The Izu Peninsula’s proximity to Tokyo makes it a prime destination for getaways, with the highway along the east side jammed most every weekend. Not so for the quieter west coast where Numazu, at the top, represents a pleasant, largely un-crowded alternative. It's the gateway for cycling tours down the coast, and the town's flat terrain and wide streets makes it attractive to casual cyclists. Add to this a local brewery making some of the best craft beer in Japan, and suddenly it seems like the perfect destination.
Bryan Baird from Ohio, USA, and his wife Sayuri, founded Baird Brewing in 2000, opening The Taproom across from the Port of Numazu, home to the city's famous fish market and a string of sushi restaurants heavily patronized by locals and tourists alike.
The first batches of beer were brewed in tiny 30-liter batches, truly a "homebrew" scale, under the philosophy of Balance + Complexity = Character. This approach has served the Bairds well as they expand, adding a new bottling line. Specialty beer bars throughout Japan are ordering Baird Beer in kegs and bottles, and supply just cannot keep up with demand, but having purchased a large off-site brewery, they expect to ramp up production later this year.
Among aficionados of craft beer in Japan, Baird beers are considered to be consistently the best, with all six of the regular beers exceptional in their style. The pale ale is surprisingly light-bodied for its deep, rich layers of flavors, and has a quenching hop bitterness in the end that makes it particularly refreshing after an afternoon of cycling. Plus, seasonal specialties are invariably creative and delicious.
The best place to drink Baird beer is, of course, their Taproom right above the brewery. Grab a seat at the window counter and enjoy a view of Numazu Port. The beer just doesn’t get any fresher, and it is served with extreme care by the brewmaster himself. A pint is only \700, and the Taproom’s food is also reasonable. Chef Sayuri creates a good selection of American-style dishes, some with a novel Japanese home-cooking touch. Don’t miss the soft tacos, Parmesan chicken salad and their own chili. The \500 lunch special on weekends, though, is a mixed blessing because once you’ve enjoyed their food and great beer, you’ll have trouble getting back on your bike.
Address: 19-4 Senbonminato-cho, Numazu, Shizuoka.
Phone: (055) 963-2628
Hours: Open 18:00 to 25:00 Wed– Fri; 12:00 to 25:00 weekends and holidays; Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
For more information on Baird Beer and where to buy it, visit www.bairdbeer.com (English and Japanese)