It’s not often we’re in the Chiba area, let alone the deepest, darkest reaches of the North Western parts of the prefecture, but we were invited out by a friend to attend the West Coast Brewing Tap Takeover event at The Life by Marche Baton in Kashiwa on December 10th. Kashiwa is not a place I’ve been to that often but a friend told us about the event, and having missed out on the previous event at Craft Beer Bar iBrew Ebisu a few weeks prior, it was a chance to get some of their beers that have proven to be quite popular with craft beer drinkers in Japan.
Tap takeover events in Japan are usually based around a meet-and-greet, if possible, with either the brewer in attendance or just the breweries beers on tap. Some places this works well, and The Life was a great spot for it. All 10 taps were from West Coast Brewing, and the headbrewer and assistant brewer were in tow. The event “officially” started at 5:30pm, but what that really meant was that was the time that Niwa-san, famed brewer of Hakusekikan (now defunct), Iwate Kura, Outsider Brewing turned up and started mingling with customers. However, Niwa-san turned up early and was more than happy to sit down and field questions about the beers and the brewery – something that we’re looking forward to seeing more of when we get down to Shizuoka in January.
The beers on tap consisted of most of the current beers from West Coast Brewing, with a heavy leaning towards the hazy side of beers, and also beers that were stronger in strength. Niwa-san talked about the brewing process and how much contribution everyone makes in the brewery. It was interesting to note that while some tap takeover events focus on just drinking, this effort from The Life was more focused on getting more information about the beers and the brewing process themselves. While we’ve not had much from West Coast Brewing in the past, the beers we did have – well all 10 on the menu – showed very similar characteristics. The beers were very hop forward, with a strong influence from current trends in the USA, with the bodies being quite dry, and some semblance of chloride-like notes to them.
Out of the ten beers that we drunk on the day – don’t worry, lots of notes about the beers were written and had to be after drinking almost 2l of beer at various strengths. While we would normally write down a mini-review for the beers, simply choosing the three best ones of the night would go as follows:
- Full Hop Alchemist V.4 – fruity with some sweetness from the body. Not as dry as the other two Full Hop Alchemists, and also not as chloride-like in the aftertaste. It didn’t feel so much like juice, instead more like the hazy IPAs we’ve had from the states.
- New Kicks – it’s all well and good making beers that can have off-flavours disguised by hops, but when you make a saison, you need to be confident in the brewing process and yeast control. New Kicks had the right amount of phenols going on, along with an interesting hoppy twist that didn’t detract away from the yeasty flavours.
- The Nemesis – come on, it’s an imperial stout with coffee and cacao added. Incredibly thick and rich, a proper sipping beer that was silky smooth to boot. It’s only a shame that we couldn’t get this to takeaway as I wanted more of it and heard on the day that all the kegs of it had sold out.
On the whole, West Coast Brewing are on the way to making some great beers but personally, I’d like a little more body in the beers to help the hops shine through and take a bit of the chloride edge off it. I am a bit sensitive to the saltiness in beer – it’s a stand-out flavour and can work well to push the hops through.
Moreover, the food at the West Coast Brewing Tap Takeover event was focussed around Shizuoka, with oden, noodles from Fujinomiya city, and other fishy delights from the area. We chose the Fujinomiya yakisoba, and got a fair amount of food – a nice surprise and helped soak up the alcohol. The noodles were thick and saucy, with an interesting combination of slice red onions and what seemed to be ground up fish powder of some kind? Maybe it was just me, but the umaminess of the noodles was delicious and wish I had ordered more.
The event finished up with a massive rock-paper-scissors competition with the lucky winners getting a growler of their choosing to takeaway. The battle was hard fought but, like most things in life, it’s about luck. Anyway, a massive growler of The Nemesis would not have been a wise thing to have on a two-hour train journey home.