asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Belgian happoshu? 22 July, 2016

Filed under: food & drink — johnraff @ 5:47 pm
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Breaking a long cyber silence here to celebrate Nagoya’s early exit from the “Tsuyu” rainy season with a post on one of my favourite topics – beer. “Happoshu” – a sort of imitation beer which uses low quantities of malt to get a lower tax rate – has been with us for some years now, followed by “third type” beers which get the tax bracket even lower. At first they were pretty disgusting with all kinds of weird aftertastes, but the clever brewing companies have been polishing their techniques and now some of these cheap “third beers” are actually sort-of OK. Some people who have been forced to switch from real beer by their falling incomes (even under Abenomics) have started to prefer them to beer! I wouldn’t go that far at all, but get it well chilled in the fridge and some of these “third beers” can be enjoyable enough on a hot summer evening.

crystalbelg

Sapporo beer have been working hard on this, with Suntory and Kirin close behind (I don’t like Asahi), and “Mugi to Hoppu” is still my favourite, but back in 2014 they came out with something called “White Belg”. Someone had obviously twigged that those delicious Belgian beers contain a lot of things other than malt and hops, and might not pass the Japanese malt percentage bar either. White Belg is a copy of the Belgian white beers, like Hoegaarden White, and along with added wheat is flavoured with orange peel and coriander seeds. It really isn’t too bad – a little bit sweet maybe, but quite refreshing. Since then they came out with “Gold Belg” and “Brown Belg” which were pretty good too, each in their own way, but limited issues which disappeared as soon as you found them.

The latest one is called “Crystal Belg”, which I found by chance in a supermarket last week. It’s inspired by the Belgian “saison” style – a summer brew, a little lower in alcohol and with a delicious hoppy aroma. This might be the best of all, and I liked it enough to go back to that supermarket to buy a case of it. No luck. Sold out, and no plans to get in any more, apparently. Hmm.

Anyway, this one’s got a great flowery start, light body and a clean finish that… Just a minute! We’re not talking about some special craft beer here, this is one-hundred-yen-a-can “third beer”. If you see one on a shelf please try it. If like me you have looked everywhere and still can’t find any, you might look on the internet. I was able to order a case via Amazon which came yesterday. Happy ending.

 

British Beer 13 July, 2012

Filed under: food & drink — johnraff @ 2:44 pm
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T and I were in Heathrow terminal 4 last year waiting for our flight back to Japan and found a plastic “pub” in a corner of the departure area. On the menu was a beer called “Fuller’s London Pride”, which I’d vaguely heard of, so we had a couple of pints. It turned out to be very nice, amazingly for an airport, Heathrow especially.

So, when, with all the London Olympics thing going on (though I gather they’re taking it all pretty low-key over there), our wine merchant sent us a list of British beers from one of their importers I recognized that Fuller’s London Pride right away. Hmm, so this year instead of cheap lager on Thursdays we decided to do a  British Beer Fair every day to mark the Historic Event. We stocked a dozen varieties for the duration and are selling them at no-profit prices just to turn people on to the wonderful world of British Beer … and maybe entice a few new customers into Raffles …

When they arrived, a look at the cases suggested they might have come via some wholesaler in the USA – a long journey round the world to Exotic Japan, but on opening a bottle I was pleasantly surprised. And the next bottle… Most of these beers are from either Fuller’s in London or Wychwood in Oxfordshire and they’re all delicious. Really. I’ve been a fan of Belgian beer for some time, and didn’t really expect anything from the UK to be able to compete, but most of these top-fermented ales could stand up there.

Maybe after the fair’s over we’ll keep on one or two on our regular menu – at a more regular price though. I’m sure you’ll understand.

Cheers!

 

Farmlog 11th~26th September 2011 5 November, 2011

Filed under: countryside,food & drink — johnraff @ 3:23 pm
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It might still feel like Summer here in Nagoya on this warm November day, but this record is already going back two months, and Winter will be on us in no time. Anyway…

The first weekend (4th & 5th) we stayed in Nagoya because Daihachi Ryodan had one of our increasingly infrequent gigs, this time in a converted warehouse at a traditional sake brewery where they were putting on what turned out to be a pretty enjoyable event, with market stalls and lots of little kids running around, along with the music. People seemed to enjoy our stuff too, which is always encouraging.

The next day T and I went to a “beer garden” – a sort of Summer tradition here to hit these places, usually on the roof of a building so you get a bit of breeze, decorated with plastic lanterns and full of middle-aged ladies making sure they get their money’s worth of the all-you-can-eat deal usually on offer. It was OK, but run by the wholesale fish market and we expected better things in the food section. Of course beer is beer, and a few mugfulls of well-chilled lager always go down well in the Nagoya humidity.

11th~12th

  • A muggy Sunday, but there are already hints of the coming Autumn. The rice is yellow, many fields have already been cut and there is smoke in the air from the burnt leftovers.
  • Lots of picnickers by the river.
  • A gang of aging bikers – must all be over 50, maybe 60. You don’t hear the “bosozoku” urban bikers so much any more – the roar of dozens of unsilenced exhausts used to be a feature of Summer evenings – but these guys are different, on a tour of the countryside in a sort of Easy Rider thing. Quite quiet and completely unthreatening.
  • No typhoon damage out in Gifu, unlike Mie where number 12 hung about for days and dropped huge amounts of water. The hot chillies – habaneros and little “ishigakis” – are doing well this year, but the larger, less hot general-purpose red ones from Malaysia aren’t looking all that lively for some reason. Plenty of goya, and myoga too.
  • A nice cool evening with an insect chorus and an almost full moon (the “chu shu no meigetsu”) intermittently visible.
  • A beautiful fresh Monday morning gradually warms up as the day moves on.
  • Monday evening is equally beautiful – a magnificent harvest moon sees us home, accompanied by crickets.
  • Min temp 11°C max 30°C

18th~19th

  • Two typhoons bringing up the usual massive amounts of warm moist air from the South… with the usual result of sweaty sticky humidity up here.
  • In the supermarket car-park the sun hits you like a hammer. Lettuces are ¥298 each! (over $3) All vegetables are expensive in fact – could it be because of the rain?
  • Listening to wonderful Ghanaian Highlife music in the car, I suddenly realise what a privilege it is to be able to enjoy this, which was made by people in another continent, maybe more than 30 years ago.
  • Have an early night for once and get up at 8 am to be rewarded with a perfect clear morning. Later it clouded over with more of that humid heat we’ve long come to know and love.
  • A bumper habanero harvest. A small brown snake among the plants. There’s only one poisonous species here, and that wasn’t it.
  • A thunder shower about 3 pm.
  • On the way home the “higanbana” are out – right on time as usual.
  • Min temp 19°C max 28°C

25th~26th

  • Beautiful Sunday morning, although it clouded over a bit later. Typhoon 15 blew away the Summer and suddenly it’s cool. What a difference a week makes! From sweltering to shivering in a few days. Last Sunday evening a T-shirt was comfortable, but now outside with a long-sleeved shirt and pullover (sweater to you Americans) I was still huddling near the fire.
  • There are still a few goya left, but we’re coming to the end of the season. There are lots more habaneros – with any luck the chillies will hold out through October and give us some kind of harvest.
  • A visit from the local builder. We want our rotten tatami matting replaced with a wooden floor. Tatami’s very ethnic and cool, but ours was way too old, and full of mould and biting insects. They cost more than 10,000 yen each, and in this house which is only opened up for two days a week new ones would soon go mouldy again, so we figured wood would just be more pleasant. A lot of the supporting timbers under the floor are in bad shape too so a fair amount of work is involved.
  • The max. and min. thermometer is broken: the min. marker falls back to the mercury. I’ll try just laying it on its side.
  • Min temp ~15°C (guess) max 25°C

 

Body chemistry or something 20 April, 2011

Filed under: food & drink,places — johnraff @ 1:54 am
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I’ve just got back from three weeks in the UK. It’s the place where I was born and grew up and I love it; the buildings that were intended – in contrast with earthquake-prone Japan – to last for years and years, the green green grass everywhere even in winter, the TV, the humour, the relaxed mixture of cultures you now enjoy, the warm beer, and, yes, even the food.

All that said, I’ve now been living in Japan for 35 years – more than half my life – and my body must have adapted in some way. Maybe it’s the air, maybe the water: I don’t know but this morning my breakfast – the same fruit + yogurt + muesli + pot of tea I was having while in Britain – just tasted so good.

 

 
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