A particular kind of thrill-seeking kid will find catharsis for their adolescent angst in the opening notes of Metallica’s 1984 album Ride the Lightning. Koichi Katsuki found the rest of his life.
Like many other teenagers in the 1980s, Koichi got into heavy metal when his friends started passing around albums emblazoned with images of skeletons, spikes, leather, and mullets. In Japan, where Koichi grew up, you could rent records from local shops for 200 or 300 yen a piece—a tenth the cost of buying your own copies. While the forlorn ballads of Yosui Inoue and the jazzy yacht rock of Akira Terao topped the Japanese charts, he’d whirl through Iron Maiden’s Killers and Judas Priest’s Screaming for Vengeance, then dig deeper in the bins for heavier riffs, deeper wails, and more epic stories of hell, monsters, and war.
“I need more, ah… intense,” Koichi recalled as I sat across from him at the bar of Thrash Zone, his brewery and bar in Yokohama, a bustling port city just south of Tokyo. “More faster, heavier. And then finally, I met Metallica.”
Koichi’s taste in music is echoed by his taste in beer. Thrash Zone’s slogan is everywhere: EXTREME BEER ONLY. The bar is tricky to f...