We all knew that craft beer was exploding – not literally, of course, that would be very messy – but did you realise just how global the phenomenon is? And the volumes! Look at a craft beer map (yes, they do exist) of, say, Japan, and it’s a veritable blur of beer brands. And there are other countries you’d never imagine creating cracking craft beer, such as South Korea, Nepal, the Bahamas and even Iceland (wait till you hear the flavours there…)!
Beer making and the art of Zen
OK, Zen isn’t Japanese but we associate it with the tranquillity of the East and it’s also indispensible for daily living, a bit like beer. And the Japanese do like their beer. Since the legalisation of microbrewing in Japan in 1994, microbreweries sprang up like flowers in the rain and by the end of the millennium there were 300.
Initially, craft brewing was called ji-biiru but it’s increasingly referred to as, er, ‘craft brewing’ now, possibly to show solidarity with its peers across the globe. The largest microbrewer is called Yo-Ho, which puts out some five million litres of the good stuff a year, although most craft brewers in Japan produce much less. But however much they produce, we salute them. Keep the craft beer revolution going!
Explosions all over the East
In keeping with the incendiary motif we started with, Craft Beer Asia states that ‘craft beer continues to explode in South Korea’ and some would posit that it is now the centre of Asia’s craft beer scene. But the origin of the revolution here was a reaction to an article in The Economist, of all things, which said, almost unbelievably, that North Korean beer was better than the South Korean variety!
Well, the South Koreans didn’t take too kindly to that, as you can imagine, and the law banning microbrewing (what’s the matter with these people?) was repealed in 2002, at which point microbreweries began popping up in Seoul. Sadly though, it was still not a great brew – unlike its North Korean counterparts, which based its brewing on advice they picked up in the UK. However, by 2012, Magpie brewery had opened and things went from bad to great. In fact, Magpie became so successful that it recently opened a new brewery on the semitropical island of Jeju – now there’s a place to build a brewery!
Climb every mountain
And another cool location for the craft has to be Nepal. Yes, the land of the Buddha is experiencing a revolution of another kind, with a new brewery called (wait for it…) Yeti Brewing in Kathmandu this year.
And the shocking use of Everest-related puns doesn’t stop there, as we have the Sherpa Brewery, the Himalayan Brewery (boring!) and the Mount Everest Brewery – predictable names perhaps, but this writer can testify to their quality.
Meanwhile, to continue the shameless milking of historical events in the naming of breweries, you could do a lot worse than the Pirate Republic Brewery, which is the only microbrewer in the Bahamas. Boasting brands such as Long John Pilsner and Black Beer’d Stout, this has to be a must-visit; certainly the cruise ship execs are salivating at the thought. In fact they’re sure their passengers will have a “whale of a time…” (Sorry.)
Any more tenuous links we can exploit?
Sorry, it’s just that it can’t have escaped your notice that we said at the start there are microbreweries in Iceland – and we don’t mean the place you buy your Viennettas. Yes, indeed, for sheer, gobsmacking, if not lip-smacking audacity, the prize has to go to the land of ice’s microbrewery that produces craft beer flavoured with fin whale testicles. Fin whale testicles. What’s more, they’re fin whale testicles smoked with sheep dung.
We can’t even spell the name of the brewery but it’s based on a farm in West Iceland and the beer is called Hvalur 2. When asked why they wanted to produce such a brew, the owner said it was because every winter, Icelanders gather to eat traditional food, such as fermented shark, ram testicles and boiled sheep heads, so they wanted something that would go with it. Of course they did.
Back to normality…
Now we’ve had a whistle-stop tour of micro-breweries the world over, you’ll probably be grateful the next time you amble to your local pub or shop for a drop of the amber nectar that you don’t need to scale a mountain or swim an ocean to get there. And you certainly don’t have to confront any whale testicles… Mind you, with the canning revolution in full swing, exotic craft beers are becoming than ever to export. Might the Iceland you get your Vienettas soon stock craft beers from the country of the same name? Remember, you heard it here first!