Microbreweries in Japan
Added In: Eating & Drinking › Drinking › Other
by Sally Griffiths
Japan came late to microbrewing. Although there have been commercial breweries in operation since the 1870s, it wasn't until a law change in 1994 that microbreweries were able to develop. This young industry still only has a small market share – about half of one percent – but the stiff competition for profits is good news for beer drinkers, as only the best can survive. And although many of Japan's two hundred and eighty microbrewers are located in more touristy areas, Nagoya residents don't have to go far to sample some of the best.
At the Land Beer Circus in Fushimi the award winning Kinshachi Beer is on tap. The name, of course, comes from the golden dolphins that protect Nagoya Castle and which have become a symbol of the city. There are six types of Kinshachi beer, the most distinctive being the miso beers. Their Aka Miso Lager is made with red miso but the stand out in this collection is without a doubt the Okazaki Haccho Miso Lager. This locally and traditionally made miso is dark, rich, a little sweet and nutty, and the lager picks up on these characteristics without being reduced to a novelty beer. The Land Beer Circus serves a variety of typical Japanese pub food and western standards to accompany your drinks, but for the full Nagoya experience, you can't go past the Okazaki Haccho Miso Fondue.
Lovers of good food as well as good beer should also not miss the Moku Moku farm's Sakae restaurant, Kaze no Budouji. Everything there is made from scratch on their farm in Mie Prefecture, including their excellent beer. At the restaurant, most of their beer is sold by the bottle, and on tap is Haru Urara, winner of a gold prize in the World Beer Cup in 2006. Its simple, clear and refreshing flavour has a wonderfully subtle twist at the end, the final taste reminding me of honey, or perhaps caramel. Moku Moku is part of the slow food movement, and after an afternoon spent in their restaurant I can assure you that you'll feel the truth of the saying 'good things come to those who wait'.
Anjo is an unassuming town on the outskirts of Nagoya's sprawling industrial suburbs that in the 1880s became a highly productive farming region, prompting comparisons to Denmark.Hence, then, the Denmark-themed parklands of DenPark. DenPark also produces three beers under the label of DenBeer, available on tap at the Holde Fest Pub. Little Mermaid is a light and fruity weizen, but its pleasant taste doesn't linger. Black Hoe is a bottom brewed dark roasted wheat beer, a little stronger in alcohol than the others at 6%, and with a distinctive taste. The King's Ale finishes off the selection – a full bodied, hoppsy and bitter ale with a lingering finish. Holde Fest also serves meals.
Further afield from Nagoya in Inyuama is Loreley Beer. Loreley produces three beers – a nice and hoppsy Pilsner, a smooth and very fruity Weizen and a seasonal beer. They have a very popular buffet lunch for 1500 yen, and for another 1500 yen you can enjoy all you can drink of their beer for an hour.
The London Pub Towser is a small pub tucked off the main street in Tsurumai. It has a lovely interior, very tasty food and, most importantly, a wide range of beer. As well as serving international standards like Bass and Guinness on tap, Towser has a rotating bill of 'special guest' beers, usually from Japanese microbreweries. The time I visited, I tried a gorgeous, smoky porter from Ise's Kadoya Brewery, a smooth and extremely creamy real ale from Yona Yona in Nagano and a surprisingly fruity dark larger from Fuji beer.
The Sapporo Beer Garden is not, strictly speaking, a microbrewery, but they do make their own beer on the premises. The Sapporo Beer on tap is complemented by the house's Pilsner, Weizen and Ale. On the ground floor is a cavernous room is set up with Korean barbeque tables for their specialty of all you can eat yakiniku. A set including all you can drink for 2 hours costs from 4000 yen (house beers attract a surcharge).
Finally, if too much beer is never enough, it might be worth making a visit to Osaka on May 31st or June 1st for the microbrewery festival, organised by the Japan Craft Beer Association. Entrance is 4000 yen on the day (3500 yen if you preorder your tickets) and includes as many tastings as your palate can handle.
Access and Contact Details
Kinshachi Beer (Nagoya) (052-223-9191) Land Beer Circus. Lunch 11:30 am-2 pm (Monday-Friday); Dinner 5 pm-10:30 pm. Closed Sundays and public holidays. From Fushimi subway exit seven, go straight and then turn left at the second lights. Land Beer Circus is on the left hand side of the street, opposite the Hilton. The entrance is on the first street on your left. http://www.kinshachi.jp/ (Japanese)
Moku Moku Beer (Nagoya) (052-241-0909) Kaze no Budouji Restaurant. Buffet Lunch 11 am-4 pm (1800 yen); buffet dinner 5 pm -11 pm (2300 yen). Discounted rates for children and senior citizens. From Sakae subway station go out exit 16. Kaze no Budouji is on the seventh floor of the La Chic building, about one minute's walk. The restaurant is extremely popular and waiting times can easily be well over an hour on weekends – you are advised to go early! Internet sales of their beer and information on visiting the farm, where you can do a brewery tour, can be found at http://www.moku-moku.com/ (Japanese)
Anjo DenBeer (Anjo) (0566-92-7755) Pub House Holde Fest 11 am-9 pm, closed Tuesdays. From the JR Anjo Station (460 yen from Nagoya) take a bus from the number 4 bus stand (south exit). The ride to DenPark costs 100 yen and takes around 25 minutes. Entrance to DenPark is 600 yen (children 300 yen). If you're only there for the beer, there's no need to pay the DenPark entrance fee – you are able to go to Holde Fast through the East entrance for free. http://www.kurokuwa-beer.com/ (Japanese)
Loreley Beer (Inuyama) 0568-67-0033. 11 am - 3 pm and 5 pm – 10 pm daily. Catch the Meitetsu Komaki Line from Inuyama to Haguno (180 yen). Turn right at the first traffic light after you cross the river; it's about a ten minute walk. http://www.loreleybeer.co.jp/ (Japanese); English information at http://www.englishtreejapan.com/business_portal/mini_home_page/loreley.htm
The London Pub Towser (Nagoya). 052-242-8848. Open 6pm-3am daily. From the Tsurumai subway station, go out Exit 1. Go straight, and then take the first left, then the first right. No website, but http://r.gnavi.co.jp/n187600/ has more information (Japanese).
Sapporo Beer Garden Kouyouen (Nagoya) 052-741-0211. 11:30 am – 10 pm daily. From Tsurumai station (subway or JR) head towards the Aeon shopping centre. Koyouen is just past it, on the left hand side of the road. English information at http://r.gnavi.co.jp/fl/en/n013600/coupon.htm website at http://www.kouyouen.jp/ (Japanese)
Microbrewery festival Osaka, also in Tokyo and Yokohama. http://www.beertaster.org/index-e.html (English)