When traveling across Japan I normally make it a point to stop at the local breweries. My trip to Hakone was no different and I found myself at Gora Brewing Co. This little brewery is tucked into this mountain community about four hours south-east of Tokyo. Although quite small it boast four awards from the International Beer Cup. Gold Prize in 2018 for Hakone Kohaku, Silver Prize in 2020 for Hazy Juice, Silver Prize in 2021 for Midnight Saison, Bronze Prize in 2021 for Moon Lover. The brewery offered a flight of four beers for ¥1800 ($14.00). The beers in the flight were Hakone Kohaku (wheat beer), Rising Sun IPA (IPA), Haze Juice (IPA), and Moon Lover (IPA).
Gora Brewing is part of Nobu Hospitality that was founded by Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro & Meir Teper. The company has a worldwide distribution of hotels and restaurants. Gora Brewery and Grill opened in 2017 as a compliment to Nobu’s other restaurant Itoh Dining by Nobu in Gora. The beer is made with the natural mountain water. The location is beautifully designed by Dr. Hiroshi Nakamura who won the International Architecture Leaf Award. The placement of a large tree trunk in the center of the dining area and large boulders cemented into the foundation provide a transitional space from the outside mountain beauty to the dining area. The large window behind the bar shows a moss covered hill that was especially pretty the day we went with a slight drizzle of rain.
I also enjoyed some beer food appetizers of edamame, grilled mushrooms, chicken bits, beer yeast bread, and beef skewers. They were all very good, but be prepared to pay prices you would find at a Nobu restaurant.
Hakone Kohaku: Wheat aroma mixed with yeast smells. The aroma gave no strong phenolic scents. The beer’s color was golden straw with a quickly dissipating head. The glass had a mildly hazy appearance. Good carbonation on the mouthfeel with a medium body. The aftertaste had a lingering wheat taste.
Rising Sun IPA: The beer was amber in color. The aroma was predominately bitter but a malty sweetness could be detected behind the hop bitterness. The beer was amber in color with a white head that dissipated quickly. Slight astringency on the back end. Well balanced not a hop bomb no real piney or citrus flavors.
Haze Juice: The name was quite deceiving. I expected this to be a hazy IPA. What came out was a fairly clear light straw color beer with little to no head. The aroma citrus was dominate on the nose. No malt sweetness was detected for the aroma. In the flavor the citrus continued and the flavors were more lemon than orange. A fully attenuated beer with a clean finish. Only citrus lingered in the nose and back of the mouth in the aftertaste. Out of the four beers in the flight this is the one I enjoyed the most.
Moon Lover: The beer was very clear with a light straw color. The head had dissipated by the time the flight came out to me. The aroma and taste were of a maltforward pale ale. There was a hop bitterness present but the malty sweetness definitely took center stage. The beer has a mild citrus flavors at the end of the taste. This citrus flavor and aroma lingers in the aftertaste.