craft beer

Gujo’s fermented food tour in summer

Walking around Gujo Hachiman makes me sweat a lot. “Gujo Hachiman’s Beer Kobokobo” comes to my eyes.

It is so hot! Beer in summertime is the best! It is even better to have craft beer.

I am surprised when I try the first mouth! It is mild and easy to drink. It melts inside my body. It is my first time tasting this mild beer!

I am fascinated by this craft beer “Kobokobo”. Let me have a talk with the maker Mr Tetsuya Matsumoto.

This Gujo Hachiman homemade beer “Kobokobo” tastes the best at the local beer brewpub here!

This Gujo Hachiman homemade beer “Kobokobo” tastes the best at the local beer brewpub here!

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Gujo Hachiman’s craft beer “Kobokobo” is produced at “Genrin” in Gujo Hachiman. After entering the building, a small path leads us to another new world.

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Entering deeper, the brewery is located underground. The ground floor is the brewpub. You can try the beer in the garden in front of the restaurant.

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I have ordered comparison set containing 6 kinds of beers!
(I thought it is too many, but I cannot help!)

Starting from the right of the picture, the first one is “Shirakawa-tea ale”. It is gentle and soft. It contains only 3% of alcohol. The taste of green tea spreads through like a cool tea.

The second one is “Cream ale” tastes like tropical with a little bitter taste like barley tea. It is so well balanced with soft and mild taste.

The third I tried is “Pale ale” with outstanding flavor. Bitter taste and smell of orange and grapefruit can ease the uncomfortable summer heat.

The fourth one is “Wheat ale” using barley and wheat for ingredients. The smell of mango with sweetness and sourness spreads all over. You can taste a bit of bitterness too.

The fifth one is “Brown ale”. The flavor of roasted wheat comes with a deep and calm smell and makes the bitter taste more outstanding. It is very suitable for drinking at night.

The last one is a black beer called “Porter”. It is deeper than the 5th one. The taste is rich but refreshing. Even I cannot drink black beer much, I can try this.

All of them are good! All are mild and easy to drink. In fact, I like beer that I am a beer taster of Craft Beer Association. I, as a member, joined many seminars, visited breweries and tried lots of beers. It is my first time I feel “gentle” and “mild” after trying beer. I fell in love with is clear and strong image of these craft beers.

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Let me have a talk with the owner of this brewery Mr Tetsuya Matsumoto and dig deeper to the secrets of these craft beer.

“Beer is a drink with carbon dioxide gas. The pressure changes when you move them. The taste will go worse. So you cannot bring them to travel to other places. In Europe, people travel to taste craft beer. These Kobokobo beers also taste the best here, so we operate a brewery together with a pub. Most customers love beer. They tried them in Tokyo and travel to Gujo to try the original taste. We scoop beer directly from the fermentation barrel, so we can serve our beers without any unnecessary vibration affecting the quality.” Mr Matsumoto said.

Because “You cannot bring them to travel”, so people travel! Nothing the same with other seasonings or alcohol drinks, beer lovers travel looking for the best craft beer.

Mr Matsumoto is operating both the brewery and the pub. Although it is hard to do both, he wants people to taste the best beer, so he keeps on doing both.

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Beer that made by a beer lover and geologist using water in Gujo Hachiman

Beer that made by a beer lover and geologist using water in Gujo Hachiman

Another reason of the gentle taste is “The water in Gujo Hachiman is medium-hard water which is rare. Thus, it is a spring water. We brew in small among so we can spend more time in the whole procedure.” Before starting Kobokobo, Mr Matsumoto has been doing research of geology for 20 years. He studied geology in Waseda University too.

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“In order to know the geology, look the water. As I have researched of every water in Japan, water which is the most suitable for brewing is in Gujo Hachiman. When I was still an office man, talking about beer brewing with a friend who studied geology and worked in a company dealing with water, he also recommended water in Gujo Hachiman for beer brewing. I moved here and impressed by the strong river water. After I tasted it, it was so delicious.” Mr Matsumoto said.

“People in Gujo Hachiman have a strong image of living with water. This made me decide to produce beer here. Even though I have lived here 7 years, I still think that the water in Gujo Hachiman is the best.”

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There are some places with limestone in Gujo Hachiman. You can find spring water coming from a small limestone cave at the center of Hachiman. Just like “mineral water” coming out from the tab, water contains plenty of calcium. The well in the brewery is affected by a large limestone cave on the south. There is underground water with plenty of calcium coming out. Most water from river or underground do not contain mineral, like calcium and magnesium. It is rare that this water contains so much calcium.

“When you make beer in Japan, usually water with little mineral is used and need to adjust the hardness of water. However, you do not need to do this here. The quality of water is so good and faultless that the taste of the beer made is so clear. I am able to my perfect beer here.”

I have heard a lot about the water, but I can only write a bit of it here. I have visited over 250 breweries and distilleries in these 17 years. It is my first time hear so much about water. It is the only place that brewing and distilling are prospering because of the water. I am so pleased that I can try the beer made by Mr Matsumoto knowing the importance of water to brewing beer, as a geologist.

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One more reason for this gentle and mild taste is “Long term low temperature ripening”. “After fermentation, you put the whole tank into the fridge. Most yeast sinks and get ripened in low temperature in 3 weeks. The beer will become mild. During fermentation, component that makes people like and dislike will come out. If you use low temperature ripening, the two of them mix well together and soften the unpleasant part of carbon dioxide gas. After spending more time, this procedure brings more tastiness.

Normal beer transfers from ferment tank to ripen tank for ripening. Putting the whole tank directly to ripen can only be carried out in a small brewery.

Why I quitted my job for making beer?
“I have enjoyed drinking since my school days. I started with local sake at first and the first beer boom came when I started my career. You could find foreign beer in department stores easily at that time. I was shocked when I tries beer from England and Belgium. After the beer brewing regulation was relieved that people can produce in small scale, I start thinking of producing my own beer.”

Mr Matsumoto wanted to make a soft and mild beer which he likes.
He told us that he is now making exactly what he wanted.

The beer that Mr Matsumoto made is awarded “Japan Great Beer Award” from Craft Beer Association. In 2019, “Section IPA” got a silver award, “Bitter ale” got a silver award and “Pale ale” got a bronze award. In 2020, “Pale ale” finally got a gold award and “Cream ale” got a bronze award. Thanks for all fans, Kobokobo becomes more and more famous throughout the whole country. They say Kobokobo is “A gentle one and only craft beer”. I am so happy to see they thought the same with me.

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One of the secrets of this gentle beer is Mr Matsumoto himself. He is so gentle and kind. He speaks slowly and sincerely. Please come to Gujo to try this delicious “Gujo Hachiman Mugishu Kobokobo”!

You can find Kobokobo in Gujo-shi too. It is available at “Roadside Station Kokindenjunosato Yamato”, “Roadside Station Meiho Surusumi-no-satokouen”, “Sake-no-hatanaka”, “Hattori Shuten”, and café at Nagaragawa Railway “Gujo Hachiman Station”, “Dango-ya Gujo Hachiman”, “Colombaccio”, “Kiyotake”, barbecue restaurant “Wakaba”, “Sumibiyaki Genrin”, “Beer bar aoba”, “Café & marche Mikimama”, “Ito café” and “Former Hachiman Government Building Memorial Hall”. Travelling and trying beer around Gujo must be fun!

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A unit, to promote the food culture in Japan leading to the future in the next 100 years, is formed by husband “A farmer and a maltster” facing with the blessings of nature and wife “A soy sauce sommelier and designer”. They aim to introduce Japanese food culture with fermented food supported by agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

Husband : Mr Takashi Miyamoto

He started a new koji venture in the Koji industry. He uses pesticide-free and chemical-free fertilizers in preparing miso. He was fascinated by the world of fermentation and started running a Koji shop in Nishihazu-cho, Nishio-shi, Aichi-ken. He also holds a Miso and Soysauce Study Circle for more than 1000 people a year.

Wife : Ms Keiko Kuroshima(Miyamoto)

A soy sauce, olive oil sommelier & designer. She was born in the soy sauce town of Shodoshima Island and grew up with the brewers. Based in Shodoshima, she continues to visit brewers nationwide and continues to connect people and things through design, writing, and recipe making. She published “Soy Sauce Book” from Genko Publishing.

Photographs by miyamoto