Category Archives: World Beer

Articles on beer in different countries that we visit.

Japan; a country full of surprises beginning with Japanese Beer – its rather good!

I visited Japan for the first time this June, arriving in Tokyo with many preconceptions about this densely populated country that for centuries cut itself off from the rest of the world; however Japan turned out to be absolutely everything I wasn’t expecting. It is a country that works on a completely different scale and has the most welcoming, helpful and respectful people I have ever come across and what with bilingual signage and more English spoken in Japan than at Cardiff Railway station where I began my journey, I quickly decided that it was a country I would very much like to return.
I became so wrapped up in planning my trip, mainly finding a good travel agent, that it was only after the 11 hour flight to Tokyo, checking into my hotel then feeling rather pleased with myself for quickly negotiating the metro to the Tokyo Skytree tower and back, that I finally relaxed and began to think of beer.
Beer lovers will know that one always has to ask upon arriving in a different country for the first time, where when and how do I get beer? However in the case of Japan I didn’t even know if they did beer! By this stage I was exhausted after the journey from London, ready for bed and about to give in but I would soon discover that Tokyo like Hong Kong is a 24 hour city where you can obtain anything you want within 100 yards of where ever you are standing. Sure enough there ahead, just before the sweeping escalator that would take me up to my hotel lobby from the busy brightly lit modern underground walkways, was not one, but two Family Mart stores with cold cabinets full of Japanese beer.
The first thing that jumped out at me was the design on the cans stating graphically that this was beer brewed in Japan. The second thing to impress were the fridges found in all hotel rooms throughout the country that the cans went straight in and finally the taste of the beer that slipped down a treat at which point I immediately knew that Japanese beer would give me that looked forward to first beer bite of the day taste experience – I had to discover more.
Lonely Planet suggests the Museum of Yebisu Beer in Tokyo on the sight of the original brewery built in 1887 in the Ebisu district named after the railway station built to service the Yebisu brewery . As I contemplated a whole district named after beer I wondered if this could get any better when suddenly it did for as you walk into the brewery museum you are politely asked not to walk over a large circular rug featuring the image of Ebisu the god of beer! Well actually Ebisu is the Japanese god of fisherman, luck, prosperity, business and abundance of crops but he is the face of Yebisu and my kind of god.
The whole secret to the taste of Japanese beer is gradually revealed as you walk around the brewery exhibition and discover that German brewers were advising the Japanese back at the very beginning in the late 19th Century.  That then explains why sausages are featured next to beer bottles in the museum display cabinets. I know that sausages and beer will appeal to many Fourtharchers but don’t worry, for if I do get a second go at Project Manager on a Fourtharch weekend, I will not be choosing Tokyo as the Yebisu brewery tour is in Japanese only but like me at the beginning of the summer if you are not yet aware of Japanese beer then it is rather good and there is certainly no need to get Sake!
乾杯 [Kanpai, cheers in Japanese]
DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich

Real Beer in Spain

I’ve made many trips to Spain over the years and one thing has remained constant- the beer. Spain has been a producer of refreshing lagers for a long time- I’m quite partial to a Mahou Classica on a typically hot Costa del Sol day. It’s very pleasant in those conditions and the same can be said for similar beers like San Miguel, Estrella Galicia (never understood why Galicia is prevalent in Spain and yet it’s Damm that’s exported) or Cruz Campo.

What surprised me on my last visit was when I was in an Italian restaurant in Benalmadena and was presented with a beer menu. I was further confused when I thought it was a beer menu from a Portuguese lager brewery. I quickly realised that I had mistaken La Sagra for Sagres.

I opted for a La Sagra and was treated to an American style IPA that was very good, it was chilled and light enough to be refreshing in the hot climate but still with enough bite to it. It gives me yet more hope that real beer is spreading if even a lager dominated Spain is starting to produce some really good beer. It’s anecdotal evidence so far but it does show that it’s possible and that there are green shoots there to be nurtured.

So is the picture below a thing of the past? Probably not but it could be something that starts to be slowly replaced by something with a bit more flavour to it.


DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich


Beer in Ireland

I’ve just had the pleasure of my first visit to Ireland having spent a few days in Cork. One of the best things about Ireland is how friendly the people are wherever you go, but especially in the pubs. I made it to half a dozen or so and all were excellent with great beer- gives me some more future options for our annual trip! I’m not a big fan of stout but I did have a couple of the obligatory pints of Guinness, it’s probably at least partially the psychology but it definitely tastes better in Ireland.

What I really did enjoy though were the various versions of Irish red beer. At the risk of stating the obvious, the most common Irish beer I’ve come across is stout, which is generally Guinness but when I’ve come across other beer from the Emerald Isle, it’s always been red beer. The same was true in the first few pubs I went to in Cork and I assumed that red was simply to distinguish from stout and that it was a generic term for bitter.

What I discovered however, whilst doing a tour of Franciscan Well Brewery, was that Irish red beer stems from a time when tax was high on hops and so Irish beers therefore were made with a high proportion of malt and a low proportion of hops. For me it makes great beer because I love that malty taste and several nice pints of Smithwick’s Red and Franciscan Well’s Rebel Red went down very nicely!

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DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich


Post-Brexit can British beer now challenge the dominance of Superbock in Portugal?

The Fourtharch is a group of British beer and pub enthusiasts and we, or I want to know if Post-Brexit along with the growing global demand for new beers and novel flavours, if British beer exports will now increase into continental Europe and in particular Portugal so when I am there on my hols I am no longer faced with the choice of Superbock, Superbock or Superbock.

I thought the EU was all about the free movement of goods and services and yes the supermarkets here in England and Wales are full of wines and beers from all over the world, especially from Continental Europe but in the Portuguese supermarkets I see only Portuguese beer in boxes piled high along with Portuguese wine – you can’t even pick up a slightly more passible San Miguel from next door in Spain. Don’t get me wrong, I love Portugal and the Portuguese [even with Ronaldo] and in particularly the Algarve where the sun is always out and the breeze coming in from the Atlantic acts like outdoor air conditioning, but I cannot get to grips with your beer Portugal it just does not give me that looked forward to first beer bite of the day taste experience.

I could never see EU trade commissioners who 27 times out of 28 would have been European continental lager drinkers ever putting a strong case for British beer so now that the UK is to leave the EU maybe independent breweries such as Woodfordes in Norfolk already with ambitious sales plans for China and the location for the very first fourtharch outing can now move in on Portugal – what better than an Englishman or Welshman to promote British beer abroad. So Post-Brexit let the Super see the Bock and mount those dray horse to introduce our continental cousins to real British beer – especially that little bar I know on the beach on the Eastern Algarve please. [Other members of the Fourtharch may enjoy Superbock]

DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich

Beer in Scotland?

After a recent trip to Scotland, this blog is a question and appeal to our Celtic cousins in what is, at least for now, the North of Britain. Where is your ale? I thoroughly enjoyed a visit to Ayrshire, staying just outside the village of Dailly (prompting Rich to suggest opening a bakery, Dailly Bread….). After a hard day sightseeing or indeed watching the Commonwealth Games, you can imagine that we were looking forward to a nice pint of proper British beer.

And so it was that we headed into Dailly for a pint (and of course to find a site for the bakery). We discovered that there were two pubs in the village and we went to the nearest of the two, Central Bar. In our experience of rural pubs, good ale is common place and indeed they are some of the best places to find good beer and so we had high hopes as we entered.  They were sadly false hopes as there was no cask to be found. So we ordered two pints of McEwan’s, the only one of their range on offer (McEwan’s 60/-), describing itself on the clip as “pale ale”. The beer itself was perfectly acceptable for what it was but upon pouring was quite clearly a mild, which isn’t to my taste, and was of course, keg.

photo 1

Our next venture into the village was to the other establishment, The Greenhead Hotel. Two different McEwan’s offerings this time and having already sampled the 60/-, we plumped for the 70/-, which turned out to be a very pleasant session beer (albeit keg). This experience was replicated in the other pubs we visited in the area, pleasant welcome and friendly people but no beer, to the point that I actually tried a pint of Tennant’s at one stage.

photo 2

I thought that my wait was finally over when I got to the Wetherspoon’s at Glasgow airport but sadly two different casks ran out during pouring and the third option turned out, upon tasting, to be rather like vinegar. Again, friendly staff and the vinegar was exchanged without fuss for a pint of San Miguel but it did mean that I left Scotland after a week without having had a proper pint. Fortunately this was something I was able to rectify with a pint of SA in the Three Arches shortly after arriving back in Cardiff but I repeat my earlier question to the people of Scotland. Where is your ale? I’m happy to be proven wrong but I wasn’t able to source a single pint of ale in a week.

I would however, like to give a shout out to West Brewery in Glasgow, who have an excellent range of German style beers brewed at their microbrewery and bar just off Glasgow Green. The best pint I had in Scotland was their West Berlin, which is a weissebier with spices which actually reminded me of an ale, a specific ale in fact, Hook Norton’s Copper Ale. Quite remarkable considering the difference between the two types of beer and I have to say that I’m not usually particularly partial to a weissebier but credit where it’s due, I did enjoy that one and I do recommend the venue if you are in Glasgow.

IMG_20140731_141703DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich