Sunday, November 10, 2013

APACosaurus - MR JS

No, not an apatosaurus, but a trip through APAC (Asia / Pacific) encompassing Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea (not North). [update] This will be separate bits as we go, this was to be one big honkin' post, covering 2+ weeks, updated as we go, but there may be a blogging app size limit.

NOTE - This blog post is different for two reasons. First is that pictures are being inserted by the blogging software - Blogsy for iPad - which works, shall we say - not great. But as it's the best iPad blogging app, we're hoping it gets improved.

The second is that we use Siri to dictate the blog. She or he or it (whatever you call Siri) is actually quite good. As someone who can not "touch type" this is quite a godsend. Depending how clearly one speaks the words, Siri understands the words 90% accurate or better.

So the numerous crashes with Blogsy are offset by Siri dictation, so this posting takes the same amount of work as using a laptop. But it could be much less. Also took longer to update due to the Great Firewall of China.

As it was cheaper to fly through Washington and going through Seattle to Tokyo and Seattle's was able will try the following beers. The Holiday Inn at SEA airport had quite a good selection. Dan was a fairly knowledgable bartender regarding what he served. Sampled:

Elysian - Immortal IPA

Odin - Odin's Gift - amber

Odin - Sigrin India Pale Ale

Elysian - Men's Room Original Red (not that red for a red ale)

Alaskan - Winter Ale - amber

Odin - Freya's Gold Kolsch


Arriving exhausted at Tokyo, and met up with traveling companion. Took the JR line from Tokyo Narita to the Yokohama Sheraton. As you might guess, the hotel bar the beer selection was not great but they had a really nice burger. Although quite expensive because beef in Japan you can imagine is very costly. Tried a:

Sapporo - Yebisu Traditional - pale lager

Suntory - The Premium Malts - pale lager

The first day was interesting because we had our introduction to the bullet train (Shinkasen); the high-speed rail from Tokyo to Osaka. Top speed maybe 160 mph or more past beautiful countryside. Was a very efficient way to get there.

When we got back to the hotel we decided to walk around and try to find a couple places. However GPS and Google or Apple maps in Japan are difficult to use. We spent many fruitless minutes trying to find some brewpubs. It turns of the most of the addresses are truly found by phone number if you have a Japanese GPS, which we did not. We better luck the next night once we emailed the bars and found out they were.

We did find the hub bar which is a typical British pub, to be sure we found out later its the pick-up bar in Yokohama. they had a house beer which was not bad:

Hub Ale - English brown ale.

Next day it was work and Tokyo that's fantastic food for lunch and back to Yokohama for the night

We were able to find and have a great time at Thrash Zone. A microbrewpub which plays heavy-metal American rock music while you drink your delicious IPAs. The owner and the brewmaster TZ Koichi was quite friendly to us. Also MR had beer number 4,500.

S&J IPA [4,500]

Hop Deicide - IPA

Green Flash - West Coast IPA

Back to the hotel, for a typical

Asahi - Super Dry - light lager

The next night, found the Beer Republic, 6-13 Kinko-cho, Kanagawa-ku, Yokohama, Japan.

Not a word of English was spoken but we translated the menu with Google and surprised the owner/bartender that this is his beer list. Tried several delicious beers including two barley wines which is unusual for Japan. The place looked like a very decent restaurant as well, we just had eaten dinner already.

Kumazawa - Shonan Barley Wine

Ginga Kogen - Weizen #5

Sekinoichi Shuzo - Iwate Kura Barley Wine (14%!)

Craft Liquors - Hinomaru Ale #2 - red ale, gravity fed cask!

Made it back to the Thrash Zone, where besides some more good beers, picked up a really nice souvenir T.

Morbid Red - imperial IPA

Minoh Aji - Minoh Imperial Stout


The Saturday was reserved for the Akihabara in Tokyo.

And the Akihabara was a treat: lights the flashing sounds the music with a dizzy, dazzling array of electronics stores mixed with high-end retail.

Girls dressed as French maids hawk their wares and places to go and buy 18-year-old schoolgirl's panties next to a Rolex dealer.

You could get any electronics/videogame you need.

We did have lunch at Three Monkey's Cafe, and had a:

Suntory - Royal Bitter

The bartender was really accommodating, and we also tried some Japanese scotches.

As the glasses were very unusual, we wanted to purchase 2 for souvenir. That was fine, but that was where we learned it is difficult to tip (see cultural notes below). We also saw the coolest car ever.

That night back in Yokohama we decided to venture down to Baird brewing based upon recommendation from a friend.

Turns out both beer and barbecue was great. We also met a US ex-pat who teaches English.

Now parenthetically to describe a few things about Japan culturally.

- Extremely clean, one could almost eat off the sidewalk.

- Low unemployment, but that is also because there is a lot of duplication of effort.

- Chauvinistic, in that many women are expected to not work and raise children. Nothing wrong with that, but you could almost hear a woman sigh with delight if you held a door for her.

- Tipping truly is a city in China, to quote the old joke. You do not tip, except maybe a taxi driver. We did learn that a way to tip a bartender is to say "please buy yourself a beer."

- English in not used much. Whether for business or tourism. One would expect the Concierge in a major hotel in a major city to be fluent; especially as - based on breakfast attendance, the hotel was >50% English-speaking guests.

Anyway, back to Baird. Did not have their collaboration Angry Amos (sorry Takei-san, we tried but it is not made anymore) but had:

Wheat King - Berliner weisse

Single Take Session - Belgian pale ale

Rising Sun Pale Ale

Namazu Lager

Red Rose Amber Ale

Teikoku IPA

Suruga Bay - imperial IPA (standout)

Angry Boy Brown Ale

Kurofune Porter

also took a bottle of Wabi-Sabi Japan Pale Ale

sort of a disappointment as the wasabi was almost undetectable

The Ex-pat Brian was a very congenial host. Took us around to some other beer bars including Bay Brewing (which was not on any list we had) and the aptly named AA bar - Antenna America.

At Bay sampled:

Non Iwasaki IPA

Robin Porter

Bay Weisse

At the AA bar tried something that made up for the lack of expected spiciness in the Wabi-Sabi Japan Pale Ale. This was the:

Ballast Point - Indra Kunindra - foreign spiced stout

A curried beer that is to be handled and drunk carefully; amazing taste and the only thing missing was a good curry dish to eat while imbibing.

After that it was off to Taipei, Taiwan. Now Taiwan as you might guess also does not have a huge craft brew following. Went down to a brewpub, which was closed until 5:30 PM, so it was time to wander.

Now regarding Taiwan culturally, similar to Japan, also at no time was there an unsafe feeling when walking around. Quite a lot of stares, but also many smiles.

So with beer karma in full automatic mode, proceeded to walk down the street taking pictures, hoping for the best.

A block and a half from the brewpub, found this fantastic little beer store L'Apero. Run by Kevin (his English name, although I did not massacre his Taiwanese name when repeating it) they have a fantastic selection of European beers (>200) some that I have never seen.

When in Rome... only wanted to try Taiwanese beers.

North Taiwan brewing - Lichee (nuts) Beer

better than expected but cloyingly sweet

North Taiwan brewing - Abbey Beer - Belgian Amber Ale

actually made with Belgian yeast and tasted very, very good; possibly better than some Belgian ales; watch out Belgium!

Birriffico - Machete - double IPA

Kevin offered a taste of Machete; surprising for an Italian brewer.

North Taiwan - White Beer - Belgian blonde style

As the Jolly Brewpub was now open, said goodbye.

At the Jolly brewery had a full flight of the 6 beers with dinner. The dinner was shrimp and a fantastically hot sausage. I mean hot, so spicy it should come with its own antacid for later.

The beers are basic, but the Rye (Roggenbier) being the best of the ones that have.



Pale Ale


Scotch Ale


Yes, Jolly had no "cute names" for the beer.

Also learned that while the hotel can get you a taxi that takes plastic, that is virtually impossible in downtown Taipei. So a quick 2-mile walk back to the hotel.

At work the next day, the folks were very accommodating and took me to a local store at the end of lunch. Breakfast as well was fantastic.

Picked up two beers, and the first one was a:

Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Company - Gold Medal Taiwan Beer - pale ale

Note this could be the longest brewery/beer name I know. Also thought how awesome would a beer with nicotine in it be?

Then the next day there was a pleasant surprise in that I found a fellow Untappd member who was in country. Mike is from Canada (small world) and runs the Beer of the Month in Newfoundland. We met up at the Golden Wheat (Le Blé D'or) which was surprising because the name was run together in Chinese - Lebledor.

The beers were average-y, think Gordon-Bierche style. However the food was wonderful and the two 70-ish lounge singers from Netherlands fantastic. Couple that with the Taiwanese waitresses dressed in Leiderhosen, inside what looks like a German beer hall (with a French name) on the 5th floor of a mall, and you can imagine how surreal this was. Beers were:

Craft Brewed Seasonal - pumpkin ale - very weak

Craft Brewed Lager Beer

Craft Brewed Honey Lager - not a hint of honey maybe just sugar?

Craft Brewed Dunkel Beer - craft brewed, as they all are.

At the hotel, as an aperitif, tried the

Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Company - Pineapple beer

the best pineapple beer ever tasted! Now off to Hong Kong.

Getting to Hong Kong wasn't bad although more variety was expected in the hotel, vis-a-vis beer.
What happened was a bit of fatigue set in and what was meant to be a short nap became a night's sleep. Here is what was tried:

Oriental Brewing - Blue Girl - Pilsner

San Miguel (Philippines) - Pale Pilsen - Pilsner

Hong Kong itself is very nice it's clean, bright, a little rainy of course at this time of year. Everyone was so nice.

The food was phenomenal, cannot believe the stuff that tried. Cow stomach, pork butt, tiny fried fish - all was fantastic. It was a wonderful time.

Plan was to leave Hong Kong for Guangzhou China via high-speed train. What was interesting is that "first class" is really a cattle car. Purchased a higher-class ticket which is was nicer, although the pushing and shoving was quite arduous.

When at Guangzhou station, was in the crowd trying to reach the escalator; found it was best to grab the handrail, and hold on, and just pulled along through the crowd of people. What was also interesting was when climbing the stairway, some random girl was running up the stairs, zigzagging through people, and tripped on our luggage bag and pretty much did a face plant on the stairway. Too bad, Ms. Pushy Pushington.

That was a difference that was noticeable; in that many people in China push or shove to get to the front. There's no "First Class boarding now" - basically everyone piles on in line!

The hotel was fabulously decorated.

What was quite interesting was that there were a lot of "working girls" that night, at the hotel. No big deal, very friendly without being overly aggressive. They're so cute.
The food at the bar was fairly basic, as was the beers:

Zhujiang - Pearl River Lager Beer 10

Simonds Farsons Cisk (Malta) - Export Lager

Asia Pacific - Tiger

The next day had an auspicious start; first of all the cabdriver stopped at a different address; it was about two blocks to walk in the rain, up an overpass across a very busy city streets get there; but made it to the office on time.

Lunch was a fastfood place like a Chinese McDonald's.

What was interesting was chicken appeared to be more or less butchered by being put it through woodchippers. The chicken I chopped up coarsely - bones and all - definitely good for the flavors.

Going to the airport was interesting because although wanted to try a beer in the airport, turns out they don't have beer the airport at all.

Went to the Shanghai Pudong Marriott and had some beers that were good, but made plans for Saturday and Sunday would be much better, possibly even epic.

Harbin - Harbin Lager

Lindeman's - Pêcheresse Peches Lambic Artisinal

My you traveled a long way

Coopers - Original Pale Ale

Next day - Fiday - in Shanghai after work was pretty much the same thing, tired and headed back to the hotel. Went to a Paulaner brew house and had:

Paulaner - Münchner Dunkel

First order of the day was try the Boxing Cat brewpub, at 519 Fuxing Middle Road, Huangpu, Shanghai. What restored my faith a bit was that the cabdriver dropped me off very close to the brewpub, about 100 feet away. Also probably got it right as I used the Chinese characters for the address!

Now we have all heard the phrase "it's a small world", but it's amazing to be in Shanghai and meet someone from England who is living in California, and he knows some people in the same company you work for. Had a nice chat about beer and beer brewing, and plans are to meet next time in California. Excellent time Colin, and will meet you sometime next year. We laughed as I tried to order 3 from the flight of six, with 3 more later so they would not lose their head, but due to both language barriers as well as lack of beer understanding, it took a bit to get the idea across.

Also spoke with a couple of women - Kelly and Laura - from the US who work for a furniture company.

The Boxing Cat's beer was quite good, but what was spectacular is their aluminum growler. It was tempting to buy one, but unsure whether he would be alone on airplane even empty.

Tried all the styles they had, as well as some "foreign" beers, even from Wales.

Right Hook Helles

Ringside Red

Hoppy Ending IPA - Belgian IPA (very good)

Donkey Punch Porter

Absolutely had to get matching t-shirts for me and my sons, when Colin mentioned what Urban Dictionary defined this as.

Catcher Rye IPA

TKO IPA (a standout)

Besides the Cat's brews, had a

Celt Experience - Golden Crafted Ale (Wales)

Did ask to see if the Brewery Master was available to chat; he was not unfortunately. Almost got to take some beer from the fermenter, would have loved to try it is have done so before, but too bad.

Later that evening walked to Dr. Beer - 83 Fumin Road, Jing'an Shanghai - which is a name that implies some expertise in beer. What was funny in walking there, ran across the only Middle Eastern gentleman I saw in China. As I passed he offered - quite loudly - "coke, coke, hash?" (Way to combat those stereotypes, Abdul). I just said real loud, "no Coke, Pepsi!" I could actually hear the gears strip in his head.

Unfortunately, the doctor needs medical help. Food is extremely good, however the beers were not.


Pale Ale

IPA (this was the best, but just acceptable)

Dark Ale

Suggestions for Dr. Beer:

Make sure the all your staffpeople sitting around and chatting/texting to try to wait on people in a reasonable amount of time.

Also make sure that some flavor is in the beer - honestly this the first time I have ever sniffed a Pilsner and had absolutely no aroma.

There should be no plastic cups for flights or beer tastings - glass only

The next day, Sunday, went to the Shanghai Technology Museum.

Then walked around trying a local beer at one of the hotel/restaurants near the ferry. What is great is to use your iPhone and Google Translate, put in the phrase ("do you sell beer?") show it to a Chinese bartender, smile, they show you what they have, and you get a beer.

Tsingtao - Draft Beer #11

Also went over to a British pub - the Red Lion. Fully British including a real English breakfast, they had really good beers. In fact - ironically - tried a Samuel Smith's which had never had in the States or in the UK. Isabella was the barmaid and was very conversant.

Tsingtao - Gold

Samuel Smith's - Pale Ale

It was time to head to The Brew which is the name of a brewpub inside the Kerry Hotel I'm Longyang Road in Pudong Shanghai. Had also invited Colin to meet me, if he could, to have a few beers and some snacks, which he did.

The brewpub is quite impressive and the beer selection was great. The flights of beer were well presented, and the appetizers were truly spectacular.

Skinny Green - Light Lager


White Ant - Belgian White


Dugite Vanilla Stout

Mash - Double IPA (absolutely fantastic)

Although at 9.5% ABV, maybe Imperial IPA is a better name.

Dinner was at the Flying Fox in Pudong, near the Marriott. Bedside a delicious lamb shank, had

Duvel - Vedett Extra White - Bekgian White

Fosters - Pure Blonde

Next day, late afternoon, it was off to Malaysia.

See APACosaurus II...

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