Saturday, 28 September 2013

Ushiku Chateau (was Chateau Kamiya)

Another trip out of Tokyo today, and probably a badly timed blog post for reasons I will explain below. Chateau Kamiya in Ushiku, about 50 minutes from Ueno into Ibaraki is a brewery, winery, fake chateau and gardens complex that produces some very easy drinking beers and sells them at great prices. I have been out there quite a few times since I came to Japan and it is always a fun trip. Don't be put off by the train journey to get there. From a time point of view, it's not that long, and they even provide toilets on the trains (particularly useful on the journey back). From a money point of view, you only need to have 3 or so drinks before you start saving money compared to drinking in Tokyo.
In the interests of brevity, I will largely ignore all of the complex apart from the restaurant as this is after all a blog about beer. Although I should mention that the shop sells bottles to take away, so might be worth having a look in there before you get to the restaurant. The restaurant itself is a pretty large place. It's difficult to judge how many seats there are, but it's quite a lot, well over 50 I would imagine. Whilst it is a large place, it is probably still worth booking, as you wouldn't want to travel out of Tokyo and find they were full that night. However in general, I would imagine you would be ok just turning up, particularly if you go during the day or at least before the evening. In the summer it can be a bit busier, probably due to their crazily generous nomihodai (all you can drink), which lasts 4 hours and costs ¥1500. Probably best to order some food too though, in order to not appear a beer savage. However, this has just finished for the year (hence this post is badly timed). It normally runs from June/July to the middle of September but maybe best to check the website.
So, onto the specifics about the beer. They have eight taps, and three of these are their regular beers, Helles, Dunkel and Pilsner. The other five are taken up by seasonals, and these seasonals do usually have some kind of relevance for the time of year. When we visited during cherry blossom time they had a couple of Sakura beers and on my last visit they had their Autumn/Oktoberfest style beer. The three regulars are always good solid beers and the seasonals are more variable, but often great. When it is nomihodai they give you a glass and then you just go to the bar and get your beers. For the rest of the time, there is table service, and beers are served in three sizes. The glass is kind of a fluted shape, probably round about 300ml, and costs ¥450. Then there is a jokki, about 500ml I reckon, which costs ¥680. Finally if you are in a group, or are very thirsty, they serve pitchers for ¥2100. Pretty good prices. The food is decently priced too and is good regular pub food stuff, pizzas, pasta, cheese, chips etc. Very useful for soaking up some beer.
Chateau Kamiya is a place that I have never failed to have a good time at. Maybe the regular beers won't tempt those drinkers who seek out extreme styles, but they are always well made and tasty. A little while ago you used to see their beers outside of the brewery, but I have heard that recently they have been doing this less often, so if you want to drink Chateau Kamiya beers you should probably go here. It's not so difficult to get to from Tokyo, Joban line from Ueno or Kita Senju and around 50 minutes. In addition to the restaurant they have gardens to walk round and when they reopen the main building (damaged during the earthquake) there will be a bit more to look at. Probably not somewhere you would go on a whim, as it closes at 9, but well worth planing a day out and paying a visit.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Chateau Kamiya

Opening Hours:
Daily, 11.30-21.00

3-20-1 中央, Ushiku, Ibaraki

From Ushiku station leave via the East exit. Go down the stairs and you will come to a kind of drop off/bus stop area. As you look at it from the bottom of the stairs, you need to head to the top left hand corner of this area. Here you should be able to see a footbridge that crosses the main road. Take this bridge and follow it down to street level. Turn right here and carry on along this road round the bend for about 200m. You will see Chateau Kamiya on the left hand side just after the corner. 


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