The Local BrewBy Bryan Harrell
Gunma seems to be a prefecture of surprises. Hardly the most famous of tourist destinations, it pretty much resigns itself to be part of the northern Kanto patchwork that includes Tochigi and Ibaraki, not exactly famous themselves.
Higher population density makes them less pristine than prefectures farther north in Tohoku, but collectively these three prefectures are home to 17 small craft breweries, giving them a beauty all their own for the beer lover.
One of them is Donryu Dream, in Ota City, a short walk from the train station. Not exactly famous in Tokyo’s craft beer hotspots, but brewers of beer that is good, solid and—well—quite drinkable for the locals, thank you very much. Don’t expect any hop bombs or high alcohol; this is honest beer for those whose only alternative is Super Dry, Guinness or the stray bottle of Chimay.
Founded as a brewery in July of 1997, it is essentially a wedding hall operation, so phone ahead on weekends to make sure the whole joint isn’t booked. The interior is clean, pleasant and surprisingly stylish. The menu has something for everyone, but mainly centers on gourmet sausages, pizza from a large stone oven, salads and pasta dishes.
The regular beers are a German-style weizen wheat beer (5%), brisk and refreshing and somewhat cloudy with yeast, and an English-style pale ale (5%), light amber in color with a bit of fruitiness. Plus, there are two seasonal beers, either an English-style red ale (5 percent) or a German-style bock beer (about 7%) with a rich, malty flavor.
In celebration of their 10-year anniversary, they are also serving a limited edition Belgian-style ale. All are available in various sizes, with the large 500-ml. mug going for ¥710, and the 1.5-ml. pitcher at ¥1,760 – certainly low prices by Tokyo standards. Bottles for take-home or home delivery are also available near the cash register.
Donryu Dream Beer
895 Iida-cho, Ota City, Gunma Prefecture 373-0851
Tel: (0276) 47-1222
Fax: (0276) 48-8311