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The Local Brew

By Bryan Harrell

Shonan Beer


The name Shonan is synonymous with water sports on its famous long beaches, from surfing to swimming to windsurfing to yachting. A little more than an hour from Tokyo, the beaches of Shonan stretch from Kamakura to Odawara, and in summer the traffic on the coastal highway can be as unbearable as the stifling humidity.

After a day in the ocean, or perhaps on land at one of several golf courses in the area, nothing can beat a refreshing glass of beer, particularly if it is brewed by Kumazawa Shuzo, an old-line sake brewery that began making beer just 10 years ago.

At their disposal is the Kumazawa Shuzo well, which draws water from an aquifer that comes from the Tanzawa mountain range to the north. It is said the water takes about 70 years to trickle from the mountains through the rocky aquifer to the well, resulting in water ideal for brewing sake. Imagine what it does for beer.

The beers are collectively branded as Shonan Beer, after the name of the region, and they started winning awards in Japan and overseas practically from the beginning. Granted, most Shonan varieties are a touch staid, but the philosophy at this brewery is to make a solid product that whispers convincingly rather than loudly draw attention to itself.

This philosophy has paid off in a rather distinguished line of beers, with regular products such as Bitter, Ruby and Liebe (pale, amber and dark) joined by seasonal beers often a bit more daring. When paired with the superb wood-oven pizzas and other well-crafted dishes at Trattoria Mokichi in the Shonan Beer complex, the result is sublime.

An excellent time to pay a visit is on the Oct. 14-15 weekend, when Shonan Beer will be celebrating its 10th anniversary with an Oktoberfest that promises to be even better than those in years past. It runs from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. (last entry 7 p.m.) on both days, and all you can eat and drink for two hours is only ¥3,500. And, you get to keep the beer glass. Of course, discounts are offered for children on the assumption they won’t be drinking beer.

From Tokyo, take the Tokaido Line past Yokohama to Chigasaki, then change to the Shonan Line and go two stops to Kagawa Station. From western Tokyo, an easier way is to take the Odakyu Line to Ebina, then change to the Shonan Line heading to Chigasaki, and get off at Kagawa Station. It’s a pleasant 10-minute walk to the brewery. Check the Web site for a detailed map.

Shonan Beer:
Trattoria Mokichi , 7-10-7 Kagawa, Chigasaki-shi, Kanagawa-ken

Phone: (0467) 52-6111

Web: www.kumazawa.jp

Getting There: A seven-minute walk from Kagawa Station, on the JR Sagami Line, two stops from Chigasaki (Tokaido Line) and six stops from Ebina (Odakyu Line).