Friday, June 23, 2017

Will Japan have any good beer...that is the question....

April 2017 - Ashlee and I have a big trip to Japan scheduled for the end of the month and I have a few places scoped out at least in Tokyo where I should be able to have some craft beer.

Until then...

Saturday, 4/1 - We had tickets to see the Preds play today and before the game we stopped at Czann's Brewing for a beer (and to score some valuable free parking).  I had their German Pislner which was crisp and refreshing.  They also had a "we-need-to-open-a-new-tap" deal on their Oatmeal Stout where if you bought a pint, which Ashlee did, you got a free growler-fill of it as well.  We also ran into our friend, and craft beer aficionado, Nate, while we were there.
At the game I continued my pilsner-kinda-day with a nice PC Pils from Founders Brewing (MI) which was available at the Better Beer Bar in Bridgestone Arena.  The Preds took it down in impressive fashion over the Minnesota Wild, 3-zip.  
Tuesday, 4/4 - I saw Ghost in the Shell at the $5 Bargain Night at the Roxy Theaters here in Lebanon with my pal Casey tonight.  It was a lot better than I thought it would be.  I didn't have any beer to report, I just REALLY LIKE this poster...hubba, hubba, Miss Scarlett, I do declare! 
Friday, 4/7 - I couldn't let National Beer Day pass by without  having a brew, so I dug out a tasty HANGTIME pale ale from Blackstone Brewing here in Nashville from the refrigerator vegetable crisper (my favorite place to chill beers).
Ashlee partook as well to celebrate National Beer Day and we hung out on the patio with the warm sun on our backs and toasted the day, the weather and the fact it was Friday!


Sunday, 4/9 - It was Poker Night in Lebanon for me so I stopped by Lebanon Wine and Spirits (whose beer selection seems to get better every time I go there).  I got a variety four-pack that included a strong Palate Wrecker double IPA from Green Flash Brewing (CA); a decent Namaste White witbier from Dogfish Head Brewery (Delaware); a really good Pure Hoppiness double IPA from Alpine Beer Company (CA) and a tasty finish with an Expedition Stout (Russian Imperial) from Bell's Brewery (MI).  Before I left for the game, I had a sip of Ashlee's delightful Pear Lager from Devil's Backbone Brewing (VA).

4/15 - We had a layover in Denver on our way to Tokyo and we found a great little hot dog place in the airport call Steve's Snappin' Dogs and they had a nice beer list from which I chose the solid IPA by Odell Brewing over in nearby Fort Collins, CO.

ON TO JAPAN & yes, on to BEER!

I surprisingly found a good amount of decent craft beer in Japan  along with some of their better known national brands that were hit or miss...

April 16 - I didn't have to go far once we got to Tokyo to find some decent craft beer.  Yona Yona Beer Works was within walking distance of our hotel and it's also where we had our first meal in Japan consisting of some interesting house-made sausages including our favorite: the bologna with edamame (round one at top of photo below).   I had a tasting flight of beers with my meal and started with their pale Yona Yona Ale which was decent.  The Tokyo Black Porter wasn't quite as smoky or coffee-infused as I was hoping for. Their Aooni IPA was solid and my favorite of the bunch.  My last one was the Karuizawa Kogen Wild Forest  blonde ale which I thought could use a bit more bite to it.  I also had a sip of Ashlee's Boku Kimi Beer which was their saison and wasn't too bad.

April 17 - As we were walking back from a self-guided morning tour of the famous Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, I got my first "street-walkin' beer" in Japan.  I discovered that you can walk around in Japan with an open beer without any scrutiny (at least I didn't get any).  I grabbed an EXTRA Pale Ale  from the Ginga Kogen Beer Company at a little market on our way back to the hotel.  It wasn't too bad, but seemed to be  a stretch to call itself a pale ale.
April 18 - During a half-day city tour  of Tokyo we passed by the macro-brewers Asahi Beer headquarters which is the color of a beer complete with a "foamy top."  Now that's funny and kind of awesome!   My second "street-walking beer" of the trip was a decent Tokyo Craft Pale Ale from macro-brewerers, Suntory, bought at the busy Ginza Subway Station
We had a food tour tonight and at our last stop for some hot monjayaki I had an ice cold Super Dry Extra Cold lager from Asahi.  Cheers to your cool building, fellas!   Now go focus on making better beer...   I finished the evening with my third "street-walker" which was a Lager from macro-brewer, Kirin, that was pretty good actually on the way back to the hotel.

April 18 -  We took an awesome day-trip from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji  today and the weather couldn't have been more perfect!  Ashlee even found me a can of World Treasure Mt. Fuji Original Craft Beer which I promptly drank on Mt. Fuji at  about 6,627' elevation!  The experience was a little better than the beer, but you take moments like this in stride.  
I slipped off back to Yona Yona Beer Works again today while Ashlee turned in early and had another round of sausages and another beer: the SunSun Organic Beer which is their blonde ale.  It was light and crisp and pretty tasty.

April 19 - We took a break from Japanese food (and the lager-rich environment of their beer) and had an Italian dinner tonight at Trattoria e Pizzeria De salita near our hotel that was actually pretty good.  They had some Italian bottled beer on the menu and I had a pretty glass of  macro-brewer, Birra Moretti's La Rossa, a  decently smooth dopplebock.

April 20 - Happy Birthday to Me.  Salute!!  I technically checked a couple more beers in at Yona Yona Beer Works on 4/19 in Japan, but it was already my birthday back home so my Untappd  birthday badge was legit.  I started my third and final visit to Yona Yona with their Boku Beer, Kimi Beer Yorimichi an American-style pale wheat ale that was very good.    "The final flourish"  (I loved the movie, Love Actually) at Yona Yona was the Karuizawa Kogen Sesaonal Golden Ale (2016) which was excellent.  Thanks, Yona Yona Beer Works for a great start to Japan and finding good craft beer!  

April 21 - We got on our cruise ship yesterday for our circumnavigation of the whole main island of Japan and today was a day at sea.  My beloved Nashville Predators SWEPT the hated Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and I was ecstatic!  Do you know how hard it was to find a GOLD BROOM on a cruise ship to pose for this picture???    Thanks Princess Cruise Lines for accommodating this silly request!  GO PREDS!!

April 23 - I found this little beauty in a gift shop at The Tottori Flower Park in Sakaiminato, Japan, our first stop on in Japan and our second port of the cruise (Busan, South Korea was first...no beer found there...boo!).  It was a real craft beer because you couldn't screw the top off and I had to get creative to pop it off.  The Daisen G Beer Pilsner was pretty good.  It's made by the Kumezakura Daisen Brewery located right here in the Tottori prefecture.

April 24 - It was more flowers  and more beer today at the Tonami Tulip Park and Festival inland from our third cruise port, Toyama.  I found this rather tasty can of All-Free (lager?) from Japanese macro-brewer, Suntory. at an outdoor vendor in the park.  I didn't  really realize it was alcohol-free until I checked it in.  I figured the "All-Free" just meant it was organically brewed.  The "All-Free" also means calorie-free and carb-free.  These guys might be on to something!  

April 25 - No idea what this beer is.  Probably just a Kirin or Asahi lager.  I like the picture because it's a cool mug and it was served at a very authentic Japanese restaurant in Akita by our waiter who didn't speak a word of English.  Our table was in a little wooden booth with a privacy curtain.  Dinner was excellent and the beer was ice cold.  

Lawson Convenience Stores are all over Japan and today in Akita on our way back to the boat  after dinner, I found out that they have a pretty good beer selection.  The only Japanese craft beer I had before this trip was from Hitachino Nest.  This canned Lager was outstanding. And now begins a nice little run of some of the better craft beer I  was able to find in Japan outside of Tokyo.  That is except for the Kirin Lime can of beer I bought next. at a gift shop near the port  I poured that shit out after two swallows.  Awful!  

April 26 - The port of Hakodate was a gold mine of good canned craft beer that I found in gift shops and convenience stores.  This Otaru Bakusyu Amber Ale is a pleasant English-style brown ale produced by Hokkaido Brewing Company just north of here.

This fairly hoppy Onuma Altbier is produced by the brewpub, Brauhaus Onuma, also in the Hokkaido prefecture.  These folks have been brewing craft beer since 1997!!  Respect your elders!!  I took a couple  more beers back to the boat since they had crap to choose from on board and we had a long day at sea day after tomorrow.  One was the Onuma India Pale Ale which wasn't my favorite IPA ever, but an interesting take nonetheless.  

I also grabbed a can of the Otaru Bakusyu Pilsner that was solid.

4/27 - Thanks to my wife, Ashlee, for making me get this one to have on the boat  during the day at sea as well.  I didn't really care to have another mass-produced pilsner, but she pointed out that you CAN ONLY GET THIS BEER IN JAPAN, so I slurped down the so-so Sapporo Classic continued enjoying our trip.
4/28 - BACK IN TOKYO  
My little trick of looking in convenience stores and markets for craft beer paid off in spades!!

I found the nice and hoppy Flying IPA from Echigo Beer Company and enjoyed it in one of the many open-air parks in the Odiaba District.  

Ashlee's choice for park sipping that I also had a sip of was this Suiyoubi no Neko white ale made by Yo-Ho Brewing (i.e. the brewers for Yona Yona Beer Works for our first days in Tokyo).  It was tasty and what a cool can! 

I went from Level 1 all the way to Level 5 on Untappd for Japanese beer thanks to our little jaunt to The Far East!

No, I didn''t have a beer here.  Just thought it was awesome..."and I ain't talking about in no paper cup...I mean a glass of beer...(at McDonald's)" -  Jules Winnfield, Pulp Fiction  

Well, I looked the whole trip for the legendary beer vending machines of Japan with no luck.  Someone told me they stopped allowing them on the streets since they couldn't enforce age restrictions (no duh??)...but they are real!!!  I found this one down in the bowels of our hotel next to a conference room hidden in the corner.  Sadly, there wasn't anything I wanted in it....especially not those nasty Kirin Lime beers....yuck!!

Just a cool twilight shot of the harbor and The Rainbow Bridge from the beach near our hotel.  I am gonna miss you, Tokyo.

My last two beers in Japan were good ones that I enjoyed with a great view from our room.  First up was the excellent Captain Crow Extra Pale Ale from OH! LA! HO Brewery.  Last, but not least, was the Okinawa IPA from the Nanto Brewery that was brimming with hops just the way I like 'em!  

Arigato, Japan, for an interesting hunt for even more interesting craft and mainstay beers throughout your beautiful country, and for a wonderful trip from start to finish! 


Friday, March 31, 2017

New York vs. Boston - Beer Wars 2017

I took an extended long weekend trip up to New York and then on to Boston to cheer on the Predators at a couple of road games with my friends, Danny and Brenda.  Both of them like craft beer as well,  and we were able to do some compare and contrast of suds in the two metropolises during our trip.

Saturday, 3/25 -  We flew up to NYC today and I checked into my AirBnB shared apartment in Brooklyn (that saved me a ton of dough) near the Barclays Center where the Preds were playing the NY Islanders on Monday night.  Just across the street from my temporary apartment was the Pacific Standard bar where I had a nice, hoppy Other Half IPA from Brooklyn's own Other Half Brewing.  I followed that up with a decent Saxony Lager from Jack's Abby Brewing (MA).

Later that evening I met up with Danny and Brenda over in Manhattan to take in the Arthur Miller play "The Price" at the American Airlines Theater on Broadway.  Before the show we had some tasty burgers at the Black Iron Burger Bar near the theater.  They had a strong beer list also and with dinner I had a good Session IPA from Montauk (NY) Brewing followed by an interesting Funk (Blueberry Citrus Wheat) from DuClaw Brewing (Baltimore).



The play was outstanding with its superb cast including Danny Devito, Mark Ruffalo and Tony Shalhoub.  Brenda did good with procuring us some great box seats very close to stage-left.


After the show we wandered up to Ferrara, an Italian bakery that's been doing it great here in The Big Apple for over 120 years.  The desserts were amazing.  Leave the gun, take the cannoli.
Sunday, 3/26  -  Danny and I started the day with a great breakfast at Junior's on Flatbush Avenue located between my apartment and their hotel.  I had the totally-New York pastrami omelette and it was amazing!




Danny and Brenda were going back to Broadway this afternoon for a musical, but I passed on that for an idea of my own...a self-made Brooklyn beer tour!

No, that's not orange juice with breakfast at Juniors.  This is the amazingly citrus-infused IPA called My Righteous Self from Threes Brewing just down the street from my apartment in Brooklyn.  In hindsight, this was easily my favorite beer of the entire trip which I figured would be hard to top as I rated it a rare 4.5 on Untappd.  
I followed up at Threes Brewing with a There You Are (Equinox and Mosaic) IPA which was a bit tart but solid.  I finished with the impressive Tyranny of Mirrors (great names for these beers!) pale ale.

It was a good mile walk to the next Brooklyn-based brewery called Other Half Brewing of which I had already had one of their products when I first got to town yesterday.  The place was a little hard to find as it is located in an industrial area and is quite literally a hole in a wall.  Even the entry door pictured above was a bit suspect.  The tiny tasting-room was packed and by the time I squeezed up to the bar to order a pint and then squeezed into a spot to drink my albeit very good Cheddar double IPA, I didn't feel the need to fight for another one and moved on.

I moved back uptown about a mile to the very cool Brooklyn Inn bar where I had a tasty and dark Insulated Lager from the well-known Brooklyn Brewery.  The beer list here was not as impressive as I had read, so I moved on again.

Now THIS is a beer bar!!  I made my  way over to my last stop in my Brooklyn beer tour, the brand-new House of Wax bar which accompanies the Alamo Draft House movie theater.  While their prices were a bit steep, the selection was out of this world.  I started with the Farm2Pint IPA from my favorite Brooklyn brewery that distributes in Tennessee, Sixpoint Brewing.  It was solid just like all their canned products I have tried.  I moved on to the Black Gold Nitro Irish stout from Rockaway Brewing (Long Island, NY)  that had a great coffee start and chocolate finish.    I could have stayed here all night but had plans to meet Danny and Brenda for a movie that was not showing at the Alamo unfortunately, but over in Manhattan instead.
I took the handy subway across the river to Manhattan and met them for dinner at the always-tasty  Shake Shack next to the movie theater.  With my double cheeseburger and fries I had a bottle of Southern Tier IPA (Lakewood, NY).

We saw the thrilling and well-done space alien movie, Life, at the Regal Cinemas Battery Park 11 while kicking back in big comfy recliner seats!  
Walking back to the subway after the movie we passed by The Freedom Tower and it made a real POINT as to how tall it really is under the low clouds tonight.  New York is such an awesome place!
We got back to Brooklyn in time for a nightcap back at the House of Wax bar where I had a Divided by Zero IPA from Rushing Duck Brewing (Chester, NY).

Good beer day in the NYC!

Monday, 3/27 - It's was game day, but we had the most of the day to kill before the puck dropped at 7 PM, so we did some more exploring around Brooklyn together today.  We started with some outstanding pizza at Antonio's Pizzeria (the Philly cheese steak pizza is amazing!).
We stumbled upon The Doughnut Plant where I had the amazingly delicious and unique pistachio-creme filled "doughseed", which is just a bit smaller-sized doughnut.  
We hit the subway again and headed over to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint to check out one of the filming locations for the HBO show, "Girls."  We found Cafe Grumpy which is the backdrop for Ray's coffee house in the show and sat and relaxed for a while with some coffee and green tea.  No shooting going on today unfortunately.
The impressive classic beer can wall at Keg and Lantern Brewing Company, in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn
Also in Greenpoint was the Keg and Lantern Brewing Company where we stopped for a flight of some of their beers and some warm pretzel.  The four I chose were the spicy and smooth HOT Gold pepper beer, the solid Green Eyes IPA, the decent Run for Cover IPA and the not too bad Wrath of Funkosaurus sour beer.  Sours aren't my favorite, so trying them in small flight samplers is the best way for me to hopefully work my way up to a taste for them. I also had a taste of Brenda's OK saison called The Passenger.

Another recommended beer bar in Greenpoint was closed for a private party, so we headed back to Brooklyn-proper to grab a little more pizza before the game began.  The pies at Pizza Cotta Bene were good, but didn't top Antonio's from earlier in the day although the "vodka sauce" they use on Grandma's specialty is interesting.
The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the home of the New York Islanders...for now
We had great seats for the game only 17 rows off the ice.  The boys took care of business 2-1 and I had a tasty, albeit way over-priced, X.P.A. pale ale from Upstate Brewing (Elmira, NY)
Tuesday, 3/28 - We "shipped up to Boston" early this morning following the team on their road-trip.  We got cheap flights on JetBlue airlines who are pretty great with free wifi and drinks and snacks on the flight.    After dropping our bags off (at another nice and cheap AirBnB apartment near the hockey arena for me), we immediately sought out some lunch in the scenic and historic North End and fresh clam chowder and fried clams (photo below) at Neptune Oyster was perfect.  With lunch I had a Frost Hammer doppelbock draught from Harpoon Brewery here in Boston.

After lunch we strolled along some of The Freedom Trail with a stop at the oldest pub in America, The Bell in Hand Tavern (photo below).  They poured their first pint back in 1795.   I added to that history with a pint of Whale's Tale Pale Ale from Cisco Brewing over on Nantucket Island, MA.  I also had a taste of their Bell in Hand Ale made special for them by the Boston Beer Company aka Sam Adams Brewing.

We continued on our self-guided tour along The Freedom Trail with stops at the site of the Boston Massacre that helped start The Revolutionary War, the Old Statehouse, Paul Revere's House, the exquisite Old North Church (inside among the cubicle-style pews is the photo below) where Revere hung the lanterns signalling that the British soldiers were coming.  

With touring and history comes thirst, so we ambled back toward the TD Arena where the Bruins and Celtics play and stopped at Boston Beer Works for a flight of some of their many craft beers.

My flight included the good and hoppy imperial Big Boy IPA, the solid Strong Scotch ale, the dark and hoppy Black IPA and the ultra-smooth Nitro Milk Stout.  I also had a taste of Brenda's Bunker Hill Blueberry Ale which was nice.
I had a great Take 5 Session IPA from Boston's own Harpoon Brewing during the game.
Before we knew it, game-time was upon us, so we made our way into the somewhat hostile confines of TD Arena to see our relatively new franchise take on the historic and proud, Boston Bruins, and their six Stanley Cup banners hanging in the rafters.  The game did not go good for us although we were in it with a 2-1 deficit through the first half of the third period, but the Bruins were able to push another goal in toward the end of regulation as well as an empty-netter for a 4-1 defeat.  Despite the loss, the game was enjoyable and the atmosphere can really not be beat.  With two minutes to play and the home team up 3-1 and "Shipping Up to Boston" by The Dropkick Murphys is cranked and the crowd is going nuts, it's hard not to be impressed.  After the game we sloshed through the rain back to Boston Beer Works for a late-night bite to eat and I had their High Octane imperial stout to ease the pain of the loss.

Wednesday, 3/29 - We had a half a day before we flew home and we squeezed a little more touring of Beantown into it.  Danny and I took an early DUCK tour around the city and into the Charles River (photo below).  It was informative and a lot of fun with historic views as well as pop-culture icons like the front of the bar from "Cheers" (photo above).  

Brenda met us at noon for a behind-the-scenes/history tour of the oldest major league baseball stadium in the U.S., Fenway Park.  We got to go up in the press-box (photo below) as well as atop  The Green Monster.  The field was close to being ready with Opening Day less than a week away.


Before flying home on the again-impressive JetBlue Airlines, we had lunch at Logan International at guess where...Boston Beer Works...and I had their Oaked Curley's Irish Stout with my delicious burger and fries.   Cheer, Boston, thanks for the good times.

Great trip to two great cities, great beer throughout, a 1-1 road trip for the Preds....hey, I'll take it!