For our latest project, Chubu Weekender, we went around the region to find the best local brews for die-hard or casual fans of craft beer. Attractive designs and delicious: Why settle for anything less?

Toyama: Johana Beer

Located in Toyama Prefecture’s Nanto City, Johana Beer makes some of the most creative concoctions — both in terms of design and flavor — in the country. From herbal and spicy tipples like Earl Grey with notes of bergamot to the invigorating citrus flavors of Tropical Pink and Great Blue (using grapefruit and lemon respectively), Johana Beer aims to make any kind of beer — as long as it tastes good. Traditionalists may prefer Hakama Ale, an India pale ale, or the Kagayaki Wheat Seven, a crisp wheat IPA with a citrus bite. 

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Tsumari Brewing

Niigata: Tsumari Brewing

Another brand with impeccable design is Tsumari Brewing, based in southern Niigata Prefecture’s Tokamachi City. Opened in 2018, the brewery fuses modern and traditional elements by using kimono-inspired labels on their innovative range of beers and merchandise. The three standard offerings are Gosetsu Pale Ale (malty with a good hops balance), Medetashi Golden Ale (tropical aroma with orange peel) and Tokamachi Soba Ale (using roasted buckwheat seeds for a rounded flavor), with seasonal varieties available throughout the year.

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Chita Beer Brewery

Aichi: Chita Beer Brewery

Handa City on Aichi Prefecture’s Chita Peninsula is most known for its vinegar and sake brewing, but the original Kabuto brand beer was first brewed here in 1898. It was so popular it won a gold medal at the 1900 Paris World Exhibition. The current Meiji Kabuto Beer and Taisho Kabuto Beer are reissued versions of the originals — which ceased production in 1943 — complete with vintage labels. The Meiji is a dark lager with a depth reminiscent of red wine, while the Taisho is lighter pilsner. Try these delightful reintroductions at Oceanview Restaurant Beer City Minamichita or Handa Red Brick Building, where Kabuto was originally manufactured. This charming structure now serves as a restaurant and souvenir store.

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Yamanashi: Kakurinbo Temple Beer

Not all temples can boast their own beer label, but this Buddhist retreat in the village of Minobu is unique in more ways than one. Kakurinbo offers temple lodging as well as luxury accommodations at Ebisuya, a newly renovated traditional home. It also runs Café Zencho, which offers vegetarian- and vegan-friendly fare — as well as a selection of Yamanashi wines and, of course, Kakurinbo temple beer. The Belgian Wit has a refreshing acidity and a light clean taste — try it with one of the café’s toasted sandwiches after a hike up Mount Minobu.

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Gifu: Ji-Beer Hida

Microbrewery Ji-Beer Hida was quick to hop on board the beer manufacturing train, starting in 1996, just two years after Japanese regulatory changes made small-scale brewers viable. The Hida White — also known as Shirakawago Beer — is a wheat malt beer using rice grown around the Shirakawago area, while Gero Gensen Beer uses carbonated spring water from Gero Onsen to create a clean and bubbly sensation. For those with a sweet tooth, the Hida Ringo and Hida Yuzu are delicious fruity concoctions that use locally sourced fruits from Hidatakayama and Kaminoho respectively.

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Nagano: 8Peaks Brewing

Brewed in Chino City at the foot of Mount Yatsugatake, 8Peaks’ selection was specifically designed to be paired with meals. Beautifully designed, each of their standard beers is worth trying, but we especially enjoy the Meta Wheat Ale. It uses about 50 percent wheat malt and has a fruity aroma, with a surprising sharpness for a refreshing finish. Try it with chicken or cheese-centric dishes. 

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Fukui: Wakasa Seaside Brewery

Fukui’s first craft beer was inspired by visits to Canada to study local brewing techniques, equipment and ingredients. This coastal brewery combines organic malt grown in the Canadian Rockies with the clear waters of Wakasa to make their three mainstays: an elegant and fresh weizen, a fruity pale ale and an amber ale with a delicious roasted malt flavor and savory notes.

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Ishikawa: Waku Waku Tezukuri Farm Kawakita

With a focus on sustainably produced brews, Waku Waku Tezukuri Farm Kawakita sources most of its ingredients from its own fields. Crack open a can of the brand’s creamy weizen, available at over 900 JR kiosks as well as on the Hokuriku Shinkansen while on the road. If you prefer something mild, try the Koshihikari Ale with a salad — or even sushi. 

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Shizuoka: Hansharo Beer Brewing

Every beer in Hansharo Beer Brewing’s inventory is like a history lesson in the Izu Nirayama region. Hansharo Tarozaemon — the English pale ale — is named for Tokugawa Shogunate governor Tarozaemon Hidetatsu Egawa, who made social reforms in the area. Try this and other flavorful options on tap at Hansharo Biya Restaurant Homura, located next to the brewery.

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