Osaka braces for frothy bonanza


OSAKA — Grab your beer mugs and head for Osaka, as it’s that time of year again. Yes, the International Beer Summit 2002 returns here for the eighth year this week, with Shin-Umeda set to host the event from Friday through Sunday.

The summit, which has been described by microbrewery experts as one of the three leading global showcases for microbrews, features a variety of Japanese-made beverages from Hokkaido to Kyushu, as well as beers from more than 20 other countries.

The summit will also feature wine from various parts of Japan and overseas, although beer will be the main attraction.

At last year’s summit, nearly 40,000 people enjoyed not only the suds but also music and dance routines involving performers from nearly a dozen countries. These performers also took part in the city’s annual Midosuji Parade, which was held over the same period.

This year’s entertainers include belly dancers from the Middle East, an American R&B choral group, African musicians and dancers, as well as dancers from Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, Okinawa, and Indonesia. Foods ranging from Mexican tacos to Indonesian satay will be sold.

The festival is not just about the pursuit of hedonistic pleasure. The International Beer Summit is also a chance for microbreweries from around the world to have their fare judged by a panel of experts, with gold, silver, and bronze medals to be awarded.

And so, what makes a prizewinning beer?

“Balance, body, depth of flavor, and character,” remarked author and microbrew expert Michael Jackson, who has served as a judge at previous summits.

Along with international beer summits in the United States and England, the Osaka summit is one of the world’s best, according to Jackson.

Although the number of Japanese beers that will appear at this year’s festival is down considerably from a few years ago, industry insiders claim that the Japanese microbrew market is stable.

“Our customer base has remained steady over the years, but our beers are available only in a limited area,” said a spokesman for Nara Prefecture-based Waoh beer, a previous gold medal winner at the summit.

“A lot of people who own microbreweries are happy to remain small and local because its profitable, so it’s hard for the industry as a whole to really grow.”

While admission to the summit is free, beer costs between 200 yen and 400 yen per glass, while food items are in the same price range. All purchases can be made with festival tickets that can be bought at the entrance booth of the outdoor festival, which will be held at the Shin-Umeda City Plaza.