Interview: Gareth of Be Easy Brewing

Who is Gareth of Be Easy Brewing?

Be Easy Brewing is slowly making a name for itself in the Tokyo craft beer scene and their beers says it all.  One fan favorite is Ray’s Milky stout.

Their first beer was brewed at the tail end of October 2016 and they opened the doors to their taproom and starting to distribute one month later.

The founder, owner, and brewer of Be Easy Brewing had true humble beginnings in order to make his dream a reality.  Gareth, as one reviewer from Facebook wrote, “[Gareth] is a real stand-up humble guy.”

Gareth took his whole life savings and got a personal business bank loan to realize his dream.  Be Easy Brewing is truly independent with no investors and zero subsidies from the city.  Gareth outright bought the building and brewing equipment then built his brewery with his own hands.  He personal designed his tap room, trained his staff, and opened.  He poured his heart and soul into this dream.

“I am a former Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) aka bomb squad.  I was in the military from 2003-2007 before I decided to not reenlist and stay in Japan.  I have been living in Japan ever since and about 3 years ago I decided that I wanted to bring craft beer to Aomori.  The plan slowly took shape and here we are today with a 10HL brewery, 8 taps tap room on the second floor, and have distribution around Japan.”

-Gareth

Interview

Taihei: What inspired you to start brewing?

Gareth: I had been into craft beer for a while when I went back to the states for vacation.   A buddy of mine handed me a bottle of beer and asked me to try it. It was a really well made saison and I asked him who made it. When he replied that he himself had, that was the start to where we are today.

Taihei: How long did it take for you to go from your idea to a full-fledged brewery?

Gareth: Total time I would say close to about three years. Between finding a location, importing equipment, finding a bank that would listen to me, and getting the brewing license itself, time seemed to disappear rather rapidly.

Taihei: What was the most difficult part of opening your brewery?

Gareth: The paperwork, all of the relentless never ending paperwork.  The paperwork for the paperwork that is needed to hand in the paperwork in order to get more paperwork.  I say this with zero sarcasm.  Every single thing needs some kind of forms or hankos.  If you asked me for a checklist as to what is needed I honestly could not answer you.  My best advice would be keep filling out all the nonsense till people say yes.

Taihei: Why Aomori prefecture of all places? Is it because you are a snowboarder or skier?

Gareth: I originally came here in the military as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician (bomb squad).  I decided to not reenlist and stay in Japan for a year before heading back to America. That year has turned into over 12 now and here we are.  I was an avid snowboarder but we opened last winter so that means no doing anything but brewery.  This year I will try to get back on the slopes.

Taihei: What is your favourite beer style to drink?

Gareth: Hmm a difficult question for sure.  When I drink beer my favorite way to drink it is paired with the proper food, proper setting, or right season.  I would say though that if it came down to only being able to drink one style of beer till the end of days it would have to be sour beers.

Taihei: Really? Why is that?

Gareth: Sour beers are so complex and exciting beers to drink.  Each batch can turn out differently and have their own uniqueness to them, good or bad.  For me there is nothing more exciting than getting my hands on a well handled bottle of a good sour beer.

Taihei: What is your favourite beer style to make?  Why?

Gareth: I don’t have a favorite style so much as I enjoy brewing new styles and experimenting.  It is so exciting the first time you your brewery smells of dark malts, or new fruity hops, herbs used in the boil, the bad smell of lagers fermenting away.  All of it is exciting and the anticipation of an experimental beer is always worth the wait.

Taihei: What’s your catnip in the hop world?

Gareth: Another hard question to pinpoint. I think as we look back and forward we see that there is always the next new hop.  It was the days of Amarillo and Simcoe, then Citra, now Mosaic, and recently I have been using a lot of Azzaca and Denali. What is popular now won’t be popular in three or four years from now.  However, if asked to brew with one hop for ever it would probably be Centennial.

Taihei: Where did the name Ray’s milky stout come from?

Gareth: I try to name all my beers after the local dialect here in Aomori.  The only names I don’t use that are my year round beer, which as of now is only Debbies Pale Ale.  The milk stout is one that I want to keep around all the time so I named it after my dog, because he is black, and so are stouts.  No romantic story behind this one haha.

Taihei: Do you drink while you brew?  If not, how do you past the time during the mash?

Gareth: Nah I don’t drink while I brew, I am in the zone so I try to focus on everything that is happening and needs to happen throughout the rest of the day.  If I do have some down time I tend to use it to study about beer.  I read about handling yeast, the science behind brewing, or anything else brewing related.  For a while I was studying very hard for my cicerone test.

Taihei: What was the best brew you have made so far?

Gareth: Our most popular beer we have made has to be our flagship Debbies Pale Ale.  Another favorite was the Notsudo New England style IPA that we made.  My favorite so far was the single hopped pale ale we made using Loral hops or our milk stout.

Taihei: Any new tasty beers coming out soon?

Gareth: We have not let the masses know yet but we have a New England style IPA coming out that I put a decent amount of mango into after primary fermentation.  We are getting ready to keg it and I think it is going to be a big hit.  I also have a Rauch in the works that I am really excited about brewing, and then drinking with some BBQ in front of a campfire, pure bliss.

Taihei: Where can we find them?

Gareth: We distribute to half of Japan but the majority of our beer goes to Tokyo.  If in doubt I would say Popeye has at least one of our beers on tap most of the time.

Taihei: Does Be Easy aim to make a certain group of styles or a wide range of styles?  For example, German, American, British, IPA, fruit beers, etc.

Gareth: Not at all.  I have never labeled our brewery as focusing on this or focusing on that.  I tend to brew more like American brewers but that is such a loose term at this point with how much experimentation and forward progress has been made.  I will brew whatever I want when I want, that is the only rule.

Taihei: Which place is your man cave: the brewery, Gareth’s hideout or other?

Gareth: My deck behind my house.  No matter where I am the brewery or something related to it is on my mind.  If I am there then I am going to end up doing something and then 6 hours will have gone by before I realize I am late to head home.  The deck on the back of my house looks out over apple orchards and nothing else.  I can sit back there, enjoy the breeze, and disconnect from everything for a while.

Taihei: What are your thoughts on crafty beers or recent acquisitions of independent craft breweries?

Gareth: I am still very young into this game so my answers may be filled with naivety, so all of the veterans out there please forgive me.  As far as the big guys pushing out their “craft” beers, I could care less.  If anything they are making it easier for us.  Reason being is that there are still plenty of people that don’t know about craft beer.  If they introduce them with their insipid IPAs then it will only be a matter of time before they figure out who is making the good stuff.  I can’t ever see mega breweries being able to drown out smaller independent breweries because they have very little room for experimentation and or error.

When it comes to “selling out” I believe the only people that have a basis for judging said company are the people that have actually been in a similar situation.  It is extremely easy to read Yahoo! news about an acquisition and then say OMG THEY SOLD OUT THEY ARE NOT CRAFT BLEGHHHHH.  However from the viewpoint of owning a brewery I know what it takes; and none of it is easy.  There could be 50 or 60 year olds that have done what they needed and it is time for them to move on.  Maybe offering to sell it to the employees or the local city or something like that would be more appropriate than selling to the big guy.  Again I have no experience as far as the level that someone like Lagunitas is on, so can I really comment on the choices that they make?  I don’t think so.

Taihei: Do you have a program “will work for beer” (I need an excuse to get out of Tokyo)?

Gareth: We have had a lot of guests that come up and either do a collaboration brew or help out around the brewery on brewday.  Whenever we do that we usually have a great lunch and a few beers together.

Taihei: What was the craziest brew you made?

Gareth: I think maybe our honey and chamomile beer was the furthest that we have gone into the “crazy” zone.  I am not a big fan of just throwing shit into the kettle in hopes that it all works out.  Like I said earlier if you can add 12 different adjuncts to a beer and it is balanced and drinkable then thumbs up to you.

Taihei: Have you ever thrown out a batch of beer because it was terrible?  What did you learn from it?

Gareth: We had a, um, hiccup with a local lab that talked the talk about propagating yeast however could not walk the walk.  So after being almost ready to transfer to the fermenter, we went to pick up our yeast.  They only met 8% cell count of what we were promised.  Needless to say we had a late fermentation, then it hung, and it had some funky smells to it.  I dumped it, brewed the same thing, used proper yeast, and it was out Oatmeal Stout that people really enjoyed.  What I did learn is that it was my fault for not having emergency dried yeast on hand.  It was one of our early batches so it was a good learning experience all around, just a tad expensive one.

Taihei: I have seen your metal kegs in Tokyo, what do you think of those disposable plastic kegs in the market?

Gareth: I could be wrong but I think that they are mostly for people exporting their beer.  If they are environmentally friendly and can be recycled then that is awesome.  For us the stainless is working out just fine.

Taihei: What are some of the challenges you believe are unique to brewing in Japan compared to the US or Europe?

Gareth: I think that any country is going to pose its difficulties.  It is hard to say that one place is better than the next.  When I think of the mind boggling nonsense that we have to keep track of as far as paperwork for the tax office, it seems like America is great for brewing.  On the same note when the post office swings by my brewery, and takes my beer from Hokkaido to Okinawa then we have an advantage over America by a long shot.  It seems almost silly to me that beer made in the next state can’t be drank without dealing with some middle man.

Taihei: What is the biggest misconception of owning a brewery?

Gareth: I would say that many people seem to think that if they have the right recipes then they can open a brewery and everything else isn’t that important.  Making great beer is a priority for sure but there are so many moving parts that the customer or novice does not realize that can be overwhelming.

Taihei: Last question: are you a bottle kind of guy or a can kind of guy when a glass is not in sight?

Gareth: Can all day every day.  I love cans because there is just no reason for bottles anymore.  Cans are better in every way possible compared to bottles.  They are lighter, they are 100% protective of UV, easy to store, easy to recycle, easier to transport because of the weight making it better for the Earth.  Go go cans!

Where to Buy Be Easy Brewing

Be Easy Brewing (Taproom)

Tokyo (North)

Tokyo (East)

Tokyo (South)

Tokyo (West)

Tokyo (Suburban)

Information

Brewery Name Be Easy Brewing
URL http://ww.beeasybrewing.com/
Phone Number 0172-78-1222
E-mail info@beeasybrewing.com
Ordering Beer chika.odagiri@beeasybrewing.com
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/beeasybrewing/

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