The Monocle Minute

The week ahead, opportunities and observations
Saturday 7 April 2018

F&B

Image: Getty Images

Strange brew

Japan is relaxing its definition of beer, allowing all manner of weird and wonderful concoctions to flood the market.

Is a lager with lemon peel still beer? The Japanese government didn’t think so – until this month. Japan’s new definition of beer is its first change in 110 years and is part of an alcohol-tax overhaul that the country is rolling out through 2026. Previously, beer had to be made from water and hops and contain a malt content of at least 67 per cent. Rice, wheat, corn, sorghum and sugar were​ also​ allowed but anything that didn’t comply was deemed quasi-beer, or happoshu. Now the rules say that the malt content can be​ as low as 50 per cent and myriad extras can be added: the usual suspects fruit, spices, herbs, flowers and coffee but also soba, miso, oysters, seaweed and cured fish. Hopeful that the changes will revive more than a decade of slumping sales, the big three beverage makers – Asahi, Kirin and Suntory – are planning to release beers with lemongrass and cassis while small, Nagano-based brand Yo-Ho has begun selling an umami ale made with bonito flakes.

Photography

Read your palm

A new photography book from British website-turned-publisher Palm Studios has us short on words but longing to see more.

If a picture says a thousand words then the nether regions of your Saturday bulletin may seem an odd spot from which to tackle a review of London-based Palm Studios’ sumptuous new book. But here goes. The online photography platform has given tactile form to the work of four shutterbugs from Poland, the US, Italy and Australia and offered a wonderfully simple brief: the relationship of each with their environment and surroundings. The result? The aptly named Palm Book, an arresting-in-the-extreme flick-through that races from Brian Kanagaki’s series on turned backs to Jacob Lillis’s leafy backyards and Pani Paul’s summery swimmers. The selection, made by Palm founder Lola Paprocka, is lush, lively and inimitably analogue. And for the thousands of words each image ably conveys? Well you’ll have to nab a copy and see for yourself.

Urbanism

Flower power

A novel effort to spruce up Brussels is a blooming success.

One man’s green revolution is gathering steam. Brussels-based Anton Schuurmans, who moved to the Belgian capital from Holland seven years ago, has been quietly protesting the poor conditions of the city’s streets by planting flowers in potholes. Instead of ignoring the problem that’s been bothering pedestrians, cyclists and drivers for years, Schuurmans decided to take matters into his own hands, with some help from his green thumb. Colourful spring flowers have been popping up all around the city and they’re having a positive effect. Not only are they bringing some (temporary) greenery to the city centre, it seems they’ve also finally begun to shame the council into getting its act together – so far at least one pothole has been repaired.

Diplomacy

Image: Courtesy of Tate

From the art

Brazil’s soft-power play during the Second World War is a work of art.

Back in 1944, a group of Brazilian artists donated 168 works of art to Britain in a bid to raise funds for the British Army during the Second World War (Brazil being the only South American nation to fight with the Allies). Among the artists who gifted their work were the highly influential Candido Portinari, Di Cavalcanti and Roberto Burle-Marx. Nearly 75 years later, curator and diplomat Hayle Gadelha decided to delve into this little-known slice of history; the result is an exhibition at the Brazilian Embassy in London called “The Art of Diplomacy”, featuring 24 of those works. Gadelha tells the Minute that the original motivation behind the artists’ donation was to change the way that Brazil was viewed “from the diplomatic perspective”. He explains: “We wanted to show that we had credentials to play a bigger role on the world stage.”

From Monocle 24

Venetian secrets

The Menu

Skye McAlpine, author of A Table in Venice on the dishes and drinks Venetians would rather keep for themselves.

From Monocle Films

Designing the news

How do you unpack stories in the most engaging way while building a credible and comprehensive brand? Monocle Films showcases best design for paper and screen too.

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