It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a popular outdoor resort town with a glacier-fed river running through the center is home to a good microbrewery.
What is surprising is Minakami—the traditional hot spring resort, and now ground zero for outdoor and adventure in Japan—hasn’t had its own microbrewery and taproom, until Octone Brewing and Taproom recently opened.
Minakami is an ideal place for this creative craft brewery founded by Yasuharu Takeuchi. It is his first entry into the beer business after leaving the world of publishing. Not only was he born in the area, he also chose it because of the famed quality of the water. The beer brewed here certainly benefits from it.
In addition, there are quite a number of tributaries that come together in Minakami to create the Tone River (pronounced “to-nay”), which flows all the way down to Tokyo Bay. The brewery’s name OCTONE (pronounced “O-ku-to One”) originates here at the source of the Tone River.
The beers, unsurprisingly, are quite good. The American Style Wheat Ale (5%) is light and refreshing yet not short on flavor. The Yamabito Pale Ale (5.5%) has a deeper, richer taste with more aggressive malt, while the Mori-No-Porter (4.5%) has a good share of dark malt, but is far from heavy or overly roasty. It is interesting that all three of these beers contain honey, but only small amounts since there is practically no honey flavor. My guess is that the honey is used in very small amounts to tweak beer flavors slightly to achieve a good balance.
However, in the Upstream IPA, noted as a “Juicy IPA,” the stronger 6.5% ale is given a bit of oatmeal in the mash to achieve a lush smoothness to balance the strong hopping. The result is a highly drinkable brew with a refreshingly bitter flavor.
At present, other Octone beers also include a Koelsch and an Amanatsu (summer orange) fruit ale and future seasonal beers will undoubtedly be on tap soon. Minakami can be done in a day if you need to get back to the grind, but as with enjoying your favorite local brew, it’s best to take your time, slow down and enjoy the refreshment while there.
Octone Brewing and Taproom
702-2 Yubara, Minakami-machi, Tone-gun,
2 – 8 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays; 4 – 8 p.m. weekdays; Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays