Aoyama Craft Beer Market

Summer is outdoor beer drinking season in Tokyo, and I’ve had a chance to sit outside in the muggy weather and have a few, slapping at mosquitoes. In this post, I tell you about the time I went to the Aoyoma Craft Beer Market in July.

The Aoyama Craft Beer Market is held during the summer at the Farmer’s Market at the United Nations University in Aoyama. Every weekend in July, you get local craft brewers showing up peddling their wares alongside the trinkets, hand-woven bags, and organic produce.

The day I went, they had Sankt Gallen, Baird, Brimmer, Harvest Moon, Far Yeast (har har), and August beer. One guy had a truck with Isekadoya. The selection wasn’t anything special. For example, Sankt Gallen brought some of their year-round staples as well as some of their seasonals (such as the Shonan Gold). Brimmer only brought two of their beers: their IPA and their golden ale.

It’s a pleasant place to hang out and have some craft beer aside from one glaring problem (more on that in a bit). The farmer’s market gives you some interesting stuff to look at–the colorful produce, the hand-made products, and just people watching. One of the nice things about some of the beer festivals in the area is that it’s pretty family friendly; you get to be outside in a nice, open space, and the food trucks have a little something for everyone. I went to a beer festival in Saitama in the spring, and much like the Aoyama Farmer’s Market, the place had tons of families hanging out. The children had space to run riot and the adults would chat over a beer while keeping an eye on the kids. Although at the Saitama beer festival, you also had groups of people who had clearly come to get hammered. It made for an interesting scene, with families sitting next to a group of college dudes who were passed out by mid-afternoon.

The food trucks at the farmer’s market are generally good. So it was a bit of bad luck that my friends and I got some nachos, except the chips were nacho cheese Doritos. It was not good. Doritos aren’t meant to be a dipping chip–too much flavor on the chip overwhelms everything. File it under “Too much of a good thing.” A shame, because the chili wasn’t bad. They had a truck serving rotisserie chicken, which was much better.

It was great except for one, miserable detail. The seating was in the courtyard of the building. You are surrounded by concrete, and there are no trees. So all the tables were huddled in the shade on the west side of the courtyard in the afternoon sun. What’s more, because of all the concrete, the heat was just radiating off the surface. The closed nature of the courtyard meant there was no air circulating. It was hot, it was stuffy. So unless you’re vigilant about hydrating, you get dehydrated pretty quickly. It wasn’t long before my head started throbbing because I did NOT hydrate.

While the craft beer market is no more, there are still a few trucks and stalls that sell craft beer, although the selection is somewhat limited. But they often have theme weekends that feature different foods and drinks (they’re having a curry festival this weekend), and occasionally, it will be beer. You won’t always get exciting new beers or brewers, but it’s a chill place to get a craft brew over good food. You’ll find it on weekends at the United Nations University, which is a rather large building that just screams bureaucracy. I’m not sure if that’s fitting, or the building looks bureaucratic because I associate the United Nations with ineffectual, bloated  bureaucracies and that colors my view of the building. Hmmm. People who study brains would know the answer. It’s about equidistant between Omotesando and Shibuya stations on Aoyama-dori, across the street from Aoyama Gakuin University. I would say check it out if you’re in the neighborhood . . .

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