Disclaimer: On Tuesday 12th November, BeerTengoku was invited to attend the Far Yeast Brewing Company release event held at Far Yeast Tokyo Craft Beer & Bao in Shibuya, Tokyo for their release of their new off shoot, “Off Trail” and a tasting session of their new beer called “Ginspiration”. All beers received were free; however, this has not affected our working relationship or independence. Far Yeast Brewing Company has not paid for this report nor have they had any influence or say about this report either.
We often get invited to industry events for craft beer in Japan; however, we rarely take people up on the offer, mainly because they’re more about meeting the brewers or tap takeovers – something that while we are interested in, doesn’t really excite us that much. However, we received an email from Yamada-san, owner of Far Yeast Brewing Company, asking us if we would be interested in their new brand and beers that were coming out soon. A new brand and ideology is always interesting, and at one of our favourite places to drink – the bao are really tasty – it was a no-brainer when we heard that the new beer was going to be inspired by gin.
Held at Far Yeast Tokyo Craft Beer & Bao in Shibuya, Tokyo, the event was attended by about 20 other writers, beer journalists, and bloggers, with BeerTengoku being the only foreigners in the bar – thus sticking out like a sore thumb and perhaps we had turned up just because there was going to be free beer? But it was more than that. It was the gin that had us.
On the day, Yamada-san introduced the concept of their new range, called “Off Trail” that joins their portfolio, along with the Kagua range, known for being clean drinking beers to be paired with Japanese food, and the Far Yeast range, which are more concerned with bringing new styles of flavours and adjuncts to consumers. After a 15 minute presentation about the brewery, Richard Leglise, head brewer of the Off Trail project came up to talk about the ideas behind it and what is driving them. Richard Leglise has a wealth of brewing experience, having started out Portland’s Cascade Brewing under the tutelage of Ron Gansberg, known for having a strong interest in fermentation using fruit, as well as a variety of casks. Richard also practice making sour beers with a variety of skills such as collection, blending technology and quality control. In May 2019, Yamada-san approached Richard about heading up the Off Trail project, and then moved over.
The idea behind the Off Trail brand is to use ingredients that aren’t usually associated with beers, or ingredients that can be found, literally, off the trail. This includes different kinds of herbs, fruits, and also yeasts, with Richard mentioning the idea of using naturally occuring yeasts found on the skins of fruits to be a particular interest to him. Moreover, he also mentioned about the idea of using a variety of different woods and casks in the fermentation of beers, with Japanese Oak being a strong draw to him.
The first beer to come out of the project is called “ginspiration”. This beer is a barrel aged sour ale that has been barrel aged in wine casks from Yamanashi, and then has had juniper berries added to it, which have already been used for the production of a batch of gin from the local Tatsumi Distillery, based in Gifu. Those juniper berries are then put into the barrel aged Belgian beer once Leglise and Yamada-san decided it was ready, with the beer sitting on those berries for an unknown amount of time. Ginspiration is the first in a line of beers that are planned using locally sourced ingredients with two other beers coming out in the future, with one using Japanese satsuma oranges and another one using grapes from the Yamanashi area, one of Japan’s best known regions for wine making.
The Ginspiration had the definite Belgian sour funk you would expect from it, with some hints of cherry to it, but once it had warmed up, the juniper berries began to shine through, with their typical gin-like nose to it. At 6.4%, it was surprisingly smooth as well, though perhaps a bit subtle for some people. At the time of writing, we were told that one bottle would cost ¥2,400 for 750ml – nothing too unfamilar considering what Tamamura Honten have done with their Yamabushi range of beers.
During the event, we also managed to sample a few other beers, with the Far Yeast Kriek in the Barrel and another from the Kagua range with the Blanc Cuvée Dry hopping being a particular interesting one. At 10%, it was a definite creeper, with the hops bringing a slight bitter bite to it. The post-presentation event was rather chilled out, with all enjoying the free flowing beers, but I kept going back to the Ginspiration as letting it warm up really allowed the juniper berries to pair off against the sour funk from the Belgian yeast.
Far Yeast Brewing company are also hosting two events on Saturday 16h, with the first being at The Slop Shop Tap Takeover from 13:00 to 15:00 and then another one back at Far Yeast Craft Beer & Bao from 16:00 to 18:00.