Monday, July 26, 2010
THE TOP FIVE: #1 Baird Brewery
Number one. #1. First place. No doubt.
Japanese beer sucks. I am in the habit of generally qualifying my statements with things like "I think" or "I have heard." But there is no need for that now. I don't think Japanese beer is bad. I know it is. I know it like I know I breathe oxygen. Along with qualifications, I am a fan of colorful adjectives. Japanese beer doesn't even deserve that justice. It sucks.
Now all of that might sound quite harsh, but I would like my readers to fully appreciate the expanse of the hopless desert I have found myself in. I had been here for a few months before I got in good with another ALT, Brian, and he saw that my passion for beer was like his own. Serious passion. So he said he knew a place. We went, I fell in love, and have returned many times since.
Baird Brewery is in Numazu, a port city well known for its fishing industry. It is a 55 minute train ride on the local, costs me 950 yen one way. Then a 30 minute walk from station to pub. Its a pretty natural trip at this point. They now have two other establishments in Tokyo, but the Fishmarket Taproom in Numazu is the original and flagship.
Last week I helped Baird Brewery celebrate its ten year anniversary. It is still a young business, but doing quite well. This year they won three gold medals at the World Beer Cup, tying a Californian brewery for most medals.
On any given day they have about ten year-round taps, and 4-8 seasonals that are always changing. The brewmaster is always experimenting and infusing local ingredients like mikan, yuzu, and tea. One beer used green tea as a source of bitterness instead of hops. While not every beer may be for my palette, they don't ever make a less than great beer.
Never before, and probably never again will I find a brewer that is so aligned with my own preferences. Essentially, they LOVE to use hops. Three of the year-round beers are IPAs. And they are always brewing seasonal India Pale Ales featuring English hops, American hops, or a mix of both. Some truly bitter stuff.
The taproom is cozy place where one pulls up a stump to drink a pint. There is a strong log cabin decor, very warm. Until sunset, the place gets by just fine with the natural light of the big picture window facing toward the bay. Even though it takes me an hour and a half to get there, the place is full of familiar faces. There is a definite community. Locals and commuters, all gathered because they know they found something special. One of the best breweries in the world, growing in the middle of a hopless desert.
Baird Brewery, the Fishmarket Taproom, and all the wonderful folks working and drinking there, will above all, be missed so much. I have a few days left here. Time for one more visit...
More about Baird:
New Huffington Post article
World Beer Cup