Tamagawa Craft Beer Tour

Tamagawa Craft Beer Tour Dive into the river of craft beer

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Tamagawa Craft Beer Tour Dive into the river of craft beer

Ah, the joy of sipping a locally brewed glass of craft beer. It’s so different from the beers sold at convenience stores or izakayas, right? What’s the difference, anyway? To be perfectly honest I don’t know much about beer at all. When was it first made, and by whom? How do you make it?

So I did a bit of research, starting with the history of beer. Did you know beer was first made by accident? They say that during the Neolithic period, bread was left out in the rain and it started fermenting on its own. The oldest record of beer is from the Mesopotamian civilization of 3000 BC, a rich history dating back 5,000 years ago.

Oddly enough, beer wasn’t very popular in the beginning. In the Middle Ages, beer was seen as less valuable than wine until King Charlemagne of the Frankish Kingdom promoted the production of beer. This was around the same time that brewing in Christian monasteries became popular.

As time goes on, people have become more and more creative in how they make beer and many variations have sprung forth as a result. But the foundation is pretty much the same, so let’s cover the basics first: the traditional way to make beer is using four main ingredients: malt, hops, water, and certain additional ingredients. First, you mix malt and hot water to make mashed malt. Then, water and those additional ingredients are added to mashed malt to make a juice called wort. The wort is then boiled with savory hops that have a bactericidal effect. Yeast is added to the finished wort and fermented to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide, and finally fermented again to complete the process. But of course, this is a simplified explanation. In fact, there are more than 150 styles of beer brewing, classified by fermentation method, types of hops, and yeast. The most popular craft beers are pale ale, which is known for its fruity aroma, and IPA, which is characterized by the strong bitterness of hops. But with over 150 styles, there’s no way we can list them all here.

Back to the matter at hand-- What is craft beer? Most will say that it’s beer made by small, independent brewers that value their craftsmanship and individuality, but that doesn’t explain it much. By that definition, the “local beer” that was popular in Japan in the ’90s, when brewers would sell their beer directly to the locals should also count as “craft beer”? I guess it’s up to the seller's discretion.

Like a large river that merges and branches out repeatedly, the history of beer has evolved over the past 5,000 years. Craft beer is a booming business these days with a fantastic variety to explore. You need look no further than the Tama River basin, where there are 15 unique breweries scattered along it. From here, let's dive into the river of craft beer.

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