Wakayama City sunrise from Wakayama castle
Christmas day was a bit of an eye squinter. That is to say our eyes were quite sensitive to the day’s light being that we had greatly drank a great amount of great beers the night before. Luckily, practice of both drinking and filming, and filming the day after drinking, has left us with a hardwired drive to prepare our equipment for the next day. So when we awoke, though a bit troll-like in the face of the morning/noon light, we well knew we could relax for one more hour, being that our batteries were charged and cables were wound. Gathering our things we headed off for Nest, a very quaint little craft beer spot, always with good company present (a craft beer bar M.O.) We had plans to interview Majime-san, which turned into an absolute blast. We were fortunate to have socialized with Majime-san before the interview, and played a positive role in having a great conversation and interview.
Takagi-san, Heiwa Craft’s brewmaster
We got back from our pre-afternoon venture only to rest for a moment before heading out once again to back to Nest to meet the head brewer for Heiwa (peace) Brewing, Takagi-san. A newer addition to a generations old Sake company, Heiwa Beer is the project of the company’s next generation, intended at progressing the company forward as sake’s popularity dwindles. We received a tour of the Sake factory and we’re in awe at the amount of work and craftsmanship that goes into the product, which in Japan is referred to as Nihon-shu. In the States we have no concept as to the depth in both tradition and work that goes into forming Nihon-shu, which is very common throughout Japanese culture and history. Especially in the ancient religion of Shinto, in which Nihon-shu is commonly seen as being the purest essence of rice, the main food staple for millennia.
Together with Yasuhito, Majime-san, and a Nara based artist who painted and designed the Nest bar we were treated very well. Takagi-san even showed us end of the tour the super-large sake filter that is used in the final phase of production. We were lucky enough to taste some of the finest grade Nihon-shu they make, filtered just that day. The rice grains are polished down below 45%–so more that half of each rice grain is ground away so the sweet inner core is the only thing remaining, creating only the finest flavor. We were quite impressed by the quality of the facilities. The brewhouse was much smaller than the rest of the facility having been a much more recent addition to the company. They gave us samples of the beer as well. They are intent on producing beers that people want to drink again, so they only have two varieties at the moment, in an effort to hone the recipes as best they can.
A sip of some of the finest
After an interview with Takagi-san, we interviewed the son, owning manager of the company, and the brains behind the beer project, Yamamoto-san. You could tell that this man had a great drive and was very committed to his company, his family legacy, all those around him, and to the beer. And this is always great to see, especially in a place where craft beer’s popularity is still quite stunted. We spoke about his company and his ambitions in creating a child company to the Family Sake company. Incredible. Not to even mention he gifted us with three bottles of Nihonshu, one of which a Yuzu (a Japanese Citrus) variety, quite rare as its seasonal and only in limited local production.
We left with a smile, great memories, and the ever-stronger impression that those in the Japanese Beer World are truly amazing people. Heading back to Wakayama, we enjoyed some left-over cake from the Holiday festivities at Nest while unwinding and chatting with everyone before returning home to relax, have some beer and noodles and head to bed.
Fishing below the cliffs next to Nagisa brewing
Next up was Nagisa Beer in 白浜町 (Shirahama) a small beach town South of Wakayamashi. Shirahama, is notable for its hot springs (onsens), its white sandy beaches (as the name suggests), as well as being the area of Japan with the most pandas. Of course among these other things it is the home of Manabe Kazuya, the head brewer of Nagisa beer, who was born and raised there. Nagisa’s beer headquarters is located in a completely fenced in area shrouded by trees and sitting on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Next to it is situated Isogi park that has more clear views of the ocean. Immediately we imagined a small music beer festival at the grounds. It would be perfect for it. Manabe-san said he had not done one yet, but that it was a good idea, so we will see. After a tour of the brewery, which is impressive in size and one of the largest for craft beer in Japan, we took a walk through the park with Manabe-san chatting with him about how he began, where he thought craft beer was going and how he was going to help it get there.
We finished off with some tasters of their local brew, and were impressed with the Stout and their seasonal Mikan (mandarin) Ale, the latter being something rather new to us. Thanking him we headed into Shirahama city, because what trip to Shirahama would be complete without soaking our feet in some onsen water and savoring the flavor of the Local grub (takoyaki).
Truly appreciative to all those who Read this content and are contributing to our success and the mutual success of Craft beer in Japan.
All the best to you all. May this day and all your days be filled with Beeru.
May the rocks be with you!