Thursday, May 24, 2012

Beers I'm Drinking: Coedo Brewery, Japan

I don't have an appropriate category for a post about beer ("Food I'm Eating/Wine I'm Drinking" will have to do), but I recently had the opportunity to attend a restaurant trade show in San Francisco sponsored by N.A. Sales Co., a company that mainly trades in supplies for Japanese restaurants. I sampled food and many different types of sake and beer. I was impressed by some of the beers coming out of a number of small breweries represented, but particularly by the five offerings from Coedo Brewery, one such brewery in Kawagoe, about half an hour north of the northern part of Tokyo. Known sometimes as Ko-Edo, or "little Tokyo" (hence the beer's name), Kawagoe is famous for the many examples of Edo-period warehouse architecture that remain in its old commercial district and also for its sweet potatoes.

Good beer, like good wine, should be distinctive, and enthusiastic people in love with the product they make always seem to enhance the experience. Coedo has got both. I spent a pleasant fifteen minutes talking with Coedo president and CEO, Shigeharu Asagiri, who led me through a tasting. The blue-labeled Ruri (the word means "lapis" in Japanese: All of the beers are named after something Japanese associated with the beer by color) is a pilsener type (5% alcohol). Kyara (a yellow-brown traditional dye) is a lager (5%). Shikkoku (black) is a dark Schwarzbier (5%). Beniaka (red) is a barley lager (7%) that also uses the local sweet potatoes. Shiro (white) is a non-filtered hefeweizen, or wheat beer (5.5%). I enjoyed them all, but particularly Kyara, which had a clean, refreshing taste but not at the expense of flavor and body. Kyara has a rich malty aspect but manages to be quite crisp and dry at the same time--wonderfully balanced. These beers were a welcome change from the often overly hoppy local beers of northern California. Recommended--I just wish the stuff weren't so expensive.

[Update: More about Koedo beer.]

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