Let’s go to a “beer garden,” a popular summer spot!
During the summer only, restaurants are opened on the rooftops of commercial facilities in Japan that serve beer, known as “beer gardens.” The attraction of beer gardens is beer and food that is enjoyed in an open atmosphere. In the Odakyu Department Store in Shinjuku, three beer gardens, including “Genghis Khan Beer Terrace” on the 13th floor, have opened, and each one is filled daily with many customers. “Genghis Khan Beer Terrace” serves authentic Mongolian mutton and vegetable barbecue and all-you-can-drink Hokkaido beer. You can enjoy authentic Hokkaido gourmet inside Tokyo!
Moreover, beer gardens in large parks, such as the “Sapporo Odori Beer Garden” or the “Forest Beer Garden” in Meiji Jingu Gaien (The Outer Precinct) are larger in scale than those held on rooftops, creating an atmosphere like that of a beer festival. Non-alcoholic beers are also served for those who can’t drink alcohol. Experience the Japanese summer in beer gardens, which are a summer specialty!
Beers made mainly by Kirin, Asahi, Suntory, and Sapporo are available in restaurants, supermarkets, and convenience stores throughout Japan. Beers from these four companies are mainly served in beer gardens, and you can enjoy cold draft beers. If you visit Japan, why not compare different beers and find your favorite?
The best appetizer to enjoy with a cold draft beer is edamame. Since edamame is in season during early summer, that’s when it has a deep, rich flavor. Yakitori (chicken skewers) and kushikatsu (deep-fried kebabs) also are perfect with beer, stimulating your thirst.
Small, good local beer breweries throughout Japan
In addition to the abovementioned beer companies that do business nationwide, unique local breweries also produce beers throughout Japan. One of the pleasures of traveling is tasting beers that are only available in their local areas.
“Hitachino Nest Beer” is a local beer produced by the “Kiuchi Brewery,” a Japanese sake brewery in Ibaraki Prefecture that has produced many award-winning beers in world-class contests. Their high-quality beers are made using well water, which is used to make Japanese sake at the brewery, and they are made by producers who know everything about Japanese sake, taking advantage of the local climate and the flavor of top quality barley imported from the UK and Belgium.
The brewery runs a restaurant called “True Brew” in front of Mito Station that serves all types of Hitachino Nest Beer, which is available in more than 10 varieties.
Address:1257 Kounosu Naka-shi, Ibaraki
Access:Approx. five minutes on foot from JR Suigun Line Hitachi-Konosu Station
If you visit Mount Fuji, a tourist spot that represents Japan, it is recommended that you also visit the brewery that produces “Gotemba Kogen Beer.” “Gotemba Kogen Beer” is made using the mild underground water of Mount Fuji, and it comes in a lineup consisting of five standard beer types including pilsners, Schwarzbiers, and Weizens. The brewery uses a German production method to produce beers that suit the local climate of Gotemba.
At the local beer restaurant GRAND TABLE, you can order various kinds of dishes that go well with beer such as sausages and grilled foods, in addition to five different types of beer. Since there are also restaurants, hotels, hot springs, and sports facilities on the premises where the brewery is located, it is also possible to stay for an extended period of time and enjoy their beers each day.
Gotemba Kogen Beer
Address:719 Koyama, Gotemba, Shizuoka
Telephone:0550-87-5500 (for reservation)
Access:Get off at JR Gotemba Line Gotemba Station; approx. 25 minutes by shuttle bus.
Get off at JR Tokaido Line Mishima Station; approx. 40 minutes by shuttle bus.
A beer factory tour in which you can try freshly-made beer
Major Japanese beer manufacturers allow you to take a tour of their breweries. In the Asahi Beer’s Kanagawa Brewery, an English guide service is available and admission is free. Buildings and gardens designed by Japan’s leading architect, Tadao Ando, are also must-see sights.
The brewery tour takes approximately 90 minutes. You can smell the aroma of fermented barley and see the moment at which beer is made. It is also impressive to observe the various pieces of large, state-of-the-art equipment installed in the brewery moving quickly and precisely.
Of course, the finale of the tour is a tasting of freshly-made beer. In Asahi Beer factories, you can compare three types of “premium” beers that pursue body and sharpness in addition to “super dry,” with even more sharpness and a thicker head, and “dry black,” which inherits the flavor of dry beer. You may want to spend more than a half-day there to fully enjoy the spot, as there are also souvenir stores and high-end restaurants on the premises.
Asahi Breweries Kanagawa Brewery
Address:1223 Nuda, Minami Ashigara, Kanagawa
*Phone reservation required
Access:Approx. 20 minutes by bus from Odakyu Line Shinmatsuda Station
Beer breweries open for tours in Japan
Bottle openers – an essential souvenir for beer lovers
In addition to beers, it is also fun to find bottle openers that are unique to Japan. Each area sells unique bottle openers as souvenirs; stores around Izumo-taisha Grand Shrine sell bottle openers in the motif of a five-yen coin with a hole and stores in the Tohoku Area sell bottle openers in the motif of Kokeshi dolls, which are a specialty of the area. How about trying to find unique bottle openers at each area you visit?