In an unusual partnership, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company of St. Louis and Miyasaka Brewing of Suwa City, Japan, have collaborated to craft a unique beer with sake influence to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Japan America Society of St. Louis (JASSTL). The beer, named “Konomi,” will make its debut at this year’s Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden over Labor Day weekend.
How did this partnership come about? In 2016, the JASSTL and Urban Chestnut partnered and presented a unique beer and sake tasting event. As both beer and sake are made through a fermentation process, the JASSTL put on an event with speakers from both brewing traditions. UCBC’s Adam McBrady explained their brewing philosophy as well as the beer brewing process and its history. In comparison, Katsuhiko Miyasaka of Miyasaka Brewing explained the brewing and traditions of sake as well as the history of the nearly three and a half centuries that the Miyasaka family has been brewing. Coming from breweries with a veneration for the past as well as an eye to the future, the two speakers found much in common, and they decided to remain in contact should future opportunities to work together present themselves. When Adam was approached by Dr. Chikako Usui, President of the JASSTL, and her associate Chip Meyer regarding the possibility of UCBC making a special beer for the upcoming 50th anniversary, they realized this was a unique opportunity to bring the St. Louis and Suwa cities and breweries together in celebration.
Miyasaka Brewing is based in St. Louis’ sister city of Suwa, in the mountainous Nagano prefecture west of Tokyo. Brewed by the Miyasaka family since 1662, their Masumi sake (meaning transparency, or truth) is highly regarded. It was also at their brewery where the world’s most popular sake yeast strain, “Brewing Association Yeast #7” was first discovered and isolated. After discussing the elegance of a sister cities collaboration to celebrate JASSTL’s 50 th anniversary, Miyasaka very generously sent Urban Chestnut some of their home yeast to brew the new beer.
Urban Chestnut’s Brewing and QA team went to work studying how best to work with the special yeast. Initial tests indicated that the home yeast gave the beer a fruity, mellow flavor, and the ultimate consensus was to replace a portion of the grain bill with rice and focus on making a light and refreshing beer suitable for the warm days of the Japanese festival. In homage to the Missouri Botanical Garden, a decision was made to include ceremonial grade matcha in small quantities to the beer. This addition gives the beer a slight essence of the intense, powdered green tea without overwhelming or competing with the Belgian-like characteristic of the yeast.
A call was sent out to select individuals to seek their expertise in naming the beer. The ultimate choice was Konomi , which means “to like,” or “to favour.” Dave Lowry, an expert on Japanese culture, suggested this name as in the tea ceremony konomi means “a creative impulse that enlivens something in a new way.”
The Japanese Festival was Saturday through Monday on Labor Day weekend at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Konomi beer was available in the food court at the Japan America Society beer and sake booth. See the Garden’s website for more information about the festival.
Konomi - 好み