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28 Sep

Japan, Devil Craft & Ise Kadoya

Japan, Devil Craft & Ise Kadoya

A lot happened this summer, and since the last time I dusted off the keyboard to post. But let’s start small and stick with the events of this summer. So take your trousers off, draw the blinds, grab a beer, and get comfy.

I’ve loved Japan for at least as far back as 1995. I’ve been living there on and off since then. Don’t tell my business partner Todd, but I seriously almost started Mondo Brewing there before I met him. Or something like it. Going back is always exciting, seeing how things have changed since leaving in 2013. The beer scene has grown year on year since my first visit over 20 years ago.

In 1994, the year before my inaugural visit, Japan’s complicated brewing laws had miraculously relaxed to the point where small start ups could enter the market. The legal minimum production requirement of 20,000hl a year was reduced to a more reasonable 600hl.

While there aren’t many of the first iterations of craft breweries still around from those early days, one remains and stands out for their consummate tact and sharp technical expertise. Ise Kadoya is located on the coast in Mie Prefecture, slightly southeast of the Kyoto/Osaka kansai area.

The modern brewery has been around since 1997. But the company has been running under the same family name, making tea, snacks, miso paste, and soy sauce, since the 16th Century. And it was in those early days that current heir to the throne, Naruhiro Suzuki, made brewing top priority.

While the team from Ise Kadoya was in London this Spring picking up a few of their many international brewing award gongs, a friendship was born. Over Sunday Morning beers in our taproom, headbrewer Zenichi Deguchi and I hashed out plans to brew on his 10hl plant in July. And so in the sweltering summer heat of tropical Japan, he and I slugged it out, double brewing 20hl in total over the course of 12 hours.

What I lost in water weight sweatin it out on the brewery floor that day, I gained back in beer that night. Zenichi pulled bottle after bottle from his extensive cellar while we sat on tatami mats and watched the Sumo on TV. Of all the rare and impressive American beers Zenichi pulled from the fridge that night, it was his Ise Kadoya Pale Ale that was most refreshing under the oppressive blanket of Japan’s summer humidity.

The recipe we brewed together is a light copper-coloured 6.6% IPA called “Wildboys”. We used Simpsons Malt in honour of our good friend Peter Simpson. The malt bill was a simple blend of Pale Malt, CaraPils, and a small dose of Light Crystal. We chose some classic West Coast IPA style hops, Cascade, Amarillo, and Citra. Fermentation was carried out by an American East Coast strain produced by Wyeast Laboratories.

Following our collaboration brew, I drove across Honshu (Japan’s main island) to Tokyo. I met up with friends and previous collaborators, Devil Craft Brewing Co. Started by three American ex-pat homebrewers (and close personal friends for 10 years now), Devil Craft is a collection of three Chicago-style pizzeria and craft beer bars and a separate 5hl production brewery. All sites are located on or near the Yamanote train line that runs a loop around central Tokyo.

For our third collaboration together, the DC team and I chose an 8.8% IIPA. The colour is straw to pale yellow, provided by a base of nearly all Pale Malt and a sprinkle of CaraPils. This was again Simpsons Malt used in honour of our dearly departed friend Peter Simpson. The hop bill was as simple as Cascade and Citra throughout. We fermented this wort with the Chico strain of ale yeast.

By the end of fermentation and conditioning, the burnt orange troll baby leader of the free world had made his now infamous blundering proclamation. And so “Fire and Fury” (a Double IPA like the world has never seen) was chosen as the designated nomenclature.

Both beers are currently enjoying limited availability in the Tokyo/Osaka/Kyoto areas. Wider release will happen when our first shipment of London-brewed beer touches down in the Land of the Rising Sun. Several pallets of Mondo beers left for Japan earlier this month and we’ve been watching the cargo ship on the computer screen slowly make its way to the Suez Canal. Berth and release scheduled for the end of October.

I need to make clear here that the connection with Ise Kadoya and the importing of our beers into Japan is all thanks to our good friend Albert Kuwano and the team at AQ Bevolution. I’ve known Albert for about 8 years and watched AQ Bevolution grow into a reputable distributor first in Tokyo, then eventually at a national level in Japan.

Albert, a childhood friend of one of the three founders of Devil Craft, carries an impressive range of American and European beers. He also operates Titans Craft Beer Taproom and Bottle Shop near Ikebukuro, where we’ll hold an event this Fall. Albert has been a friend and supporter of Mondo Brewing since day one. Its with great honour that we are part of his portfolio in Japan.

Our final Japan-themed collaboration of the summer went down locally. We produced the third incarnation of Ozeki (we’re calling Ozeki v.3) with award-winning homebrewer Simon Clippingdale. English by birth, Simon has been residing in Japan more than 20 years.

For the last three years Simon has won the Ozeki award at the annual Japan Homebrewing Competition (known colloquially as the WanCup). We told Simon that as long as he keeps winning the Ozeki award, we’ll keep brewing the beer here. Production always coincides with Simon’s annual trip back to Ol’ Blighty in August.

This year’s recipe was a Rye Pale Ale. While we’ve sold out of this beer for our trade customers, a select few kegs remain for our taproom only. The malt bill is 18% Rye and 4.5% Crystal Rye. The rest of the grain is Pale Malt and a sprinkle of Light Crystal. We used Citra and Chinook hops only and fermented with the San Diego Super Strain from White Labs.

Thomas Palmer, September 2017.