Our 2024 keg only "Exploration" Series is focused on giving our brewers the chance to take the limelight for a moment, show what they can do, and challenge themselves, and KBC, to do something we haven't done before. The first installment, 'East-West Resonance,' was well received at the Brewers' Cup held in Yokohama in February. The second installment, a Weizen called 'Byakko' (White Tiger), is now ready. This time's brewer is Masaki Nobori, known internally as Ya-man at KBC. Through an interview with him, we will introduce a little about why he chose to make 'Byakko', KBC's first ever Weizen.

KBC: Please introduce yourself.
Ya-man: Nice to meet you, I'm Masaaki Noboriyama. I'm from Sanjo City, Niigata Prefecture. I graduated from a certain sports university and was involved in track and field in both Tokyo and Kagoshima until I graduated, after which I returned to my hometown in Niigata Prefecture. About 4 years ago, after starting to work for a sake company, I became involved in launching a craft beer branch, where I was responsible for the on-site operations, leading me to enter this industry. At that time, I was involved in various brewing processes, including creating recipes and setting up the brewery's operations, for the several beers we produced. Among the beers we brewed, three main brands won awards at the Japan Craft Beer Association's Japan Great Beer Awards (the IPA even won the gold!). This experience strengthened my desire to brew beer in a more professional environment. As I was the main person starting things up, most of my development was self-learning, and it was during this time that I felt the need to challenge myself, and step out into the wider world. I decided to apply for KBC for this reason, and I'm now involved in brewing beer here.


KBC: It's been almost two years since you came here. How are you liking life in Kyoto city?
Ya-man: Since coming to Kyoto, I've developed a strong passion for cycling (single-speed!). I enjoy cycling not only for commuting but also on weekends. Currently, I'm in the process of assembling my second bike with a more relaxed style, collecting parts since last year.


KBC: Speaking of style, 'Byakko' is the first Weizen that Kyoto Brewing has ever brewed. What prompted you to brew this style?
Ya-man: At my previous workplace, we brewed Pale Ales, Weizens, and IPAs, but the Weizen style was particularly challenging. Coming to Kyoto and facing new knowledge, experiences, environments, and facilities, I decided to challenge myself to brew a delicious Weizen that I could produce now. In the past, I was like a frog in a well, brewing beer in a narrow world with limited craft beer knowledge and information. I realized I needed to venture out into the wider world. So, with the theme of 'Spirit of Exploration' for this series, I embodied the exploration of stepping into areas that Kyoto Brewing had not previously touched.


KBC: Your 'Exploration' starts from choosing the style! What was your inspiration here?
Ya-man: Weizen is a style known for its gentle bitterness, distinctive aromas of banana and cloves, and a soft mouthfeel due to the use of a large amount of wheat malt. To enhance the aroma, we experimented with a two-stage temperature increase during the mashing process (another first for KBC) and set the fermentation temperature lower. We blended hops with coconut and lychee characteristics to add depth to the flavor and aroma, and taking it in a slightly less traditional direction through a stronger hop presence.


KBC: For both yourself and KBC, 'Byakko' is a beer with many first-time experiences. How was the result?
Ya-man: The dry hopping we tried to increase the layers of aroma typical of Weizens went quite well! While based on a classic Weizen, 'Byakko' offers a finish where you can enjoy the characters of coconut, lychee, and woody hops on top of the fruit and spice notes you'd expect fron the style. Through the mashing process and fermentation management, which were the experimental points of this beer, I gained valuable insights into yeast control. In my previous company, I'd had difficulty in making this style, so this was also an attempt at revenge, and through the result I felt I was able to achieve what I'd never managed before. As for customers, I'm hoping that 'Byakko' offers an opportunity for those who are not so fond of bitterness to find their enjoyment of craft beer.


KBC: Despite its gentle taste, 'Byakko' has a strong name!
Ya-man: Yes, indeed. The name 'Byakko' evokes my personal challenge and return to confront the Weizen style. It resonates with the Japanese and Chinese proverb, "If you don't venture into the tiger's den, you can never get their cubs", which roughly means 'Nothing ventured, nothing gained,' implying that bigger challenges lead to a bigger sense of achievement. While the name contradicts the beer's appearance, which is cloudy and light in colour, with little bitterness in its character, for me personally it is the tiger's den.


KBC: Finally, please share your thoughts as you prepare to send 'Byakko' nationwide.
Ya-man: Unfortunately, craft beer is still not as accessible as mainstream beers. Therefore, I believe there are many people who are yet to experience their first craft beer. I believe the Weizen style has the potential to appeal to them as a gateway beer. I hope that 'Byakko' becomes an opportunity for those who normally say they don't like beer because it is bitter give it a go, and find out that there may actually be some types of beer that are just for them.


While we primarily brew Belgian and American-style craft beers, brewing German-styles have often proven quite a challenge, with our system not really designed for them. We have managed ways around this, contributing to our New Frontier beers, and relished the chance to try another German style here in the creation of 'Byakko', our first Weizen.   

Ya-man described the 'Weizen' as a beer style that is very mild in bitterness, and he believes many people will like it. We feel it might be fairly similar to his personality. Ya-man has a gentle and supportive nature, always willing to offer help and support, even when busy, and he has always been a positive influence on the mood of the team. As easy-going as a Weizen is easy-drinking, we can see the similarities between him and his release, even if we wouldn't normally call him a tiger!  

'While 'Byakko' has a slightly powerful name, it is a drink that is very approachable, and can be easily enjoyed on repeat, as guaranteed by all the staff at Kyoto Brewing. 

As for what comes next, our exploration continues...