Is bespoke brewing a uniquely Japanese phenomenon? My friend Sergeant M is in town from Australia, so last night we went for a few drinks in Kichijoji. After dinner at Bloomoon we headed to holic beer bar, which serves a wide range of imported and local brews. Sergeant M is a fan of microbreweries, and is a bit of a brewmaster himself – he recently made his first home-brewed Belgian beer sans kit, which apparently was quite good, and I thought he might be interested in trying some of the local Japanese craft (about which I will post more in a few days’ time, I think).

While we were drinking our second tipple at Holic, the barman revealed to us that he had on tap a beer that he had made himself. But this beer was not a homebrew – rather, it was a bespoke brew. He had gone to the Hitachino Nest brewery and consulted with the brewmaster there, and between them they had developed a recipe which the brewery then fermented and delivered for him. He showed us the design sheet for his beer (“Holic IPA”), and since a good portion of it was in English the Sergeant understood it immediately. It listed the different hops and grains used, the boiling temperatures and times for each, and the various other ingredients for the brew. It also gave a calculation of the bitterness on some international scale, the alcohol content, and so on. Having done this, the barman was able to take delivery of 600 litres of his own custom-designed brew!

Apparently anyone can do this at the Hitachino Nest brewery, provided they produce at least 15 litres of beer. It’s like print-on-demand, or web-based self-publishing – with beer! It would be perfect if you could design it on the internet and get home delivery, so that you never actually had to meet anyone in the process to produce your beer. Is this a uniquely Japanese phenomenon, or is it also possible in America or Europe? I have certainly never heard of it before…