Return to the land of the Rising Sun
This November, we were invited to do a collaborative brew with a very cool Japanese brewery, Coedo which is located just outside of Tokyo, Japan. We’ve been to Japan once before, back in 2015 as part of a delegation with the City of Denver to promote trade between Denver and Tokyo along with the new non-stop flight between the two cities. Just before our initial trip to Japan, we began limited distribution to the country which has a burgeoning craft beer scene. It was certainly exciting to see our cans on store shelves in Tokyo and over the past three years we have continued to grow our relationship with our Japanese distributor.
Earlier this year, Craft Imports, which represents the Japanese brewery Coedo in their Colorado distribution efforts, set up an introduction with the Coedo brewers and the idea of a collaboration brew. Naturally, we said yes! Coedo Brewery is similar in size to Denver Beer Co., brewing about 15,000 bbls of craft beer each year. They opened in 1996 as one of the first Japanese craft breweries founded after craft brewing was made more accessible due to a softening of regulations on beer and brewing. In 1994, the Japanese government relaxed regulations which prior held that a brewery must produce more than 2 million liters of beer each year in order to be licensed. The law changed to allow breweries to produce 60,000 litres each year which in turn paved the way for craft breweries such as Coedo to open their doors.
In the months leading up to our trip, we emailed back and forth with Haru, the President at Coedo and brainstormed recipe ideas for our collaboration brew. As with many collaboration brews, we wanted to feature an ingredient unique and special to each of our breweries. We settled on a recipe that featured Sake yeast, similar to that of Denver Beer Co.’s GABF gold medal winning recipe for Barrel Aged Japance Off. Coedo suggested using local rice from their region as well as yuzu fruit in the brew and locally picked fresh hops.
Once we arrived in Japan, we had a wonderful time touring the Coedo brewery, meeting Haru and his team in person, and brewing the beer. This special collab brew will be available in Japan and in Denver at some point in February, be sure to look out for it!
In addition to our brew day, we also had the opportunity to visit several of our accounts in Japan and were thrilled to meet the bar owners and patrons who enjoy our beer. A few notable stops included The Watering Hole, Antenna America, Kamakura Garage, and PUMP Craft Beer. It was really interesting to visit these bars, many of which are modeled after U.S. craft beer bars. Traditionally, Japanese beer consists of highly filtered light lagers, so for these craft beer bars, which feature hoppy IPAs and all the other craft beer flavors one might see in the U.S., the highly differentiated menu feels very avant-garde. It was such a pleasure to meet the patrons and bar owners that hold such passion for craft beer. We found that many Japanese craft beer lovers really enjoy trendy American craft beer flavors and innovative beers with unique ingredients. Compared to the rice lagers and light-bodied alcoholic seltzers that are prevalent in Japan, these beers really stand-out in their high flavor profiles.
As with our past trip to Japan, we headed back home to Denver with renewed excitement and many new friends. The people of Japan are always so welcoming and we are excited to continue to build relationships with Japanese retailers, brewers, customers, and our wholesaler. We hope to host the Coedo brewers in Denver at some point in the near future and are looking forward to growing our relationships with all the wonderful people who love and celebrate craft beer in Japan.