You wait all summer for some craft beer event then autumn rolls around and you can’t move for the beer festivals. Keyaki Hiroba Beer Festival is held biannually, once in spring and once in autumn, in Saitama Shintoshin. Like other beer festivals it’s a pay as you go event with breweries vying for your custom, shrieking at the top of their voices trying to entice you to purchase a beer. Held over five days from the 19th to the 23rd September and with over seventy breweries and two hundred beers, it’s another attempt at trying as many beers as you can.
BeerTengoku arrived on the Saturday of the event. We were faced with touts trying to sell tickets to the local UFC event. Had we somehow gone to the wrong place? There were brewery flags flapping in the cold Saitama wind but not many directions to the event. When we last turned up in spring, there were poster everywhere and guides telling us where to go. Turning the corner, we noticed the Keyaki Hiroba Beer Festival poster and knew we were on the right path.
This autumn’s Keyaki Hiroba Beer Festival was held inside Saitama Super Arena which meant the atmosphere was very much subdued. Upon entering the arena though, BeerTengoku was overwhelmed with the vastness of the space. After the previous BeerFes Yokohama 2014, Keyaki Hiroba Beer Festival’s atmosphere was much more sedate. Children running around with parents in tow, when the opposite was expected, didn’t bode well.
Most, if not all, the major breweries were present; however, very few of the head brewers were at Keyaki Hiroba Beer Festival. Why weren’t they there? Keyaki Hiroba Beer Festival is one of the major beer festivals in Kanto. It is a great chance for those who live north of Tokyo to meet with the head brewers and ask questions if they couldn’t make the BeerFes Yokohama event.
Beers at Keyaki Hiroba Beer Festival ranged from 200yen for a small 200ml glass (in some cases that glass of beer was 9%) to beer tasting sets at 1000yen for 4 beers and you had a wide range of beers available. That was one of the major differences between the Keyaki Hiroba Beer Festival and the BeerFes event. Here, breweries had a wider range of beers on tap for people to try compared with the BeerFes event. Inbetween the small-sized glass and the beer tasting set was the large size. An ambiguousword at the best of times but this large sized varied from brewery to brewery. Some were 350ml, while others were at 500ml.
The best part of the Keyaki Hiroba Beer Festival was the Omiyage beer stand. There were lots of craft beers on sale here at roughly shop prices and available to drink there and then, or to take home to your loves ones who let you go out drinking. With a wide selection of breweries and styles, there is something for everyone, including children that came along. Unfortunately, the only beers they had for kids were those “fun” beers that can be seen in the supermarkets. Perhaps a missed chance at tying those kids in to a brand for the rest of their life.
Overall, with it being inside during autumn it is hard to recommend but Keyaki Hiroba Beer Festival is pushing craft beer forward in a crowded market in Japan. It is really just a giant pub. Go with some friends, buy different drinks, and share what you buy to get the most out of the it.[Editor’s note: there were some pictures to go with this; however, due to the consumption of beer, someone forgot to put a memory card in their camera.]