Ethnic beer focus

The world of beer is shrinking like a crisp packet in a fire. There was a time, not that long ago, when drinking a German beer in a British boozer was the epitome of exotic and downright insouciant imbibing.

asian_beer.jpgNot anymore. Today, walk into a pub or stroll down a supermarket aisle and it’s tricky not to feel like famous crisp kahuna Phileas Fogg, trotting the globe in 80 SKUs. Today, if you were to take one of those beach balls, the ones that look like the world, close your eyes and stick a pin in it you’d a) pop it thus rendering it useless and, more pertinently, b) pinpoint a country that sends its beers to the UK.

Ushered under the “world beer” umbrella is what many within the trade refer to as “ethnic beer”. It’s a crude catch-all term for beers that hail from more exotic and esoteric destinations than, say, Belgium.

A beer from Peru could be considered “ethnic” and so too could one from Nepal and as such, it must be said, it’s difficult to write about “ethnic beers” without indulging in sweeping generalisations and rudimentary groupings of regions that, quite frankly, have very little in common apart from being a bit different and quite far away.

But, sod it, that’s what we’re going to do anyway. Hope you don’t mind. First up is Japan. Of all the Asiatic nations, Japan is the most exciting when it comes to beer. The beer scene is polarised between the big players – Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo – and an embryonic yet incredibly innovative Japanese craft brewing scene that recently celebrated its 16th birthday.

In 1994, the Japanese bureaucrats eased the rules regarding brewing licences and small regional breweries began to open in Japan. By the turn of the century, more than 300 had begun brewing and Japan is now fusing American and European influence with indigenous ingredients and a uniquely oriental approach.

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