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Sep 18, 2014

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Japan and its beers

Japanese beer

When the 20th century began, beer was still an oddity in Japan. The country's first brewery was established in the 1870s in Yokohama's foreign enclave by an American, William Copeland, to supply ale to the then-growing expatriate community. But to the Japanese population who had known only sake (the word is still synonymous with alcoholic beverage), beer was virtually unrecognizable as an alcoholic beverage. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, beer is more commonplace than sake, which faces continually dwindling sales despite the growing popularity of high-end craft-brewed sake.

Michael Jackson hops from one brewery to the next and Japan and offers a lengthy list of suggested drinking places.

Whether you are looking for Japanese microbrewed beer, American microbrewed beer, beer from Belgium, Germany or England, you should be able to find it in these Tokyo haunts.

Visiting the island of Kyushu, Michael Jackson discovers still more interesting beer blossoming in Japan. He writes: "This was not Buxton or Malvern. It was another small town where the railway rattles into the station among souvenir shops, bed-and-breakfasts and hotels: Yufuin, among the mountains of Kyushu."

Michael Jackson catches up with Ed Tringali, who has gone so far West as to have reached the East. Like a true Seattleite, he has embraced the Pacific rim. He has become a traveling beer-maker in Asia, helping set up small breweries in places like Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines and India.

Often called "rice wine" in the U.S., the delicate fermented rice beverage known in Japan as "sake" or "nihon-shu" is actually brewed. While "rice" and "brewing" are a bad combination when it comes to beer, in the case of fine saké there's no better use for the little white grains. Here is a primer.

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