From local pub-landlords to paper-cutting artist, our In Search of Tokyo event series will introduce you to the people who make up Tokyo, one by one. Having travelled through the UK and Europe in search of the secrets behind brewing, Shinjuku-landlord Kohei Ando presented his take on the Tokyo beer scene at our opening event on Friday.
While cities abroad are overflowing with craft-beer and cask-ale creations, Tokyo’s market is surprisingly quiet, and Kohei was determined to find out why. Having started at the (in)famous HUB chain in 2008 and moving on to work with Bay Brewing Yokohama, Thornbridge in the UK and Hitachino Nest Beer, he now runs the Highbury Pub in Shinjuku, a short stroll from ‘In The Hood Shinjuku-Gyoen.’ Discovering a love for British and European beer while travelling, he found that cask-ale was a challenging but worthy cause and is intent on being the first to showcase it in Japan.
His football-inspired brand is already decided and he is still working on his plans to bring the unique flavour of cask ale to Tokyo, but highlighted the double edged sword that makes it so tough. Renowned for high quality and with a world-wide reputation for food and drink, Japan has avoided the discontent with mainstream products that led to the success of alternative brands abroad. Comparing it to the German market, Kohei noted that Happoshu takes the role of the every-day drink, while brands like Asahi and Sapporo take the slot of higher-quality beers, leaving little room for higher-priced craft beers.
However, with examples of successful brands using the Tokyo name as a byword for quality, Kohei showed that while Japan’s reputation created challenges, it also created opportunities. Explaining his hopes for Gunners Brewing to an audience of Brits, micro-brewers and locals, his enthusiasm suggests it won’t be long before guests can try it themselves.