It’s no secret that Melvin Brewing gets inspired by Japan (just visit one of our brewpubs and check the TV) so it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside when craft beer fans in the Land of the Rising Sun give us a thumbs up. Where in the world is Melvin Brewing? Let Sales and Marketing Guru Travis Cook take you on a wild ride through the streets of Tokyo via excerpts from his diary, ahem, field notebook.
11/13/18: I got the call from [Melvin Brewing founder] Jeremy Tofte. Melvin Brewing was signed up to pour at the American Craft Beer Experience in Tokyo, Japan. Think Great American Beer Festival, but in the ‘80s, with 30 American breweries represented and about 1,000 people in attendance at each session. We were also scheduled to make a collaboration beer with Ushitora Brewery. So, I had to step in and bring the Melvin swagger to Nippon! John Fayman, Melvin investor and owner of Backcountry Pizza and Goed Zuur, decided to join me for the shenanigans.
For the collab brew, we decided on the (maybe?) next big thing: Brut IPA.
Luckily Brewers Supply Group is right in my backyard in Denver, so I grabbed a bottle of the amylase enzyme needed for this fancy new brew and packed it up with my 2x4 Onesie, trusty Boomcase, and Melvin swag.
11/14/18: Homeland Security definitely tagged my bag for inspection, but we made the 12 hour flight and Monorail ride (insert Simpsons quote here) to Hamamatsucho safe and sound. We had tap takeover events planned every night, so no time to think about jet lag.
I showered, changed clothes, and and met Jason Koehler, our importer and owner of DevilCraft Brewing, who you may remember from hits such as the BR-808. He and his wife own three brewpubs, and we tapped some beers at the Hamamatsucho location. I was immediately greeted with enthusiastic fans who knew our beer!
There were mentions of 2x4 Day and drinking two full one liter steins of double IPAs…I was thoroughly impressed. Really throughout the entire trip I was impressed by how fresh our beer was and how it was holding up after the fantastic voyage in one-way kegs.
After some pints and Chicago-style pizza (not what I expected on my first day in Japan), we shook some more hands and headed to a pub called Hop Scotch, a divey bar that played 80’s metal and hard rock. After having a few cans of fresh Drunken Master with their bar manager Yusuke and some drunk Japanese businessmen, I had to get back to my hotel and call it a night. The alarm was going to sound at 5am so that we could take a two hour bullet train to Tochigi, home of Ushitora Brewery.
11/15/18: The Shinkansen train goes 200 mph at times, and the view of the sprawling city with Mount Fuji in the background is awesome, though somewhat nauseating at times after my previous day and copious amounts of vending machine coffee. Satoshi, our import rep and total badass, picked us up and took us to Ushitora Brewery, where it was time to mash in! Brewers Yuya and Torato were great to work with and excited to learn more about our brewery. We made 10 hectoliters (about 8 barrels) of Brut IPA hopped with Nelson, Citra and Mosaic. They were eager to try this new style and I brought enough enzyme for them to use in a few more batches. As the brew day ended, the grill fired up on their back patio and we bonded over old school hip hop jams on the Boomcase.
Later that same evening, we hosted a tap takeover (Melvin beers on 9 of the 12 taps) at Ushitora’s brewpub in a Tokyo neighborhood called Shimokitazawa. Everyone I talked to liked bold, hoppy beers and ours were checking all the right boxes, as were the artwork on our stickers and the throwing star coasters.
11/16/18: The American Craft Beer Experience (30 American breweries and 1,000 attendees) started the next day. Our booth was fully lit, with the Boomcase bumping, me in the 2x4 Onesie and our guy Satoshi in the Melvin elephant mask. This festival was set up differently than GABF: you paid as you went with full beers rather than paying a flat fee and sampling, which is an interesting way of doing it, because you have to choose wisely. We had a solid line the entire time. The amazing crew of volunteers helped us pour the beer and spread the cheer. Props to Abe, Horita, Sana, Ayaka and Makoto! As the session wrapped up I grabbed the Boomcase and Pied Piper-ed my way through the train stations and streets with our crew. We now had an event at Tap Stand, where owner Sou was a big fan of Melvin and an incredibly gracious host. He cooked a special meal for us including fish he had caught earlier that day. We hung up a tin tacker and I signed the wall next to one Jeremy Tofte… As the session wrapped up I grabbed the Boomcase and Pied Piper-ed my way through the train stations and streets with our crew. We now had an event at Tap Stand, where owner Sou was a big fan of Melvin and an incredibly gracious host: he cooked a special meal for us including fish he had caught earlier that day.
11/17/18: The second day of the festival began at noon, and the crowd was slightly more mellow but definitely drank its fair share of RIIPAs.
After final count, we were the top seller at the ACBE, pouring through a little over 400 liters of beer. For you math wizards, that’s the equivalent of about seven 1/2bbls of beer. At a similar sized beer festival in the States, I would’ve poured about four 1/2bbls in two days. The Japanese can certainly hold their own in the world of Beerfest.
After the second session we had our final event of the week at Beer Ma, a bottle shop and bar in Kanda with an amazing selection of beers including Cantillon, which brings all the geeks to the yard. Draft beer is huge in Tokyo because the drinking culture is extremely social. Most people live in small apartments, so they meet friends at bars instead of house parties. American craft beer styles are catching on in a big way and it’s exciting for Melvin Brewing to be in the conversation. After tasting our fresh beers and experiencing the fun that we bring, there’s no doubt we will continue to build the Melvin monster in Japan, and maybe one day work together to defeat World Beverage.