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KANAGAWA

Fun is brewing in Yokohama

by Matthew Holmes

Staff Writer

More than 9,000 people slurped and swilled at last year’s 200-beer extravaganza in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, but this time there’s added incentive to sip up. The Japan Craft Beer Association invites you to raise a glass toward those in their industry suffering in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake; and they will give your cash to local governments in need of help.

Association President Ryouji Oda believes a rich beer culture is integral to healthy communities, and the decision to donate money started with a desire to repay “counterparts in Japan and overseas who have sent thoughtful inquiries about the safety of breweries, beer pubs, distributors and tasters.”

Japan relaxed its alcohol tax laws in 1994, allowing smaller brewers to enter the market — and they are finding a wider audience. The beer industry sees casual drinkers choosing the cheaper beerlike happoshu as a major reason for a sales decline in mainstream lagers, but jibiiru (local beer) sales are strong. Between 2003 and 2009, there was an increase in production from around 147,620 to 340,000 hectoliters per year.

Finding a brew to suit your palate should not be difficult with the festival’s range. Whether you fancy an American amber, a dark white German or an English brown, you may not know yet — but trying a Raoho “smoke beer” or an Apple Hop could be an interesting starting point. If you find Japanese craft beer to be a hit-or-miss affair, just choose your favorite prefecture, follow the lineups, or talk to other drinkers about what’s in their 50cc cup (you’ll get this at the door) and for your entry fee you can have as many top-up-and-tastes as you like.

The Great Japan Beer Festival 2011 in Yokohama takes place at Osanbashi Hall, from Sept. 17 to 19 (2 p.m. till 6 p.m. on the 17th, 1 p.m. till 5 p.m. on the 18th and 12 noon till 4 p.m. on the 19th). Admission is ¥4,200 in advance, ¥4,600 at the door. For more information, call (090) 3488-7000 or visit www.craftbeerassociation.jp.