My Senior Year of College I enrolled in a Brewing Science class and have ever since been hooked on good, quality beer.  When our friend Jonathan came to visit last fall (he had taken the class with me) we spent a day at one of Japan’s largest beer festivals.  Japan has a large beer industry of great, rice based beers including famous brands such as Yebisu, Sapporo, and Asahi.  This beer fest was fashioned as a “homebrew” craft style where there were few, if any, rice beers available.  The three of us rode the train to northern Tokyo and found ourselves at the Asahi Beer headquarters building, interesting considering they had nothing to do with the event.  With a small admission price we all got a free half pint glass and tickets to try ten beers.  The conference hall was packed, with a center aisle full of tapped kegs and a stage at the other end.  We decided to dive right in, though we could only read a few of the styles (nearly everything was in Japanese).  My overall impression on Japanese craft beer is they get an “A” for effort… but are missing something.  While they are the best at rice beers, when they  try to emulate European or American style barley and wheat ales or stouts, they get close but miss the mark.  Though the beer was just ok, the cultural experience was awesome.  When you taste test at an American winery, you get just enough wine to smell and taste it.  We were given nearly a full glass of beer with every test, so the beer was better towards the end as alcohol inhibited our ability to discern the flavors.  Every once in a while someone on the stage would obviously be raffling off prizes, but everything was in Japanese, so even if we won we wouldn’t know.  We quickly made some friends by giving away our tickets.  Another great find was running into an American living in Yokohama who publishes a local English magazine called “Japan Beer Times” and promotes local brews to be sold in bars.  He sold some great shirts stating in both English and Japanese that “Bad Beer is the Enemy.”  After buying a few he told us some local bars with good beer on tap.  We had been to one, Popeyes, and plan on visiting the others.  In the end I think the Japanese should stick with rice beers, but there was definitely much interest in quality craft beer, which can only make the world a better place!