The Local BrewBy Bryan Harrell
Nagano's Ski Paradise Brew
Shiga Kogen is widely considered one of the best ski resorts in Japan. It is certainly the largest, with more than 20 ski fields linked by a lift system that can be used with a single lift pass. Shiga Kogen lies along the northeastern edge of Nagano Prefecture, just 250 kilometers from Tokyo; so it only takes about two and a half hours to get from Tokyo to the slopes.
Great skiing, but how’s the beer? In a word, terrific. Shiga Kogen Beer is brewed by an old-line saké brewer, Tamamura Honten, who established the brand just four years ago. Since they have been producing saké since 1805, it’s safe to say they know a thing or two about fermentation.
In fact, these guys are hard-core; they already have a producing hop field, with raw hops used in season for their DPA (draft pale ale), a powerfully refreshing strong beer brewed with the famous Maris Otter malt from England. This one is only available on draft, and clocks in at a sane 5.5% alcohol.
Other Shiga Kogen beers are no less remarkable. Miyama Blonde is a 7% Belgian-style Saison beer, the Pale Ale a hoppy and quenching 5.5% refresher, the IPA a rich 6% hoppy ale, the Porter a dark and roasty 5.5% fireside companion, and the House IPA an 8% hop monster.
Their newest addition is a light, brisk Wheat Ale released at the end of August. Quality is remarkably consistent throughout the line, and I seem to like all of them equally.
Shiga Kogen Beer is served at a number of the ski resorts in Shiga Kogen, and the higher alcohol varieties are just the thing to take off the chill when you come off the slopes.
Shiga Kogen Beer does not have a restaurant or taproom, although tours of their facilities are available by special request.
Shiga Kogen Beer
Tamamura Honten, Nagano
www.tamamura-honten.co.jp (Japanese only)
Tel. (0269) 33-2155