By Roger Prior, Freelance Writer
Down in sleepy Numazu in Shizouka Prefecture, right by the little harbor, is a small craft beer brewery run by a guy from Ohio with a big, big dream. Bryan Baird wants to shake up the Japanese beer market and get more people drinking craft beer.
The base for this is an old warehouse near Numazu's fish market. From the outside, it looks nothing special. Inside, however, are sacks of malt and hops, and rows of gleaming stainless steel tanks. With Baird and his wife, who were working in the office when I visited, are two young American assistants, Molly and Adam. Although the brewing kettles and tanks seem huge (a grown man could fit inside easily), output is still small.
"We make about 100 kiloliters a year now, but that's only 1,000 barrels," Baird says. "For a craft brewery, it's still tiny. With this system we have now, and this location, we can probably get up to 400 or 500 kiloliters, then we'll have to move."
Small as it may be, it is a huge increase from the 6 kiloliters a year he was making when he first began brewing in Numazu. Back then, he brewed in a small room behind the Taproom, the bar and restaurant he runs with his wife. Ultimately, however, he aims to move out of the current premises to a bigger site in the Numazu countryside.
At the moment, Baird Beer is sold only in Japan. Apart from the Taproom near his brewery, which sells all Baird's regular beers and current seasonal draft beers, he supplies bars and alcohol retailers all over Japan, though his main market is Tokyo. However, Baird has also started exporting to America, with the first batch sent earlier this month. He says this is for pride, prestige and marketing impact.
"With craft beer, the heart of it right now in the world is the United States; it's the most vibrant craft market in the world," Baird says. "And something has happened that I did not anticipate 10 years ago ―I never thought I would see it, but we are seeing the internationalization of the craft beer market."
Baird's beers are English-style ales brewed in the American craft brew tradition. He uses European malts with American hops, which tend to have a stronger flavor than European ones. However, he also adds a Japanese twist, with seasonal beers such as Mikan Ale and Yuzu Ale. These are ones he would like to export to the U.S. in particular.
These fruit ales are good examples of his approach to beer, and what makes him different from the big industrial brewers. First, as yuzu and mikan are seasonal, he cannot brew them year-round, but the fact that they are seasonal matches well with the Japanese appreciation for the four seasons and seasonal produce. Second, the fruit is all prepared manually. He uses both the fruit and the skin, both of which have to be extracted by hand, and this is a laborious task that reflects his passion for making a quality beer.
Finally, it is a reflection of the diversity his brewery offers. "In one tiny company, we deliver infinitely more diversity than every industrial brewer combined in Japan," he says.
For Baird, this diversity is essential to expanding interest in the craft beer market in Japan. At the moment, sales of craft beers account for only 0.7 percent of the beer market, but he believes that could rise to 10 percent.
The key is to have more good beer available, and be prepared to import American craft ales and promote other Japanese small breweries.
"This is why we're not afraid of other craft-brewers," he says. "The more good beer in Japan, the larger the market will grow. If it's just Baird and a couple of others, the market will not grow. There has to be a broad array of good companies making good beer."
In May, he will open a Taproom in Nakameguro, which will have 20 taps ― 15 serving Baird Beer, but the other five will offer other craft beers, giving Japanese drinkers more chance to try a wider variety of flavors.
Also, next year he wants to organize a craft beer festival in Numazu, with participation from 10 to 15 small Japanese breweries, live music and yatai stalls run by people from the Numazu fish market.
Better beers, and more of them. I'll drink to that!
- Taps Into （見出しから）〜に進出する
- sleepy 静かな
- right by 〜のすぐわきに
- craft...brewery 地ビール工場
- shake up 〜を再編する
- get...drinking もっと多くの人に〜を飲んでもらう
- brewing kettles 煮沸釜
- output 生産量
- Small...be それは小さい（少ない）かもしれないが
- Back then 当時は
- Ultimately 最終的には
- premise(s) 敷地、施設
- with...month 最初の荷は今月送られた
- prestige 評判
- marketing impact 販売に弾みをつけること
- heart 中心
- vibrant...market 活気のある地ビール市場
- ale(s) ビールの種類。エールは通常、比較的高温で発酵させる
- Japanese twist 日本的な工夫
- big...brewers 大手のビール会社
- manually 手作業で
- be extracted 絞られる
- laborious 骨の折れる、根気のいる
- reflection...diversity 多様性（商品の種類が多いこと）の反映
- infinitely 非常に
- every...combined 全大手ビール会社の合計
- a...of 多岐にわたる〜
- tap(s) 蛇口。ここではビールを樽から注ぎだす口のこと
- drink to 〜を祝って乾杯する