Saturday, January 16, 2016

Oregon Beer Geeks Otagawa - All you can drink event on January 24!

Greetings from Otagawa station, Tokai City. Where? Just outside of central Nagoya. I promise!

My new work place, Oregon Beer Geeks (Facebook page here), is a bit off the track in terms of being a Nagoya beer bar. But Otagawa station is a quick train trip down the Meitetsu airport line ... just a couple of stops on the faster trains.

While I don't see this place as becoming a part of a Nagoya pub crawl (although you can "crawl" by train and make it work), we do want to be seen as part of the Nagoya area.

If you haven't made it out to our shop yet, we are doing an event on Sunday, January 24th offering bottles/cans in an all-you-can-drink plan plus beer on tap for cheap. See the tap on this blog or follow this link for details.

About getting here - we are just steps away from the northeast exit of Otagawa station.

Looking north in the station, swing a right to the northeast exit.

You will then come face to face with our building. Use the elevator and head to the 4th floor.
If you have any questions about the event, tickets, or the shop in general, let me know on the blog or via our Facebook page. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

I seem to have changed islands

When a year goes by with nary an update, where does one begin?

In the middle, I suppose. 

So, hello from the middle of Japan. I report tonight from Not-Quite-Nagoya, where me and the wife and the baby toddler have taken up residence at a spacious house that was once home to the wife's grandfather.

To get here, a decision had to be made to leave Hokkaido and for me to leave my job with North Island Beer. We moved to Hokkaido with no long-term plan, but definitely no immediate plans to return to the main island. I was enjoying my gig working for a brewery, with a clear path toward brewing myself eventually if I wanted to go down it.

But of course all manner of factors appear. And decisions must be made. We had a baby, and the idea of living closer to family was appealing. And the house. Her grandfather, no longer residing here, gave us the OK to move in. We thought it over and made the call. Be close to family. Live in a house with a garden and a yard and an small army of resident spiders. Let the baby run and shout and hide packets of soup curry seasoning (looking forward to finding this one some years down the road ...).

Grandfather has since passed away. His house lives on, and now we're here, guests, pretty much, but at least invited ones. Our part of the bargain is we'll clean up, and I'm sorry I haven't been as productive as the wife on this front. The house has made a huge turnaround, thanks to the work of my wife and her parents and other friends who chipped in. When the weather turns we'll get some kegs and fire up the grill and we'll remember to be thankful. And to use bug spray.

Every day I see the photos from Hokkaido. The full-on winter, the tightly-knit group of hardcore craft beer fans. That little brewery in Ebetsu, that little bar near the fish market. Of course I miss it all.

But here we are, in a house, near family, with a beer and a job and this blog, which I promise to update at least once per year. 


New job! You can find me most nights near Otagawa station on the Meitestsu line, working at the Oregon Beer Geeks bar and bottle shop. Come by, drop me a line, grab a pint or a beer to go. As I get to know my surroundings, be they beer related or otherwise, I'll try to actually keep this blog alive notes from the road. See the About page for links to the bar's official web offerings.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

North Island Beer x Mikkeller: Haskap Blonde

This post is a translation - with a few added notes - of a Japanese blog post by our brewer Takayuki Tsutsumino, regarding our soon-to-be-released collaboration beer with Mikkeller. The original post can be found here

----Translation from Japanese--- 

Last August, a surprising message suddenly arrived in my inbox. The bringer of this news was Motoki-san from the Whisk-e Limited importing company in Tokyo. As for the surprising news?

You know that world famous phantom brewery, Mikkeller from Denmark, and some little brewery in Hokkaido called North Island? How about doing a collaboration beer?

Thinking about the Mikkeller — I somewhat lost my bearings, and I took a little time to get my head together, but in my heart I replied immediately with a definite yoroshiku onegaishimasu (best translated here perhaps as “Let’s do it!”).

From that point on, preparations moved forward little by little. I began exchanging emails with Mikkeller’s founder Mikkel Borg Bjergsø — sharing ideas and working toward a recipe and other details like the label design. As we emailed back and forth, we began to form a clear concept for the collaboration beer.

Then came the day: December 2nd: With Mikkeller, we brewed a red beer.

Mikkeller x NORTH ISLAND BEER Collaboration Brew
     [Haskap Blonde]     ABV: 6.6%   IBU: 30

The “charisma” of Denmark along with Hokkaido’s North Island Beer: Our collaboration beer.

Following on our well-planned out recipe and a thorough exchange of opinions, the two companies brewed together at North Island’s brewery.

Mikkeller’s found Mikkel began by suggesting that we use a Hokkaido product in the beer. We ended up using the Hokkaido-native Haskap. Haskap, found primarily in Hokkaido and eastern Siberia, is the Lonicera caerulea— or blue-berried hunnysuckle. The word “haskap” is derived from the Ainu language (the Ainu are the the indigenous people of Hokkaido).

The haskap berry looks similar to a blueberry, and is blueish-purple in color, but compared with a blueberry it features much more sourness.

Without restraint, we used a lavish amount of this haskap to create our beer: Haskap Blonde. Thinking of the haskap flavour being expressed as a base, we finalised the recipe by exchanging ideas about the remaining ingredients (varieties of malts and hops) and how to best put everything together.

On top of the wonderful flavor of the haskap, we used a Belgian yeast, resulting in finely expressed deep complexity.

This collaboration beer was created thanks to the two breweries’ ideas, techniques, and cooperation.

We hope you enjoy it!

Unfortunately, the Mikkeller founder Mikkel, with whom I had been working out the final recipe until the last minute, had to suddenly return to Denmark the day before he was set to come to Hokkaido. However, joining our team at the Sapporo Beer Garden for beer and barbecue the night before brew day, was Jacob — Mikkel’s sort-of right-hand-man. Jacob also joined us the next day and helped with the brew. I believe it was a wonderful collaboration brew.

Release Information

The release is set for next weekend, but could be delayed until early March. Bottles and kegs will be released at the same time.

For orders or questions:

KEGS: North Island Beer Tel:011-391-7775)

Whisk E Limited

Early Release!

On Sunday, February 22nd, Beer Bar North Island is hosting our monthly “Hirunomi” day-drinking event. The Mikkeller collaboration will get a head start release for this event. Open from noon until 9:00 pm.

Friday, November 7, 2014

New position with North Island

As of this week, my main post with North Island Beer has shifted to the brewery in Ebetsu, with one or two shifts at the Sapporo bar per week. The change means, for now, a one hour each way car commute — soon to be on snow-covered roads. But it also means, except for especially busy periods, two days off a week. More than that, it means a chance to work in a completely new environment filled with things to learn how to do (there are a lot of things).

In my previous shifts at the brewery (usually just in the morning before heading to the bar) I did various things like kegging, keg-cleaning, tank cleaning, throwing out farm-bound spent grains (moo), and other cleaning-related tasks. This week, on the morning of a brew day, I found myself crushing malts in the mill and prepping hops.

As the days and weeks pass, I expect to see more and more tasks added to my workload. Eventually, I hope to get more involved in the overall brewing process, an area with which I have no experience (besides the bits of prep and cleaning noted above).

There's a lot going on at North Island, including two new full time staff members (one at the bar, one at the brewery). Some other exciting developments are underway, besides the always exciting limited and seasonal beer releases. Stand by for those items!

Meanwhile, I'll have my "first" bar shift since my position change tomorrow (Saturday). Today I'm off, but I find my free time is pretty much consumed by reading about — or consuming — beer. Tonight — although one day late for International Stout Day — I'm going to make beer batter chicken and chips and enjoy some other stouts and one porter who slipped in some how. Cheers!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A year occured, followed by some months

Since my previous post, a year and a couple of months went by, apparently without any warning of how busy things were going to get.

Here are a few blog posts crammed into one big one, separated by witty subtitles.

Chat man

When I started working at Beer Bar North Island in 2013, just about everything around me was new. I slowly learned the ropes of pouring beer, cleaning lines, taking orders, moving customers in/out/around, and keeping the bar stocked with various supplies. On top of that I started learning how to keep track of daily sales totals and other such work.

But the hardest thing for me is the talking. I like talking with people, be it in English or Japanese, but doing the keep-the-counter-lively thing does not come naturally to me, especially in Japanese. It's easy to talk with regulars, or when the customer starts up the conversation, but I always find it tough to jump in when I'm just not sure he/she wants to talk. But part of the job is at least making some connection. First time here? Drink craft beer often? Live here in Sapporo?  On your way home from work? The goal, other than simply being a pleasant person and host, is to get customers talking to each other. That way when I'm called away to take an order upstairs or I'm too busy washing glasses, the counter remains "active." I've gotten a little better at all this, I think. Grab a beer and have a chat, man.

Tank Man

Here's one of the new 2k
tanks (we got four of them!)
These ones feature semi-auto
cleaning so you don't have
to go inside.
A couple times last year, I was asked to help out at the brewery in the afternoon while still working the bar at night. It was a another round of new experiences, mostly doing some keg-filling and cleaning. Recently, I've been working at the brewery a few times a week, with a slowly expanding portfolio of things I know how to do. New additions this year include cleaning tanks — some older ones which you have to go inside to properly clean. I had to rediscover some muscle groups, but I can now dip in and climb out of your average 1000-liter fermentation tank.

This year the brewery added four new 2000-liter tanks (shown at right), adding to our capacity (but also adding to the amount of work that needs to be done). With the increased demand and the departure of one staff member, a full time job opened up in the brewery, and I jumped at the chance. The plan is for me to shift to the brewery as a main post, with a couple of shifts at the bar per week. We're working on hiring a new bar staffer — once everything is in place the transition will begin.

Diaper Man

Amid the double shifts of late, my wife Satoko was pretty pregnant. Our son Eugene (in Japanese kanji: 悠仁 ) was born on August 11th. So far, he shows little interest in beer, but he's doing well and he's obviously adorable, baby-wise. His arrival was part of the reason I wanted to move to a day shift, so I'm glad things are settling into place!

Here he is!

Beer Bar takes a week off

The beer bar will be closed this week from Thursday the 18th until the following Thursday, the 25th, as our staff (and a lot of our product) will be dispatched to Saitama for the Keyaki beer festival.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Enter the Beer Forest

Festivals featuring a wide range of Japanese craft beers have been going on in Japan for a number of years now, and from the sounds of things at North Island, they seem to be growing and attracting more and more fans. In Hokkaido, similar events have so far been absent. Caveats include the Bare Bear Beer Festival to be held this August at Sapporo's International School gym (mostly imports) and the Hakodate beer fest which this year takes place on 8/31 and 9/1.

But now the time has come for a Sapporo event featuring Japanese craft (and of course some imports). The event is set for October 14th, a Monday and a national holiday. A group including North Island, Kalahana, Higurashi, Maltheads, and others just settled on a name last night. Here it is: Sapporo Craft Beer Forest 2013 --- or perhaps SCBF2013 for short. The forest part comes from the planned venue, namely the Bankei ski area not far from downtown Sapporo, which in the late summer is not yet snowy and surely not so hot. Details are forthcoming, but I'll definitely keep the internets posted via Twitter and this blog in English.

So mark your calendars, book your LCC flights, and join us in the forest for what I can only imagine will be a great party.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Beer Bar North Island turns 4 years old

July 11th marked 4 years since Beer Bar North Island opened in central Sapporo. I was still living in Mie of course, but the staff and many of our regular customers have been there since the beginning. Many were already North Island fans when they had their small brewery and beer hall in Sapporo's Kita Ward, a spot that closed when the brewery moved to Ebetsu.

On Sunday, July 14th (2pm - 10pm), the bar is hosting a small event to celebrate the milestone. Called the 4周年ぷち感謝祭 (4-shūnen puchi kansha-sai) ((4-year anniversary small party of thanks, roughly)), two special beers and some guest beers join North Island's regular lineup. A limited release made specifically to mark this event is the American Smoke Ale. A second special beer is the RyIN' Devil IPA made at North Island to celebrate the 2-year anniversary of Tokyo's Devil Craft. Two guest beers each will come from Shiga Kogen and Minoh.

For more details (in Japanese), visit North Island's official blog.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

No more beer to sell? North Island gets creative at Keyaki

Just to keep all of this logged in memory, here is the progression at North Island Beer's booth at the Keyaki festival:

The beer ran out this afternoon, leaving only jingisukan for sale. That soon ran out too. After a short period of radio Twitter silence, this came up:

The vegetable stir-fry (100 percent vegetables!) later ran out as well, leaving only ...

Urgent update (4:50 pm)

Sapporo goes dark, but there's still enough booze to go around

Today is the last day of the Keyaki Hiroba spring beer festival in Saitama, where North Island Beer's brewmaster and our bar's chef have been dispatched all week, resulting in a temporary closure of said bar until Tuesday.

What's more, today the two main craft beer bars in town serving a mix of Japanese and imported options are also closed. Kalahana's Kana and Daisuke headed for the festival's last day today, and I can only presume Higurashi's 2-day closure is related. Higurashi is closed today and tomorrow while Kalahana is closed through Tuesday.

That means beer hunters in Sapporo can head for an early pint at Adanonki, stop in for German style enjoyment at Leibspeise, or peruse Pred's lineup at Mugishutei. Further, you can go Belgian at Paul's Cafe. Elsewhere, across from Kalahana is Kopitiam, the Singaporean style restaurant that now stocks bottles of Brew Dog's Punk and Hardcore IPAs.

I guess there's still more than enough booze in town. It would just be a bad day for a craft beer super fan to come to town hoping to check out all the spots.

But come Tuesday/Wednesday, Beer Bar North Island, Kalahana, and Higurashi should be back to normal operations.

Meanwhile, at Keyaki, North Island ran out of beer and jingisukan today.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Moving Behind the Bar

On a recent Monday, Beer Bar North Island was closed, but the staff held a barbecue with regular customers and an after party at the bar.

Not long ago I was scanning Twitter and I stopped on a post by the brewmaster of North Island Beer. The company was hiring for position in their bar. Interesting, I thought. That could be fun. I looked further into it, had a couple of interviews, and now I'm about two weeks into a training period. If all goes well, I'll end up a full time employee of North Island Beer, working mostly in the bar but occasionally in other areas. I've already had a hand in helping name an upcoming seasonal beer.

I never thought I wanted to work in a bar, but the idea of working for a craft beer company (and one that makes good beer) was appealing. Down the road, I hope to be involved in helping the company find new fans, expand to new markets, and keep making great beer. For more on North Island Beer, see the new section of links in the sidebar.

Here on the blog, there may be a surge in North Island related content, but I'll try to keep up to date with other breweries in Hokkaido and the general goings on in Japan as well. On Twitter, I changed my account name to @NorthIslandDan to reflect my new job. That feed will be a source of information in English (and sometimes Japanese too) on North Island Beer, including what's on tap at the bar, upcoming seasonals, and other news.

Having never worked in a bar of any kind, I'm picking up the skills little by little. Pouring beers and delivering them to happy customers is a lot of fun, but memorizing the menu, performing customer service in Japanese, and certain other tasks are still ... under development, if you will.

Until August, I'll be at the bar nearly every day, but in many cases I won't start until mid-way through the night as I wind down my schedule at my current job. After August, I should be there just about every day (the bar is closed on Mondays). If you're in town, come by and try some good beer.

As a side note, I'll continue as editor of Hokkaido Explorer, the online magazine I helped start with my current company. I'll focus on that in the afternoons, head to the bar at night, and sleep in the morning (roughly).