Summer is the season of travel–at least that seems to be the tradition in Japan (and many other countries). Oh yeah, and also the season of copious alcohol consumption. We think all seasons are good for imbibing, but we can’t argue with consumer data. So what happens when you cross travel and beer? No, we weren’t thinking about planes and trains filled with drunks…
We were recently talking with government officials about the possibility of Japan becoming a bonafide beer tourism destination. They laughed and said something to the effect that people overseas don’t care about Japanese craft beer–that they don’t know anything about Japanese beer. Really? But if so, we’re working to change that with our magazine. Brewers, too, are certainly doing their part.
Demonstrating that Japan is becoming more of a player on the world’s craft beer stage, Japanese breweries took home a significant amount of awards at this year’s Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA) and World Beer Cup (WBC) events–sixteen at AIBA and nine at the WBC to be exact. Brewers and industry people overseas certainly took note, more than a few even commenting to us on Japan’s success. See, people do care!
At AIBA, Coedo, Hitachino Nest and Isekadoya all had excellent showings. Coedo garnered gold twice with Kyara and Shikkoku, adding a bronze for their Beniaka. Hitachino Nest was the overall medal count winner from Japan, garnering three silver and two bronze. Isekadoya walked away with two silvers and a bronze; Harvest Hill, with a silver and a bronze. Finally, OH!LA!HO! received a bronze for their Captain Crow.
More Japanese breweries had the Midas touch at the significantly more competitive WBC. Chateau Kamiya Ushiku Brewery, Konishi, Nasu Kohgen, Minoh and first-timer DevilCraft all struck gold. Others medaling included Yo-Ho, Isekadoya, and Iwate Kura. Even industrial brewer Asahi beat out 43 other entries for a silver medal in the light lager category.
Another indication that Japan is on the craft beer travel map is the frequency of brewers visiting from abroad. Perhaps the most notable contingent in the last year was the dozen or so brewers and industry folk who came for the American Craft Beer Experience event last June. Please note that this year it will be held in November (see inside cover); we hear that many brewers will be visiting again to carouse with guests on the floor.
More recently, Coronado Brewing’s Rick Chapman (President) and Brandon Richards (VP of Sales & Marketing) visited for a Coronado beach party in Zushi hosted by Nagano Trading. At one point, the duo was caught enjoying some local Yorocco beer, likely smuggled in by a naughty member of our staff. When in Zushi, do as the Zushians do, right? Also, Firestone Walker’s Export Director Adrian Walker attended the Keyaki Beer Festival, as did Alistair Ingleby of Murphy & Son in England. The former was pouring his company’s beers while the latter ran a seminar on isinglass for brewers in attendance. We did our part by drinking.
The country that may be the king of beer fests, Germany, just marked a rather momentous occasion in beer history. As this issue’s greeting notes, the Reinheitsgebot turned 500 years old in 2016. To celebrate the famed German Beer Purity Law of 1516, the German Embassy in Tokyo threw a beer party, naturally. German Ambassador Dr. Hans Carl von Werthern gave a short speech with beer in hand before instructing everyone to drink to the history of Deutschland. He then happily mingled with guests to unwind from a hard day of international trade discussions. We wonder if anyone in the Japanese government asked him about how beer tourism is working out for his country…
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This article was published in Japan Beer Times #27 (Summer 2016) and is among the limited content available online. Order your copy through our online shop or download the digital version from the iTunes store to access the full contents of this issue.