19: Coconut Wheat Porter (ag/pm)


Saturday night I arrange to meet Jonno and Chuwy for a Yokohama pub crawl with the gf. We had grand plans to hit Full Monty, Craft Beer Bar, Pivovar + Yokohama Brewery, Pivo, Thrash Zone, and Cheers – but with a detour to the dock to drink the homebrew I brought and some excellent beer brought by Chuwy and with Thrash being unexpectedly closed (will I ever get to go there?), we only hit three bars. But drinking beer outside in the beautiful Yokohama dock was fantastic – reminded me of living in HK and going to TST harbour.

First bar of the night for was Full Monty, to enjoy British food while waiting for J&C to turn up.

The Full Monty, Yokohama

The Full Monty, Yokohama

Inside the place is more like an outback Aussie pub than a British pub. Not just the wooden decor, but the way half the people there seemed to be regulars, chatting like in some remote Aussie village.

Inside The Full Monty

Inside The Full Monty

Clive, the owner, seemed to go out his way to make little friendly comments to everyone whenever he could, eg. serving beer, taking away the food plates.

Full Monty Beer Menu

Full Monty beer menu

Beer menu was a bit lacking to be honest – quite a lot was unavailable, and the guest beer was a rather standard Pedigree. A very British selection but not my ideal choices – could do with having a British IPA there or a few craft bottles. I hear Clive has plans for 2 extra taps with craft beer, let’s hope that happens.

That said, the London Pride and The Pedigree were the best examples I’ve had of those beers in a long time. Perfect temperature, perfect carbonation, bursting with flavour, and proper British pours. Clive took care pouring the beer – letting beer settle, overfilling when there was too much head etc. Other places serve beers with huge heads – it was refreshing to see real British pouring skill. Made me feel homesick.

For food we ordered the chicken tortilla and pie of the day (Cornish Pastie). Portions were huge, and while the meat in the pastie was a little fatty for my liking, I have to say that the chicken tortilla was fantastic. It’s been a long time since I’ve had chicken so perfectly cooked in a pub – juicy, tasty, I would go back for the chicken alone.

Chuwy having a series of disasters, the gf and I moved on to the hard to find Craft Beer Bar to wait for him and Jonno there.

Craft Beer Bar, Yokohama

Craft Beer Bar, Yokohama

Bloody difficult to find this Craft Beer Bar. It’s hidden on down this back street:

A little off the beaten track

A little off the beaten track

The Google Map linked from Boozelist has the CBB in the wrong place. Here’s a map with directions:

Map: Full Monty & Craft Beer Bar

Map: Full Monty & Craft Beer Bar

Apologies for the wacky numbering – added 8, 9, 10 as a bit of an afterthought.

To get to Full Monty from the station, come out the south exit and walk to the main road on your right. Follow the road to the YMCA. Just past there is a a convenience store – turn left there and Full Monty is on your right.

To get to Craft Beer Bar from Full Monty, turn right and walk until the crossing with Royal Host. Then turn right again and walk a few blocks. After Bar Bar Bar on your right hand side, at the next crossing you’ll see Green Bowl on your right and a big car park on your left. Go left, walking down the side of the car park (as shown in the photo above). CBB is on the right.

To get to Craft Beer Bar from the station, come out the south exit and walk to the main road on your right. Follow the road to the YMCE and keep walking until you get to Hotto Motto on your left. Take the left there between Hotto Motto and the car park, then keep walking. You’ll pass Green Bowl on your right as you come to a small road. Cross that road and keep going – CBB is on the right.

Now you know how to get there, is it worth going? Here’s the beer menu:

Craft Beer Bar beer menu

Craft Beer Bar beer menu

Yeah, I can barely read it also – but there’s some good beer there, and the gf is Japanese.

Prices are a respectable 1000yen for 500ml, with minimal head. Very good. While waiting for Jonny and Chuwy, we had Shiga Kogen IPA, Minoh Sansho Pale Ale, and Hakusekikan Mikage Black Summer Stout. The IPA was excellent as always; Sansho “Japanese herb” Pale Ale was an “aquired taste” (ie. pretty awful); Mikage Black was a respectable enough porter, but with a bit brown sugar or oaty taste. Not too bad.

Inside Craft Beer Bar

Inside Craft Beer Bar

Good choice of beers, excellent pours, condition, and prices, no cover charge, and a friendly owner – the only thing that lets CBB down is the slightly stifled atmosphere. With jazz playing in the background, and people talking in whispers, at first the atmosphere can be a bit intimidating, like people are scared to make a sound and let go.

Whether we’d had a suitable amount of beer by then or whether it was just the influence of their wacky presence, that feeling mostly disappeared when the comedy duo that is Chuwy and Jonno arrived. From then on, the atmosphere was mostly forgotten about as the gf and I watched both of them interrupt each other’s sentences and start (but not finish) more stories than the Mr Men collection. Jonno: I never did find out what happened at that wedding you went to – do tell! Watching Chuwy and Jonno talk is like watching a tennis match – the ball of conversation jumping left right left right as it gets spanked back and forth. Top guys though – a lot of fun.

Beer consumed, we headed to Yamashita park to enjoy the view and drink my homebrew and some excellent beers Chuwy brought along.

Yokohama dock at night...

Yokohama dock at night...

It was awesome sitting outside next to the arbour drinking beer – it was really relaxing.  I was even getting used to the tennis style conversation by now.

First beer outside was a bottle of Ballast Point Calico kindly brought along by Chuwy. You might recall I found this beer so bad at Cataratas last time that I sent it back – the bottle was much much better, with none of the funky taste of the Cataratas draft. I’m convinced now that I must have got the first pour after cleaning at Cataratas, which would explain why, when they tried the beer after I complained about it, they thought it was normal. Bad show, Cataratas. Still, at least they replaced it free.

...we were not the only ones sitting outside drinking

...we were not the only ones sitting outside drinking

Next we went through my selection of homebrew:

  • Don’t Mention The War Pilsner
  • America v Britain Superpower IPA
  • Coconut Wheat Porter
  • Let’s drinking White Ale
  • Let’s Drinking with enjoy Our IPA

Neither Jonno or Chuwy threw up or sprayed their beers in disgust, so they must have been drinkable. Favourite of the night was the Coconut Wheat Porter I think – I’m going to have to make some more of this because I think the current 3G keg is going to run out pretty soon.

A big thanks to Jonno and Chuwy for their comments throughout the tasting. It’s really interesting to get comments from “into it” beer drinkers – they pick up different things from homebrewers and friends. Very informative.

HaandBryggeriet dark force

HaandBryggeriet dark force

Final beer outside was this lovely HaandBryggeriet dark force, another one of those “Best beer in the world” contenders, and brought along by Chuwy. I’ve got into the habit recently of moving to Imperial strength beers at the end of the night, so this was the perfect ending. Lots of great flavour in there – I would definitely drink this again.

Leaving the park we headed to Thrash Zone, which was unexpectedly closed. Every time I go to Thrash Zone it is suspiciously closed – just like Holic in Kichijoji. But unlike Holic, outside Thrash there are no signs at all. No clue that the bar is even there. I’m beginning to think this bar doesn’t exist and Chuwy has added it to Boozelist to draw punters into the girlie bar next door for comedy value.

From Thrash we headed to Cheers, which happened to have St Bernardus 12 on tap, and where the bar staff did know Chuwy’s name:

St Bernardus Abt 12 on tap at Cheers

St Bernardus Abt 12 on tap at Cheers

This is supposedly a very similar recipe to “The best beer in the world” Westvleteren 12 that I had a few weeks ago.

And in the glass

And in the glass

Jonno and Chuwy seemed to want to snort theirs like beer cocaine. Much laughing ensured, followed by posh beer aficionado type talk of the differences between the B12 and W12… so much talk that we lost track of time and had to down the beer and leg it for the last train. Great beer aficionados we are.

Comparing the B12 and W12 – the B12 definitely lacks the sparkle of the sugary tingly aftertaste of the W12, though I’m not sure whether that’s due to it being on draft or not. I’ll refrain from making final comments on this beer until I can taste it in bottles.

Jonno, Chuwy: It was awesome meeting your guys – thanks for an entertaining night. We must try to do a proper Hama pub crawl one time soon.

Read Chuwy’s account of the night here. Jonno’s to come.

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The blog these days seems to be featuring more and more commercial beers and bar visits and less and less about homebrew. That’s mostly because my promised equipment upgrade is still coming together, and until it does,

Friday I picked up this plate chiller:

Plate chiller from Aus

Plate chiller from Aus

Like my pump, the plate chiller came with zero instructions. Apparently us homebrewers are just born with the knowledge; we won’t need sheets of paper to tell us how things work!

See that bag behind the plate chiller?

Please ferment me, Mr Homebrew Japan

Please ferment me, Mr Homebrew Japan

That’s a lovely 25kg bag of Pilsner malt, that is. Delivered on Saturday morning. That forces me to make beer sometime soon.

So what am I waiting for? I’ve got the pump, the plate chiller, the grain mill, and a drill – now I need to get the weldless kit for my aluminum pot, the tubes and connectors to connect everything together, and build a mash-tun.

I also need space – so on Saturday afternoon I kegged my Don’t Mention The War Pilsner and Coconut Wheat Porter (and bottled a little so Jonno and Chuwy could sample them when I hit Yokohama later).

Here’s the Coconut in my bargain 600yen “water container” primary:

Heaven and Hell

Heaven and Hell

Next to it you have The Sugary Tingly Belgian, which currently ranks as the most awful beer I’ve ever made. It just tastes like sugar. The Coconut Wheat Porter and the Pilner, on the other hand, are the best beers I’ve made to date – I just wish I had completed them in time for the Japan Hombrew Competition.

In the hope of getting some taste into the Belgian, it’s been out of the fermentation chamber since day 5. Maybe the higher temps will force the yeast into making some funky flavours. At the moment it’s a tossup between whether I throw it away or try throwing some orange peel or amarillo or both at it.

Back to nice beer. This is how the Coconut looked after two weeks dry-hopping:

I was a lovely bunch of coconuts

I was a lovely bunch of coconuts

Kegging was a breeze thanks to this little yellow thing I shoved in the tap when racking to the secondary:

Not a single bit of coconut made it to the keg

Not a single bit of coconut made it to the keg

26.25 yen well spent that was (105 yen for a pack of 4 from the 100yen shop).

As I said above, I rate the Pilsner and the Coconut Wheat Porter as the best beers I’ve made to date. The Saaz of the Pilsner it fantastic – maybe it’s not a 100% pure Pilsner (because I had to use some 2-row and my mashing technique doesn’t allow for perfectly clear beer), but it’s lovely – and the toasted Coconut is to die for. It’s not a sweet coconut taste like I’ve had before, but a delicious toasted taste.

Coconut

Coconut in Tokyu Hands

There’s 5 packs on this unsweetened coconut in the 10-11L that I racked to secondary – more that I’ve seen in most other recipes, but worth it.

I got a bit of a shock opening the other side of the fermentation chamber – Hops of Mass Destruction IPA has been exploding internally!

Living up to its name...

Living up to its name...

...it's exploding internally

...there's been a war going on inside

That’s the most active fermentation I’ve achieved so far. Hope this one gets down to a nice dry 1.012. Cleaned up, it’s back in the fermentation chamber. I’ll be adding a lavish amount of dry-hopping later this week.

Beers kegged, bottles of Don’t Mention The War Pilsner, Coconut Wheat Porter, and America vs Britain Superpower IPA forcecarbed, it was time to hit Yokohama. That’s the next post…

A number of things happening this weekend:

  • Tonight I’ll be picking up my plate chiller, delivered from Aus. The weekend starts Friday night, right?
  • Tomorrow morning I’ll be getting 25kg of Pilsner malt delivered. I’ll also be kegging and bottling my Don’t Mention The War “Cloudy” Pilsner and Coconut Wheat Porter. I’ve very pleased with the taste of both of them, especially for first attempts. The coconut tastes “toasty” rather than like fake sweet coconut (or at least it did a few days ago). And the pilsner – I’m not a huge pilsner fan and I’ve tasted some awful craft pilsners, so I’m just happy that contrary to my expectations it came out as something that I like the taste of (in fact I liked it enough to buy that 25kg of Pilsner malt).
  • Saturday night I’ll be doing a pub crawl in Yokohama with Chuwy and Jonno and maybe some others.
  • Sunday I wanted to go to the Wan Cup judging (Japanese homebrew competition) to see how it’s done, but since I’m not a judge they wont let me attend – pity because I wanted to write about it, and I may not be in Japan next year or somewhere where there is a recognised homebrew competition. Instead, if I’m not completely written off from Saturday, I might go buy parts for a mash tun and connections for the plate chiller. In the evening, I hear the Cat & Cask has a Jazz event with some special dry-hopped Ozenoyukidoke IPA  – might go to that. Not a big Jazz fan though.

Last night I was back in Popeye to pickup a drill from a friend. Here’s what I consumed:

  • Isekadoya Beer Brown Ale
  • Isekadoya Beer Pale Ale
  • Ozenoyukidoke IPA
  • Baird IPA
  • Preston Ale IPA – CO2
  • Preston Ale IPA – Hand-pump
  • Preston Ale BaBakan IIPA
  • Rogue Ale IIPA
  • Hidatakayama Beer Weizen
  • Ballast Point Sextant Oatmeal Stout
  • Nonge 0 Imperial Stout

I’ve notice recently that a particular IPA can have huge flavour variations, depending on how cold it is, how gassy it is, whether it is hand pumped or not, how far through the keg it is, and what other beers I’ve had to drink.

Anyone else notice this?

The BaBakan IIPA was excellent last time I was at Popeye and the Preston IPA was excellent last time I was at Aldgate, but last night at Popeye I didn’t rate either of them, and Chuwy was at Aldgate last night and didn’t rate the Preston there either.

Ozenoyukidoke IPA – not my favourite IPA to begin with – is another one that can have huge taste variations.

The Rogue IIPA also changed taste a lot as it got warmer (but I did leave it sitting for quite a while, distracted by some other beers).

Maybe it’s because they were the first beers of the night, but both the Isekadoya’s were good. Baird IPA and Rogue Ale IIPA were also excellent (until the Rogue got warm). First time to try the Sextant Oatmeal Stout also – very nice.. makes me wonder why I didn’t like the Ballast Point Calico, because I’ve liked every other Ballast Point.

Tonight: Nakameguro Taproom. I hear they have a Mild there – I’ve not seen a Mild for ages!

Chuwy: I did photograph the menu so you can update Boozelist (infact wherever I go these days I try to list what’s there so you can update Boozelist, such as with Ushi Tora and Beer Rock a few days ago) but still need to upload to my PC. Will do tonight or tmr. Would be good if you could link to my Tokyo Beer Map and Finding beer in Japan pages for people using iPhone or outside Tokyo/Yokohama.

Are you sure you're using that much, sir?

Are you sure you're using that much, sir?

I don’t check my postbox at home very often – it’s usually filled with junk, and save for one or two bills, all my important mails come to work. So I was a little late finding this “Hey, do you realise your water consumption has shot up? Is there something wrong?” mail from the water board.

Looks like moving to smaller batches for partial mash and all grain has actually increased my water consumption! When I was going 14L boils and topping up to 21L, I was adding ice and a lot of water so – but when I moved to 14L boils for 12L batches, I then had to run gallons of water through the sink or (when I borrowed it) the IC.

I wonder what my water bill was before march, when I wasn’t homebrewing at all?

Unrelated to water costs, I’m thinking that I’m going to switch back from all grain/partial mash to DME+steeping for a while, and from 12L batches to 21L batches. All grain and PM are all well and good, but it just pushes me over the limit for making beer comfortably in the evenings. I need a few “easy” brews which don’t take 4-5 hours and leave me going to bed at 2am.

Saturday I went out and bought coconut to add to my Wheat Porter. Unsweetened from Tokyu Hands, this is what 5 x 45g packs looks like toasted on Sunday:

Lightly toasted coconut

Lightly toasted coconut

And with the beer racked on top:

Coconut in the secondary

Coconut in the secondary

This was after about 5 minutes in the secondary and I can already see the coconut going mushy. Smells delicious. In the hope of being able to keg this without the coconut following though, I’ve put a little plastic mesh thing into the tap hole. Hope it works.

I also partially bottled and kegged America v Britain Superpower IPA. The mix of British and American hops plays well together, but it’s still a bit sweeter than I’d like and I’d prefer the alcohol kick to be smoother. This is quite an unusual IPA with three different crystals, flaked rye, and wheat in addition to munich, 2-row, and extra light DME – and it will be very interesting to see how this conditions over the next few weeks. It attenuated better than the other IPAs I’ve made, going down from 1.072 to 1.016.

I was very tempted to keg Don’t Mention The War Pilsner also – it tastes amazing at the moment. I mean, really amazing – I’m not a huge pislner fan, but I could down this in one. I used all my willpower to resist though – it has only been fermenting for 2 weeks and is still at around 1.018 (if I remember correctly). It’s currently still quite cloudy, so hopefully a week or two more will clear it.

Finally, I decided to taste some of the fermented beer from the harvested yeast samples. I did the harvest in May. After fermenting out, I put it into the fridge for the yeast to settle, then when making the Wheat Porter I discarded the beer from the first fermentation and added new wort. With the second fermentation finished, it was time to taste. While the samples I took from the Baird tasted good and I could probably use them for starters – the sample from the German tasted very fruity and sour. Either this is because I forgot to sanitise the rim of the German bottle or because that yeast is old and funky or… who knows, but I just threw it away! Not sure whether I’ll use the Baird samples or not. What I wish I had done is cultivate from some Leffe, because I’d like to make a Belgian now.

More things thrown away to make space for beer yesterday. The casualty list continues!

Clothes or beer. The beer won.

Clothes or beer. The beer won.

Last night I visited Cataratas in Shibuya – a tiny little bar that can sit maybe max of 16 people.

Inside tiny Cataratas

Inside tiny Cataratas

Hidden away not just in a basement, but a level 2 basement – I must have walked past this place a good few times. It’s dwarfed by the Kirin City just next to it, and the name Cataratas gives me more the impression of a Mexican restaurant than a Belgian/International beer bar so even if I’d noticed it, I’m not sure I’d have gone in.

There were six beers on tap last night – Fullers Organic Honey Dew, Kwak, Vedett Extra White, Speakeasy Double Daddy, Chapeau Banana, and either Duchesse de Bourgougne or Westmalle Dubbel (I can’t remember which – I’m referring to Boozelist for the one).

Just before I arrived Vedett had been there taking photos of people in the bar and giving them Vedett Extra White bottles with their photos on them – not sure if it was free or not, I missed it because I walked the hour from Roppongi to Shibuya for exercise – though given that I downed a Yokohama XPA and Yoho Aooni on the way, I’m not sure it was in any way beneficial.

One of the six beers on draft - Fuller's Organic Honey Dew

One of the six beers on draft - Fuller's Organic Honey Dew

In addition to the drafts, there’s also a fair selection of Belgian and international bottles. It’s no Bis Cafe, but then it’s less than half the size of Bis, and it has non Belgian beers like Brooklyn Lager.

Brooklyn Lager - I'm reading 'Beer School' at the moment so it was good to find this

Brooklyn Lager

By coincidence I’ve just started reading Beer School, which is about the Brooklyn Brewery, so it was nice to find this beer – and nicer still to find that instead of some generic Coors rubbish, it’s actually it’s a pretty good beer. Hoppy, malty – I’d drink it again. Notice the Sam Adams glass in the foreground with the huge head? That’s how the beer was poured for me – Japanese style. Needless to say that from then on, I didn’t let the bar staff pour my drinks. Incidentally, the girl behind the bar in the first picture is one of the owners; the other owner – her partner – works in the kitchen.

The strangest (non-spicy) spicy Thai spring rolls ever!

The strangest (non-spicy) spicy Thai spring rolls ever!

Food was reasonable for a bar – just don’t expect taste explosions. I thought the spicy Thai spring rolls were breadsticks at first. They were not spicy, but to my surprise the chili and chips was, especially for Japan, though the chips turned out to be tortilla chips rather than french fries (alas, only a Brit could have hoped for fries). Pizza base was biscuit-like – but at least it wasn’t a tortilla like you get in other places. Mexican chicken salad was OK, though the deep fried chicken a bit oily. The girls next to me had fish and chips which was actually potato wedges and fish nuggets, and more batter than fish.

I’m guessing most of the food was frozen (f&c) or canned (like the chili), but there were plenty of items on the menu I didn’t try – I couldn’t read half of it because it was in Japanese – and everything was freshly cooked. Certainly it was better than Nakameguro Taproom for food.

I'm thinking of turning my Wheat Porter into a Coconut Wheat Porter so I thought I'd give this a bash to see how coconut in beer should/shouldn't taste

Mongozo Fair Trade Coconut Beer

After the Fullers Organic Honey Dew – a little malty and some subtle honey flavour; nothing particularly special but also not offensive – and the Brooklyn Lager, I finished with a Mongozo Coconut Beer. I’m thinking to turn my Wheat Porter into a Coconut Wheat Porter so decided to give this a bash. Not bad at first, but half way through the bottle became a bit sickly. I’ll need to try to find Maui Coconut Porter sometime.

The outside - the bar is in basement 2

The outside - the bar is in basement 2

Cataratas has a real friendly buzz to it – the bar staff engage in conversation with the people sitting at the bar, and though their skills didn’t extend to English, I could see the others there were enjoying being there. Good selection of beers too, especially for somewhere so small – notice that NONE of the beers on tap are Asahi or Guinness or anything generic, which is impressive.

A little hot, maybe difficult to get a seat (full on a weeknight is a sign of a popular place) but wonderful friendly atmosphere, OK food, and a good chance of there being something I like on draft there (and if not, they have Belgian bottles) – I’ll definitely go back.

There’s a map on the Cataratas website and the place is pretty easy to find. Just be aware that Shibuya station has two bus terminals so make sure to look for Tokyu Plaza.

You might spot the "Glandy" hairdresser sign on the street

Cut glands - ouch!

Cataratas is next to the Kirin City, just past Key (music center). You might spot the sign for Glandy the hairdresser outside – Glandy… what a name.

Back at home, I decided it was time to try out The Best Beer In The World: Carlsberg.

No, don’t be silly.

Westvleteren 8 and Westvleteren 12

Westvleteren 8 and Westvleteren 12

It was time to crack open the Westvleteren 8 and12. You might recall me mentioning a few blog posts ago that Westvleteren sells for 15,000 yen a bottle in  Bic, which is about $150 or close to 100 quid.

Coincidentelly, Jonny has a writeup of W12 on his blog today, comparing it with St. Bernardus ABT 12 – supposedly a very similar beer (St. Bernardus used to brew Westvleteren).

I started with the 8. The first thing that hit me was the suggary taste – not a sugar that lingers in your mouth and coats your teeth and feels heavy and dirty like coke, but a sugar that tingles in the mouth. For an 8% beer, it’s surprisingly light; there’s no syrup taste there. One might compare the overall taste to tingling brown sugar – a very simple drink, yet it creates flavours and feelings which are difficult to pin down.

The 12 is similar – it also has that suggary taste, but this time is backed up with something a bit darker. It’s not caramel and it’s not like drinking syrup – which is pretty astounding for a 12% 10.2% beer. It also doesn’t have a slap in the face alcohol kick, like many strong Belgians. I liked this better than the 8.

I’m not one for overly pretentious descriptions – of gloves, plumbs, grapes slapping the inside of my mouth and taking my tongue for a dance – but one thing I will say it this: both the 8 and 12 are very moreish. They seem simple, yet you keep wanting to drink more to try to define what you’re drinking. Sooner or later though, I think the sweetness would get to me. Maybe. I didn’t have enough bottles to get to that stage.

They also achieve a lot for their style and alcohol – they are not heavy or gloopy, but quite (too) easy to drink. I’m a big Belgian beer fan and undoubtedly, these are unusual, different beers. But is the 12 the best beer in the world? Not a chance.

I think a lot of the reason why people rate this beer so highly is because it is hyped as such a good beer and it is very hard to get:

Piety, not profit, is what these monks seek. The St. Sixtus monks break every rule in Business 101 except attention to quality. And therein may lie the secret of their success in brewing a beer that some rank among the world’s best and that is so hard to get there’s a black market for it.

It’s one of the 72 brewing days of the year, but the abbey is still quiet and peaceful. Brother Joris leads the way past aluminum tanks and the bottling room, where a team of five monks is at work.

During the next five to eight weeks, as the beer ages in tanks and then in bottles, potential customers will call the abbey’s “beer phone,” which has a recorded message that tells them when the beer will go on sale (36 times a year, for as long as stock lasts).

On the first day the beer goes on sale, cars start lining up at the abbey at 5:15 a.m., says Brother Joris. The gates open at 10 a.m., and buyers are limited to two cases per car. “Not to be resold” is stamped on the receipts, but customers regularly disregard the monks’ wish, and the coveted beer is exported, unlabeled and without permission, to America and elsewhere.

St. Sixtus brews just 60,000 cases of beer a year. The famous Westvleteren 12 sells for about $33 a case, the blond 6 is the cheapest at $23 for 24 bottles. That makes enough money to cover the costs of maintaining the abbey, where 28 monks work. There’s also a little extra to help the needy.

The brewery currently is running at maximum capacity. And the monks are not interested in raising prices or production, because that would require hiring more outside workers (they have three) and working with distributors.

Think about it: This beer is not on sale every day; if you are drinking W12, it’s because someone queued up from very early in the morning to buy it, and your beer was one of only a maximum of 48 they could buy. From the small amount that is bought, how much of it makes its way to America, Japan? It’s quite a rare thing.

People want to show off that they’ve tasted “the difficult to get, best beer in the world”. Same way that geeks will race to be the first ones to buy an iPhone on day 1 and then never say anything bad about it.

They were good beers – but they didn’t make me think “Wow, I should just die now because that taste is the ultimate”. Like Austin Power’s dream of having a threesome with Japanese twins – yeah, it’s a guy’s fantasy, yeah it would be enjoyable, but would it really be the best shag of your life? Erm, ok.. it might be. Bad simile.

I enjoyed them. I’d drink them again. And I’ll be hunting out the St. B to see whether it’s similar for a 1/3rd of the price.

And if you know any Japanese (female) twins, please do tell them to get in touch with me.

Almost forgot: Took a hydrometer reading of the Wheat Porter last night – 1.020. No bubbles from the airlock at any time and no raised lid, but it fermented – weird, but I’m not complaining!

I’m forever blowing bubbles
Pretty bubbles in the air

I wish that’s the tune my Wheat Porter was playing, but since Sunday I’ve not seen a single bubble come out the airlock, or the lid bulge.

I'm not forever blowing bubbles

I'm not forever blowing bubbles

There has clearly been activity there – you can see the krausen (the foamy head of yeast that forms at the peak of fermentation and falls, leaving gunk at the side) has fallen, and there are little CO2 bubbles coming out of the beer.

There is activity - Krausen and CO2

There is activity - Krausen and CO2

Compared to the krausen from American v Britain Superpower IPA (dry-hopped Sunday with 4.1g each of Fuggles and Cascade), the Porter krausen is quite insubstantial.

For comparison, the Krausen on the America v Britain Superpower IPA

For comparison, the Krausen (and dry hops) on the America v Britain Superpower IPA

Why I’ve not seen any airlock activity – that puzzles me. It could be that I missed it because the bucket was hidden in the fermentation chamber, but that’s unlikely because the lid didn’t bulge.

It could be because there’s a leak in the lid.

It could be that because I rehydrated the yeast using 250ml of wort and that the starter was very vibrant, that all activity took place in the first day. Maybe the lid did bulge then and I forgot?

Or maybe, horror of horror, my screw-ups on Sunday mean that there’s lots of unfermentable sugars.

Or maybe I didn’t aerate enough?

Or… dammit. Here was me thinking I’d gotten past the stage of worrying about my homebrew!

There’s only one way to find out whether things are going smoothly or not, and that’s to take a hydrometer sample. Maybe I’ll try that tonight – after 4 days I’d expect the gravity to be around the 1.020 mark.

Last night I live-twittered – with photos – my way through a visit to Popeye in Ryogoku.

If there is one bar in Japan I’ll miss when I leave here, it’s Popeye. Just look at the menu – it’s two pages, changes daily, and lists between 40 and 70 beers ON TAP. Click on the images to see the detail of what they had last night – apologise for the quality but unless I reduced down the colours, the shadow of my hand taking the pics just looked creepy:

Popeye's daily beer menu - side A

Popeye's daily beer menu - side A

And side B:

...and side B

...and side B

The menu is constantly changing – which means there’s always something new to try, but also create a headache (or should that be toothache) for Chuwy at Boozelist. Chuwy – hope you find the  menus above useful for updating the site!

One of the unique features of Popeye is “Hop Heart”, shown at the top left of side B of the menu.

Here they run one of the hand pumped beers through hops while pouring it. In the picture below you can see the two small tanks at the bottom containing the hops:

The heart of Hops Heart

The heart of Hops Heart

Last night’s hops were Amarillo and Cascade. I’ve no idea how often they change the hops – I hope it’s daily; I should probably ask next time I go.

Last night’s Hops Heart beer was Ozenoyukidoke IPA which they had on hand pump and CO2 draft. That means one single beer was available in four different ways in the same bar – hand pump, hand pump through cascade, hand pump through Amarillo, CO2 draft – mind boggling!

Where else can you get 4 versions of the same beer?!

Where else can you get 4 versions of the same beer?!

This was quite an interesting tasting, but very confusing! Ozenoyukidoke has a little bit of “that IPA taste” that I don’t like on hand pump. Through cascade, “that IPA taste” was much stronger – but through amarillo and on CO2, it was far weaker. The natural deduction is that cascade could be in some way responsible for the taste that I don’t like, which would be logical because I usually taste “that IPA taste” in American beers, but is completely illogical because I don’t taste it in Anchor Liberty (which is cascade only) or in the beers I’ve made with cascade!

The bar (taken a few weeks ago)

The bar (taken a few weeks ago)

Last night’s beers, and what I thought of them:

  • Hakusekikan Samurai Rice Ale – Nice light bitterness, not sweet (Hakusekikan make the Brown Ale that I likes so much at Ushi Tora – a brewery for me to keep an eye on, I think)
  • Isekadoya Beer Pale Ale – Lovely and hoppy with a good bitter aftertaste
  • Isekadoya Beer Brown Ale – Bitter and caramel and a little hoppy.. good!
  • Nogne 0 IPA – I tried this at Ushi Tora and didn’t like it. Last night was better than Ushi Tora – nicely bitter – but it still has the taste I don’t like.
  • Iwatekura Oyster Stout – Fizzy black creamy stout but not heavy. Very much like my Chocolate-elss Coffee Stout Experiment without the coffee taste.
  • Nide Cream Ale – A pils but not a pils. I’m not a huge fan of Nide (made by Baird). It’s a bit non-descript – but then I think that’s the point: It’s made to be sold to Japanese. Astoundingly many people go to Popeye and order Asahi Super Dry – I mean, Jesus! That’s completely missing the point of Popeye.
  • More Isekadoya Beer Pale Ale – the last beers of happy hour. Between 5-8pm you get free food with every beer marked with a crown on the menu – all the beers above qualified.
  • Speakeasy Prohibition Ale – as expected from the Big Daddy IPA, I really didn’t like this. It has the taste I don’t like.
  • Stone Levitation Ale – again, it has the taste I don’t like. This is definitely either a hop thing or a method thing – I must track this down. It was really hard to finish Levitation and Prohibition.
  • Onidensetsu Red Ale – a free pint for becoming a Popeye member. Rather non-descript red ale, very little hops. What’s funny is that in Korea, I used to hunt out a beer called Red Rock – which is like a weaker version of this red ale – because it has some taste, unlike Cass or OB or Hite. This isn’t a bad beer – like Nide isn’t a bad beer – it just doesn’t cut the mustard when stacked up against the other competition here.
  • Ozenoyukidoke IPA on hand pump, on hand pump with cascade, on hand pump with amarillo, and CO2
Just some of the taps at Popeye

Just some of the taps at Popeye

On the menu at the bottom of the Hops Heart section, it seems to imply that you can add extra cascade or amarillo to any beer – but I don’t know whether that’s true or whether the Japanese is misleading. After drinking all that, it wasn’t advisable for me to do any further exploration. I left Popeye 10,000 yen poorer but feeling priceless happiness.

Darn it! Just noticed that on side B they have a whole range of dark Hakusekikan beers, including the brown ale. I have to go back to Popeye soon!

Don’t make beer with a hangover, kids. It’s not big, and it’s not clever. You just end up making mistakes.

I:

  1. Mixed up the grain bill for the recipe with my inventory of grain and only realised when I found the recipe supposedly called for 1kg of chocolate – way too much for a half batch. I’d already mixed Crystal by this stage and had to try to scoop some of it out!
  2. Added a full bag of DME before remembering that I’d upped the grain bill so I wouldn’t need to use DME.
  3. Started the mash at 68 degrees when I was supposed to be doing a stepped mask at 40.
  4. Added water to bring the temperature down, which is pointless because the grain had already been mashing at 68 – and you can’t go back. Advice from a homebrewing friend:

    When you really overshoot a temperature, there is really no return. The reason is that the different temperatures correspond to the peak activity of a particular enzyme or enzymes. Once you go above that temperature they tend to denature quite rapidly. So by the time you add your water and go back, you might have already lost the enzymes that you wanted.  So your best bet in those situations is to just take the temp you have and live with it.

  5. Let the lead from my new Ikea thermometer fall into the gas. It may claim to be resistant to heat upto 230 degrees celsius, but apparently not if that heat is from flames. Result? Calibration is screwed, taking my mash temperatures with it at the same time.

Despite all this, after recalculating the recipe to take account of the extra water and DME, I hit within 0.002 of the predicted OG – given that the recipe was all malted wheat, flaked barley, flaked oats, chocolate, and crystal – ie, no 2-row – there was a danger there wouldn’t be enough diastic power to convert the starch in the flaked barley and oats. So I’m pretty happy I got close.

Screw-ups didn’t stop when the beer was finished though – guess who made a special trip from Tokyo to Yokohama to go to Thrash Zone (for some serious IPA on draft) only to find out that the place is closed on Sundays? Yip. Me.

Second choice of Yokohama Cheers was also closed. Don’t people drink in Yokohama on Sundays?!

Yokohama Brewery

Yokohama Brewery

I ended up at Yokohama Brewery and I finally got my IPA fix there, not only with their “standard” IPA, but also from their new Green Fresh IPA (nice!)

It wasn’t easy though – Yokohama Brewery has two levels: Pivovar downstairs and the restaurant upstairs.. and they sell different beers! They refused to let me order a downstairs beer upstairs and I had to talk with the manager before they would nurse my IPA fetish with Green Fresh. And by the time I got my hands on Green Fresh, it was last orders.

Finally I got them to bring me Pivovar's menu

Finally I got them to bring me Pivovar's menu

Still, in the time I was attempting to get Pivovar’s menu, I did work through one or two other beers – everything on the upstairs menu actually, except the half and half:

The upstairs beer menu

The upstairs beer menu

Favourites were: White Ale (like Hitachino Nest White Ale but less strong), Pale Ale (very nice caramel taste – best of the standard beers), Amber Ale (though the pale ale was better), IPA (could have been hoppier, but nice bitterness – second best of the standard beers)

Middling: Pilsner (was a bit flat), Weizen (pretty standard), Alt (a little heavy)

Didn’t think much of: Fruit Ale

From the Pivovar menu I tried the Pixie Orange Ale, which I personally found a bit boring – the orange taste was too subtle to be refreshing, and the Green Fresh IPA. The Green Fresh was the star of the night, though some may find it a little too bitter.

Yokohama Brewery is here - Exit 5 of Bashamichi Station, walk straight and the turn right at the Richmond Hotel

Yokohama Brewery is here - Exit 5 of Bashamichi Station, walk straight and then turn right at the Richmond Hotel

I returned home to try Dogfish 60 minute, 90 minute, and 120 minute IPA – the 60 minute was passible, but the 90 and 120 minute were awful, tasting thick and gloopy. The 120m especially tasted almost like Scottish Ale – possibly not surprising since I’ve just found out the 120m is 21% ABV (though no actual ABV was written on the bottle; I found that figure by searching on Google).

They should have made me oh-so-hoppy

They should have made me oh-so-hoppy

I was expecting bursts of hop flavour from those beers. That’s no what I got. I actually couldn’t even finish the 90m and 120m IPAs. It was heart-wrenching throwing away half a bottle of 120m – it costs the same as Westvletern 12, ie. 1900 yen / 10 quid a bottle.

Finished off with Lagunitas Maximus IPA which tasted awful at first because the 120 minutes taste was still in my mouth, but better towards the end – not the hop monster I hoped for though.

Wheat Porter

Intended to be all grain, ended up with some DME in it (see story above)

Boil volume: 16L
Batch size: 14L (actually came out about 13.5L)

Predicted OG: 1.056
Actual OG: 1.054

Predicted IBU: 26 (though I FWH’d so may be up to 10% more)

Mash schedule (see story above):
11L at 59degrees for 15m, then should have been 68degrees for 60m but varied between 58 and 70
7L at 75 degrees for 25m
Cooling – In the sink (IC has been returned!) A little ice added at the end to make up batch volume and cool.

Grain:
1.6kg Wheat malt
90g Crystal 150L (with a touch of 40L and 15L due to measuring cock-up)
300g Chocolate
100g Black patent
300g Flaked barley
300g Flaked oats
500g Extra-light DME

Hops:
9g Nugget 14.6% – FWH + 60m. FWH from 87degrees, taking 10m to get to boil – so 70m total.
8g Nugget 5m

Yeast: S-04
I boiled 1L of water with 100g of DME to use for feeding the yeast I cultivated in May. I had 250ml of this left so rehydrated the S-04 in it. VERY active.
Pitched too high at 30degrees, but I had to go out and I didn’t want to leave the yeast unpitched.

I’ll ferment this in the chamber at 19degrees. I may get some coconut and rack some or all onto coconut.

Update: Almost forgot! I dry hopped Beer seventeen (America v Britain Superpower IPA) with 4.1g each of Fuggles and Cascade. FG is 1.016, which is a bit better than I achieved with S-04 and no fermentation chamber (this time I used US-05 and the fermentation chamber – I suspect the US-05 is a bit better at attenuating down than the S-04).