2021 Yosano Hop Pilgrimage

The difficult times created by the Covid-19 pandemic caused us to reevaluate nearly every aspect of our company beginning in early 2020. As we described in previous blog posts, one outcome of this was feeling that more needed to be done to show our appreciation for our home base of Kyoto. This led to the creation of our Locality series, and we are excited to announce the second instalment, Yosano de Siesta, a Saison made with 100% locally grown hops.

There are many reasons why we believe this collaborative brew is an important one, the first of which is supporting local businesses. The Yosano Hop Growers Guild began in 2015 with the mission to grow hops for the craft beer industry in Japan. We have always respected the ambition behind this idea because growing hops on an industrial scale is an expensive and labor-intensive undertaking with no initial guarantee of a viable product, not so dissimilar from starting a brewery. We have been fortunate enough to pick hops with the guild for fresh hop beers five of the last six years, and this year we also collaborated on the style and recipe.

Second is the importance of using locally sourced ingredients. For most breweries in the world, including Kyoto Brewing Co., the only thing local to their product is the water. Malt is imported from North America or Europe, hops are shipped from all over the world, and most yeast strains have their origins in Europe. When you consider the emissions created in transporting these ingredients around the world, being able to drive 90 minutes to a hop field, pick hops ourselves, then drive back to the brewery and use the hops that day is incredibly special.

Finally, we see this opportunity as one that connects us to the natural world that produces the products we use. Seeing how multiple hop bines grow out of a common root, or how the individual vines wrap themselves around support wires as they reach for the sun, or how varying levels of leaf cover produce different hop cones gives us a better understanding of the ingredients we use. It also gives us a much deeper appreciation of all the effort required to raise these hops from roots to cones, then process and package them for use in a brewery.

All of this combines to produce a unique beer that is never 100% fully in our control. Because the hops are picked and used the same day, the brewing schedule dictates what hops will be available to us when we visit. This year’s brew is 100% Galena, a variety that was completely new to us. Moreover, because the hops are fresh picked, they have not been tested to determine their bittering potential, so we must brew on instinct.

Picking hops is hot and sweaty work, so part of the inspiration for this beer came from crafting a beer to accompany the siesta the guild often takes in the early afternoon to wait for cooler temperatures. The 4.5% ABV means you can have one with your break without the danger of losing your will to go back to work. The dry finish of Saison yeast is thirst quenching, and the fermentation aromatics create refreshing hints of apple and pear. A small addition of spelt malt gives the beer a little body while its unique acidic bread-like character melds with the yeast nuances. The Galena hops work well with this background, giving hints of fresh cut grass and sweet fruit. We look forward to sharing this special brew with you!

A portion of the proceeds from this beer will be donated to the guild in order to contribute to their ambitious mission.

Label artwork by Hiroyuki Fujiwara