Local beers of the week: The Japanese Sleeper and Shogun, Late Start Brewing

A tag team of craft brews honors Tampa wrestling great
Published June 13

Hiro Matsuda was one of the early greats of professional wrestling, appearing both in Japan and stateside in the 1970s and ’80s. He went on to train some greats you may have heard of: Hulk Hogan, Lex Luger and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, among others.

Matsuda was posthumously inducted into WWE’s 2018 Hall of Fame class (he passed away in Tampa in 1999), and this June 15, he’ll be re-inducted into the hall of fame for Championship Wrestling from Florida, a promotion he once co-owned.

This is timed well, considering the publishing of Matsuda’s biography — The Hiro Matsuda Story: Samurai Spirit — this January by his daughter, Tampa resident Stephanie Kojima.

Kojima’s husband, John LoScalzo, is the head of LOKO Cuisine, a culinary event company that collaborates with local breweries such as Cigar City, 7venth Sun and Hidden Springs. On June 16, Father’s Day, LOKO Cuisine will host a brunch at Tampa’s Late Start Brewing, honoring Kojima’s father with two beers inspired by his legacy.

“We grew up watching wrestling,” said Jordan Copher, co-owner and brewer at Late Start. “Hiro was a bit before our time, but he did train the greats that I grew up watching. This is our way of collaborating with LOKO Cuisine in an effort to honor Hiro Matsuda and his family, his contributions and his legacy.”

RELATED: Learn more about Late Start Brewing.

The first beer: The Japanese Sleeper, is named after Matsuda’s famous sleeper hold. It’s a tart gose inspired by the Japanes condiment yuzu kosho (“but less salty,” according to LoScalzo). It’s flavored with Japanese hana flake salt, kumquat and yuzu, Santaka chili peppers and Sansho peppercorns (a tongue-numbing relative of the pungent Sichuan pepper).

The second beer is Shogun, referring to one of Matsuda’s nicknames. The idea, according to LoScalzo, was to produce a beer that’s “bold, just like (Matsuda’s) training style.”

To that end, Copher and company assembled a rich imperial stout with local espresso beans from Brown Bear Roasters, along with a touch of vanilla. Then, the beer rested on dried cherrywood that was soaked in Nikka Coffey grain whisky. Bold, indeed.

While the LOKO Cuisine Father’s Day brunch is already sold out, 500ml bottles of the Matsuda beers will be available to the public starting at 1 p.m. on June 16, priced at $15 apiece. These thoughtfully themed beers are an excellent tribute to Kojima’s father and a testament to some of the exciting work that comes from these types of collaborations.

They may not be Hiro Matsuda and Antonio Inoki, but the tag team of LOKO Cuisine and Late Start Brewing is in fine form.

Have a suggestion for the Local Craft Beer of the Week? Brewers, have a limited release coming that we should know about? Email jg@saintbeat.com.