Omnipollo in Tokyo
At Maction Planet we are big fans of drinking local wherever we are in the world. Naturally, the vast majority of our Tokyo Craft Beer Tours, and our beer stops on our other itineraries, focus primarily on the great beverages coming out of Japan’s innovative breweries.
However, once in awhile an international beer event comes along which is so cool we cannot ignore it. We flag these to our guests, and love it when they get as excited as we are. In some cases these international beers may not be available in their home country, or the event itself may just be too damned cool to ignore. Last night’s Omnipollo Japan launch party was one such example, held at hacocoro’s Bathroom space in Ikebukuro.
Omnipollo was founded in 2011 by home-brewer-turned-pro Henok Fentie, and designer and Cheap Monday co-founder Karl Grandin. Just the name speaks unbridled cool – Omnipollo being a portmanteau of Omnipotent and Pollo (Spanish/Italian for chicken). Henok and Karl have together achieved something unique, mixing high-concept innovation with haute design, to create a splash in what is now a very crowded international craft beer scene. Each of them individually has complete control over their respective domains. Flaunting conventional brand-building strategies, none of their beers has their logo on it. Instead, each bottle stands alone, showcasing one of Karl’s unique, sometimes controversial, designs. This bold behaviour is essential if they are going to hit their goal, “to change the perception of beer – forever”. Some would argue they have already achieved it.
Omnipollo are a “gypsy brewer” – brewing their beers at the facilities of partners around the world. This business model is shared by some of the world’s most innovative beer brands, such as Mikkeller, Evil Twin and Pretty Things. It has allowed for the development of some of the most inventive recipes in contemporary brewing.
Henok’s recipes are quite something, as are the stories behind them. Buxton Brewery in the UK was founded in 2009. In 2013, Siren Craft Brew, another UK brewery, initiated the Rainbow Challenge – seven of the most innovative breweries in the UK were invited to participate, assigned a colour, and asked to brew an IPA based loosely on that colour. A year later the challenge expanded. This time, each UK brewery was paired with a European counterpart (plus aforementioned Evil Twin, headquartered in New York) and a colour. You guessed it, Buxton got assigned Omnipollo and, for the second year in a row, yellow.
Brainstorming around what yellow ‘meant’ to them, the brewers landed on yellow’s associations as the colour of cowardice. This dovetailed appropriately with the current political climate and the rising nationalism that was sweeping across Europe. One behavioural trait of right-wing voters that struck Henok is that, when asked during exit polls or voting surveys, they are a lot less likely to admit that they had voted fascist than liberals or centrists, who will reveal which parties they supported. Acting in a way that suppresses people’s freedom without showing your face – this was the cowardice they were commenting on.
All this led to the creation of ‘Yellow Belly’, arguably Omnipollo’s most famous beer. An 11% imperial stout beer that tastes exactly like Peanut Butter and Biscuit, WITHOUT using biscuits, peanuts, or butter. But it was not just the beer itself that grabbed attention. They dressed the bottle in white, with two holes staring out at you – the Ku Klux Klansman’s hood, the most hateful, cowardly, anonymous costume they could think of. “Taste, enjoy and don’t be prejudiced.” is the beer’s tagline. We couldn’t agree more.
One of the most popular beers last night was ‘Yellow Belly Sundae’, a variant of the Omnipollo x Buxton collaboration. Fresh Bourbon Barrels are filled with ‘standard’ Yellow Belly. To this, vanilla pods and cocoa nibs are added. The concoction is then aged for at least 9 months. The result is absolutely spectacular!
Talking to guests at the event, many of them familiar faces in Tokyo’s beer scene, it seemed many were gravitating towards the sweeter offerings – Lemon Meringue Ice Cream Pie, Bianca Mango Lassi Gose, Noa Pecan Mud Cake Imperial Stout, Texas Pecan Ice Cream Porter, Rocky Road Ice Cream Porter and Hypnopompa, a bourbon barrel-aged stout infused with marshmallow and vanilla beans. Altogether, 17 different Omnipollo beers were available over the course of the evening. In keeping with the tone of the event, delicious Swedish Meat Pies and Meatballs were served, an appropriate complement to the amazing beverages on offer.
If 5 hours was not enough for you, the event even had its own official afterparty at Titans Craft Beer Taproom & Bottle Shop in Otsuka, where 5 of Omnipollo’s beverages could be sampled alongside the excellent rotating selection of primarily North American Beers.
Beer lovers in The World’s Greatest Metropolis have AQ Bevolution to thank for bringing Omnipollo to Tokyo. Albert Kuwano Bakonivar and his team have been changing Tokyo’s craft beer scene since 2012, bringing European and American beer brands to a welcoming Japanese public. We would like to thank them for their incredible hospitality.
A truly great evening for beer lovers in Tokyo, and beyond. Let the Bevolution continue!