Pull me a cold one


When the mercury rises, nothing hits the spot like a cold beer, especially when chugg-a-lugged at a beer hall or an outdoor beer garden.

Why does the beer at these places taste so good?

Mutsuo Urushibara, a spokesman for the Brewers Association of Japan, says the key to that perfect beer experience is the smooth and creamy froth that comes flowing from the beer tap.

But don’t sigh in despair yet. Beer servers, once limited to commercial use because of their bulk and cost, can now be bought at reasonable prices, allowing everyone to enjoy that “beer on tap” flavor at home or on the backyard veranda.

Tokyu Hands in Shibuya, for instance, stocks about 10 different beer servers, and as many as 500 units are sold a month. The store is expecting a surge, come midsummer.

Saho Iwao, a Tokyu Hands spokeswoman, says the popularity of portable beer servers got a boost from the giveaway campaigns of major brewers last year, which prompted several other companies to introduce beer servers for domestic use. Kirin Brewery Co. was first off the blocks, attracting 7.7 million applications for 200,000 units last year. Although the campaigns were successful, companies are no longer pushing beer servers so hard.

“It’s not a new thing anymore,” says Kirin spokesman Tomonori Ono. “People can buy inexpensive beer servers at shops now.”

In fact, most beer servers sold at Tokyu Hands are available for less than 10,000 yen. The cheapest is Let’s Beer (3,480 yen), produced by toy manufacturer Takara, while the most expensive is Hietaru Server (25,000 yen), by thermos-maker Zojirushi Corp.

Whichever type, none will cool the beer, though some keep it cooler for longer, and pumping power is provided by either betteries or carbon dioxide cylinders, though the Let’s Beer runs on simple hand-pumping.

But if you don’t have a beer server, all hope is not lost, says Urushibara of the Brewers Association of Japan. There are some tricks of the trade.

“First, the best temperature to serve beer is 4 degrees, which you can get after about three hours’ typical refrigeration. Colder than that and you don’t get enough froth,” Urushibara says.

Urushibara has other tips for the perfect glass of beer. Pour beer into a glass from high up to make bubbles; wait for the bubbles to die down a bit before pouring the rest of the beer gently, from close to the glass, to raise the head like a foam lid; stop pouring when the proportion of froth to beer is 3:7. And don’t forget to say, “Kanpai!”