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). 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

An update from Sapporo, where we've still got snow

Fuzzy memories of this late night at Kalahana

Oh, April, is it? Well then. All is well in Sapporo, where spring has come in earnest. What that means here is that the piles of snow on the side of the road are getting smaller, the women all wear tall rubber boots, and the men all have wet pant-bottoms, a condition that isn't as vulgar as it sounds.

Over at Hokkaido Explorer, a new online magazine for Hokkaido which I helped launch and act as editor for, I posted an article not long ago about Adanonki, the low key used book/magazine store which also serves craft beer. The news hook for the article was the shop's expansion into the space next door, opening up more room for a couple of tables near the bar counter.

Besides that, I've made some visits to Mugishutei, Higurashi, Kalahana, and Beer Bar North Island, mostly when old friends from Ise are in town and I can play booze-guide to the city. I'm sketching out plans for a nice big feature about craft beer in Sapporo and/or Hokkaido to go up on Hokkaido Explorer, but don't expect anything official for a while. I'd love to get that kind of special content, along with other guide articles and features, in a printed special edition some day down the road.

Then you can come up to Sapporo, have a seat at Adanonki, page through the Hokkaido Explorer printed edition, and plan the craft beer crawl you'll set out on that night.

Hope all is well in your city or town, and look out for a report from Mie after Golden Week, a possible report from Oregon this summer, and who knows what else in between.