsu did one worse and all the people burned their trash together; everything, in one place. And other surrounding towns took to this and started using Kamikatsu as a dump. This obviously led to a great deal of burning trash and to the point where the fire would burn 24/7. We learned all this from a good friend Eisuke, who had lived there his whole life. He said it was this very spot where people would bring their trash, throwing it off the edge onto the ever burning fire. “Hell, we used to call it” he said. And if you can imagine at all, trash burning 24/7 for months, even years in one location you an imagine this place. Of course however the townspeople soon realized they could not do this forever, and were inspired to clean it all up and begin their movement. This town today is known for being the zero waste town.

20161217_141131

On the same location now sits a recycle center with a whomping 47 different categories of trash recycle. As of last year it recycled or composted 80 percent of its waste and the goal is by 2020 to be 100 percent zero waste. And the brewery fully embraces its towns model and it was because of this movement the location was even decided. The brewery is known by many to be the zero waste brewery. As said before their entire brewery is made of recycled materials. They compost all their used materials and even use ingredients creatively in their beer that would otherwise just be disposed of–like yuzu peel, a type of Japanese citrus.  

31934385455_c4b4c22df4_z

Nakamura-san (aka Yoda) showing us artwork on the second floor of his home.

As if this wasn’t amazing enough. After seeing this we then went to visit a legendary character everyone kept referring to as Yoda–which lets be honest thats a hard name to live up to. But good lord this guy. So we drove up the ravine between the mountains further and further until we were climbing the mountain and just about 200 feet from the top we stopped and tucked the cars into a small  driveway. Rounding a bend in the path we come to a house that looks like it came from the 1700s–not that it was old looking, on the contrary it seemed very well unkept. The style was quite old tho. There was a woodshed with a water tank on top and a two story wood home. I will post a video because the place was stunning. All the technology was old. Wood heated home, fire cooking, and only one small light we saw. And then Nakamurasan, himself, the legend. Beaming with a smile not dissimilar to the Dahli Lama himself, he greeted us and welcomed us into his home. He talked to us about how he lives and things he needs, which weren’t much. Simply put it is very inspiring to actually meet these people walking the walk. Of course its great to live in the woods and separate ourselves, from all the distractions of modern living–all the conveniences that really only distance us from things that really are quite important in life: food, our home, family, friends etc. This guy if I could only explain was amazing. It is an experience that I honestly have a hard time putting into words–spending time with this man. He had traveled for 15 years by himself studying in Tibetan monasteries and learning calligraphy and woodblock skills. He told us of his travels and showed us all homemade journals and books filled with his beautiful art. It is a day I will not be forgetting soon.

Take a look at Nakamura-san house HERE

Leaving his home, truly feeling as if our heads were in the clouds over the prophetic man we had just spent time with we left Kamikatsu and headed for Kamiyama, (God Mountain). In Kamiyama we took part in a Future conference with Yasuhito. The conference centered on positive solutions for a changing country. Specifically discussing ways to revitalize communities where many of the young people have moved to big cities. We’ll talk more about our experience in our next blog update!

That night, before going to sleep, the moon was bright and stars were out in full for us to capture the skyline.

31897575196_c852ff7d34_z

31934382225_db531a8ce5_z

 

CRAFTBEERU Vol 2. – Tokyo Part 2

Our week was packed with three breweries visits around the Tokyo area. First off, a visit to Harvest Moon in Chiba. Sonoda-san welcomed us with open arms to her brewery located next to Disney’s mega-land complex in Chiba, a prefecture neighboring Tokyo.  Greeting us wearing a hair of the dog T-shirt (none-the-less!), she kindly escorted us around her brewery as they were in the middle of finishing up the days brew. We quickly scrambled to get our equipment together to capture as much of the process as possible. Her assistant brewer, Adachi-san, was clearing out the mash as we started filming. As we continued, we talked to Sonoda-san about her beer making practice. She started working at the brewery about 16 years prior with little experience but with love for what she was making. As the process moved along and she had to help out Adachi-san, we we’re astonished at how much of the work she did herself. What incredible person. Really! So kind and caring. Talking to us with a smile after lifting a couple hundred pounds of grain into the mill. Afterwards we were able to fit in a short interview as well as taste some of her delicious beers (necessary of course). She also gave us a few bottles to take with us, one of which being made with sake rice that we are excited to try. She welcomed us back anytime and we made sure to pass on our cards as well as a few brewery stickers of our own. By the time we left it was dark out, perfect timing to capture the nights crescent moon.

ts2_0024

The next day we went to Shonan beer in Chigasaki, about an hour south of our Hostel in Kawasaki by train. Tsutsui-san, the head brewer, welcomed us. We we’re blown away by the size of the compound that the brewery was located on. The brewery started about 20 years ago, right around the time of legalization for small breweries. Started by a sake brewery, it originally focused on the typical pale pilsners that are still very popular in Japan and worldwide. Since then a lot has changed. Not only has the breweries beer styles branched out to stronger, more flavorful styles but Tsutsui-san has also be experimenting with new and unusual styles, specifically with Japanese ingredients. Since they are located next to a sake brewery, he is using a lot of things used in the sake brewing process such as koji, a fungus used in the intial process’s of sake fermentation. Alongside the brewery stands a number of buildings which house a couple restaurants, bakery, cafe, and art gallery. Each with their own unique style, the place is truly a destination for those interested in finding new and unique food, drink, and art. Specifically in the art gallery was a section devoted to the owners favorite indigo ink dyer. The walls were lined with beautiful hues of blue each unique in the characteristic ‘indigo’ that is so recognizable from the dying style.

ts2_0036

Our last brewery of the week was Brimmer brewing in Kawasaki. Kawasaki is an industrial city south of Tokyo and Brimmer happens to be the only brewery in the area. When they were starting the brewery, the city was eager to help them start out on a good foot. Scott Brimmer, a Mendocino via Chico transplant to Japan, has been brewing since College at Sierra Nevada. Moving to Japan with his Japanese wife he bounced around at a few breweries before deciding to set out on his own. The beers are clean and drinkable. Not too experimental or hoppy but a guaranteed good, solid beer. As the companies logo of a tree and a fisherman by the Santa Cruz sea connotes Brimmer Beer is something for the everyday kickback. Scott and his assistant brewer Chris (an Oregonian) showed us around their small brewery as we talked to them about Japan, beer, basketball, and where to find the best burritos. We also discussed their plans for expansion which will be happening while we are in country. We look forward to going back and seeing the changes occur. And also getting burritos with Chris, thats high on the list.

ts2_0043

We then headed back to Titans for a tap-takeover from Knee Deep brewery out of California. The brewery specializes in strong beers and a few drinkers were not prepared. As we arrived one drinker in particular was having a hard time standing up. Albert, the owner of the bar, greeted us along with Mike, one of the brewmasters at DevilCraft. They happen to be childhood buddies who came to Japan together long before getting into the beer business. The event was a lot of a fun and we saw Chris from Brimmer again. We promised him that we would let him know when we came back to Tokyo so he could take us to his favorite burrito place.

The next day we rented bikes from our hostel and spent the day filming some of the natural sites around the Tamagawa river. It separates Kanagawa and Tokyo proper. It was a bright, windy day and the seagulls and pigeons were out riding the gusts. Taking time to photograph nature was cathartic after a long week of brewery hopping.

Afterwards we headed to Shibuya to meet Dede Bribrom, a transplant from Israel, who is the general beer manager for Good Beer Faucets. They are known for having over 40 taps, about 10 of which are consistent house beers from Brimmer and Baird (a brewery based in Shizuoka). Dede talked to us about the interconnected community of beer makers and lovers throughout Japan. A trained chef, he moved to Japan to learn the language, and worked in a restaurant that had a couple of taps for beer. The most knowledgeable person in house for beer, he would work mornings in the kitchen and then nights at the bar working the counter expanding peoples beer knowledge. One of the regulars, Holy-san, took to liking the idea of opening his own beer bar and found Dede to be the perfect candidate to run it. So 8 years later they have four bars and he is the managing director. We started to talk about the different breweries that we were planning to go to. ‘She my little sister’, ‘He’s my big brother’, and ‘She’s my secret girlfriend’ followed each place that we told him about. Like he explained to us the brewery world is small and full of love and friendship…

ts2_0197

To round out our weekend, we planned to go to Craftheads where Koji was hosting 苦い人生(Bitter Life) a tap takeover from Eigo Sato’s Shigakogen. 42 different beers in total including two collaboration beers from Hair of the Dog, Adamu and Monkey claws. Shigakogen showcased their immense talent in variety and flavor at the event and we were happy to join going back again the next day. We hope to venture out to Shigakogen in Nagano next month to see their new brewery that opened last year and talk to Eigo about his thoughts on beer in Japan. Prior to the festivities we went to visit our friends Phred and Shoshana Kaufman at Feel Portland, a small fair with Blue Star donuts, Columbia Sportswear, and beer straight from the rose city. We met Miyuki-san, owner of PDX taproom, a Portland only beer bar in Shibuya with their own PDX carpet! The event turned out to be quite cold and windy and strangely flooded with country music so we did not stay for long. Luckily before leaving we met Santa, a dream come true in not-so-little Tokyo.

With this childhood dream fulfilled =) we now are prepping our next leap. Friday 12/16 we are off to Kansai/Wakayama area and Tokushima to meet Arii-san and get to know Rise and Win brewery a bit better. Then we are off to Sapporo for a White Christmas/Chanukah in a true Hokkaido winter wonderland. We will even be able to see Santa again, and if all works out go out with him for the Jewpanese New Years Festivities.

Love to you all

Konpai

-T&

CRAFTBEERU Vol. 1 – Tokyo

What a whirlwind. Been in Japan and Tokyo for only 5 full days now and wow. Busy, excited, fun, people, and of course beer. And not as much drinking it, being around it. As many may expect the beer scene here, like our home on the west coast of USA, is wildly friendly and extremely helpful. We have made so many contacts from even the very first night-and the support we’ve received and the friendships we’ve made only seem to grow. We feel crazy-lucky even coincidentally sitting next to Jason, one of the owners of Magpie Brewing in Seoul (asking him to move over for a seat at the bar).

Just after getting into Tokyo we raced to our hostel, changed and went to meet Ariisan who we met through Red (oshuushu.blogspot.jp). This wonderful evening at Rise and Win Brewery was also had with Chihiro, an editor for a local magazine and Ken the owner of Hi-Wheel Wine and Mead Co. who was visiting from PDX. And this was a blast. We got to taste some local brew, chat about beer and culture, and of course meet the entire staff of the brewery who were all wonderfully kind and supportive of our project as well. Flipping phenomenal. And if this wasn’t enough we ended up sitting right next to the man who’s family raised the food we had just ate and the editor for Transporter mag, a local beer magazine, the CEO of which we would meet later. Just brilliant. The kind of night that very cleanly and joyfully is still clicking its heals after midnight as you’re on your way home. 

The next day was equally as busy. We prepared some things, barely having time to unpack, went over our plans and left for Devil Craft Brewery (http://en.devilcraft.jp), an awesome brewery here that has a few restaurant location where they make pizza and serve their brew. After taking a brief tour of the brewery located in a 4 story open floored building we sat down turned on the cameras and began talking with the two of the owners Mike and Jason, as well as the brewer Ryu, a local nihonjin. It was a great time and took a bit longer than we thought, but who doesnt love to talk about beer forever. We left and visited their Kanda location, their first location, a 5 story building with probably less than a 350sf floorplan. So tall and skinny and full of character with stickers plastered all over the walls. Once again we set up camera and chatted with the manager, Fujigamorisan, who kindly agreed to let us in before they opened and take a peak around at their pub which was unlike any we had ever seen.

ts2_9868

As if this wasn’t a full enough day we then went to Titans (beertitans.com). This local beer bar was a blast. Located near Ikebukuro, this 3 level beer bar offered about 12 taps and a wonderful atmosphere that is often lacking at other locations in Tokyo. As founder Kuwanosan explained, they wanted to make a “free space” for people to do what they wanted. The first floor is a bar style, the music is louder, people are chatting and the bartender is assertive. The second level is more of a lounge with low ceilings, short sitting tables and pillows around the space for locals to learn the word ‘chill’ as we say it on the west coast. The third floor then turns more into a sit down style place for salary men. Where those wanting chaired tables can sit down and enjoy a beer in a quieter atmosphere. And you could really tell, the atmosphere of the entire place was very welcome as there seemed to be a space for all styles of visitors. However ‘Free Space’ often was taken a bit too litterally by some Japanese who initialy went a bit crazy, so they “had to scale that back a bit”. Returning home we just had time to transfer files and organize before crashing hard from the two days. 

The next day was hardly different. After taking care of some neglected organization and an hour of personal time. We headed off to Devil Craft again to film a brew, wanting to add some dynamic and interesting B-roll to the footage we got the day before. Here we were also able to meet the third owner, John, who was just as kind as the others and very inviting to show us the brew, explaining their specific system and methods. 

ts2_9865John Chambers from DevilCraft working with the mash.

Some more B-roll and we were off to shoot some train shots, outdoor shots and various others that we think will come in handy later. With a couple hours to spare I was finally able to get my beloved first tsukemen in Japan and Elijah was able to get his first ramen, oh my lordy lord the food. This was of course just before heading to Craftheads, an awesome beer bar in Shibuya, which sold a wide variety of specialty alcohol and beer. This spot was also home to Koji-san, a family friend of Elijah and the meeting place we had deided on with Transporter magazine ceo Nobuhiro-san—who had also brought along his very talented videographer friend Okumura-san. We chatted for hours and had a few beers and again received invaluable amounts of recommendations and help from both of them. Please check them out, by searching brewfilm.jp and transporter magazine Tokyo. Here, for me personally, the Japanese began getting hard. Elijah knowing many more words and having much more experience took off talking to Nobuhirosan. Though they subsequently dumbed it down for me a bit, meaning they slowed it down and added some english ha. But both were such wonderful people, its again unbelievable how much support and help we have gotten. I just can’t get over it. 

ts2_9917

Though exhausted, we didn’t feet it a bit—the beers helped. Though our brains, especially mine I think needed those beers to relax a bit after not only the travel, camera-work, and planning, but the language usage. Though I’m stoked as I feel my brain has been using the majority of my food intake. After thanking them we headed home, excited, with as little physical enthusiasm as possible, to get to bed a bit early. BUTTT OOOHHHHH WAIT. There’s more. 

Within literally 50 feet of the hostel, and while literally chatting with Elijah about how stoked we were to get some sleep, we passed a drunk, Japanese business man. Who proclaimed, “hHEey guYs”. “where are you going”. We replied in Japanese and asked where he was going, and he said, “oHhh just here, To EaT a bite”. And he pointed at a plainly closed Italian establishment as he walked over to it and began to nock. Now of course Elijah and I were confused. It was past Midnight and the steal shutters of this place had obviously been down for hours as the place was black. “Come, cOme join me, you want SomEthing to eAt?” He said. Thinking he was rather crazy we were about to turn and just walk away as he knocked again this time prompting the door to open as a small, kind Japanese voice answered “hai”. 

“CloSed so EaRly?” he said to the man inside. And as if the king of the castle the man replied, “hai” and came outside opening the steal shutters and beckoning us inside. We, as you may have expected were stunned and quite frankly couldn’t not go in. I turned to Elijah and said, “well…”. When of course the complete sentence in my head was, “well …we are either going to lose our kidneys or this guy is the boss and wants to treat us to a midnight feast.”

Either way I think we had to find out and we went inside a truly beautiful, but small Italian restaurant with a bar and maybe three tables. The man who had opened the door went behind the bar and served us a liter of wine and waited for an order. Low and behold they were old friends and the old gentle man who invited us in was the restaurant owners oldest best customer. We then enjoy some some great Italian carbonara while drinking a light summer Italian ine and remeniscing on both the restaurant owner’s time in Italy and the old gentleman’s time abroad in New York. Never in my life have I met someone within 10 seconds and then gone to a restaurant 20 feet away while being forty feet from home. Just goes to show what a simple sentence can do. 

“Hey you GuYs, where you GoinG?” 

Needless to say I won’t be forgetting that night any time soon. 

Off to Harvest Moon Brewery Tuesday, right outside Disney Sea. Shonan beer near Chigasaki the next day. And Brimmer brewing in Kawasaki on Thursday. A full week. Stoked. 

Rest the body, drink water, drink beer, and always be open to new opportunities. 

T&イ

ts2_9870A view from the balcony at DevilCraft.

Seoul, KOREA – its so spicy

Oh Korea what a place. Firstly: FOOOOODDDD. 

Cannot even express how amazing the food is here. Its spicy, its different, and its priced perfectly for Elijah and I to constantly gorge ourselves (which is a plus and a minus I suppose). Though probably a plus from most others’ perspectives. Not to mention, we have been doing a decent bit of walking and packing stuff so we are not thinking too deeply into the potential of gaining pounds versus friends.

We found a brew pub and pizzaria called Brew 3.14, which was splendid. Enjoyed beers from 3 local breweries located in Seoul, all of which are run and owned by foreigners. Craft beer is just beginning here. The oldest brewery is around 4 years old. In the markets there are not many choices for beer. The drink of choice is Soju, which is a rice wine of about 18% and often very sweet. This drink is fun as its something you share and every bottle comes with a couple drinking games. Both involving the cap.

For the first one you remove the cap and twist the metal frill around the base of the cap. The lower metal part of the cap that breaks upon the serrations when you open the bottle for the first time. You begin by twisting this frill until just before it breaks off of the cap. You then pass the cap with this filament hanging off it and each person takes a turn flicking it. The point of this being to break the small piece from the greater cap, which obviously becomes easier as the metal is bent back and forth which each flick. The amount of twisting done to this small piece hanging from the cap also plays in some strategy. More twisting the easier to flick off, however you are not supposed to be able to flick it off on the first try. If you do, you drink. When this piece finally flies off with the final flick, the two people on either side of the successful flick-er drink. Its a jolly good time. 

Game 2, involves guessing the number on the inside of the lid (each lid having a unique number from 1-50). The person who opened the bottle holds the lid and tells the guessers either higher or lower. Going around the table when the number is finally guessed that person drinks, winning or loosing depending on your attitude and level of inebriation I suppose.

20161126_222204

img_5235

Talon with our kind host’s (from left) Bee, Amanda, and Jay. We shared a delightful meal of Samgyupsal (Korean barbecued meat) with Soju of course.

Funny experiences.

We had a very overtly friendly Korean gentleman of about 35 years sing NSYNC to us on the train. He was very emphatic about how much he liked the states, american football, and finally pop music. ha. To the point where he insisted we listen to some of his favorite pop, which led to him singing some good ol’ nsync on the train. A few younger ladies on the train kind of rolled their eyes and one even whispered to us as she left the train, “that music is so old”. Ha which was hilarious. But being funny in the time does really speak to how much the in-group/out-group culture exists in Korea. You behave or you are pretty quickly labeled as other.

From this experience, Elijah and I also reflected on how lucky we are to be able to be from somewhere that still represents a lot of great things to many people around the world. We have had so much kindness projected our way simply because we are Americans. And this isn’t to say other foreigners don’t do this because hospitality to outsiders is a very prominent part of the culture here, but we have received a noticeable amount of loving from locals simply because we are from the USA. 

And for those who haven’t traveled yet and realized this, you really must be thankful because its not all like this for all places. Not to mention being able to go anywhere around the world and having English be a standard. Its amazing and also quite enabling SO LEARN OTHER LANGUAGES! hah

Anyway Elijah and are are working hard organizing evolving plans that incorporate brew schedules, brew events, and peoples’ schedules. very excited. 

Off now to Magpie Brewing before taking a little RnR at the local bathhouse, which just happens to be 24hrs and 5 stories tall. ….ok well I shouldn’t say “just happens to be” because 24 hour bath houses are actually quite common and its common practice to even spend the night there, which we plan on doing. 

love you all. 

-TnE 

stay up to date with us here at our blog and also at:

snapchat: craftbeeru
facebook: @craftbeeruPDX
Talon’s Instagram: @talonsphotography
Elijah’s Instagram: @e.sprints

20161127_112733

The street that our hostel was located on. We spent along time wondering the nooks and crannies of this old neighborhood.

20161127_123314

Classic art.

20161127_123605

Creepy eyes. but incredibly detailed textures on the fur. BUT creepy eyes.

20161127_115642img_5230

ps getting quite cold here. But don’t worry we’re staying warm!

Let Get it On!

So stoked things are coming together.
Wanted to  do a brief update regarding our progress. We have emailed breweries and are waiting on some to figure our schedule. As of now, we will be doing a great deal of research around the greater Tokyo Area, Sapporo, Niigata, as well as some in Nagoya and Kyoto. Both Elijah and I have been in the thralls of a busy life preparing for this and are so thankful for everyone’s support and encouragement. We very much could not have done anything like this without everyone. So thank you.

Once we are fully underway on our trip the updates will be coming much more regularly to let our wonderful Patrons know our progress. You will get quite used to both our writing styles.

Again thank you so much
and remember
Dont Get ELIMINATED!!!!