The Local BrewBy Bryan Harrell
Gotemba Kogen Beer
There is a good chance you’ve already had Gotemba Kogen Beer, but you may not have known it at the time. One of Japan’s largest “small” breweries, Gotemba Kogen Beer is an enterprise of Yonekyu, one of Japan’s largest producers of sausages, hams and other meat products.
Within the group’s businesses is the Chimney chain of yakitori restaurants where several varieties of their beer are offered as ji-biiru, or “craft beer.”
The beers themselves are largely German styles – pilsner, helles, weizen and swartzbier – and very well brewed, though not as unusual as the ales commonly found at other local breweries. As such, Gotemba Kogen Beer has more universal appeal, and this is one strong reason for its outstanding success in Japan’s crowded beer market.
One of the best ways to enjoy Gotemba Kogen Beer is to visit what can best be described as the beer amusement park in Gotemba itself. This remarkable complex features several restaurants, a handful of interesting stores selling cheese, prepared meat products and food items from all over Japan, along with a number from overseas.
This beer-and-food paradise is conveniently adjacent to hotels, rental cottages and a golf course – nestled amidst the clean mountain air at the base of Mt. Fuji.
The best advice here is to go shopping after you’ve enjoyed a meal in one of the restaurants; otherwise you’re likely to end up with an unmanageable amount of luggage on your return trip.
The largest restaurant is Mugibatake, with literally something for everyone. Meals here are all-you-can-eat-and-drink. Serving is buffet style, with a number of stations offering all manner of Asian and Western foods, along with several salad bars. My favorite was the one serving cubes of freshly grilled steak. Sometimes the lines are long, but they move quickly.
The real reason to be here, though, is the never-ending supply of help-yourself beer from these totally cool beer dispensers that do the seemingly simple but maddeningly difficult job (unless you’re a pro) of drawing a glass of beer with the proper amount of foam.
Just put your glass under the tap of your choice, press the button, and a tube descends to fill your glass, rising with perfect timing to leave two or three “fingers” of foam at the top of the glass.
Which beer to have? My favorite GKB offering is their weizen, a spicy German ale with a cloudy appearance and an aroma redolent of cloves and bananas, with a close second being their dark and roasty tasting swartzbier. But give them all a try; finding your favorite will be a whole lot of fun.
The best time to visit is during their annual Oktoberfest celebration that, in the true German manner, begins in September, from the 16th, and it runs to the 24th. Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and noon to 9 p.m. on the weekend. A total of 10 GKB brews will be served: Pilsner, Weizen, Weizen Bock, Märzen, Dunkel, Swartzbier and four others to be announced.
Live music will be provided by a German band, and other activities will round out the festivities.
Gotemba Kogen Beer at Gotemba Kogen Resort
719 Koyama, Gotemba-shi, Shizuoka 412-0033
Phone: (0550) 87-5500
Fax: (0550) 87-5224