Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kisoji Beer and the Mountains

I travel because I like to travel. But as an added incentive, I know that as I explore more nooks and crannies of Japan, I'll find new, potentially interesting beer.

On a recent trip to the Kiso region in southern Nagano, in a tourist-infested post town on the old Nakasendou route from present-day Tokyo to Kyoto, I found Kisoji Beer, made in Nagiso-machi and available around the area.

The town, Magome (pictured above), is perched on a hillside, its main street lined soba restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. Also, packed with tourists. We walked half the distance of the town's main drag, and already I had seen loads of shops selling Yona Yona from Shinshu. At the top of the hill, a liquor shop had that plus something else that caught my eye: the blue can of Kisoji Beer.

It was 11 a.m., but I had to try one. Should have tried two. I went for the pale ale, which was bitter, sure, but there wasn't much to it. Or maybe the early hour meant my tasting system was not fully firing.

After a cold soba lunch, we walked through the town again and I went for a Shinshu blonde ale. This was pretty tasty: a good combination of bitter and smooth.

This was followed by a quick bus ride to Magome Pass, followed by a two hour hike along the Nakasendou trail to another little post town in the mountains, Tsumago. Tsumago has been fully restored to look like it did in the Edo period. There are still plenty of tourists, but not as many as in Magome. The restoration and lack of crowds makes for a very pleasant post-hike evening.

Sadly, at the evening taiko/drama/dance performance in the center of town, the only beer available was also traditional: Asahi Super Dry.