Pilsners still dominate the market in Japan, so we’re slowly working our way through the pilsners here. This is our second pilsner review, and we’ll be looking at the Y.Market Table Pils, Harvestmoon Pilsner, and for comparison the Weird Beard Faceless Spreadsheet Ninja.
Y.Market Table Pils (ワイマーケット・テーブルピルス)
Package: 330mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 18
Pour – Mild carbonation for a pilsner, very clear and straw yellow
Aroma – Fruity and hoppy, also some earth, quite nice
Flavor – Light and refreshing, initially a nice citrus presence, then the crackers and earthy hops followed by bitter finish
Y.Market is a relatively new brewery based in Nagoya, and in fact they’re one of the star newcomers to the Japanese craft beer scene. They brew lots of interesting beers and are constantly coming up with new ones, and while from a bottling perspective they’re almost nonexistent their draft beer has built up a strong account list and is available at many of the good craft beer places around Tokyo.
So this beer, which is labeled “Prototype”, is also labeled as having been brewed not by Y.Market but by a company called DHC Beer. Following this through, it looks as if Gotemba Kogen Beer was transferred from one giant conglomerate (Yonekyu) to another (DHC) in June of 2015, so this beer was actually contract brewed at Gotemba Kogen Beer. In fact, this is also true of their other prototype bottled beers, which so far include the Craft Heart Red and the Hysteric IPA, and they have just started selling bottled beer this year. So it appears that while they brew their kegged beer in house, they outsource the brewing of their bottled beer, and I wonder if this is a temporary arrangement or a permanent thing. Brussels Beer Project also have a similar setup where they brew prototypes and limited quantities in-house, but outsource mass-scale brewing for bottles to another brewery. We’ll have to see whether Y.Market brings it back in-house when they have more capacity or whether they will keep contract brewing for larger-scale production.
Also examining the label further, it says that the ABV is 5.5%, whereas the product page on their website says 4.8%. I can’t tell by drinking it what the right ABV is but we’ll go with what’s on the label for our purposes.
Finally on to the beer! The Y.Market Table Pils is a nicely balanced pilsner, and it has many of the right pilsner notes along with some other unexpected elements. In terms of pilsner-ness, we get the earthiness in both the aroma and flavor, and also some bread/cracker as you might expect. However, the citrus on the nose and on the flavor was an unexpected bonus, and the finish was also satisfyingly bitter.
I really enjoyed this one, and it may even be a challenger for best pilsner in Japan. As they are still tweaking the final product there’s even some hope that it might get even better, so definitely keep your eye out for it. A pleasant surprise, especially as the other Prototype bottled beers were for me a big disappointment.
Some quick notes – while RateBeer lists this as a German-style pilsner, the Y.Market brewing notes classify it as a Czech-style pilsner that uses Pilsner Urquell yeast (and the earthiness will back that up). In terms of distribution, I picked this up at Tanakaya but the Y.Market Prototype beers are fairly limited, so we’ll have to see how distribution plays out once they are ready for large-scale production.
Harvestmoon Pilsner (ハーヴェストムーン・ピルスナー)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Clear, well-carbonated, very golden
Aroma – Very dirty, also lots of bready malts
Flavor – Very similar to aroma – breadiness and earthiness dominate, hops (earthy of course) on the finish
Nothing goes with beer quite as well as Disneyland, so it’s no surprise that there’s a brewery in Japan right on the premises of the Tokyo Disney Resort. That brewery is Harvestmoon, and is owned by a company called Ikspiari that manages the Tokyo Disneyland and Resort (and Disneysea!). This is our first Harvestmoon beer that we’re reviewing on BeerEast, so let’s get right to it.
The Harvestmoon Pilsner is quite on the malty side, and the earth and bread dominate both the flavor and the aroma. You do get some hops on the finish, but overall it’s primarily bread and dirt. Interestingly, the Keyaki Beer Festival page lists the IBU of this beer as 28, but I don’t taste much of the bitterness at all, especially compared with the Y.Market (which is only listed at 18 IBU). Personally I would prefer a bit more balance and bitterness, but if you like bready pilsners then this would do just fine. I don’t think it’s a terrible beer, but I also don’t think it’s a beer I would drink regularly.
It should be noted that like the Y.Market Table Pils RateBeer lists this as a German pilsner whereas the brewery describes it as Czech-style. Liquors Hasegawa often has Harvestmoon regular beers in stock, and that’s where I bought this one. Tanakaya also carries their stuff, although usually only seasonals.
Weird Beard Faceless Spreadsheet Ninja
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Cloudy, slightly darker gold, moderate carbonation
Aroma – Subdued citrus hops, also slightly earthy, very nice
Flavor – A lemon citrus tanginess followed by a mild but noticeable bitterness on the finish, creamy texture, slight tartness
Weird Beard Brew Co is a fairly new brewery based in London. In a relatively short amount of time they’ve gained a reputation as being one of the more interesting English microbreweries, and their beers have been imported to Japan fairly recently. While they’re more American-style in terms of beers they make, today we’re looking at their German-style pilsner.
A bit of background on the name – according to their blog, one day when the two founders were discussing some of the finance-related aspects of their brewery one of them called the other one a faceless accountant, which of course led to a slight modification that would eventually become faceless spreadsheet ninja. The beer itself is brewed with a very generous dose of Citra hops, and there’s another blog post here that talks about hop availability and how that impacts their beer. There was a recent hop supply issue with the Citra hop, and with Citra being the most heavily-used hop for Weird Beard (25% of their total hop contracts) Weird Beard were forced to come up with some variations using different hops for their pilsner. I haven’t seen them but if you do keep your eyes peeled for the MAC Spreadsheet Ninja (MAC for Mosaic, Amarillo, and Centennial) and the Traditional Spreadsheet Ninja (with classic Saaz hops of Pilsner Urquell fame).
The version we’re trying today is the regular Faceless Spreadsheet Ninja with Citra hops, and the Citra hops certainly make themselves known here. For most of the beer lemon citrus is very dominant, although it has a nice bitterness on the finish. As it warms up the earthiness comes out more, but overall citrus is very strong and not as well balanced as the Y.Market. I like this beer, but also wish that the citrus did not quite overwhelm everything else here, as I think that it has numerous flavor and aroma aspects that are interesting.
I see Weird Beer products pretty regularly at Liquors Hasegawa and Tanakaya, and they’re a good brewery so definitely pick something up from them if you see them. As far as this pilsner round goes though, I’d have to give it to the Y.Market Table Pils. It has great balance and a lot of good things going on in the beer – definitely one of the best pilsners in Japan. The Weird Beard Faceless Spreadsheet Ninja also has a lot of things happening, but is tilted too much towards the citrus. The Harvestmoon Pilsner was the weakest of the three, and I found it to be too malty and bready.
Again, lots of pilsners in Japan so we’ll be coming back to pilsners again soon I’m sure!