Bakumatsu no Beer Koumin Bakushu is a 4.5% Ye Olde Beere Drynnk (Seriously, don’t know what type of beer this is. Saison maybe?) by Konishi Brewing.
Bakumatsu no Beer Koumin Bakushu is named for Koumin Kawamoto, a 19th century scholar of Dutch studies (the first year of which, I presume, involves memorising the words “cheese”, “windmill” and “flat”), who first tried beer aboard Commodore Matthew Perry’s Black Ships when they arrived to bring guns, trade and Friends VHS tapes to Japan in 1853. Kawamoto’s socks were sufficiently knocked off enough to inspire him to give it a crack himself, supposedly by using a Dutch recipe book (chapters 1-75: cheese and its uses). That’s all he did, apparently, although it still warrants him a paragraph in a few histories of Japan’s relationship with beer, describing how Kawamoto was the first Japanese person to brew beer using modern techniques. A quick snuffle around reveals that he tends to get painted out of the bigger picture, though; beer halls existed in Nagasaki for the Dutch sailors as early as the 17th century, and even Bass bloody Pale Ale was available in Japan before Koumin stuck his oar in.
The story may be apocryphal but the beer definitely exists and is a thing that I have drunk, however. Konishi Beer have attempted to recreate Kawamoto’s original recipe by using ye olde beere techniques such as top fermentation, leaving it unfiltered and using sake yeast. Let’s see how it fares.
Bakumatsu no Beer Koumin Bakushu Aroma and Taste
Koumin Bakushu practically flies out of the bottle. There’s very little presence to this beer, a feeling which is reinforced by the big old frothy noggin on it. The nose is lightly fruity and crisp, like a pale ale.
Tasting it, it’s very fruity upfront- that’ll be the sake yeast- but the taste doesn’t linger. The fruitiness I described variously in my notes as raisins, berries, strawberries and pears, which would suggest a tart flavour. There’s a dryness to it as well, and the overall feeling I get from it is that of a Belgian ale. The sake yeast gives it a similar profile as beers that use wild yeasts, like you’d expect from a Belgian or a saison.
I was simultaneously worried and excited to drink this beer, both because it is touted as “Japan’s first beer!”, and, well, also because it’s “Japan’s first beer”. It’s not a bad beer, though, not by any means. And it’s nice to drink something like this and remind yourself of how far beer making has come (damning with faint praise there). But as the owner of a small collection of old beer recipe books, I can tell you that an old recipe does not necessarily (or for that matter, often) make for a good one. Even in the third edition of Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, generally considered to be essential reading for beer makers, gypsum is recommended to be added to most of the recipes. Gypsum, brickies will know, is a concrete hardener (Papazian also includes the recipe for a medieval ale made with a whole chicken, so I’d take his recipes with a pinch of concrete hardener if I were you).
Bakumatsu no Beer Koumin Bakushu The Bottom Line
The addition of sake yeast is a nice touch in Bakumatsu no Beer Koumin Bakushu, but there’s not much else to this beer. If you’re looking for a truly good taste of old Japanese beers, go for Ishikawa Brewery’s Tama No Megumi instead.
Where to Buy Bakumatsu no Beer Koumin Bakushu
Bakumatsu no Beer Koumin Bakushu be bought online at: