Kinshachi Beer (Photo: Rey Waters)

Japan Brewers Cup Festival 2016

Craft beer competition and tasting

Kinshachi Beer (Photo: Rey Waters)
Rey Waters   - 4 min read

On a bone chilling wet January 30th Miwa and I attended the annual Japan Brewers Cup Festival at Osanbashi Pier in the Yokohama bay area. We arrived early to watch the judging of this year’s entries for the best brewed craft beers. 

Last year our local Yokohama Brewery won first prize.

There are three days of competition with this year’s selections between Dark, IPA, and Pilsner beers. They are judged for aroma, flavor, body, and drinkability. Each beer is given points and they are tallied with the least amount of points making it to the finals.

It is a twofold festival first being the beer competition and second beer tasting open to the public.

There are two rounds of tasting in which the judges eliminate all but six beers and then a final round to select the order of the top six winners. The judges were placed in groups of 6 and no one in a group could be from the same brewery. 

Miwa and I did not follow protocol, but just walked in with the judges and sat down with them. It was funny because Miwa was nervous especially when their names were called and we were the only ones left seated. 

When the first round was over the judges came back and sat down, so I took advantage and asked the gentleman next to us for an interview.

He was Mr. Motoshi Sugiyama, production chief at Kinshachi Breweries in Aichi prefecture. The brewery is located near the Inuyama castle that we visited last year.

His tasting was very professional and serious. He said when judging he looks for delicate taste and good flavor.  One of the Kinshachi brewery beers finished third last year.

Mr. Sugiyama brings more that 8 years beer brewing experience to the table and I have no doubt from watching the other 35 judges that they too take this task very seriously.

During the final round he took his time and drank almost all of the contents in each cup while deciding on the final order. He said the winner for him was based on the excellent aroma. 

At 4 p.m. they announce the winners of the morning competition.  

Today’s event had 36 professional judges from various craft breweries. The entries totaled 39 IPA beers and the top three winner’s were 1st Outsider Brewing in Kofu, 2nd Lagunitas Sucks in Petaluma, CA, and 3rd Yo-Ho Brewing in Saku city, Nagano.

When the judging was completed we were required to leave until they open up for the general public at 1 p.m.

We walked to Chinatown to our favorite knife cut noodle restaurant, Menoushouki and returned in time to see a huge crowd waiting for the doors to open.

As exactly 1 p.m. we walked directly to the Kinshachi Brewery booth and ordered a cup of five beers on display. They had a total 8 varieties for this event.

I love dark beers and most of the time they leave a bitter taste, but not the case for the Imperial Stout, which has a slight mocha flavor.  After tasting their Platinum Ale, Golden Ale, IPA, Vienna Style, and the Imperial Stout, I became an immediate fan of Kinshachi beers.

We stopped at several other brewers of which two imported craft beers from the Pacific Northwest and a final stop for a cup of Touchdown beer from Yatsugatake, a place we have visited twice where Paul Rausch started American Football in Japan.

There were some interesting titles for the brews - Liver Destroyed Red, Secret Mission Pale Ale, Tokyo Blond, and Devil Juice just to name a few.

All tolled there were 30 craft breweries with 5 beer importers for a total of 213 varieties of beer.

What’s nice about living in Yokohama is that almost every weekend there is an event similar to this that helps you ignore the weather and makes for an enjoyable day.

More info

Find out more about Osanbashi Pier.

Rey Waters

Rey Waters @rey.waters

Born in the U.S.A. - Worked 30 years in executive management high tech Industry, owned a management consulting firm and a wildlife art publishing company.  In 2012 completed the Ultimate Travel Writer’s course and published my first article Tower Hopping in Japan with Travel Post Monthly.  Since ...