If you want to have a great weekend of skiing or snowboard followed up by some quality beer drinking, I highly recommend you find yourself in the Nagano prefecture of Japan on the 19th and 20th of March. You will definitely want to experience the great time that can be had at the Snow Monkey Beer Live. This annual event, coupled with a Japanese 3 day holiday, is located up in the mountains of the Shiga Kogen ski resorts area is truly a good time. Start with beer and add great music and BAM!
Shiga Kogen is located in the town of Yamanouchi in the Joshinetsu National Park, about 50km northeast of Nagano and 250km northwest of Tokyo. Shiga Kogen gained popularity when it hosted a portion of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Tickets can be bought at the door, or at convenience stores such as 7-11. Ensure you double check your tickets and dates at 7-11 before making your purchase because there are no refunds. Shuttle buses run from most of the ski hotels in Shiga Kogen so no need to worry about walking or needing a taxi, which are hard to find as it is. Check with the front desk of your hotel as they should have the bus schedule to the event handy. The event is held for two nights with the option of Saturday or Sunday. The weekend it is held, once again, falls on a Japanese holiday on Monday, so it works out.
If tickets are purchased ahead of time they will be 4,200 yen; and if purchased at the door will be 4,500 yen. With these prices your entrance fee is paid which also comes with a complimentary glass to use for the evening and 5 beer tickets. This year there were two glass options to choose from with a longer necked glass with a rounded head, and a shorter necked glass with a rounded head. There is a free coat/baggage check as a nice touch once you get your wrist band. Doors opened around 5:30 and they shut it down around 10:45 or so. Staff is very easy going allowing everyone to finish their beers and gather their things. As you head for the night you can purchase some event t-shirts, stickers, or towels. Buses may be full upon closing time so keep that in mind if you don’t want to be crunched in like sardines.
Once inside you will see a large stage centered in the middle of a big hall. There will be two or three bands that play some quality tunes throughout the course of the night. It is nothing too heavy or overpowering so everyone can enjoy and still manage to hear each other to chat about their beers or the day’s previous ski experiences. A DJ also spins for a bit. The last band was made up of about 12-15 members and was quite a sight to behold. No matter what, the music adds a great touch to the fun. As the night progresses, the crowd gets larger in front of the stage and many a happy camper dance about with each other.
Around the sides of the hall is each of the 15-20 Japanese craft beer stands each with 3-4 beers for you to choose from. Beer runs the gamut from light beers, to IPA, reds, stouts, ciders, hefs, and some more exotic flavors like blood orange, strawberry, and raspberry beers. Each of the kinds of beers at each brewery kiosk is well described in Japanese and English as well as the alcohol percentages. Lines are very manageable; just have your ticket ready to hand to the man or woman manning the tap of the beer you want to try.
To keep everyone from getting totally sloshed there is also a pleasant selection of food for you to munch on while you enjoy your beer and music. The lines are easy to manage and the wait isn’t long at all for any of the vendors since there were enough to go around. I enjoyed some deliciously prepared spicy Karage chicken and some smoked sausage. Later I shared a couple slices of fresh made pizza with some friends that we had made at the venue.
Speaking of which, this is another awesome thing about this event. You see age ranges that span the generations and everyone is very friendly. Lots of new friends can be made at an event like this. If you do want to take a seat and relax for a few there is a second floor to the hall with seating still inside the hall to allow you to still be able to enjoy the music and ambiance. If you want to take a break from the music you can step out front of the hall outside to smoke or take a seat inside on some additional provided seating.
All in all, this is a fantastic, clean, and safe venue and was an awesome time for my friends and me. I highly recommend this to be coupled with a ski or snowboarding trip to Nagano and hope to see you at the next one!For more information, please click here.