Akihabara and Craft Beer Meet Cute
In previous editions of this column, I’ve touched on the idea there’s a lot going on in Akihabara that kind of belies the traditional otaku image of the city. I’ve also talked about how the town is constantly changing, adapting to the needs and desires of people who visit.
Those two themes collide in a recently-developed shopping area called mAAch ecute, a series of shops, galleries and cafes built inside Manseibashi Station, a decommissioned “phantom station” last used in 1943.
Parts of mAAch ecute are brand new, but some of the remains of the station date back as far as 1912, giving it a very different feel than the relatively modern “electric town” of most of Akihabara.
Our main target for the evening was Hitachino Brewing Lab, (Kanda Sudacho 1-25-4), a recent addition to the mAAch ecute complex. Craft beer fans will probably recognize the name (or at least the logo): Hitachino Nest is one of Japan’s most well-known line of craft beers both at home and abroad. Hitachino Nest is made at Kiuchi Brewery in Ibaraki, and Hitachino Brewing Lab is the only place in Tokyo where you can drink all the Hitachino beers on tap.
True to its name, Hitachino Brewing Lab also makes beer on-site. Or, to be more accurate, its customers do. The Lab holds beer-making classes, showing step-by-step how beer is made.
Personally, though, I was content to let the pros handle it. We went with some tsumami, light snacks that go well with beer, and a tasting set that included Hitachino White Ale, Lager and DAi DAi Ale, all of which were excellent. I’ve had Hitachino before and always liked it, but the difference between bottled and draft was pretty huge.
Aside from the beer and tsumami, the atmosphere of Hitachino Brewing Lab itself is a big selling point. The combination of inventive lighting, dark wood and the red brick of the former Manseibashi Station feels not just unlike Akiba, it almost feels as if you’ve been transported out of Japan entirely.
Perhaps in a subconscious effort to return to Japan (or maybe just because we were hungry), our last stop of the evening was Uzushio (Sotokanda 1-17-6), a sushi place right outside Akihabara Station. Open until 10:30, it’s a good place to finish – or start – the night.
Over sushi, we discuss mAAch ecute. It feels so out of place in Akihabara, but maybe that’s the point. A woman sipping a beer next to us mentioned that she’s not an anime or video game fan, she just happens to live in the neighborhood. mAAch ecute almost feels like a refuge for Akibers who might feel overwhelmed or just plain uninterested in the electric town aspect of the city.
In this constantly-evolving town, there seems to be room for everything.