Historically I’ve not much luck with Japanese “lager” craft beers – I’ve generally found them too sweet – but this month I got a whopper of a beer in the mail:

This months Beer Hanpukai from Gotemba Kogen

This months Beer Hanpukai from Gotemba Kogen

In my second Beer Hanpukai from Gotemba Kogen nestled a beer I didn’t expect much of – a light pilsner. Last month’s Gotemba Hanpukai was pilsner only, and while the unfiltered was OK, the standard was too sweet and not bitter enough for me – so you could have knocked me down with, well, a half empty bottle of light pilsner when I tasted this months. Dry, bitter, hoppy – everything a pilsner should be. (The dunkel on the other hand tasted less like style, unfortunately.)

The light pilsner joins the ranks of the other great Japanese lager beers I have discovered recently:

Umenishiki Beer

Umenishiki Beer

Umenishiki’s pilsner, part of the monthly delivery from Beer Festa. Unlike the Gotemba above which is a special for the monthly subscribers, this beer isn’t a one off.

Last beers from Awa Uzushio

Last beers from Awa Uzushio

Awa Uzushio’s kolsch – a truly outstanding Japanese lager that I could drink all night. In fact this beer is so good that after the brewery decided to stop producing beer, I bought one of the last mixed cases of this and Awa’s Alt – which I’m not really a big fan of – just to get the kolsch.

Brewer Kotas at the Ishinoseki Japanese beer festival

Brewer Kotas at the Ishinoseki Japanese beer festival

At the Ichinoseki Japanese beer festival this weekend, I discovered the pilner made in Ishikawa by Czech brewer Kotas for Okunoto Beer of Nihonkai Club. It’s the only pilsner made by a Czech brewer in Japan, and it shows – lovely beer it was, one of the few I went back for a second glass of.

Chateau Kamiya's Pilsner

Chateau Kamiya's Pilsner

Another from Ichinoseki: Chateau Kamiya‘s Pilsner – medal winner at the 2008 international beer competition, producted in Hachinohe.

Baeren's Classic at Baeren's Beer Pub in Morioka

Baeren's Classic at Baeren's Beer Pub in Morioka

Baeren Bier‘s Classic – another beer originally formulated by a foreign brewer (who is no longer at Baeren). Lovely dry beer.

Is Japanese lager getting better or am I just getting lucky at finding the good ones?

Chateau and Baeren’s have obviously been around for a while, as has Awa’s (though sadly it is no more). But as I can tell from last month’s Gotemba delivery and a number from the Ichinoseki Japanese beer festival (I wont single out any particular breweries), there’s still a lot of Japanese lagers which don’t live up to the international styles they are trying to reproduce.

Are more of the breweries getting better at producing international standard lagers? That I don’t know the answer for sure – but I’m sure glad I’m finding good Japanese lager out there.

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