It’s probably still cold as you read this, but spring is just around the corner. Here’s a suggestion for good beer in an expansive park-like setting, less than an hour from Tokyo.
Chateau Kamiya appears to have been hauled out of the French countryside and plopped down on the plains of Ibaraki, but it was actually built on the site in 1903. This architectural treasure is a landmark in the grand style, serving as the anchor to a complex containing four restaurants, a gift shop and a large wine cellar retailing vintages from Japan and around the world. Between these facilities are well-maintained park grounds ideal for a long, leisurely stroll.
The Chateau complex is home to Godo Shusei, producer of wine and spirits for more than a century. In 1996, they added a microbrewery to the site. They do “normal” beers particularly well, offering surprisingly flavorful lagers that are light, dry and clean-tasting enough for average drinkers. Of course they also brew darker and heavier beers for those who want more beer in their beer.
While their Chateau Kamiya beers are served in all their restaurants, the best place to enjoy them is the Terrasse d’oenon, a brewery restaurant next to the brewery itself. There are four brews regularly on tap: Helles (a German-style light lager), Pilsener (a classic lager), Dunkel (a dark lager) and a seasonal beer. Additionally, limited-edition beers are often available.
On the menu are delightfully upgraded versions of standard brewpub fare, such as potatoes with pancetta and rosemary, a pork cutlet stuffed with camembert cheese, roast pork stewed in craft beer with tomato sauce and spareribs simmered in red wine.
On a recent visit, I tried four beers, three of them limited-edition brews. The Plain Bitter (4.5%) was extremely light, but with strong bitterness and a quick, clean finish. The Helles (5%) was a bit heavier and more complex, but with a smooth, dry finish.
The Alt (4.5%) had a beautiful amber hue, with pleasing malt tanginess and a mild after-taste. The Christmas Bock (7%) was my favorite, with subdued bitterness, a roasty malt flavor, a fascinating smokiness in the background and a richness that lingered long on the palate.
It’s best to call Terrasse d’oenon ahead to confirm operating hours. Reservations are strongly recommended on weekends and holidays.
La Terrasse d’oenon
20-1, Chuo 3-chome
Tel: (029) 871-7022
Hours: Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. (last order 8:30)
Phone ahead to confirm hours and seating availability.
Getting There: Take the JR Joban Line to Ushiku Station (about 45 minutes from Ueno, \950). The Chateau Kamiya complex is about eight minutes from the East Exit of the station, with direction signs in Japanese.
Transportation guide: www.chateaukamiya.jp/kamiya/info.html
To purchase Chateau Kamiya beer for home delivery, go to