May is the perfect month for travel around Japan--the weather is starting to warm up, but without the heat and humidity of the summer rainy season. Beers at the Bottom spent the month of May making the most of weekends off by exploring the Kanto region of Japan, hiking and sampling the offerings of Japan's fledgling craft beer scene. If there's one peak synonymous with Japan, it's Mount Fuji--so here's a Fuji Go-Ko trail and ale pairing from the across the Pacific.
For a quick but steep hike with huge payout in the Fuji Five Lakes area, try Panorama-dai. The trailhead begins at a small parking area along Shojiko’s western shore (GPS coordinates: 35°29'25.9"N 138°36'09.3"E). The easiest way to find it is by checking your favorite maps app – just look for the only winding path shooting west off highway 706. Alternatively, take a local shuttle bus and get off at the Panorama-dai Shita stop.
Drink in the sights, then head into town for another type of refreshment: Fujizakura Heights craft beer.
Located just 20km from Panorama-dai’s trailhead, you can reach Fujizakura Heights Brewery and Sylvans restaurant in 30 minutes by car. Well-known for their German-style brews, particularly brewmaster Miyashita Hiromichi’s smoked Rauch, Fujizakura Heights offers a unique craft beer experience in Japan. Where else can you sip world-class German brews surrounded by forest, gardens, and a tip-of-the-iceberg view of Mt. Fuji peeking over the trees? That’s right: nowhere.
We purchased a couple bottles to go and strolled through the brewery’s gardens, unable to resist the urge for an impromptu photoshoot. The grounds are truly beautiful here – away from the hustle and bustle of town and situated, oddly enough, next to a dog park. It’s worth a visit not only for the beer, but for the whole experience of drinking a beer next to nature.
As it was springtime during our visit, we opted for the Weizen and seasonal Sakura Bock. Both were excellent representations of their respective styles. The clovey-sweet Weizen goes down easy with warm citrus notes throughout its light, sessionable body. The Bock, dressed in a pink cherry blossom label, is proof that you should never judge a beer by its bottle. Simultaneously sweet and spicy, pretty in pink but bold and strong, this brew is deceptively drinkable for its 8% ABV punch.