If you’re looking for a pleasant alternative from the domestic beer that is mass produced in Japan, Scott Brimmer has the brew for you.
Brimmer Brewery, based in Kawasaki, produces four premium international craft beers, focusing on American and British style ales available all year round. In addition to three house ales, the company also offers a specialty beer that changes through the year including styles from all over the world.
Japan Today hears from Brimmer about his passion for brewing craft beer.
How did you get started in the beer brewing business?
I’m originally from Modesto, California. I went to school at Chico State University, and chose to go to school there because, while checking out the school, I had the best beer I have ever had in my life which is their Pale Ale. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is based out of Chico California and I vowed to go to school there and get a job at the brewery. Eventually I got my foot in the door as a part-time worker washing dishes in their pub.
As a student, receiving a couple cases of beer a month along with some spending cash was nice. But I rose through the ranks pretty fast and as a bartender and tour guide, I started getting interested in the brewery side of the operation. While giving tours I was challenged with a lot of technical questions. So I got to know the brewers pretty well by asking them questions I didn’t know the answers to. I ended up studying brewing at UC Davis, Siebel Institute of Technology, and The Institute of Brewing and Distilling. When I was finished, I stepped into the role of brewer for Sierra Nevada. I worked there for nine years and brewed about half that time.
What brought you to Japan?
While attending CSU Chico, I dated and later married a Japanese exchange student. About seven years ago, we decided to move to Japan to be close to my in-laws. I moved here under the condition that I would stay in the brewing industry. Shortly after moving here, I landed a job with Gotemba Kogen Beer and worked there for five years as a brewer.
When did you establish Brimmer Brewing and why?
We established Brimmer Brewing about two years ago and have been in production for about a year and a half. We started up the brewery because we had to move to Kawasaki City and move in with family. We realized that we would be the only licensed beer brewery in the city and were confident we could make a product that people will enjoy.
What do you brew?
We brew Pale Ale, Golden Ale, Porter, and a specialty which changes about every month or so.
Where are your products sold?
We sell our product all the way from Okinawa to Hokkaido, and have just recently started exporting our product. We sell to a lot of smaller liquor stores. But our biggest account for bottles would be the Marui department stores. Our local one in Mizonokuchi just ordered 90 cases (case=24 bottles) which has been the biggest order we have received from anyone so far. Marui in Yokohama and in Tokyo carry our beers as well.
How are sales so far this year?
Sales are doing very well. It has been difficult to keep up with demand this year. Japan, like the rest of the world, is very interested in craft beer right now. We are going to triple in production capacity this year and have plans for more expansion next year.
How do you market the brand?
We really have not spent much on sales and advertising. It seems to sell itself through word of mouth and I guess if anything, we spend more time using social media rather than more conventional approaches.
Can we order online?
Right now the best way to order online is through craftbeertrader.com.
Where is your brewery?
In Kawasaki. It’s a great place between two hotbeds of the craft beer scene which are Tokyo and Yokohama.
Do you offer brewery tours?
We do, but not on a regular schedule. It all depends on how busy my wife and I are in the brewery and what events and festivals we have planned. The best thing to do is check our website and Facebook for any upcoming tour information.
What do you think of domestic beer in Japan?
A lot of craft brewers will automatically tell you it has no flavor and lacks quality ingredients and some of them take every opportunity to trash the big companies. But when it comes down to it, they make a very consistent product and are very good at what they set out to do.
What is the difference between a good beer and a great beer, in your opinion?
An average beer you don’t notice. It’s not bad, not good, “just a beer.” A good beer you take notice and enjoy. A great beer can change your life; it did mine.
What does it take to become a Brew Master?
Passion for beer, dedication and devoting your life to beer. I don’t think just an education or certificate makes someone a Brew Master. Working in a brewery and becoming a Brew Master is hard work. Long hours and low wages have to be ignored and you have to embrace the satisfaction of creating a good product you believe in and knowing that you can reach out and make many others happy by enjoying your beer. Brew Master seems like a dream job to many until they start working in a brewery.
Do you hold tasting or other social events?
Yes, these events can also be found on our website and our Facebook page. We have had tastings and discussions about our beer at our brewery, bars, hotels, cafes and The Brimmer Beer Box in Omotesando.
What is the Brimmer Beer Box?
A few friends and I started up a separate company as a tasting room where you can have all of the Brimmer Beer styles at a great price. I really wanted to bring the concept of “one coin craft beer” to a good location in the city. Every now and then, if I have some free time, I will pour beer over there and have some “meet the brewer nights.” Our goal is to start up more of the boxes around the city and or franchise them.
What is a typical day for you?
This year my wife and I have been working seven days a week averaging about 10 hours a day. We still have not found our days to be typical or routine yet. Seems like every day there is a new challenge that faces us.
How much beer do you drink every week?
I am also the head of our QA/QC department and have to go through a rigorous sensory evaluation process for every brew. So I guess I have my fair share.
Do you like to drink other craft beer brands just to see what the opposition is doing?
I always love to try craft beers from other breweries. I wouldn’t say it is an interest in what the “opposition” is doing but I just enjoy craft beer and love to taste the wide variety of styles that other people are doing. Small brewers shouldn’t look at each other as competition. The better a craft brewery does here in Japan, the better we all do. If someone makes a good product, it makes others want to experiment and try the other craft beers that are available.© Japan Today