Craft Beer: The Latest Addition to Matsumoto’s Brewing Tradition
Taking in Matsumoto’s rich history is an experience to savor. Add a pint of great craft beer and it’s even tastier. Here’s where to go to drink in some of the best suds around.
During the Edo Era (1603-1868) two important roads, the Nomugi-do and the Zenkoji-do, met to form a T-intersection in the middle of the castle town of Matsumoto. Today that same intersection sits lorded over by the shiny, modern Media Garden Building where, up on the third floor, you can find an impressive variety of excellent craft beer (and some finger-licking sides to pair it with) at the Matsumoto Brewery.
The menu of brews changes somewhat with the season at the Matsumoto Brewery, but you’re always guaranteed a tasty selection – and a delicious view of that downtown intersection.
Down around the corner, along Nakamachi-dori, is the Matsumoto Brewery tap room. Inhabiting one of the many kura style buildings that comprise the heart and the character of this mercantile stretch of the Zenkoji Kaido, the tap room offers more of those full-flavored suds in an intimate, friendly setting. Nakamachi-dori is worth checking out in any event; the tap room just makes the trip that much tastier!
Halfway along the short walk from the Media Garden Building to Nakamachi-dori is another place to grab a great craft brew. Old Rock, both inside and out, looks like a pub straight out of England. With plenty of seating in a spacious environment and a full food menu, Old Rock is the place to go if you want a proper meal to go with your beer.
Old Rock, we should mention, is owned by the folks at Matsumoto Brewery, so you’ll find some of the same craft beers there – plus a selection of Japanese and imported brews.
If you’re over on the west side of the train station pop into Bacca Brewery, where you’ll find quality craft brews named after the most famous of the mountains watching over Matsumoto from the west. Brewmeister Fukasawa-san likes to offer seasonal concoctions as well, but no matter what’s on tap you can be sure you’re getting nothing but top-notch nectar.
Bacca Brewing may be a few minutes out of your way, but trust me when I say the beer is worth the extra steps.
Honorable Mention in the craft beer category goes to the Hop Frog Café. They don’t brew their own beer (yet) but they do offer some great choices on tap, from Tokyo, Shizuoka, Kyoto and even Hokkaido. (Beer selection may change, of course, but the quality remains.)
And for a bonanza of the wider area’s best brews look for the Matsumoto Summer Fest in August or the Matsumoto Craft Beer Festival in September. Both always draw big crowds.
And if you’re looking for some craft beer to go, check out the selection right alongside the supermarket on the first floor of AEON Mall. (You’ll have to chill it yourself!)
Sake & Miso
And while we’re on the subject of brewing, shall we touch on a couple of much older traditions? Nihonshu, known commonly around the world as sake, is Japan’s version of the liquid spirit of the gods – and is made via the brewing process. Great local sake can be found all over Japan, and Matsumoto is no exception, with breweries 150 years old taking advantage of the town’s clear cool underground spring water.
And one more piece of the brewing picture is miso. Yes! That salty brown paste used to make Japan’s most famous soup is also a product of brewing. Nagano Prefecture, where Matsumoto lies, boasts close to half of all miso production in Japan, and is the home of high-quality Shinshu miso, specially made using centuries-old traditional methods.
While you are here in Matsumoto you can see for yourself, up close, exactly how both sake and miso are made. Drop us a line and we’ll show you!
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