Our 2024 keg-only series is focused on exploration, with the goal being for our talented brewers to pick an area of experimentation, through attempting the latest techniques within craft beer around the world, trying obscure styles that have never made it to Japan, or attempting something entirely new.
Our first beer in this series has been conceived by our longest-serving brew team member, Shogo. On one level coming across as a charmer, Shogo also has a tendency to pull of pranks (turning off the refrigerator light on people being a personal favourite of his). At the same time, there's no denying that he takes making quality beer very seriously.
He takes it so seriously, in fact, that he himself has a brewery in planning that Japan’s craft beer drinkers can very much look forward to enjoying!
Today we share our interview with him where we get to know who he is, where he comes from, his exposure and interest in beer, and how he decided to challenge himself in this beer, East-West Symphony.
KBC: Shogo, please introduce yourself.
Shogo: I’m Shogo and I’m from Tokyo originally. I spent time in Oregon in the US on a farm, where I worked on a ranch doing work on fences, then ended up in Nebraska where I worked at an abattoir for pigs. I joined Kyoto Brewing in 2017 after returning to Japan with a love of craft beer. After working at KBC for a couple of years, I went back to the US to join the UC Davis brewing program, before joining Heretic Brewing Co. I returned to Japan upon being refused a visa extension (thank you, Donald) and worked for a while at Osaka Sanitary and AQ Bevolution, learning new elements about business before coming back to Kyoto Brewing.
KBC: You’ve been back almost 2 years, haven’t you! What do you have as goals for 2024?
Shogo: This year I will graduate KBC in order to start my own brewery in the port of Kobe. In getting to where I am now, I met many people, received a lot of support, and gain truly valuable experience. For that reason, I’m hoping my brewery can in turn be a space where people can meet over a beer and share knowledge and experiences. We’ve found a location overlooking the port with a wide open sky, so I’m really excited about the preparations. Hopefully some of the people reading this article remember this when they hear about a new brewery in Kobe and pay a visit. Sorry for the shameless self promotion!!
KBC: You experienced all sorts in America. For this beer, you wanted to create a beer for “after noon on a day off”. Was this based on your experience over there?
Shogo: Yeah. While I was in California, I was home brewing in my garage on my time off while watching sports on TV. I wanted to make a beer based on what I’d like to drink in the afternoon after that. I wanted to make a beer that fits that time – something a craft drinker won’t tire of, that will be accessible to those who don’t often drink craft beer.
KBC: I see! A beer based on homebrewing days. Can you share your “exploration” point within this beer?
Shogo: In order to make this an easy drinking beer, I wanted to keep it dry and yet highly characterful, modern, and fruity. I decided to take two yeast strains, one a west coast and one an east coast strain. The aim was to keep the clean dryness of the west coast finish, while taking on the characters of the modern popular east cast strains that keep some haze, and allow more of the fruity nuances to stay concentrated in suspension. I also wanted to use Cashmere hops, that I used a lot in homebrewing, and bring some pear and melon fruit notes. This is the first time KBC has ever used these hops, and so I’m excited for this chance to both attempt something new in terms of bringing one of the latest popular hops here, as well as attempting a new technique in terms of a yeast blend.
KBC: And how do you feel about this experimental brew now that you’ve tasted it?
Shogo: The oats and wheat used have given it a soft mouth feel while it still feels very much like a dry and clean pale ale. The double dry hopping has brought through tropical fruit and melon notes for just enough of a hop punch in character, which I’m happy with.
KBC: The name is East West Symphony. Why did you go for that?
Shogo: The yeast strains used are two giants in the craft beer space in America, one defining the first craft beer revolution on the West coast, and the other now being key to many of those people making popular hazies. There are also lots of supporting new initiatives, from the preparation initiatives, the use of hops, the new ingredients. The coming together of all these performances for us seem well represented by the word “symphony”.
KBC: Finally, how do you feel now this beer has come into existence.
Shogo: My great “senpai” taught me the attitude of approaching every beer in the same way, and pouring love into each of them. I’m happy to have done, that and to see the result come together to my satisfaction. As a team, we’re going to keep working hard to make each of our products better and better. Before then, I’d like to replenish my energy by drinking this beer on my day off and watching an NFL game between East Coast and Midwest teams! I look forward to watching them collide in the final stages.
So there we have it!
Shogo decided to go for a beer that we have called East-West Symphony. According to Shogo, he wants this beer to appeal to the non-traditional craft beer drinker (i.e. a younger audience, and one not just restricted to guys, who used to make up most of craft beer drinkers). As a result, he drew back on his experience home brewing in the US while exploring a new lifestyle.
Going through the concept for this beer, and the naming suggestion that was made for this beer, he drew parallels with beer making in general. "I was told that one's own performance, if at its best, helps to raise the level of those around. Improving the team helps raise the level again, and that eventually comes back around. We definitely have a lot of that in the team at KBC, so it felt right to look at it in musical terms."
Hopefully this harmony will inspire the next brewer to take on the baton in this series and move it forward!