Given that there’s not a great deal of opportunity to go to new bars at the moment with our ever extending and increasingly ineffective state of emergency (29 weeks out of 33 so far this year, fact fans), I thought that I might do some round up posts of places out of Tokyo that are worth a mention. I’m going to concentrate on places I’ve been to but perhaps occasionally somewhere that I haven’t been to might get added if it sounds like it should be. I will note this in the write up though. And I always say, this isn’t particularly supposed to be comprehensive. There are some places that you might love but I don’t fancy going to. Sorry for my laziness but I can’t be bother to add places that I am probably not interested in going to. They might get a brief name check and then you can have a look yourself and see what you think.
I’m going to do this by prefecture, unless a city is crying out for an round up post of its own. And I’ll do them in the style of the Shizuoka one I did a while ago. The intention will be that if a new place opens it will be added to the post, so possibly some posts might look a bit bare to begin with. I’m still firmly steering away from the big Kansai cities. There’s too much to do there and I’m sure someone else must be writing about those cities. Hopefully… Anyway, here we go with Iwate, which to be honest is one of my favourite places to drink.
Seki no Ichi
Ichinoseki is the home of the Iwate Kura brewery, so that’s the place to go to here probably. This place is a restaurant where you can drink around five taps of Iwate Kura beer (four regulars plus a seasonal when we visited) and the beer tastes significantly better here than it does in some places you might have drunk it in Toyko. Not sure if they’re OK with you just turning up to drink, as it really is a restaurant, but it’s worth having some of the very nice Japanese food they have. Think the speciality is mochi. I had a mochi fondu. Perhaps that doesn’t count as 100% Japanese food but it’s halfway there at least.
There is also Cafe Tokura on the same site which perhaps might be a bit better for just drinking but I haven’t been there I’m afraid so I don’t know.
Curious place in Kitakami. We were at a football game in the city and hoped we’d be able to drink some 315 Beer here, but sadly that wasn’t to be. Apparently very popular, as on the Saturday evening when we went it was fully booked. Counter seats for maybe five and lots of tables in different sections. Seems to cater for a variety of clientele so isn’t completely beer based. They do have four or five taps of local stuff on though and the tap turnover seems to be quite rapi
Interesting slightly retro feel to it. Lots of food in the manner that you’d expect from one of these ‘dining’ bars. It was quite fun and reasonably priced, but I think we were slightly unlucky with what was on tap on the day we were there. There’s not much else in Kitakami, so if you’re there and you want a beer, this is going to be the place for you, I guess.
Morioka is Baeren city so most of the places I mention here are Baeren connected. There is an imported beer bar called Aeron Standard if that’s more your thing, but to be honest if you’re visiting Morioka for imported beer I think you’re doing things the wrong way. A brief mention of some other places before we get down to listing the established good’uns.
There is another brewery tap room for the Sakura brewery but in two trips to Morioka we have yet to be there at a time that it is open unfortunately (now added below). And there’s also another Baeren bar (which is only open when there are markets or festivals on the street it’s on so it’s not really somewhere you can plan to go to particularly) and the Baeren brewery (see below a bit out of town).
Beer Bar Baeren Nakanohashi
Nakanohashi has now moved to a new location on the second floor of Morioka Bus Center in a little food court. At first I was really mourning the loss of the old bar and whilst I’m still sad about that, the new bar does have it’s charms. As it’s in the food court you pay as you go at the counter and you can order items from the other shops too. They do have some nice food options available at the Baeren part but there’s nothing wrong with having extra choice, is there? There’s a counter for four at the Baeren part and then seating for maybe 30 more spread across the food court. It does seem quite popular so if you’re determined to go it might be best to book or turn up early. They have six taps of Baeren beers served in the normal sizes at the normal prices and maybe about 10 bottles and cans too. It doesn’t really feel like a food court, so don’t be put off by that. At the same time, it’s not as atmospheric as the old place, but hey, that’s life, isn’t it? Listing for the previous place is below for the sake of sentimentality.
This is the place to go! The most taps of all the Baeren bars (think there are about 16, roughly 2/3 Baeren), a great pub atmosphere and really nice pub food. Prices are amazing too. Lots of sizes available from a normal glass to a massive 1 litre maß. They also do a great nomihodai deal, although to be honest, the prices are so good that we have always opted for just going at our own pace and keeping things relaxed. Costs a little bit more maybe, but the evening doesn’t end quite so quickly!Honestly, this is probably one of the places in Japan I dream about drinking at the most when I am craving beer. Everything about it is great.
Saien Micro Brewery
The microbrewery of Baeren where they try out their new ideas and make some different kinds of beers. We first had their Italian pilsner there last year before they released it in cans so this is the testing ground for what you might see at a later date in bottles and cans. Along with the four or so beers made on site they also stock the regular Baeren line up with some seasonals. Once again the food is great. And they have an additional serving size which is a earthenware cup which for some reason makes everything taste creamy. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not but I always give it a go when I visit, because you know, why not?
Beer Base Baeren Morioka Ekimae
The last of the three Baeren places I’ll mention. The beer line up is kind of the same again, as you might expect, but the two big selling points here are the fact that this place is in front of the station so could easily be done whilst on a brief stop to change trains at Morioka and that they had a selection of five different types of Tabasco in a little holder that we got when we ordered pizza. If there’s one thing I love as much as beer and pizza, it’s Tabasco. Perhaps feels the most modern of the bars, (unsurprisingly, because it is…) but definitely a great first or last stop. Or a middle stop.
A little bit out of town and with the smallest selection of the Baeren places. You can visit the brewery for a tour if you book in advance. They also always have at least one tap of Classic on and if you visit on a Sunday Beer Garden day you can do a very cheap nomihodai with three or four taps. And there’s a shop with bottles, cans and souvenirs to buy. If you’re in Morioka for the first time and are just interested in boozing, I’d stick with the restaurants but this was a fun place to visit and I’m sure it would have been a lot more fun if the weather had been a bit better when we visited as they have a little patio outside.
Beer Front Baeren
The new ramen shop and mini beer bar from Baeren, right opposite Morioka station and above their Beer Base bar. Four taps of Baeren beer and some bottles, all at the usual great prices. Quite small with a couple of tables and a little counter. The best thing is that it’s open from 11:30-23:00 every day, earlier than any of the other Barren bars. If you’re changing trains in Morioka, you could easily pop over for a beer or two. If you’re downstairs in Beer Base you can order the ramen from upstairs to eat. I also have the feeling that when the downstairs bar isn’t open, you can order beers from there to upstairs too so you have more choice, but this is only based on the fact that when we went to the ramen place early one day they had the menu from downstairs on the counter. So I might be completely wrong about this. Orders are made through the machine by the door in traditional ramen shop style.
Brew Beast Morioka (NOW CLOSED)
Fun and youthful place in a little group of restaurants and shops next to the river between the station and the city centre. Brew Beast Morioka is the taproom of the Brew Beast brewery who are based in relatively nearby Hanamaki (if my memory serves me correctly). The place has a focus on hamburgers so it’s not great for me from a food point of view but they also serve around eight taps of their own beer. Beer flights are available so you can pop in and tick off the taplist quite easily. Has a semi fancy (to me anyway) iPad ordering system which meant that while we weren’t intending to eat both times we’ve visited we actually ended up ordering some chips as they looked nice (and were, when we got them). Fun feel and the riverside location means that it would be a nice place to sit on the terrace of a summer evening. Perhaps less so in winter… The beer is much more ‘craft beer’ than Baeren so expect IPAs, hazy stuff, pale ales and the like. I think I’d like it more if it wasn’t always the first stop on the way to a Baeren burn out, which is maybe a bit unfair on them but I just like Baeren too much I guess.
Sakura Brewery Morioka
I thought I’d added this place ages ago and my comment in the intro suggests I did. But maybe I didn’t save it properly or something. Consequently a lot of time has passed since I went, the details will be a bit vague. Morioka taproom of the Kitakami based Sakura Brewery. Think they had something like five taps of their beers on with some different styles to Baeren’s German based stuff. I think the brewer is British so that might give you an idea. I seem to remember enjoying the food, something about dipping onion rings in salsa is lingering in my mind. Maybe that’s not to your taste but I liked it! Beers were served in one size if I recall correctly and were more expensive than Baeren. But to be honest most places in Japan are! I’d say it still seems to be plagued but not being open when you expect it to be, but I can confirm that on one occasion when I walked past on my last trip it was serving!
Green Neighbors Hard Cider
A new cider brewery in a fancy new complex including a sauna. They have only just got their license so don’t have any of their own ciders yet. But they did still have 12 taps (mostly cider and a few beers, mostly imported, some domestic). It’s a little way out of Morioka to be honest. About 15 minutes on the train to Shiwachuo and then about a 15-20 minute walk. So not exactly easy to get to. But I think it’s worth it. I’ll write more when I’ve tried their ciders. But you can’t fault the local feel to it and it looks like it’s going to be great.
Update: They now have their own ciders on tap. There were ten available when we went back and they were all really nice! Flight available too so you can work your way through the whole taplist of various differently fruited ciders that they do. Lovely!
New craft brewery recently opened in Morioka. Their brewery is a little out of the way but they also have a taproom in the city centre near the castle site. They only had four of their own beers on when we visited by they had six taps so I suspect they will increase their offerings when they are properly up and running. Quite a small place with a bar counter and a small table on the second floor and a picnic table type thing on the ground floor. The staff were VERY nice and the food was good too. Prices are very good too as I guess they would have to be to compete with Baeren. Beer is in more of a US style than the European styles that Baeren goes for, so I think there is a gap in the market for them.
Situated on the second floor in the Daiwa Roynet Ekimae Hotel, Tregion Relier gives you a great view of the bridge across the Kitakami river which takes you into the city centre from the station. It’s a big place, which is maybe not a surprsie as I think it doubles up as the breakfast room of the hotel. The concept is a little different from Tregion Port in Akasaka in Tokyo as here the food is French style with Tohoku ingredients. But from a beer point of view things are the same as in Tokyo ie. beers from all of the Tohoku prefectures in a modern style. When we went they had six on but I think there is possibility for a couple more. As the beer isn’t the focus here, you might have to ask them for the beer menu but they are more than happy for you to just drink here. The food was really nice though (or at least the things that I could have), so you should probably give that a go too. And I really liked the view. When we’re in Morioka we go hard on the Baeren so it was nice to sometimes break things up a bit style wise.
Update (and something of a warning too actually): When we popped in they only had one craft beer on tap so clearly that is not very important to them anymore. Don’t turn up expecting to be wowed by the beer line-up. Actually best to not go even wanting to drink beer and then you won’t be disappointed. Will review this comment next time we are in Morioka again.
This place was too full for us to even try to get in to sadly. I think it’s also quite new and has lots of daytime opening as it’s a nice-food-focused cafe that just happens to have nice beer too. Think there are both taps and cans here but as we couldn’t get in, I can’t be sure. Hopefully we’ll be more lucky next time.
Interesting arrangement with the brewery situated in a fermentation speciality mini shopping centre and food court called Camocy. Basically the brewery along with a few other food and drink outlets has a little counter where you order from and then you take your drinks (and maybe food) to one of the seats in the middle. It’s a really nice building with lots of wood and a nice mix of inside and patio seating, and a nice location, but obviously given recent history one with a large dose of horror and tragedy. If you can put aside the reason from the wide green expanse of not much outside the window it’s a lovely view with the mountains and looking towards the ocean. They have six taps of their own beer available which is made in the micro brewery which is visible behind the counter they serve from. Given the food court thing, it’s open all through the day but not that late, so somewhere to pop in and have a few beers with lunch as there’s plenty of good food on offer here, even for vegetarians.
The Tono Brewing taproom is something of an outlier in the city of Tono in that it was a place that was actually open! Perhaps we visited the city at the wrong time but it was a very nice but very sleepy place with a bit of a bohemian feel. The Tono Brewing taproom is a medium sized bar with about eight taps of their own beer available, most of which were really nice. They have food too and it was really good, and felt pretty classy. There is the ubiquitous view through to the brewery window at the back of the bar and it is a nice comfortable place. Felt quite young and hip but don’t take that as a criticism. It was really nice to see something like this happening outside a large city. Tono is not the best connected place so if you’re not staying in the city you will either have to leave before closing time to run for the mini train that seems to be the main transport link or visit at the weekend during the daytime.