Interview: Tomas of Ebina Beer

Who is Tomas of Ebina Beer?

Tomas Rehak, the owner of Ebina Beer was born in Prague, Czech Republic.  Prague is a popular tourist destination with a rich and beautiful culture.  It is, of course, a place with long brewing traditions.

Tomas, with his lovely wife Fumika, lived together in Prague since 2004 until 2016.  During that time, he was an orchestra player (tuba) in Prague’s State Opera and for the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, which he enjoyed very much.  Music was his hobby, and was lucky enough to have his hobby as his work.  He went on for 20 years in his music career and worked with interesting people from all parts of the world.  For instance, he met George Lucas when recording a song for Star Wars, and other music, for famous Hollywood movies.

As for opening Ebina Beer, it wasn’t an easy feat.  Fumika moved 6 months ahead of Tomas with their two lovely children to begin Tomas’ dream.  Tomas continued to be part of the orchestra while Fumika was laying the ground work of getting the restaurant open and the painful process of cutting through the red tape to get the brewery’s mash tun turning.  Once Tomas was in Japan, he needed to gain commercial brewing experience and found a home at Yokohama Brewing while working with his buddy Jiri Kotynek (Kotas) from Nihonkai Club.  Even to this day, the owner of Yokohama Brewing continues to pops into Ebina Beer now and again (he came to Ebina Beer while the Taihei guys were busy interviewing Tomas; in other words, happily drinking away Tomas’ Coffee Dark Lager).

The biggest stumbling block for new breweries is getting the rubber stamp for a licence from the tax office.  Tomas explained that the tax office didn’t have much experience in such a request. However, Tomas and Fumika were able to charm their way into the hearts of the staff at the tax office.  It was a learning experience for both parties, but this partnership was forged into creating Ebina Beer.

Tomas’ life has been playing a different tune since coming to Japan, but the key note was Fumika playing in concert with him to fulfill his dream.  After speaking with them and seeing their children play around the brewery, they were able to compose something harmonious within the Ebina community.

Despite the stress and worries of running a business, they are one happy couple with their two even happier children, and you can feel that warmth when they welcome their regulars and curious people peeking through the windows.  The warmth of this family, including their staff, is evident when Tomas and Fumika dropped what they were doing to speak to the locals.  Ebina Beer is cozy and relaxing, but its Tomas’s lagers that make the mark.  His pivo (beer in Czech) are unique, crisp, easy to drink with some catchy names; that’s why Taihei labels Tomas the “the King of Lagers in Kanagawa Prefecture.”

Tomas’ journey went from tuba player to brewery owner.  As his hobby of making beer became his career, his past career of playing the tuba is now his hobby.  Sharing beers with him was amazing and an enjoyable experience but he is quite modest and you can meet his modesty at his booth during the Japan Brewers Cup for 2018.  We can’t wait to see Tomas again and drink his beers at the Japan Brewers Cup as well as return to Ebina Beer again in the future.

“I could continue my music till retirement, but my next hobby was brewing; actually home brewing was what I did in Prague.  Everybody loved my beers and I enjoyed brewing just when I had time for fun.  At some point in my life, about two years ago, I decided to end my music career and start brewing as my profession and own a business.  I thought I wanted to try it now, because I have only one life, and if I continue music, I’ll not have a chance to build and start a brewery when I get too old.  So we decided to move to Japan, because my wife is Japanese and also our kids love Japan.  To build a brewery we needed a lot of time and money, but with my wife, after over a year of hard work, we finally succeeded.  We decided Ebina in Kanagawa, because it was my wife’s home town.  We opened our restaurant in February and started brewing in July 2017.

Czech people are number one in the world in beer consumption, but as far I see Japanese people love beer too.  We are happy to offer to our customers Czech style lager beers as well as other kinds.”

-Tomas

Interview

Taihei: What was the reason that you started home brewing?

Tomas: I like beer as many Czech people do.  I was fascinated about how such delicious liquid is made, so I started to find it out.  Than it was just the next step to try to brew my own beer.  It was always fun for me to brew beer and then fun to drink it with my family and friends.  So let’s say it’s “double the fun” 😉

Taihei: By chance, do you come from a long line of brewers in your family, or are you the first?

Tomas: I don’t come from a brewer’s family.  My father was classical musician.  I love music since I was a little kid, so I became musician too.  My grandfather was doing home spirits, distilling plums etc.  But I prefer beer over spirits.

Taiehi: Seeing two tubas in your logo leads us to wonder if anything else in your logo has a special meaning that you’d like to point out?

Tomas: Actually to place the tuba on our logo was my wife’s idea.  Now when I look at it, I’m glad she had that idea.  The other things on logo are connected with beer, malt and hop.

Taihei: Was transitioning from home brewing to commercial brewing like learning a new instrument?  Would you compare it to moving from the tuba to the trumpet, or to guitar?

Tomas: Yes, I would say your imagination is right.  I had to learn how to handle new instruments.  To brew at home in pots and buckets and then change to commercial brewery is a big change; you have to learn new instruments.  I would say like to change from tuba to guitar, as there is not much common.

Taihei: How much beer can fit into a tuba by any chance?

Tomas: That’s a good question 🙂 I have to try it someday.  I would say probably about 10 or 15 liters.  I’ll try that next time 😉

Taihei: For our newbie craft head readers, what type of hops and malt go into a traditional Czech style lager?

Tomas: Traditional Czech style lager is made simply from pilsner malt (no need to add any other kinds) and Czech hops, mainly Saaz.

Taihei: Do you make traditional Czech lagers or do you put your own spin on it?

Tomas: I love traditional Czech lagers, because I grew up on them 😉 But sure I like to experiment and do my own style, so you can find both types in my portfolio: traditional Czech lagers and my own original recipes as Ebina Lager.

Taihei: What is your impression of Czech style beers made by Japanese craft brewers?

Tomas: There are just a few good Czech style beers brewed by Japanese craft brewers.  I feel that the brewers here in Japan are a bit afraid to brew lagers as it is a little more difficult from ale types.  Also it’s probably question of money and logistics, because good Czech style lager needs two times more time for the brewing process and lagering than ale type beers.

Taihei: What is your main line up in your taproom?

Tomas: Of course Lagers 😉  But as I said before, I like to experiment and I like other beer kinds too.  So you can find many other beer kinds next to my lagers too.

Taihei: Since you mentioned contributing to the Star Wars score, tell us which Star Wars movie is your favorite?

Tomas: Well, I shouldn’t probably say it here, because if Mr. George Lucas will read it, he might get upset with me :))  Although I recorded the music for Star Wars, and I really love that music, John Williams is such a great composer, but I haven’t seen any of Star Wars.

Taihei: Now Tomas, pretend you’re Emperor Palpatine!  There can be only one style of beer to bring Order to your Galactic Empire, what style is The Chosen One?  Which style would push into the lava?

Tomas: If I should choose just one beer style, I will definitely stay with Czech lagers.  I guess you expected such answer, right?

Taihei: Your line-up leans more to lagers & pilsners than ales. What was your experience like in controlling fermentation temperatures with lagers & pilsners when moving from homebrewing into commercial brewing?

Tomas: I would say that commercial brewing is easier in this issue.  Because on professional equipment you can easily set your desired temperatures in tanks while fermenting and then easily change it for the lagering period.  In homebrewing it’s more difficult as you don’t have such technology at home.

Taihei: Any tips for homebrewers who want to improve their techniques, especially with lagers?

Tomas: Don’t be afraid to try it 😉  The important thing you need is a refrigerator where you can set your temperature; if you got that, than you can start to brew lagers.

Taihei: Your video of Angry Tom ale was very dramatic on Facebook, what’s the back story of this ale?

Tomas: I’m not sure about which video are you talking about.  But the interesting thing is the name of that Chili Ale. When my wife first tasted it, she said it’s so hot that you must have been angry brewing that.  So she named it Angry Tom.

Taihei: When you and your buddy Jiri Kotynek from Nihonkai Club get together, who drinks who under the table?

Tomas: Kotas [Kochas], that’s how everyone calls him, is very strong for alcohol, so usually I end up under the table a little earlier.  But once we got too drunk together, than we decided to ride a bicycle, both on one.  Till that time we didn’t know that bicycle can ride just on rear wheel :))  It’s always fun with Kotas 🙂

Taihei: Looking back since you started Ebina Beer, what would you have done differently?

Tomas: I think I am really happy with what I built.  Of course, money question, if we could find more funds, then I would like to start with a bottling machine too.  I hope it’s the question of near future, when we could start offering Ebina Beer in bottles too.

Taihei: You claim the Czech people are the number one drinkers in the world. Please tell us then, how fast can you and Jiri Kotynek drink 10 liters?

Tomas: If we were thirsty, in hot summer, then 10 litres would not take much time for both of us, maybe 2~3 hours?  Let’s say 10 litres would be a good start but not enough for a drinking night 😉

Taihei: Where can we find your beers, in the Tokyo area, and elsewhere?

Tomas: You can find Ebina Beer in Tokyo craft beer bars for example Good Beer Faucets, Wurst Haus, and Vector Beer.  We can also be found in some other bars in and outside Tokyo, Machida, Kamakura, Osaka, and Kanazawa…  We just started recently to sell our beer to other restaurants and bars, so the number of places where you can find our beer is growing.

Talking with Tomas, the Lager King of Kanagawa

Where to Buy Ebina Beer

EBINA BEER

TOKYO (EAST)

TOKYO (SOUTH)

TOKYO (WEST)

Purchasing Information

Brewery Ebina Beer
Contact Fumika Hirai
E-mail ebinabeer246@gmail.com
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/EBINA-BEER-255526481543322/

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