Haneda Airport Brewery Flavors Suds with Wasabi, Green Tea; Collaborates with Entities Across Japan to Introduce Local Specialties

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Brewmaster Fumiya Kitagawa holds a beer made in collaboration with local entities in Japan.

A restaurant nearby Haneda Airport is brewing up a buzz for its craft beers flavored with local specialties from across Japan.

Haneda Sky Brewing in Ota Ward, Tokyo, has collaborated with municipalities and local entities from 15 prefectures so far to make beers with unique tastes and aromas, with a mission to brew beer using ingredients from all 47 prefectures.

The restaurant in the Haneda Innovation City complex next to the airport serves craft beer from its in-house brewery. Its beers brewed in collaboration with local specialties have recently gained popularity among customers.

The idea to collaborate with different regions was born amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Haneda Sky Brewing opened in July 2020 to coincide with Innovation City’s opening. However, it struggled to attract customers under the government’s coronavirus measures, which urged eateries to shorten business hours and stop serving alcohol.

“Daily sales did not exceed ¥10,000, and we were at a loss,” recalled Sachiko Oya, president of the restaurant’s operator Taiho Co.

One day, Taiho’s business partner The Johnan Shinkin Bank introduced Oya to a winery in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, that was looking to find a use for its red wine pomace. The credit union in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward serves as the secretariat for a nationwide network of credit unions that assists in business matchmaking.

After being suggested to make a wine beer, Haneda Sky Brewing used the pomace to make its Budo no Sora Ale (Grape sky ale). Various media picked up on the creation and the brewery started receiving inquiries from municipalities and local entities across Japan.

A series of collaborations transformed into a full-blown project, and the beers have become so popular that they sell out within a week or two with each new release.

“The project created an opportunity for regional municipalities to promote their specialties from Tokyo,” said Kyoji Kawamoto, Chairman of The Johnan Shinkin Bank. “We didn’t expect collaborative beers to become so big.”

Flavors from across Japan

Each collaboration produces about 230 liters of beer, or about 500 bottles.

Most of the proposals are brought forth by regional collaboration partners. Proposals include ingredients like wild grapes from Nishikawa, Yamagata Prefecture, and raspberries from Yamatsuri, Fukushima Prefecture, as well as more challenging ones: garlic from Fukushima College; wasabi from Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture; and field mustard from Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture.

For its March collaboration, Haneda Sky Brewing teamed up with Ureshino city government to use Ureshino-brand green tea.

At first, brewmaster Fumiya Kitagawa wasn’t sure how the tea’s antibacterial properties would affect the yeast.

Kitagawa experimented in a small pot while devising the recipe. He adjusted the temperature and the timing for adding tea leaves and powder to prevent it from producing a bitter taste in the brewing process and succeeded in preserving the tea’s sweetness and umami in the beer.

Ureshino Mayor Daisuke Murakami tasted the beer at an unveiling ceremony and said, “I was so impressed because it tasted exactly like Ureshino tea.” The Ureshino Tea Ale has already sold out.

“As a brewer, some proposed ingredients are very challenging,” Kitagawa said. “But it’s thrilling whenever I open a door never opened before and produce something more delicious than expected.”

Donating to quake victims

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Taiho President Sachiko Oya, second from left, and The Johnan Shinkin Bank Chairman Kyoji Kawamoto, third from left, poses with red snow crabs at a brewing ceremony in Ota Ward, Tokyo, on April 9.

Currently in the works is a Hokuriku Oen Ale made from red snow crab caught in Toyama Bay to support the Hokuriku region after it was hit by the Noto Peninsula Earthquake. The finished beer will be unveiled at the Hokuriku support event at Haneda Innovation City to be held on May 25 and 26, where businesses from the area will set up booths selling their specialties.

Hokuriku Oen Ale will be priced at ¥880 a bottle, with ¥100 per bottle to be donated to support the disaster-stricken area.

Including those still in the preparation stage, Haneda Sky Brewing’s collaborative beers now number 28. Oya says the company aims to “conquer” all 47 prefectures through its beers.

“We want to take advantage of the location of Haneda and promote various local specialties through beers, to people in and outside Japan.”