Japanese beer is so much more than Asahi and Sapporo. In 1994, deregulation of the Japanese beer market set off an explosion in the craft beer scene. Twenty years later, the gastronomic arena is simmering again, with a vibrant resurgence in craft brewers and drinkers. Trouble is, these well-rounded, experimental, and in-demand brews are tough to come by Stateside, except for one night each year when Japan Society hosts a New York City Japanese beer tasting.
This year, on September 12 at 6:30pm, Mark Meli, author of Craft Beer in Japan: The Essential Guide will host a conversation and tasting of over 20 Japanese beers during “Kampai! The World of Japanese Beer.” Meli himself has tasted over 1,700 Japanese craft beers, and he will share his insight and experience in the East Asian brew scene.
“I first got deeply interested in beer during a year I spent in Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Belgium,” explains Meli. But on a later visit to Japan, “I was attracted by the breadth of styles that were being made — there was a lot of variety, and many beers of very high quality as well.”
The tasting will include samples from Baird Brewing Company, Suruga Bay, Echigo Beer Company, Ginga Kogen, Kiuchi Brewery’s familiar Hitachino line, Swan Lake Brewing, and Yoho Brewery, among others. If that’s not enough for you, “I think it really is necessary to visit Japan,” says Meli. “Very little [beer] is exported, and often condition suffers when it is. I recommend going to the major beer bars in the Tokyo area, but also visiting some breweries in the countryside as well. And any beer tourism in Japan should include a festival: that’s where you can try many different varieties of Japanese craft beer and get a taste of the Japanese beer scene.”
For a sample of Japanese beer culture and 20 Japanese brews, head to Japan Society on September 12. Tickets ($28) may be purchased in person at Japan Society, at www.japansociety.org or by calling the box office at 212-715-1258.