Page 6

Liquid Zen

True Brews & Fuji Views By Brandon Fralic and Rachel Wood

Imagine a place where hundreds of hiking trails exist in an area slightly less than half the size of Japan. The land is green and mountainous, lies beside the Pacific Ocean, and is full of outdoor enthusiasts. Many of these outdoorsmen are hikers and mountaineers, trekking every trail and bagging every peak they can get their boots on. They work up quite a thirst. And at the end of the day, they want nothing more than a cold, frothy beer. This land is, of course, the state of Washington in northwestern USA. Fortunately for our hike and beer-seeking friends, Washington delivers with over 200 microbreweries statewide. At times it seems that you can find quality craft breweries at the bottom of every trail. It’s from this beer-soaked environment that we come to Japan, seeking the perfect trail and ale pairings across the Pacific. Here are our findings from a month spent abroad. Panorama-Dai

For a quick but steep hike with huge payout in the Fuji Five Lakes area, try Panorama-dai. The trailhead begins at a small parking area along Shojiko’s western shore (GPS coordinates: 35.490520, 138.602528). The easiest way to find it is by checking your favorite maps app – just look for the only winding path shooting west off highway 706. Alternatively, take a local shuttle bus and get off at the Panorama-dai Shita stop. Locating this hike is only half the battle. Once there, scope out the trailhead map. A network of trails runs throughout Fujisan’s foothills, and you don’t want to get lost. Fortunately the route to Panorama-dai is pretty straightforward: approximately 45 minutes up to a junction, where you stay left and continue 10-15 minutes to the lookout. The tree-lined trail climbs steadily and offers several viewpoints along the way. Watch your step – roots and rocks pave the route and it’s a long way down if you take an involuntary trip. Panorama-dai tops out at 1,325 meters. From here the views are spectacular: your reward for this hour-long climb is a 180°, picture-perfect view of lakes and foothills, with Mt. Fuji as the centerpiece. You can even catch a glimpse of the “1000 yen view” from here if you don’t have time to visit Motosuko. Drink in the sights, then head into town for another type of refreshment: Fujizakura Heights craft beer.

Fujizakura Heights Located just 20km from Panorama-dai’s trailhead, you can reach Fujizakura Heights Brewery and Sylvans restaurant in 30 minutes

by car. Well-known for their German-style brews, particularly brewmaster Miyashita Hiromichi’s smoked Rauch, Fujizakura Heights offers a unique craft beer experience in Japan. Where else can you sip world-class German brews surrounded by forest, gardens, and a tip-of-the-iceberg view of Mt. Fuji peeking over the trees? That’s right: nowhere. We purchased a couple bottles to go and strolled through the brewery’s gardens, unable to resist the urge for an impromptu photoshoot. The grounds are truly beautiful here – away from the hustle and bustle of town and situated, oddly enough, next to a dog park. It’s worth a visit not only for the beer, but for the whole experience of drinking a beer next to nature. As it was springtime during our visit, we opted for the Weizen and seasonal Sakura Bock. Both were excellent representations of their respective styles. The clovey-sweet Weizen goes down easy with warm citrus notes throughout its light, sessionable body. The Bock, dressed in a pink cherry blossom label, is proof that you should never judge a beer by its bottle. Simultaneously sweet and spicy, pretty in pink but bold and strong, this brew is deceptively drinkable for its 8% ABV punch. Tsukuba As one of Japan's 100 Famous Mountains, Mt. Tsukuba is incredibly accessible and perfect for hikers of any level. Two trails split from Tsukuba shrine at the twin-peaked mountain's base. Shirakumobashi, the longer and more strenuous of the two trails, leads to the taller of the two peaks, Nyotai. The Miyukigahara trail parallels Tsukuba’s funicular tracks, which end at a recreational area with shops and restaurants located in the saddle just below Nantai peak. Both trails climb over 6

similar terrain—curved tree roots and boulders creating natural stairs, winding through the dappled shade of leafy trees overhead. The Shirakumobashi trail takes hikers through multiple rock formations. We recommend doing a loop – up one side and down the other. Or hike up one side and take the funicular down. From the peaks, take in views of the Kanto plain, stretching out below in a quilting of farms and pasture. Look 55 km northeast to Mito, where the nearest craft beer taphouse, True Brew, beckons from afar. True Brew- Hitachi Nest Taphouse Located in the south wing of Mito station's Excel Mall, Hitachino Nest Brewery’s True Brew taphouse pours craft beer in urban-chic. Functioning also as an art gallery and cafe, True Brew offers seven beers on tap and a variety of bottled options. Some varieties are exclusive, not even on tap at the Kiuchi Brewery itself. True Brew’s location in Mito station makes it accessible and a great stop after a long hike, with views overlooking the bustle of downtown Mito. Try Extra High, a Belgian Strong, matured in Sake barrels. A smooth taste, the beer is deceptively easy to drink for its formidable 8% ABV, but has an alcoholic aftertaste. For something a little darker, try the Sweet Stout. The roasted character of the chocolate malts stays crisp in this refreshing brew. The beer has a light sweetness, different from the caramel chewiness of British or American stouts. More trail and ale pairings like these exist in Japan, waiting for the adventurer to discover them. So next time you summit a mountain, seek out the nearest craft brewery for a celebratory pint. You deserve it. Brandon Fralic and Rachel Wood reside in the Pacific Northwest, where they write about hiking and craft breweries. Visit their site, Beers at the Bottom, to follow along: beersatthebottom.com.

Profile for Beer Zen

Beer Zen Issue #6  

Beer Zen: Journal for Craft Beer is a quarterly magazine out of Osaka, Japan about craft beer. Visit our website at: beerzenjournal.com and...

Beer Zen Issue #6  

Beer Zen: Journal for Craft Beer is a quarterly magazine out of Osaka, Japan about craft beer. Visit our website at: beerzenjournal.com and...

Profile for beerzen