Starting last year, with the addition of Craft Beer Market at Fuji Rock, bringing along 4 booths of the country’s top brewers and importers, (concurrently offering a total of around 20 different craft beers at one time) the standard for quality beer at the festival was substantially raised. This was great news for beer fans all throughout Naeba.
As we learned a few weeks ago, Craft Beer Market will be back again for Fuji Rock 2018! They’ll once again be joined by 4 booths of great brewers and importers. One of those importers, which you may remember from the fest last year, is AQ Bevolution. AQ has been embedded in the Japanese craft beer scene for over 6 years now, delivering the highest quality brews from both America and Europe to craft beer fans all over the country.
We got a chance to speak to Mr. AQ himself, Albert Kuwano, to chat about craft beer, Fuji Rock, music and more. Check out the interview below and don’t hesitate to stop by the AQ Bevolution booth located by the Orange Cafe to grab a brew and gab with the always friendly Albert or one of his awesome staff.
Q: While you are a familiar face to many fans of craft beer in Japan, for those who don’t know, who are you and what is AQ Bevolution?
Albert: In this context I’m a guy who truly loves craft beer and wants to spread the awesomeness of craft beer around this great country that has become my home. AQ Bev is the vehicle that has allowed me to do that, and has allowed me to work with my birth country and the many friends and family I still have there. AQ stands for craft beer brewed with integrity and served in proper condition.
Q: How many music or beer festivals does AQ participate in each year? Do you have some favorite events?
Albert: We try to do as many as we can, not only because I love music but because I think it’s important to attract new craft beer fans through pairing with other craft media and arts. We do lots of DJ and other small live events, but having live music at the ACBE is always a highlight for me.
Q: How did you first get introduced to the idea of setting up a booth at Fuji Rock?
Albert: We got involved through our good friends and craft beer industry associates, Craft Beer Market. They are also big into pairing craft beer and music, and are the people behind the Craft Rock fests as well. Craft Rock will be in Kichijoji later this year.
Q: Where can we find you at the fest this year?
Albert: We will be out in the Orange Cafe area again this year. It’s a bit of a hoof, but totally worth it to make the trek. Please come and visit us for great craft beer and a chill atmosphere!
Q: What brews will be on offer?
Albert: We will be featuring Knee Deep beers this year. All you hopheads out there, we’ve got you covered! We will have new and limited beers along with Knee Deep hoppy stand bys. Should be awesome paired with rock and mountain air!
Q: What are the challenges of offering high quality craft beer at a remote location like Naeba?
Albert: Just hauling it in and out of there. Fuji Rock is a huge fest so we have to work within the system to get in and out. It’s really no issue, though, we’re used to it!
Q: This will be your 2nd time at the festival, anything you learned from last year that you’ll do differently this year?
Albert: We definitely wanted to focus on one brewery to make it simpler for the drinkers to choose. Lots of folks who are new to craft beer come to Fuji Rock. Kick ass IPAs are a great way to get introduced to craft beer!
Q: What do you think of the craft beer scene in Japan?
Albert: I think it’s great! Lots of enthusiastic drinkers, and people really care about what they’re tasting. That’s all you can ask for when you take the time to serve good beer. It’s nice to serve it to people who appreciate it.
The scene has grown quite a bit in the last few years, and a lot of new breweries are opening in Tokyo and across the country too. It’s a good time for craft beer, but we hope that everybody keeps the quality up so we can all continue to grow the market together.
Q: Do you think there is untapped potential for live music/craft beer events in Japan? Do you see plenty of crossover of fans supporting both scenes?
Albert: Yeah, absolutely I do. As I said before I think it’s great to pair like minded craft scenes with each other. To me, great music and great beer go hand-in-hand. There are already some pretty cool events in Kansai, Fuji Rock in Niigata, Craft Rock in Tokyo, Snow Monkey in Nagano, Rainbow Disco in Aichi, the list goes on. But, there is always room for more cool events like those!
Q: Were you a big music fan growing up? Did you attend many concerts or festivals?
Albert: Absolutely! Music was a huge part of my youth, and we went to concerts and music festivals all the time. Summer was often about going to outdoor rock fests. Day on the Green in the Bay Area! My first official concert was Van Halen at the Marin Ciivic Center in 1977. I was in 7th grade.
Q: Who are some of your favorite bands or artists?
Albert: Van Halen was the first band I considered my own. AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pretenders in HS, REM, Smiths, Talking Heads in college, Tom Waits, Jazz, Jack White in more recent years.
Q: Will you have some time to explore Fuji Rock? What are you looking forward to at this year’s fest?
Albert: Last year I really enjoyed Yuki (former Judy and Mary) and Jet (old school). I won’t have much time to explore this year, but Johnny Marr and Fishbone I would love to see!
Q: Any parting message for the readers?
Albert: Yeah. Rock on and drink on! Craft with integrity in beer and music both. Cheers!