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Where In Town: Toki Underground, 1234 H St. NE
Price: $8/330 ml
Fermenting Revolution: Why did good beer take so long to arrive in Japan, birthplace of the VHS tape and exporter of high-tech toilets to Myanmar? Answer: The long, flavor-hating arm of the law. Even though the Japanese have consumed more beer than sake for decades, the government until 1994 permitted only breweries of sumo-like proportions (and, therefore, mostly watery lagers with all the might of Hello Kitty). Deregulation transformed the country into the Land of the Rising Suds, with more than 200 microbreweries. Where to try the stuff without help from All Nippon Airways? Hop on the bullet train (OK, Metrobus) and slurp some ramen on H Street alongside a bottle from Echigo Beer, the first Japanese microbrewery to open post-prohibition.
American Preoccupation: Echigo blends German brewing traditions—the first to take hold in Japan, in the late 19th century—with U.S.-style innovation. That’s especially apparent in its Premium Red Ale, made with citrusy Amarillo hops, an American variety. A fruity, cotton-candy aroma wafts from the ruby-colored liquid, which is malty and drinkable with almost no bitterness. It doesn’t compare to a good Scotch ale, but it might make you say sayonara to the last samurai—Kirin, Sapporo, and other old-guard sake bomb favorites—and become a fan of premium biru.