If you think of the great craft beer cities of the world what pops to mind? Portland? Dublin? I might be biased but I’d say Vancouver is up there too. However, a city that probably doesn’t pop up in your head immediately is Tokyo. Japanese beer (and asian beer in general for that matter) seems to have a reputation as behind the curve in my experience. Asahi, Sapporo, Kieran; all clean rice lagers with little to differentiate between the few options available. But something is happening in Tokyo and Japan at large right now and believe you me, it might not be there yet but within the next few years it will absolutely be one of the best, if not the top dog, craft beer enthusiast destination. Don’t believe me? Fine, I don’t care but if you forget about this article tomorrow and in two years try to tell me about how amazed you were with some Japanese IPA you just tried I plan to have a printed out copy of this article on me at all times for the express purpose of holding you down and feeding it to you forcibly.
Japanese culture has a very unique combination of two traits right now that make it perfectly primed for a hostile takeover of the craft beer industry leadership. The first of these is the deep-seated need to constantly prove that they are the best. Having been completely isolationist until relatively recently the people of Japan have a very proud self identity, so strong that it’s possibly verging on racism. Most truly believe, deep down, that they are the best culture in the world and with that, are determined to prove it at any and all opportunities. I heard a rumour (that, in all honestly, I have had a frustratingly hard time finding any concrete data on) that a disproportionately high number of the worlds best Italian restaurants are in Japanese cities. The story goes that a pair of guys from Tokyo moved to Italy, spent years training in the most prestigious schools, working up the ranks of the most revered restaurants and right as they were posed to become true Italian master chefs they bailed. They moved back to Tokyo and opened a Michelin rated three star restaurant and began an Italian food revolution.
This revolution took off because of the second reason Japan is right for a craft beer revolution. Japanese people love discovering and integrating and improving traditions ripped straight from other cultures. Because of the aforementioned extreme isolation, Japan’s hunger for new experiences is insatiable. Unlike other countries where the idea of a beer that isn’t the exact same pilsner that they’ve been drinking for six generations seems pretentious and gross Japanese people, by and large, are excited to embrace new ideas from other cultures. Its’ not just Italian food: Whiskey, Korean Food, Street Art, Jazz Music, god damn Christmas have all been accepted, even embraced as long as they’re improved on or mastered by locals. In my opinion (and I’m never wrong) Craft Beer is next. They’re popping up, slowly for now but very soon they will be taking over. It will be precisely brewed, inventive in ways you can’t imagine, and most importantly, better than whatever is going in your garbage town.
I feel like this has been an uncharacteristically earnest exploration of a legitimate topic so I’m sorry if you feel like you might have learned anything. I hope you trust me enough to know that this was still ultimately a pointless waste of time. And, if this is two years from now and you’re reading this as a crumpled up, saliva covered piece of paper you just pulled from you mouth and had no idea that I wrote for a beer blog in the first place, please understand, I still think you deserve it.
All my Love