Translated by John Lee
Oriental Brewing - Get A Taste Of Kanazawa's Craft Beer
Written by Shinji Takaramura
Oriental Brewing is Kanazawa city's very first brew pub! Their quality craft beers brewed in-house and offered up within a charming and relaxing atmosphere are something that locals and visitors alike will be delighted with.
It’s no secret that craft beer continues to grow in popularity the world over, and, fortunately, to this Japan is no exception. In recent years independent breweries have been opening shop in all parts of Japan, and craft beer culture has been steadily gaining in traction.
It's springtime of sorts then for beer lovers here, as both the variety and quality of craft beers to be found continue to grow.
Oriental Brewing in Kanazawa City
Oriental Brewing opened its doors for business here in Kanazawa city in 2016. Kanazawa is located in the broader Hokuriku region and is regarded as its economic and cultural heart. However, although the popularity of craft beer has made inroads here the past years with new bars and shops, what the city has been sorely lacking is a brew pub.
Oriental Brewing has since changed all of that.
Makoto Tanaka, Founder and Owner of Oriental Brewing
Makoto Tanaka, the founder and owner of Oriental Brewing, came upon the idea of opening up his own brew pub a few years ago while travelling. Crisscrossing countries over the course of his travels he discovered the pervasiveness of local craft beer breweries, and was completely taken by the quality and variety of beers.
This was true in many of the countries he visited, and something he ultimately decided should hold as true in his own hometown, Kanazawa.
Eight Taps - Local Japan Breweries
Oriental Brewing offers a selection of eight different beers on tap, and all brewed exclusively in Japan. Various types - Weizen, Pale Ale, IPA, Stout, Pilsner, etc - are offered on a regularly changing menu, and as often it's by a customer's suggestion that they list a new beer.
Imported beers aren't offered on tap, and as Mr. Tanaka explains, this is so as to maintain the highest quality for the customers. Locally produced beers require less transport and handling, which ensures a better quality of the beer that pours out from the tap.
Visiting the Brew Pub
The large glass windows and doors facing the main street are entirely inviting, and I suspect that most passerby's will be tempted to take a peek inside. The day’s taps are listed on a board, as well as the words “We are Brewing Here” chalked in bold.
"Brew pub" by definition means that beer is brewed on the pub's premises. This may be of no surprise to visitors from abroad where brew pubs are more common, but here in Japan this is oftentimes missed. And so to this point, Oriental Brewing is on a mission of sorts.
When first stepping inside the front door, the neatly designed space draws the eyes past the beer taps, down the wooden bar counter, and to a large glass panel door in the back. In fact, this is where Oriental Brewing brews its own beers, and, after settling down, customers often inquire about the brewing process. Fortunately enough, the pub staff are more than happy to oblige and explain.
The Beer Brewery
Oriental Brewing’s owner, Tanaka-san, first studied and learned the craft of beer brewing while working in a small brewery in Europe. He would go on to continue his learning from there, and it would lead him to experiences in other breweries as well as studies in a university.
Mr. Tanaka and one other brewmaster are responsible for all aspects of the brewing process, starting from sourcing the raw ingredients, brewing, and quality testing and certification.
The overall brewing steps - Mash, Boil, Cool, and Ferment – are as I learned fairly uniform across breweries. Ingredients, temperatures and fermenting periods may vary by the type of beer desired, but what is common is the yeast. Yeast is the fermenting agent at work, converting the sugar into alcohol, and is what gives beer its lovely fizz, carbon dioxide.
Maintaining the proper temperature is critical during all brewing stages, and Oriental Brewing employs a sophisticated system to ensure this.
Brewery Tours and Tastings
Oriental Brewing regularly hosts brewery tours and tasting events that are open to the public with reservations in advance. It's through these events that customers get an upclose view on the craft of beer brewing, and the variety and quality to be discovered at breweries that are outside of what's regarded as the "mainstream" producers.
Bonus! Neapolitan Pizza
Doors open at 11:00 AM and lunch and dinner fare is offered on the menu (available in English). The menu has a range of dishes, such as assorted cheese, olives, sausages, and not to mention some fantastic Neapolitan pizza made in a specialty oven.
It’s a wonderful place to sit back and relax, chat, and take in some good old fashioned people watching through the front glass. The natural lighting, high ceilings and wood and stone fitted interior, all combine to create a wonderfully light and cheerful atmosphere.
Speaking of wonderfully light and cheerful, you just have to meet Oriental Brewing’s pub manager and pub staff!
The staff members are as friendly as they are serious about ensuring good tasting beer for their customers. They are also very careful about the music playing in the background. Along with good beer varieties, the pub tunes are one of the elements that make the atmosphere in Oriental Brewing delightful.
Craft Beer - Rich in Taste and Variety
In Japan, where craft beer culture has really just recently taken roots, the notion that "Beer is just beer", is something that Oriental Brewing is bent on dispelling. An offering of eight different taps is certainly one way to start, as well as more subtle details that might be missed.
The beer tap handles are fashioned from wood and the design of each is as similarly to craft beer, uniquely different from the other. These were designed by students from a local art college and stained in a mahogany tone like the bar counter.
Oriental Brewing serves up two in-house brewed beers, a Weizen (white beer) and Yuzu Ale (white ale infused with yuzu, a local citrus fruit). I had the pleasure of enjoying both in earnest on a separate occasion, and the fruity taste and rich but light texture of both made for a wonderful pairing with the pub's dishes.
The yuzu is grown locally, which is something the brewmasters have set clear sights on as they plan on brewing more and more types of beers using locally sourced ingredients.
Located in the Edo Era Teahouse District
Oriental Brewing is located in the heart of Kanazawa, and faces upon the city's largest historic teahouse district, Higashi Chaya. The cobbled streets, narrow alleyways, and beautifully preserved latticed wooden rowhouses evoke an atmosphere of a bygone era, and belie the variety of modern shops and cafes set within.
It's this conflation of the traditional and modern aesthetic that often appeals most to visitors to Kanazawa city.
The machi-ya, a traditional artisan and merchant house, which Oriental Brewing occupies was built some 100 years earlier. Various artisans have since plied their craft and trade within its walls, such as a Japanese paper maker, a ice merchant, and in due turn now, a craft beer brewer.
Much of the exterior and interior has been left unchanged, and the existing aesthetic of the upper facade was enhanced with added details. This was very much by design so as to preserve the historical and cultural legacy of the building itself, and the surrounding district.
Couldn’t say it any better myself. Come and discover for yourself the great taste of Kanazawa city's very own craft beer at Oriental Brewing brew pub. Cheers!