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Niigata Craft Beer Festival Report

by Rob
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Niigata Craft Beer Festival One Paragraph

Niigata is a long way to go for a craft beer festival of this size, but I enjoyed the atmosphere at Niigata Craft Beer Festival more so than Oedo Beer Festival. While the beer list was slightly disappointing with so few special edition beers on tap, the ones that were tasty and good value for the price as well. If you’re in the area next year, then pop along for a few beers, fun atmosphere, and good good.

Niigata Craft Beer Festival Blue Magic
Blue Magic
Niigata Craft Beer Festival Minoh
Minoh Beer
Niigata Craft Beer Festival Fujizakura
Fujizakura Beer
Niigata Craft Beer Festival Shiga Kogen
Shiga Kogen Beer
Niigata Craft Beer Festival Ushitora
Ushitora Brewery

Niigata Craft Beer Festival Full Report

This year’s Niigata Craft Beer Festival was a first for Beertengoku as we look to try new festivals and new bars. I’m a big fan of Niigata, for snowboarding, sake, and also the sea, so when the chance came up to combine it with some craft beer – damn the alliteration of the ‘s’ has gone – I grabbed the chance. With no chance of the weather cancelling the festival, due to it being located in a sprawling covered shopping mall in the Furumachi district on the Bandaibashi side of Niigata, the grey clouds that welcomed us in on the Joetsu shinkansen could easily be ignored as long as we could get to the event without getting wet.

Niigata Craft Beer Festival’s main focus was on breweries from the local area and as such, was well represented with the Echigo Beer (Niigata)Shiga Kogen (Nagano), Johana Beer (Kanazawa), Swan Lake Beer (Niigata), Tainai Kogen Beer (Niigata), Niigata Beer (Niigata), Hakkaisan Beer (Niigata), and Yo-Ho Brewing (Nagano) all turning up to the event. It was also good to see some breweries from farther afield turn up, with Aqula Beer (Akita)Ise Kadoya Beer (Mie)North Island Beer (Hokkaido)Brewmaster (Kyushu), and Minoh Beer (Osaka) all turning up with their head brewers too.

Ushitora One Pint Mind Double IPA
Ushitora One Pint Mind Double IPA - not quite a double IPA.
Niigata Craft Beer Festival Ushitora Hatopopo Ale
Ushitora Hatopopo Ale
Niigata Craft Beer Festival Swan Lake Crystal
Swan Lake Crystal
Niigata Craft Beer Festival Swan Lake Agano Saison
Swan Lake Agano Saison
Niigata Craft Beer Festival North Island Pilsner
North Island Pilsner
Niigata Craft Beer Festival Outsider Bitter Innkeeper Lager
Outsider Bitter Innkeeper Lager
Niigata Craft Beer Festival Minoh Session Brown IPA
Minoh Session Brown IPA
Niigata Craft Beer Festival Blue Magic Empire Gose
Blue Magic Empire Gose
Niigata Craft Beer Festival Aqula Akita Bijin
Aqula Akita Bijin
Niigata Craft Beer Festival Echigo Flying IPA
Echigo Flying IPA
Ushitora Mashi Mashi no Kuro Summer Edition
What coffee went into this is unknown...

Prices at the event were reasonable if you got the tickets before hand. For ¥1,500, you got a plastic cup and 4 x 200ml beers, with only the Yo-Ho Hare No Hi coming in at a smaller size of 150ml. For ¥3,500, you got 8 x 200ml beers and also a really nice special glass. Extra tickets were ¥500 per beer, so a tad pricey for the size though we did see some people disappearing off to the convenience store and picking up some more of the ¥1,500 ticket sets as a cheaper option.

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The major down point for me was the lack of special edition beers that the breweries brought along. Most of them played it safe with some guaranteed favourites – which is never a bad thing but would have been good to have generated some excitement or further interest. However, some personal highlights of beers were:

  • Ushitora’s Morning Coffee Imperial Stout – though being told at 11am it was too early to drink it was funny.
  • Blue Magic Empire Gose – a style of beer slowly becoming popular in Japan. Had a nice salty bite to it and refreshing.
  • Swan Lake Agano Saison – decent smooth saison with a nice Belgian yeast funk to it.

Thankfully, the organisers of the Niigata Craft Beer Festival had either failed on booking the J-Pop band NGT 48 or other bands and instead relied on the atmosphere itself to generate some hubbub and it worked well. Everyone was friendly and chatty, with people mingling between groups and laughs being had rather than standing listening to music at such a high pitch it would damage your eyes.

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