Beer Hordes and Brew Masters

Some guy grabbed my arm and offered seats to She Who Must Be Obeyed and me. It turned out they only wanted to know what we were drinking so they could mock it.

Today was the Spring Keyaki Beer Festival near Saitama Super Arena. Over 71 brewers and restaurants set up in stalls and hordes of beer lovers descended on the place to drink and eat. Since today was sunny and dry, it turned out to be the perfect day to go to a beer festival.

She Who Must Be Obeyed managed to get there on time and, as fate would have it, the first brewer we stumbled across happened to hail from her home prefecture and we decided that was as good a reason as any to try it. We ordered the four beer sampler (for 1,000 yen/$9.16) and then set about trying to find a place to sit without spilling beer.

The festival has two large tent areas that looked full but as we walked by a guy grabbed us and offered us seats. They asked what we were drinking and we told them it was Swan Lake (link in Japanese) and they looked at us as if they were doctors about to deliver bad news.

Our personal beer experts. They helped us find good seats and good beer.

Our personal beer experts. They helped us find good seats and good beer.

They were underwhelmed by our choice (and especially by our reason for choosing it and they started recommending several other places we should try. (Note: I like the beer. Two were very good the others only average but they were great for a warm spring day.)

After a while, we figured out that the two worked for a brewer named Harvest Moon. (link in Japanese) Oddly, that was the only brewer they didn’t recommend although they did give us a free sample later.

The staff at Shigakogen Brewery, one of the better ones in Japan.

The beer taps and brewery staff at Shigakogen Brewery. It one of the better breweries in Japan.

A great crowd is one of the things that makes the Keyaki a lot of fun. For being a large group of drunk people, everyone is friendly and you easily make those temporary friends forever. People watched our stuff and saved our seats when we sought provisions and more beer and we watched theirs. One group we barely spoke to was gone so long they brought us French fries as compensation.

The crowd at night.

The crowd at night.

More crowd at night. That's Shiga Kogen brewery at the back right.

More crowd at night. That’s Shiga Kogen brewery in the back center under the red and white flag.

The amount of beer available is overwhelming and all I learned was that most IPAs are overrated. (It seems to me IPAs are becoming one of those things you’re supposed to like because everyone thinks they are popular.) Having a couple guides was useful and left me with places to try when I go back on Sunday (long story).

Eventually, a couple young women moved in next to us and, as is wont to happen with this crowd, they immediately asked if the four of us already there were friends. I used the opportunity to promote Harvest Moon and encouraged the two gentlemen to get the two ladies some beer from their brewery.

I’m looking forward to going back on Sunday. I hope it’s still a good crowd.


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