Category : Drinks

Great Foods to Pair with Bordeaux Wines

Bordeaux is a region with great examples of both red and white wines though its whites are often overshadowed by the reds, known generally by English-speakers as “clarets”. Bordeaux wines – red and white varieties – give some of the classic wine/food pairings in French cuisine and there should be something to suit all tastes.

There are two main types of Bordeaux red. In the Medoc and Graves regions most claret is made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape; in St Emilion and Pomerol the predominant grape variety is the Merlot. However, both types have a characteristic fruitiness, in particular blackcurrants and should be drunk quite young (the wine not the drinkers!).

Dishes that go really well with Bordeaux reds are robust meat dishes especially beef and lamb. There are several dishes that are heavily based on the inclusion of a good slug of Bordeaux too such as “boeuf Bourguignon” or “coq au vin” (literally chicken cooked in wine). It’s not just the diners that benefit from the grapes: it is claimed that snails (escargots) from this part of France taste so good because they feast on the grape leaves. Remember that when you tuck into a starter of snails with a glass of good Bordeaux. Other classics such as “steak tartare” and “tournedos chasseur” are also a good match for a delicious Bordeaux. Best of all is the renowned dish from that region “entrecote marchand de vin” which consists of a rib steak that is cooked in a rich gravy made from red Bordeaux wine.

Camembert, Brie and Roquefort are regarded as good mates for Bordeaux because the the strong cheese balances the tannins in the wine.

Moving onto whites and it is the sweet wines that take over the spotlight with the most obvious being Sauternes which is the ultimate pairing with foie gras, though it is equally as good with desserts. The intense sweetness of Sauternes complements rather than overpowers sweet dishes and so is regarded as the best option since puddings can be notoriously difficult to pair with wine.

It is not all sweet wines, though, when it comes to Bordeaux whites; there are some lesser known but none the less very good dry whites from the region and these tend to be served with seafood dishes on Bordeaux’s Atlantic coast.

With variety like that it’s not hard to see why this region is synonymous with great cuisine and equally good wines.


How Japanese Craft Beers got Started and what they have become

To explain the concept of ‘kurafuto bia,’ Japan’s craft beer, it qualifies most easily as the product of commercial operations that sprang out of beer deregulation in Japan in the 1990s. Many Japanese recognize any brew that is not the product of any of the five major corporate beer manufacturer labels as craft beer. In effect, the trend of starting up a craft brew operation has become something of an exciting economic explosion, a recent but ongoing phenomenon that involves beer enthusiasts, home brew hobbyists, and private business such as pubs, bars, and eateries who trade in various formulations and sample each other’s love for ji-biru, local beer.

Brief history of beer in Japan

As the Brewers Association of Japan (est. 1953) explains, the first brewing of beer on the island was attributed to Koumin Kamamoto in 1853, instructed from a Dutch book. In the 1870s, beer began to be manufactured for the first time and sold, qualifying for government regulation by 1876. In but a single decade, imports were overtaken with in-state production, until from out of its economic boom emerged a national tax in 1901.

Japanese craft beer, or ‘ji-biru,’ has only been available since the legal deregulation. Previously, Japan’s entire beer industry was a government-regulated oligopoly of four or five brewers.

Already adept in the science of carbonation from their many years of offering sparkling saké, a number of “saké-only” breweries responded to deregulation by concocting their own craft beer, typically by expanding into both brew forms. For those companies, making saké differed little over that of making beer and was to make for an obvious addition of craft brew. Since, other establishments have also seized on the opportunity, at the least to offer more choices to patrons. Eventually came the move to recognize new production efforts as something of an artisan occupation pursued throughout Japan. Thus the phrase “kurafuto bia” entered the popular lingo to recognize the uniqueness of crafting that may not be limited to the beer, but extend to the label and even to the marketing.

Saké, it shall be important to distinguish, refers to alcohol in both a general as well as a specific sense for the Japanese. The equivalent “craft brew” in matters of rice-based saké, as distinct from ji-biru, goes by the name ‘jizake.’ Some microbreweries, such as Hitachino Nest, incorporate special fermentation of rice in with their malted portions, so don’t be surprised to find saké in any style of alcohol whatsoever.

Bryan Baird, quoted in the Washington Post, introduces the business nature of ji-buru as it was from its inception. “When ji-biru started, it was at least 50 percent German-style.”

Popularity

At the onset of deregulation in 1994, 175 craft beer breweries emerged between 1995 and 1999. By 2005, another 100 entered the vie for kurafuto bia popularity. The number eventually rose to over 300 and then fell dramatically due to a major number of bankruptcies to the present estimate of 250 craft beer brewers.

Kiuchi Brewery represents one of over 300 new craft beer breweries to spring up by the year 2000 prior to dwindling to the present estimate of 250. Its production was 250,000 gallons in 2010 with earnings of about m$8. And as sales of saké have dived, the company has increased its operations by as much as 40% in recent years.

Slate reports that as much as 40% of kurafuto bia purchase occurs by shipment. And according to Wayne Gabel of ‘All About Beer Magazine’;

“…[A] road trip is about the only way you’ll be able to sample the handiwork of most of this country’s small-scale brewers.”

Visit a definitively Japanese home brew site on the Web, if you read Japanese, to get a sense of what ingredients that craft brewers can purchase in Japan.

Favorable conditions

Too soon to say whether the future of Japan’s beer could be blowing in the wind in the wake of the Fukushima disaster and its contamination. Whether or not a groundwater threat exists at present, breweries have been storing water in the meantime and in many cases shipping the water to regions of the northeast most in need. Other sources claim that reverse osmosis can be one way to render contaminated water pure again through use of graphene, an allotrope of carbon one atom in thickness. If filtration is the only issue then Japan’s microbreweries can possibly bounce back from this disaster practically in a flash.

The Japanese have otherwise long enjoyed an abundance of high quality spring water to brew with. The Fushimi region of Kyoto Prefecture illustrates this importance of water to brewers. And these waters have attracted more than thirty various brewers of saké and craft beer there.

Water sources are known by name, such as “Fusui water source,” and have been chronicled as matter of public record in a top 100 list. If you want to locate some breweries, refer to this list. Swan Lake Brewery, located in Niigata Prefecture, uses pure Niigata spring water and has earned World Beer Cup awards in various categories.

Japanese craft breweries

As of 2010, only three food dispensaries in Tokyo, Japan operated their own in-house breweries. the bar, Craft Beer Moonlight; dock-side pub and restaurant TY Harbour, and Tokyo Disney Resort restaurant Harvestmoon, reports ‘Beer in Japan.’ Craft Beer Moonlight, a thoroughly Japanese bar, serves homebrew quantities straight from the keg in multiple varieties, the regular beers selling for 300 yen apiece and special brews from 500 – 800 yen. Menus in the English language were reported to be on the way. Also of note was that the bar sells homebrew supplies, the only source in the city apart from the Tokyo Hands chain store.

At the south end of the island, 250 miles west southwest from Tokyo, Dining Room You of Horikawa serves up some Japanese microbrews, including Angry Boy Brown Ale (by Baird Brewing Co. of Numazu, situated 35 miles due southwest of Tokyo on the Izu Peninsula).

Japanese craft beer gatherings

A considerable number of craft beer festivals and competitions can be found in any given year throughout the major cities of Japan. Parties at bars such as Akasaka’s international brew exhibitor, BierVana (in Tokyo), also offer a way to get together and try brews of any origin while highlighting local craft brews. Online sources such as IBU and JCBA cite some of the key annual kurafuto bia fests:

• Craft Beer Festa Kyoto
• Great Japan Beer Festival, hosted in prefectures Tokyo, Osaka, and Yokohama, hosted by JCBA
• Japan Craft Beer Selection, hosted by Japan Craft Beer Support
• Japan & Asia Beer Cup, hosted by Japan Craft Beer Association (JCBS rival)
• Tokyo Real Ale Festival
• “Grand Biere” Festival, hosted by JCBA
• International Beer Competition, hosted by JCBA
• Tokyo Microbrew Beer Festival

Craft beer vs. craft tax

Taxation controls the economics of beer sales without always determining what brews people choose to buy. In order to qualify for paying less tax, brewers elected to phase out malt quantities from the 66.6% minimum composition designated to define ji-biru to lower than 66.6% for second and third tax sector beers. These types may be brewed with or without malt.

Any consumer can estimate immediate economic destiny, fortune cookie style, by looking at consumption of ‘happoshu’ or ‘daisan,’ the lesser brews. But consider, in terms of brewing, the genuine craft in terms of flavor and food pairing. Being the product of tax code convenience, although certainly not the harpsichords of craft beer, these types should not be altogether ignored as sources for inspiration, critique, or appreciation. Happoshu’s mandatory production minimum holds at 6 kL.

Though Japanese critics, apart from home brew regulations, do not generally consider “near-beer” — what sells in America as “non-alcoholic beer” such as O’Douls at 0.5% or low alcohol content — to be beer in fact, the craft brewer could certainly identify that the distinguishing fact about beer concerns its fact of being brewed with gastronomic purpose, regardless of how tax breaks factor in. Similarly, in America, it is not “beer” but rather ale and “malt liquor” that has a higher alcohol rating, while all of these brews qualify as beer in Japan. So, at least in America, beer amounts to a low-alcohol beverage. Although in Japan, beer occurs on a critic-by-critic basis outside the government’s categorical scheme. Inevitably, the decision will be one of palatable and gastronomic predilection.

Thus happoshu and happosei/daisan brews, beer or not as 2nd and 3rd tax sector concepts, tend to be regarded as “faux beer.” It’s not all bad, but that’s not enough to silence the critics about its proper place in society.

Government regulation & statistics

Japan’s National Tax Agency offers positive insight as to the popularity of beer as a national drunken beverage. The production figures popularity of beer far out-foams that of any other alcohol beverage, double that of sparkling liquor and roughly six times that of saké, going by figures for the most recent year on record. The figures also show the regions that make the most beer (Osaka, Kanto Shinetau, Tokyo) and the prefectures with the most beer buyers, or sales (Tokyo, Osaka).

These findings equate with formal statistics such as established by the Wands Review (2006) that nearly half of Japanese citizens consume beer as their alcohol of favor. International Beers Unlimited claims the figure to be at two-thirds in the nation as a whole.

A brewer’s license of either class, temporary or permanent, can take as many as 6 months to be approved. In Japan, qualification consists of meeting legal requirements for a minimum brew of 60 kL per year, the equivalent of 512 U.S. barrels. Prior to deregulation, the minimum had been 2,000 kL.

Homebrew of craft beers on the rise

In stark contrast to Japan, cities in China and Hong Kong, Seoul South Korea, and Singapore where home brewing is legal in the practical sense have opened their veritable gateway to craft beers. The United States recently saw a decline in home brewing regulations in all states nationwide.

While in Japan’s land of artisans before the corporate dominion, the legality of home brewing remains limited to the 1% alcohol content rule, under law. That’s why home brewing supplies may be readily available throughout the nation. Although freedom to blend, formulate, and share brews freely suffers undeniable restriction. Still, with favorable water and its gratifying carbonation, any home brew concoction can be shared as long as it does not exceed 1%. Home brew carbonation typically occurs in-process, whereas many breweries dilute using carbonated water prior to bottling. While home brewing is not Japanese craft beer per se, it’s still only a license and 80 kL dream away, in a year’s mass production, so there should be no ignoring that ji-biru has to come from somewhere local.

For the most part, Japan’s craft beer comes directly from the prefecture supply house where it has been brewed. Japan’s contests and festivals, as well as craft brew operations in bars and eateries, make kurafuto bia most accessible. And then there are the microbreweries themselves and their online shops. Private establishments that serve patrons beer may also elect to carry any number of kurafuto bia varieties. The Japanese craft beer scene makes for excellent opportunities to travel and get out more to socialize in the simplest of ways, beckoning an adventure of discovery in the making.


History of the Soft Drink Fanta

There are some who claim that Fanta, a popular soft drink produced and distributed by the Coca-Cola company, was actually invented by Nazis during the Third Reich. Others go so far as the say that Coca-Cola produced this product themselves to sell in Nazi Germany when they feared the backlash that might come if they marketed Coca-Cola to both Allied and Axis powers at the same time. Is there any truth to these accusations?

Coca-Cola was a tremendously popular beverage in post-war Germany. Germany was its most successful market and many people, including the Nazi’s enjoyed it. That did not end with the beginning of World War II, although the Coca-Cola company in Germany found it increasingly difficult to procure the necessary ingredients to make the beverage. When the American born director of the German Coca-Cola company died in 1938, the German born Max Keith took over. Max Keith is the man who invented Fanta.

The war had essentially isolated the German branch of the Coca-Cola company from Atlanta and from the rest of the world. Thus, the only way that Keith could communicate with the company’s headquarters was through Coca-Cola’s Swiss company. Although this connection through a neutral country allowed some limited communication with the company’s headquarters, Keith could not use it to obtain the necessary ingredients for making the popular beverage. He had to come up with something else.

What he came up with is what we now call Fanta. It is called that because when telling his employes to let their imaginations (“fantasies” in German) run wild, someone offered that “fanta” itself would be a good name.

The beverage was originally made with what limited ingredients Keith had at his disposal. For example, he used whey, a byproduct of making cheese, and apple fiber, a byproduct of making cider. He also used a sugar substitute and whatever fruits he could obtain. The necessity of having to use different fruits as necessary accounts for the great variety of fruit flavors we still see in Fanta today.

By this time, the German government had placed Keith in charge of all of Coca-Cola’s properties in Germany and all occupied countries. Thus, he was in a powerful position to make a serious profit himself, if he wanted. He could have continued bottling under his own name and made himself rich. He proved a good steward of the company, however, and kept the company going during the war, saving many jobs. At the same time, Keith refused to join the Nazi party even though under pressure to do so.

Fanta did not come out of the war spotless, however. The German Coca-Cola company probably used forced labor during the later years of the war. It also gave German soldier the last of the original Coca-Cola it had in 1941 and advertised with the Nazi party extensively prior to and during World War II.

It is difficult to say, however, what Keith should have done during the war. If he had not cooperated with the Nazi government, he would have been simply removed and replaced with someone who would probably not have been as good a steward of the company as he was. After the war, he handed his profits back to the Coca-Cola company who bought the recipe for Fanta in 1960. It has been distributing Fanta ever since.

So the Coca-Cola company itself did not make the product for the Nazis nor was it invented by a Nazi. It was invented by the German head of the Coca-Cola company during the war when he could no longer produce Coca-Cola. Nazis may have been among those to whom he marketed the new product, but it was not designed specifically for them.