Last night in Vivo I had the pleasure to accidentally bump into Ichiri Fujiura.

Fujiura is a legend in Japanese homebrew. I first found out about him when searching for a coconut porter recipe – something which I want to brew soon – and found this:

I just got an e-mail from Mr. Fujiura, who won Homebrewer of the Year for his coconut porter recipe. Here’s the info — good luck to anyone and everyone who decides to brew this!

Eh? A Japanese homebrewer winning homebrewer of the year? Where? When? How? From The Japan Times:

A prize-winning beer takes creative tweaking. Ichiro Fujiura from Tokyo toasted coconut, then mashed it into his brew. In June 1998, Fujiura took top prize in the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) competition in Baltimore, Md., with his toasted coconut porter. Nelson, present at the judging, said no one could put a finger on exactly why the beer was so good, but he remembers the exact words of one of the judges: “This stuff rocks.”

Fujiura competed from his home in Japan, sending four bottles of his brew to the States for judging. In Japan it is illegal to brew beer with more than 1 percent alcohol by volume. Junko Saito, who with her husband sells homebrewing equipment from their Beer Club Shop in Kobe, says retailers are required to include warnings explaining the law in their catalogs and instruction manuals. Then it is up to the customer to obey the law.

The government, she says, understands the “accidental batch” exceeding the 1 percent mark, and the possibility of prosecution is remote. “As long as they don’t intend to sell,” Saito says, “it is logically impossible to arrest homebrewers. Both authorities and homebrewers know this fact.”

Luckily I had few bottles of my Kiuchi “Let’s drinking White Ale” and “Let’s Drinking with Enjoy Our IPA” which I’d brought to share with the staff of Vivo (a very friendly bunch) and after interrupting Fujiura-san’s lovely evening by introducing myself, we then proceeded to do a tasting session in Vivo.

We had the White Ale first. I can’t claim much credit for this since the recipe was entirely Kiuchi’s – I wanted to create a clone of their wonderful Hitachino Nest White Ale. The “Let’s drinking” version, however, has a much stronger spice taste that Hitachino, something which fascinated Fujiura-san. While there’s a lot of coriander in there, I think it’s the nutmeg which gives “Let’s drinking White Ale” it’s distinctive taste. Pronounced “good” and “very drinkable” we moved onto my IPA.

“Let’s Drinking with Enjoy Our IPA”, I can take a lot more credit for. I actually vetoed Kiuichi’s original hop suggestions twice and, when they said that dry hopping wasn’t possible with their system, persuaded them to add leaf aroma hops and leave them in the fermenter – to get as close as possible to dry hopping as I could. This was a first for anyone to do at Kiuchi. I left the grain as suggested by Kiuichi – they only had one type of Crystal on offer so apart from quantity, there’s wasn’t much I could change anyway.

The result of my hopping with their grain choice is a gorgeously hoppy caramel like beer. As I noted on Saturday, it’s not really an IPA, and Fujiura-san agreed, commenting on the caramel character: “It has very low astringency. If you were entering this in a competition, you should enter it in the experimental category.. perhaps as a Caramel IPA.” He and the staff at Vivo who tried it all commented that it was a very nice beer.

In honesty, I think it is good enough to become a commercial beer. I seriously can’t stop drinking it – the hop character and the caramel complexity go so well together. Sadly with about 25% already gone, it’s going to run out very soon.

Regular readers will know the fear and trepidation I have about even letting my homebrewing friends taste my beer – so you can imagine how I felt offering beer to this great man! But he liked them both – and he wasn’t just saying that (believe me, I’ve become an expert at reading people’s faces when they sample my beers!) Now all I have to do it get the beers I make at home – rather than on professional equipment – up to the same standard.

Beer I tried at Vivo last night – not including the draft Oni Densetsu Pale Ale:

Drinking with Enjoy

Drinking with Enjoy

Spot the Japanese Ryujin Brewery’s Oze No Yukidoke IPA (オゼノユキドケ) and Swan Lake’s Belgian IPA (limited) on the right. For a Japanese IPA, the Oze was pretty good. Not sure I’m too fond of the belgian IPA though – not sure Hoegaarden and hops mix!

For those interested, the award winning Toasted Coconut Porter recipe:

Toasted Coconut Porter

Volume = 2.6 gallons
OG = 1.058; FG = 1.021
Boiling time = 60 min
Primary = 20 days at 65F
Secondary = 14 days at 65F

4.4 lb pale malt
0.8 lb chocolate malt
0.3 lb crystal malt (80L)

0.64 oz Northern Brewer whole hops (8.0% alpha) for 60 min
0.32 oz East Kent Golding whole hops (5.4%) for 10 min

Wyeast 1318 London Ale III
7.2 oz shredded coconut, toasted (in secondary)
2.18 oz dry malt extract (for priming)

Mash grains at 153F for 90 min. Add toasted coconut to secondary.

With notes from Fujiura-san:

Origin of my porter recipe is “Castol Eden Porter” on the book titled “Brew Classic European Beers At Home” published by CAMRA. That recipe use 8.52lb pale malt and 1.45lb chocolate malt (No crystal) for US 5 gals. So, 0.8lb is right. For reference, I used Hugh Baird’s chocolate, crystal malt and Munton’s Pale ale malt.

I used dried shredded coconuts that easily find at cake making supply in super market. I tosted coconuts very lightly using frypan.

Coconuts is pretty oily. Don’t stir up beer with coconuts. When racking after steep coconuts, for avoid coconuts through racking tube you may put cheese cloth at end of racking cane.

I will try this sometime soon.