The lure of Mt. Fuji goes beyond its symbolic representation of Japan. While hiking to the top is one of the country’s most popular outdoor endeavors, even more people flock to the area at the base of this dormant volcano for practically everything from mountain biking to golf. Naturally, these activities work up an enormous collective thirst for a cold beer, so it’s not surprising there are three microbreweries around the base of Mt. Fuji.
The most charming and picturesque is the Fujizakura Kogen Brewery at restaurant Sylvans, with its spacious outdoor patio adjoining an English-style garden, overlooking an expansive green lawn.
The beer here is solidly in the German style. While there is an acceptable pilsner lager, the two other brews are excellent examples of those brewed in Germany. The Weizen is a zesty whitish-yellow ale, cloudy with yeast and topped by clouds of white foam, it is rich yet quenching, if a bit sweet to those who normally drink ice-cold lager.
In Germany, this beer is most popular in summer, and some prefer it with a wedge of lemon, perhaps to add a little tartness to counter the sweetness. Weizen is fermented with a particular variety of ale yeast that imparts a distinctive set of aromas—some people sense bananas, while others sense cloves.
Those with more adventurous palates will want to switch to the Rauchbier (smoked beer), a rare German style from the Franconia region. This is a clear, dark brown lager with a unique smoky aroma and flavor. A small portion of the barley malt used in the beer is smoked and, keeping true to the name of the brewery, the malt used in the Fujizakura Kogen version is smoked over cherry wood.
The resulting beer is world-class, if that can be said for a specialty beer from a small region of Germany. The rich layers of malt flavor are tempered with a subtle smokiness, allowing a free flow of comparisons with top-shelf single-malt whisky. While smoky-tasting Rauchbier may seem impossible to pair with food, enjoying it with smoked prepared meats such as ham or sausage results in a seamless marriage of flavors.
The selection of various types of pizza, sausage and potato dishes served at Sylvans will come as no surprise, but be prepared for a decided gourmet slant on those items, as well as the beautifully presented appetizers, salads, pastas, main dishes and risotto served out of a huge wheel of parmesan cheese.
Just as breathtaking are the reasonable prices for such a nice restaurant; pizzas, pastas and risottos average about ¥1,300, while main dishes are less than ¥2,000.
If the weather is good, make sure you get seated in the outdoor terrace. The clean mountain air and expansive views not only soothe the spirit after a day of outdoor activity, but they also make the food and beer taste even better.
Sylvans Restaurant / Fujizakura Kogen Beer
6663-1 Funatsu Aza, Tsurugi Maruo, Fuji Kawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi Pref. (Next to Fuji Subaru-land Doggy Park)
Phone: (0555) -83-2236
Hours: Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Web: www.fuji-net.co.jp/SYLVANS/top.html (Japanese only).
Map and directions: www.fuji-net.co.jp/SYLVANS/access.html (Japanese only, but with photos) There is plenty of free parking for your designated driver.
Take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku to Otsuki, then change to the Fujikyu Kyuko train and get off at Kawakuchi-ko Station. (You may also take the Chuo Kosoku bus from the West Exit of Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchi-ko Station.)
Across from Kawaguchi-ko Station, a free shuttle bus leaves from the parking lot of the Fuji Kanko Kaihatsu HQ building. By taxi, the trip to Sylvans takes only 10 minutes.
To purchase Fujizakura Kogen Beer for home delivery, go to www.rakuten.co.jp/fujizakura/ (Japanese only).