Late to the international beer party, but rising quickly, the craft brews of Japan are suddenly worth serious thirst-quenching attention.

It's only been since 1994 that microbreweries have even been legal in Japan. While mega-labels Kirin and Sapporo have little to worry about in terms of market share, one can finally taste the creative possibilities when skilled Japanese brewers get creative with their native ingredients.

First came the exciting ginger and red rice brews of Belgian-inspired Hitachino Nest. Now we have Coedo, a relatively new brewery from Kawagoe, that gives its own twists to German styles, including a black beer (Shikkoku) and a hefeweizen (Shiro).

My favorite Coedo, though, tasted recently at Zama - perhaps the only place in Philly to taste it - was the Beniaka, a coppery lager brewed with baked Kintoki sweet potatoes. Unique to Coedo's region, the sweet potatoes lend the beer a reddish hue but also a roasty vegetal sweetness that, with a good fizz, stops well shy of cloying. It's a bit rich for sushi but ideal for Zama's cooked food, perfect for beer-braised short rib, miso-glazed cod, and tempura-fried halibut in spicy mayo.

- Craig LaBan

Coedo Beniaka, $12, Zama, 128 S. 19th St., 215-568-1027.