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Enjoy Drinking in Okinawa. “Koza Brewing Okinawa,” the First Brewing Pub in Okinawa (Okinawa City)
post : 2018.06.07 18:00
“I want to produce the local beer in my hometown.” It must be Yasuhiko Ohama’s destiny to do it in his hometown. Yasuhiko Ohama, the owner of “Koza Brewing Okinawa.” He grew up in Koza until high school, went to Mainland Japan for his school, and returned to Koza after graduation. Actually, he is the 3rd generation heir of “Touyama Liquor Shop” in Koza. Also, the predecessor of the shop is a brewery to produce Habu (venomous snake) sake, and both Yasuhiko’s father and grandfather were sake producers.
For your information, Koza was a name of city which existed until March 31st, 1974. After Koza City and Misato Village got unified and became Okinawa City on the same year of April 1st, local people still call the area as “Koza” as its nickname.
Currently, you can order regular beers include “BIG BEACH,” “Kuroobi (black belt) Stout,” “Sanshin Pale Ale,” “Akou Kurou Evening Ale,” “Shisa Brown Ale,” and “Typhoon IPA.” Each beer is named after Okinawa.
“BIG BEACH” is a cream ale with fresh and fruity flavor, and it gives everybody an image of summer. “Kuroobi Stout” is a black beer with roasted malt and barley. “Sanshin Pale Ale” is a standard type of beer which has sweetness and bitterness. “Akou Kurou Evening Ale” has mild flavor as its name indicates (‘Akou Kurou’ means evening in Okinawa). Rich taste of malt and hops are condensed in “Shisa Brown Ale.” As for “Typhoon IPA,” bitterness of 3 kinds of hops (Chinook, Nugget, and Amarillo) is covered with sweetness, and its flavor is strong as typhoon. These draft beers are served at a great value starting from 530 yen (w/ tax) – 680 yen (w/ tax).
By the way, “Koza Brewing Okinawa” is opened in July, 2014, and craft beers were already entrenched in all over Japan by that time. Local beer breweries are located in Nago City, Nanjo City, Ishigaki City, and Miyakojima City. However, there was none in Central Okinawa then. Around that time, “Touyama Liquor Shop” opened a bar inside corner of the shop and stored more than 500 kinds of 3,000 wines at a wine cellar on the underground. It was known as a unique type of liquor shop.
As an extension of managing the liquor shop, Belgium beers triggered his interest to produce beer. “I was surprised by a variety of Belgium beers. There were many breweries in each region, and they produced unique beers just like wine.” Later, he discovered a variety of unique beers.
“One day, when I read a book about beer, I found an interesting article about Koenji Brewery in Tokyo. I was impressed that beer can be produced in the center of big city. Usually, beer is produced at a big factory, but the beer was produced and sold at the same Koenji Brewery just like bakeries. After I found it out, I thought ‘I can do it too. I mean, I want to do it too in Koza!’ So, I visited this brewery immediately, and I convinced that I want to do this for sure.” He looked back on the past and told me passionately.
When Ohama visited Koenji Brewery, the owner told him that the master of producing beer lives in Okayama Prefecture. Next, he flew to Okayama and visited Kibi Doteshita Brewery. He told the master about his passion for producing beer, and it took 1 year and a half for him to be approved to study under the master. Since then, he kept back and forth between Okinawa to Okayama to study.
After he studied in Okayama, he brought machines to the 2nd floor of liquor shop and started producing beer. He wanted many people to visit his hometown to drink craft beer that he produced. The production volume of beer was 200 litters in one time. The brewery was started as a small brewery first. Soon afterward, he opened a brewing pub to serve fresh beer. Actually, beer is very sensitive for shock and change of temperature. And, it is few steps away from a space to produce beer to customer seating. Brewing pub is the best style to serve beer as the best condition.
For your information, “Lager beer” has been served at the bar from April. Ale is produced with thermophilic fermentation, and lager beer is fermented with low temperature. A machine called “chiller” is necessary to produce lager beer, and it is believed that lager beer is hard to produce at a small brewery. Actually, Ohama used to be in a rugby club while attending at Koza High School and participated in the national tournament. “Rugby is a sport to pass a ball from a player to player. When someone passes a ball to someone well, spectators get excited. I hope people will connect in Koza through this beer.” Ohama said. His dream to produce lager beer finally came true.
Produced beer will be handed from a person to person. His produced bottled beer is also available from April. “I decided to sell bottled beer to promote people that Koza is an interesting area. It is available at here and hopefully at Okinawa City Tourism Association in the future.” Ohama smiled broadly. It is the beer which is available only in Koza, and it can be tasted anywhere if you bought the bottled beer. Plus, it will help to promote Koza. Bottled beers of “Koza Lager” and “BIG BEACH” are currently available, and “Kuroobi Stout” is coming up soon to promote karate which will make its first appearance at Tokyo Olympic in 2020.
“Koza Brewing Okinawa” celebrates its 4th anniversary this summer. Ohama plans to continue producing new beers. For example, matured beer by using wooden barrels that were used to mature wine, brandy, tequila, and whiskey. Also, a beer with coffee flavor. When you come to Okinawa, try both Okinawan and Koza’s local beers.
Koza Brewing Okinawa
Address: 1-24-13-2F Chuo, Okinawa City
Business Hours: 17:00-24:00
Closed: Sun & Mon
*Price of the beers referred as of March 1st, 2018.
Okinawa CLIP photo writer Nobuya Fukuda