Colorado's craft beers are showing up on Japanese shelves as craft brew craze heads overseas

Posted at 8:00 PM, Jun 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-28 10:44:28-04

TOKYO -- Craft beer may be common here in Colorado, but in Japan it’s still part of an emerging scene.

"Once you go craft, you never go back," said Bryan Baird, of the Baird Brewery outside of Tokyo. He’s a leader in the effort to make craft beer a bigger part of life in Japan.

"For me, it was just joining two passions: Japan and beer," said Baird.

Baird, an American, is part of an effort to make craft beer a bigger part of life in Japan, where craft beer is more of starter, not a drink you'd have the entire meal. But traditions could be changing.

"We want to be part of your appetizer, your main course and your dessert," he said.

At least one of Baird’s brews has a Japanese flair, using a sour fruit called Ume for flavoring.

As Americans brew beer in Japan, Japanese companies are importing it.

That includes the Denver Beer Company, New Belgium and Oskar Blues from Colorado.

"Our company is focused on American craft beer only," said Akemi Balmuth, president of Nagano Trading. She also owns a tasting business called Antenna America.

Inside Antenna America, you'll see of map of the states—showing the beer imported and sold from their coolers—a shift from the big brands that dominate in Japan.

"People love to see it as they look from the front door,” said Balmuth. “How should I drink, what should I drink?" she said, referring to the excitement she sees from her customers.

"It's new, and all the seasons.  We love seasonal, because we have Four Seasons."