Another football trip where I could use one of those foreigner only Shinakansen passes meant that I had an opportunity to visit some places that I might otherwise not have been able to go to. Nagano has a lot of famous breweries. Well, famous in a craft beer kind of way. But most of these places are in the countryside and pretty difficult to get to. I’d like to try to go to some of them at some stage, but for now I’m going to stick to the places you can get to from a train station. One thing I would say though is be careful about opening hours as quite a few places weren’t open, even though Google said they would be. Thankfully, I checked the social media of some and found out before I went. Unfortunately a couple of places didn’t update their social media though. I’ll briefly mention places that I think might be good but I couldn’t get to, but focus mainly on the places I visited.
I really enjoyed visiting Nagano city for the first time. I didn’t enjoy so much that two places were closed that said they would be open. Nagano Minamikaze brewery was one. Google suggests that they are open every day, but the nice folks at Mallika set me straight and said that they are probably only open at the weekend at the moment. There is an Irish pub called the Red Dragon near the station and apparently it has some decent craft beer guests. This was also closed, but I think it might have been due to a family emergency judging by an old social media post I found. Yamanoma Brewery was listed as closed on the day I went, so I didn’t even bother checking it, but it is very close to the station so maybe I should have gone to have a look out of curiosity. Basically, there were enough good places to make me start thinking about another visit, but I will research and choose the day carefully before I do that.
This was a really nice brewpub up in the area near Zenkoji. I really liked this place. The staff were very friendly and the beers and food were nice! They had eight taps with two of their own beers on and six guests. They also sold bottles to takeaway or drink on site (I think). The bar is on the second floor above the brewery and there is a counter for four and then a nice counter along the front window for about the same. There is table seating for maybe 10 more too. Has WiFi too. This was my favourite place of my visit.
A bottle shop/drink on site standing bar with a few seats too. No taps, but three fridges of beer and some ciders with about one third being Japanese beer. There is a selection of local stuff along with some breweries that I hadn’t seen before. Guess I’m getting out of touch! Under 500ml there is a ¥200 corkage fee and it’s ¥400 for over 500ml. Slightly annoyingly I made a rushed visit here as I had two more paces to go afterwards. The final one ended up being closed though so I could have stayed a bit longer. Will definitely revisit next time.
Mash Café & Bed Nagano
Big place which is basically the lounge area of the hotel/hostel that is above it. Six taps of Japanese craft with about half being local Nagano beers. Prices seemed a little high until the glass arrived when I noticed that the ‘half’ was actually pretty big. Has WiFi and lots of seating. The food looked good too. They served pizzas but I’d kind of overdone it a bit on pizzas in the previous few days so I just went for some olives which were really nice. Really nice staff too!
I heard from the staff at Mallika that there are quite a few more bars in Matsumoto since I last visited, so maybe it’s worth a Google. But here are posts for the two places I have actually been to there.
Matsumoto Brewery Taproom
Mucch (Do Brewing)
The intriguingly named Mucch is the taproom of the fairly new, (I think), brewery Do Brewing. There also seems to be a link to the Hatos Bar group but I’m not sure if this is official or just a friendly thing. Mucch is predominately a BBQ place but they were fine with me just sitting at the counter and going through the taplist. They had four taps of their own stuff on. I really liked one of them enjoyed two, but one was quite difficult to drink. But that’s just me I guess. Some domestic and imported bottles and cans too. Not too far from the station up the main road that leads from the castle exit. They had a bit of seating on the first floor and a bigger room upstairs. The music they were playing was great. Had WiFi but I didn’t ask for the password. Not sure if there is a charge. I didn’t get anything but afterwards thought that I might have been charged ¥200 extra. I didn’t realise till I was halfway to Tenzing though.
Really close to the station from the castle exit. Tenzing is a brew pub with a small seating area and counter downstairs but with a large room upstairs which I guess they use for parties or when things get busy. They had three taps of their own beers on and two guests. But one of their taps ran out before I arrived. Eight taps in total, so perhaps in busier times the selection gets a bit larger. They also offered a beer flight. Really enjoyed their German Pilsner and the miso selection of snacks was really good too. Once again, really nice and helpful staff. The guy who I think was the brewer used to live in the part of London that I was born in, which was quite surprising!
There are a couple of brewpubs here now but I’ve never been to them. They are on the map marked with a ?. They’re called Quartet and Karuizawa Q. I know nothing at all about them other than the fact that they are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.