Kiuchi Shuzo, an Ibaraki sake brewer with nearly 200 years of history, has become well known as one of Japan’s better microbreweries since launching its Hitachino Nest line of craft beers in autumn of 1996.
Since then, the brewery has become famous, particularly in the U.S., not only for the awards the beers have earned, but also for the way the progressive Kiuchi family cultivates relationships throughout the beer industry, and the support they give importers. At present, about half of Hitachino Nest production is sold outside of Japan; quite remarkable for a Japanese microbrewery.
In January, the company opened the Hitachino Brewing Lab on the site of the old Manseibashi railway station, quite close to Akihabara in Kanda Suda-cho. Despite the seriousness of the name, I found the “Lab” to be an open and casual spot to enjoy Hitachino Nest beer.
There are usually about seven or eight varieties on tap, and servings are in smallish 300-ml. glasses for only ¥680 each, making it easy to try several types on a single visit. It is essentially a self-service operation, but the staff is remarkably helpful when you order. I started with the superb Hitachino Nest Lager which has an aggressive yet interesting hopping style. I enjoyed the BBQ beef sandwich (¥650) on whole wheat, which was tender and easy to eat, with no spilled sauce. This was followed by a Red Rice Ale, an almost magenta purple ale with an interesting tanginess left by the antique variety of rice.
I also had to try one of the snack jars and, with so many kinds available, it was difficult to choose. I settled on two kinds of olives with citrus peel (¥650) and did not regret it.
Quick and easy service, low prices and a selection from one of Japan’s most interesting breweries make the Hitachino Brewing Lab a great stop when you are passing through Akihabara or Kanda.
Hitachino Brewing Lab
Tel: (03) 3254-3434
Open Daily 11:00 to 23:00, Sundays and Holidays 11:00 to 21:00
A short walk from Akihabara or Kanda Station on the JR lines.
Address: N1 1-25-4 Kanda Suda-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0041