Japanese Beer garden at home
Just when we all thought British summer was going to be three days of sunny weather in May, June comes along and has us looking at forecasts for 30°C heat and sun, sun, sun!
The warm weather brings news that pubs may also be re-opening in some capacity from the beginnings of July, but, knowing just how fickle the weather can be in the UK, we thought we’d pull together a quick round up of how you can make the most of the summer while it’s with us by recreating your own Japanese Beer garden, complete with authentic Japanese snacks. So string up the LEDs, light the tea candles and forget all about having to catch the last train home!
What's a Japanese Beer Garden like?
With the likes of sake, plum wine and shochu, Japan has so many native tipples that many people forget how popular beer is and how strong Japan’s beer offering is, whether that’s refreshing brands like Kirin, Sapporo and Asahi, or one of the many new high-quality craft beer joints as sampled by James May.
While sake is often best sampled in winter, when it’s fresh off the press and ready to neck, beer is a drink that’s often associated as a cool summery thirst quencher, and that’s reflected by the popularity of beer gardens (and own-brand Oktoberfests) all over Japan, particularly in summer.
But I can easily go to a beer garden here?! - we hear you cry.
The main difference with Japanese beer gardens is that, unlike in Europe, the majority of them are located on rooftops and at a height. That means that you’re not just sampling a delicious beer on a balmy night with your friends, you’re also enjoying the soft colours of the summer sky and the dazzling skyline of one of Japan’s many buzzing big cities.
What's more - you don’t just have delicious Japanese beer at your disposal; you also have a variety of tasty Japanese bar snacks curated to complement the flavours of your pint.
Read on for our pick of some of the top Japanese craft beer brands, and the snacks and recipes to top off your perfect Japanese beer garden experience.
Japanese Craft Beers
Hitachino Nest (Ibaraki)
Up first is the award-winning Hitachino Nest Japanese craft beer brewed by Kiuchi Sake Brewery, which has been brewing sake since 1823. The brewery is located in an area known for clean fresh water and greenery, so you know ther beer (and sake) is going to be absolutely top knotch. In fact, if you ever find yourself in Ibaraki’s Mito City, be sure to make a stop at the Hitachino Nest Brewery for the full range of their produce and some amazing noodle dishes for sides!
Speaking of awards, here are just some of the many Hitachino Nest has won over the last couple of years:
Australian International Beer Awards in 2015/The Brewing Industry International Awards in 2011 (United Kingdom):
- Hitachino Nest Beer Nipponia - Silver
- Hitachino Nest Beer Saison Du Japon- Bronze
- Hitachino Nest Beer Espresso Stout - Bronze
Wondering where you can buy Hitachino Nest? Thankfully there are a variety of UK retailers that stock this excellent beer - off to the shops you pop!:
Alternatively, the following supermarkets sell Hitachino Nest White Ale:
Next on the list is KAGUA by Far Yeast Brewing. Their aim is to produce ‘a beer that complements Washoku (和食, Japanese cuisine)’ and KAGUA offers wonderful aromas with a blend of Japanese herbs, Yuzu and Sansho. The Yuzu and Sansho are carefully sourced from top quality farmers in Japan to bring out the finest flavours.
To enjoy KAGUA’s rich flavour, we actually recommend you go rogue and drink it in a wine glass! A broad bowl and taller glass brings out the beer's richness, you see!
You can buy a selection of KAGUA beers at Japan Centre, both online and in-store.
COEDO (Kawagoe, Saitama)
Third in the list, we have sustainable and local community based craft beer, COEDO. COEDO was founded by a family which started organic farming with the concept of ‘delicious foods from a reliable and trustworthy source’ in the early 70s in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, a city known for its hundreds year-old agricultural traditions.
Thanks to their farming background, in 1996 they succeeded in brewing Beniaka, the world’s first beer made from sweet potatoes. These locally sourced sweet potatoes used to be thrown away simply because their size and shape were deemed too irregular to display in the supermarkets. This innovation saw Beniaka quickly become COEDO’s signature beer - it has remained an internationally recognised beer ever since.
COEDO, too, has won a sprinkling of awards over the last couple of years:
- 2017 Meininger International Craft Beer Award Silver Award
- 2012 European Beer Star Gold Award
- 2015-2017 Australian International Beer Award Bronze Award
COEDO's commitment to sustainability doesn’t stop there: it also extends to their brewery, too. Located deep in the 'burbs of Kawagoe, it’s surrounded by lush greenery providing an amazing supply of natural mineral water for the beer. After production, water waste is carefully filtered and returned back to nature and 100% of their spent grains and yeast are also supplied to feed local cattle. We reckon we’ll follow suit and not waste a drop!
COEDO can be purchased online from Beers of Europe.
Hosting a non-beer drinker? There are a number of other popular Japanese drinks that you can easily concoct at home! For one, why not combat the heat with a Japanese ‘Izakaya’ classic - the Whisky Highball? Not sure what that means? Click here for a BBC Good Food recipe.
Classic Bar Snacks
These beans are a staple of any Japanese bar experience. Usually they come complementary with the seating charge, but give them a sprinkle of rock salt and you’ll soon forget all about that.
Who doesn't love gyoza? We're undoubtedly going grilled/pan-fried - trust us, coupled with booze and sunny weather, gyoza really are the bomb. As for what's inside, it's up to you! Pork, prawn and mixed vegetable are the most popular options. Click here for a recipe - you'll soon be well on your way to cooking up juicy, golden brown parcels of goodness!
A worldwide favourite, there really is no excuse for its absence! The skinnier the more authentic. Try drizzling them with melted butter and soy sauce for an unexpectedly delicious flavour, or a dash of shichimi togarashi for that spice hit - stalls along Jizo-dori retro market street in Sugamo, Tokyo, even let you make your own blend of this stuff, tailored to all tastes.
Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken)
KFC has a whole other meaning in Japan but we’re talking summer here, and not Christmas. Karaage deep fried Japanese chicken is the real deal and an absolute must for a night out sharing drinks with (meat-eating) friends. Make your own, get it as takeaway or buy frozen Karaage from the Japan Centre!
The backstreet barbecue smash hit that always fills an empty stomach. Chicken is maybe the most popular type of yaki-tori skewer but the reality is you can - and Japan does - eat it with a wide variety of ingredients, from pork belly and quail eggs to mushrooms and spring onions! The 'Tare' sauce is key but have a look at an easy-to-make home recipe from the Japan centre; alternatively grill simply with salt, known as 'Shioyaki' in Japanese.
Yaki Onigiri (Grilled Rice Ball)
Not such a beer garden staple but a sure fire hit at any BBQ in Japan. Simple, delicious and filling, these tasty little numbers make the perfect snack to help line the stomachs of your ‘thirstier’ friends... Click here for an easy-to-follow recipe!
Yaki-Tomorokoshi (Grilled Corn On The Cob)
Finally, we have a fusion favourite sure to have you picking delicious BBQ flavours out of your teeth for the next couple of days. A great option for vegetarians of course. Click here for a recipe!