Suzuki Shinya 鈴木真也

It’s like the Meiji Restoration all over again. Many Japanese micro-brewers want their product to be up to par with the delicious brews being produced in Europe and the United States. Some are taking every opportunity to travel to overseas breweries for hands-on training. Besotted sabbaticals indeed. Among these seekers are a few bright-eyed youths with big dreams—latter-day versions of the young Meiji envoys of samurai stock who were dispatched on lonely missions that sometimes fell into debauchery of literary proportions. These new guys do drink, but their purpose is as pure as organic hops. Hailing from the Yokohama Brewery, our Pilsner samurai, Suzuki Shinya, talks to us about his search for truth, justice and a damn good beer.

Koe: How old were you when you started brewing?
Suzuki Shinya: I started when I was 24.
K: What sparked your initiative?
S: I liked beer and the desire to make it myself just grew and grew. When I was 20, I drank Gotenba Kôgen beer and started to like craft beer. After I graduated from university—I was 22—I traveled around to various microbreweries and just got caught up in it all.
K: How did you come to be with Yokohama Brewery?
S: I just came by chance once. At the time they weren’t looking for anyone, but then about a month later, they said someone was going to leave and that now was my chance to join. That was about four years ago.
K: As a 28-year-old, you’re young for a brewer, but I’ve heard you are rather experienced.
S: Last year I went to the Czech Republic and Germany to study. I remembered a few Czech words and together with my bad English was able to communicate. At the Strahov Monastery Brewery in Prague, there is a man who visited the Yokohama Brewery in 1995 to advise in technique. I had never met him directly, but I sought him out. There, I studied Czech-style Pilsner brewing. I participated in the various aspects of brewing and inquired about all the recipes before coming back.
K: How long did you work each day?
S: 8 hours.
K: I take it you got pretty drunk?
S: (laughter) Yep, that’s right.
K: What are the qualities of a Czech-style Pilsner?
S: It gets a kick from the Czech-grown Saaz hops and has a florid aroma. The malt also gives it a certain sweet character.
K: These days a lot of Japanese brewers have been going overseas to study. Doesn’t it seem a little like the Meiji era?
S: It does indeed. Many of the micro-brewers in Japan started without knowing anything about the craft, but now, about 15 years later, only the good ones are still around for the most part. To make the beer even better, I really think we need to immerse ourselves in other cultures.
K: Your signature beer is the Czech-style Pilsner, but is there another beer you are thinking of trying your hand at?
S: Naturally, I’d like to give a shot to making something in the Czech Bohemian style.
K: We’re looking forward to drinking it!
Yokohama Brewery:



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