Summer Beers in Kansai: A Guide to the Best Beer Festivals of the Summer
No sooner has winter’s chilling air finally abated than we are already hurtling towards an increasingly hot, humid summer. Some of my friends here in Osaka lament the stifling heat and oppressive humidity that comes with this time of year.
Not I though, dear readers, for as someone who hails from a country as dour, miserable and perpetually grey as Scotland, you will never, ever hear a single word of complaint from me about the baking heat of a glorious Osaka summer!
Rather than whine and complain, I feel the best method by which to handle an excessively hot Osaka summer is through containment.
So, what is the best way to counter the extreme summertime temperatures in Osaka?
The answer is pretty much the same as how one tends to cope with the dismal depressing downpours back in Scotland. Beer! And lots of it!
I believe it was the great scholar and modern day poet, Homer Simpson who once proclaimed: “To alcohol: The cause of and solution to all of life’s problems!” Yes, dear readers, you can keep your Shakespeare and all those other pretentious nobodies of yesteryear, Homer Simpson is the only balding bard worthy of my time these days. And I doubt there are many places in the world where the likes of Homer and his drinking buddies would feel more at home than in an Osaka beer garden.
So, what’s hot (no pun intended) this summer, as far as beer gardens in the Kansai region go? This year sees the return of a few old favourites as well as the emergence of a number of new contenders to the crown.
So, friends, family, Romans, come join me as I take you on a tour of this summer’s best of beer gardens in Kansai!
1) BeerFes Osaka, at MyDome Osaka Exhibition Hall
This is one of Japan's longest running and most popular beer festivals. From July 14 to July 16, at MyDome Exhibition Hall in Osaka, liquor companies from all over will give samples of their beers. With hundreds of beers to choose from, this is the perfect party if you are: a college student, a salaryman, or anyone who loves beer! Feel free to wander around the festival tasting different beer recipes, smelling various aromas, and drink, DRINK until you fall to the floor (there is a Japanese word for that, kuidaore)! Advance tickets are on sale now at Japanese convenience stores or Yahoo Passmarket. With your ticket, you also get a free tasting glass. After all, with so many varieties of beer in the world, why taste just one?
2) Nara Oktoberfest, Nara
The Oktoberfest brand tours Japan throughout the year, but perhaps one of the best opportunities to sample this uniquely German experience is in Nara towards the end of June. The Oktoberfest bandwagon comes to town from June 16th until June 25th with the world famous Nara Koen playing host. This particular Oktoberfest is far smaller and less publicized than its more well-known counterparts in Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe, so, hopefully it’ll be significantly less crowded and a whole lot easier to get around. As usual, you’ll find two-pint steins of beer as far as the eyes can see, coupled with some truly fantastic German cuisine such as bratwursts, frankfurters and hamburgers. But perhaps best of all is the chorus of German dancers complete with their lederhosen and clogs. Even if you don’t feel like joining the dancing on-stage, you’ll soon find yourself singing along and drinking a toast partying the night away as only the Germans can!
3) Nippon Craft Beer Festival, Nishi-Umeda
Ok, I guess I should declare a vested interest here, or lack thereof. The whole craft beer thing just never really worked for me. It seems like a gimmick, much like organic vegetables or designer clothing as a means of repackaging the same product into a pretentious new package and charging considerably more than its value. But then again, I’m probably not the intended clientele for this kind of thing. To me, the most important thing about beer is whether I like the taste or not. I don’t really care how it’s made or about the history of the region that birthed it. And let’s be honest here guys, no matter how much you try to fake it behind all that hipster bravado, after 3 or 4 pints I doubt any of you can actually taste the difference between your “tradtional craft beer brew” and a cold can of Asahi Super Dry from the local 7-11.
Nonetheless, despite my curmudgeonly protestations, craft beer is big business, and it continues to experience double digit growth year on year here, which isn’t bad in an economy as perpetually stagnant as Japan. So, like much of the performance art I was forced to review during my days as a newspaper columnist, perhaps I just “don’t get it” and it’s erroneous of me to dismiss the whole craft beer movement as overpriced, pretentious, hipster nonsense.
Anyway, inane ranting from me aside, if you actually enjoy craft beer then this is the place to be for you. Over 60 different microbreweries from all across Japan will be showcasing their wares at this year’s event. The aim of the event is, according to their official website “to develop a beer culture in Japan”.
Though as someone who has covered numerous soccer games involving the England national team down the years, and witnessed first-hand the fallout of an abundant “beer culture” I would say Japan may want to stay clear of that idea! The Nippon Craft Beer Festival 2017 takes place on July 8th and 9th in Nishi Umeda.
4) Belgian Beer Weekend, Kobe
Some say fewer countries do beer better than Belgium, a country with 1,500 different types of beer to its name. This festival takes place all over Japan, but this year for the first time, Kobe makes it on the list of host cities. With so many different Belgian beers coming, at this festival there is bound to be a beer for you. From August 30 to September 3 in Meriken Park, the festival includes live music, food and many kinds of different craft beers you may never have heard of. Go ahead and see how many different tastes you can gulp down.