I was concerned. Walking down the dark street with looming office blocks and shuttered shops, it did not seem like a likely place for a beer bar. The maps said it was just ahead, but maps can deceive. It was a holiday Sunday night in Osaka, and I was hunting for one of Minoh Beer’s Beer Belly bars.
Minoh is one of the stalwarts of the craft beer scene here in Japan, and I was excited at the chance to have a pint on their home turf. Minoh has been run by the Ohshita sisters since 1997, when their father decided it was time for the family to get into the business of brewing beer. That was right at the height of the first Japanese craft boom, and right before it all came crashing down. Minoh kept it together though, and now make excellent award winning beer that is distributed all across Japan.
Coming around the corner we spotted the bar, Beer Belly Edobori. Though the hastily written paper sign in the window chilled our hearts. Were they closed for the winter break? As we got closer I let out a grateful sigh, they were open. The sign was to notify us that the bar was out of hamburgers, which was fine we were there for the beer.
Beer Belly Edobori is a delightful little spot, located on the north side of Osaka far from the bright lights of the Dotonbori Canal. The walls are dark wood and covered in funny beer related signs, and the whole bar exudes good cheer. The place was hopping, with a few people at the bar and a big party spread out around a table. Everybody seemed to know each other, which made for a nice and intimate feeling even though we were strangers.
I ordered their W-IPA (double IPA), which was on the hand pump. Hand pumped beer is cask conditioned and unpressurized, so it has to be pumped from the keg rather than just poured. It lends the beer a nice creamier feeling, and is worth it if you can find it. The IPA was excellent, not as hoppy as some but well balanced and smooth. The real treat though is the award-winning Stout. Minoh Stout is one of the best produced in Japan, dark and roasty and rich. I have noticed that there is a tendency for Japanese stouts to be a bit thin, but that is not the case with Minoh.
For my next beer I wanted to try the dark lager, but when the bartender went to pour he just made a mixed half and half with the stout and pilsner. The drink was very delicious, but that is NOT how you make a dark lager! (A dark lager is a style brewed with roasted malts and lager yeast, not a mixed drink!) Despite that I was really impressed with Beer Belly Edobori, and I have enjoyed Minoh beers whenever I get the chance. They don’t show up in the north Kanto very often, but when they do they are certainly worth buying. There are three Beer Belly Bars, all in the northern part of Osaka. As well you can make the trip out to the brewery in Minoh city.
Have you been to a Beer Belly? What is your favorite Minoh beer?