Elegant, gleaming yet opaque, a bowl sits on a table, commanding attention. Its deep, shiny, onyx lustre and delicate nature belie its strength. The paper thin, permeable wood core has been hardened with layer upon layer of iro-urushi – a Japanese lacquer. Iro-urushi is a highly specialised craft, and a broad term for products made from the sap of the urushi tree. Poisonous in liquid form, artisans must be highly trained to work with such volatile material. The toxicity is removed when gentle heat is applied to the sap and it is left to dry. When the resin hardens, it adopts similar characteristics to plastic and becomes a durable, stable material to work with. Japanese artists have used this technique to create paintings, prints, statues, pottery, and crockery for thousands of years. In fact, the earliest record of lacquer use was in the Stone Age when people extracted urushi sap to mount weapon points on spears and arrowheads. The familiar yet mysterious, shiny, jet-black lacquer is known as Shikkoku and was the inspiration behind Coedo Brewery’s black lager.
Scientist and craftsman Shigeharu “Haru” Asagiri redeveloped Coedo Brewery in 1996, moving the previous brewery to a new location in Kawagoe, a city known for its agricultural roots. Brew masters have access to natural mineral water and one hundred percent of brewer’s spent grains are reallocated to local farms as cattle feed. Haru’s creative thinking and focus on minimising Coedo’s environmental footprint has transformed the craft beer industry in Japan. Haru spent many years traveling the world to develop an understanding and appreciation of beer culture. Inspired by the incredible range of colours he saw in beer overseas, Haru was keen to share the diverse beauty of Japan’s culture through the beers of Coedo. Each of his products is named after a colour – from the light, golden hues of Marihani to the enchanting onyx of Shikkoku.
Coedo Shikkoku is a smooth, light, and balanced black lager with a roasted chocolate aroma and fading, light brown head. This dark, slow-aged brew pours easily to reveal roasted malt and hints of caramel which produce a slightly sweet and mellow flavour profile. Like the Shikkoku urushi, Coedo’s black lager is a product of careful, precise craftsmanship and a true talisman of Japanese culture.