Went with a friend to a chain izakaya pub called Hana no Mai the other night. He likes to get the nomihodai (all-you-can-drink) specials, and so we started in with mugs of Kirin Ichiban Shibori.
At most Japanese pubs, the range of alcoholic drinks available is impressive – many varieties of sake, whiskey, cocktails, wine, and even umeshu (plum wine) – but they generally have only one type of beer. However, we noticed that the menu at this place included something called “chilled beer,” – a kind of oxymoron in Japan, since most beer is served at just above the freezing point. But the fine print indicated that this beer was from the Gotemba Kogen brewery.
Well, we ordered some, and it was indeed chilled. In fact, almost too cold to drink. But after it had a chance to warm up, we could clearly detect some fruity notes that do not normally accompany Japanese mass-market lagers.
I couldn’t determine the exact name of the beer, but I’m assuming it was the newish Koshihikari Lager featured on the Gotemba Kogen website.
It was nothing really special, mind you, but perhaps we are seeing an inkling of a new market opportunity for Japanese craft brewers. If they can gain a tiny foothold into the world of izakaya chains, who knows where they might appear next?