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Explore the many flavors of Belgian beer

by Angela Erika Kubo

While people comment on the increasing number of small-scale breweries and craft-beer bars in Japan, I can’t help but notice that Belgian beer is also gaining a lot of attention — albeit on a lesser scale.

Among the many Belgian-style pubs in the city, Beer Cafe Brugse Zot in Nihonbashi’s Coredo Muromachi 2 building, which opened in March, stands out. Even on a recent weekday daytime visit, the bar was already bustling, with staff rushing to deliver orders to middle-aged ladies who had likely been shopping at one of the many department stores in the area.

The pub is also the official restaurant for De Halve Maan, a Belgian brewery with more than 450 years of history. The signature beer is Brugse Zot (¥900), a fruity pale-blond ale that comes with a light citrus aroma, but the menu features such a wide range of beers of different flavors that even beer haters will find at least one brew to enjoy. Yes, that’s right, beer haters — according to Satoko Miyamoto, PR spokeswoman at World Liquor Importers, which imports De Halve Maan beers into Japan, young people these days are drinking less alcohol, and they increasingly tend to dislike the bitter taste of beer.

“Some of the beers (we import) have fruits and spices such as coriander added to them, so, for example, people who usually find beer too bitter will be able to try ones that are easy to drink and come in flavors that are different from what they’re used to,” says Miyamoto.

One such beer is Kasteel Rouge (¥950), a beautiful ruby-red fruit ale made by blending cherry juice with brown beer. The beer — popular among female customers, according to Miyamoto — comes in a cute glass with a stem shaped like a castle.

The food menu includes mussels (¥1,280) steamed with the brewery’s beer. You can request to have rice added to the leftover broth to make a tasty porridge. You can also snack on potato frites (¥780/medium, ¥980/large), a signature Belgian pub snack that comes with a variety of dips and seasonings to choose from, or if want something really fresh and fancy, for ¥980 the staff will slice up a fresh potato, dip the pieces in a fryer and season with truffle salt.

The best menu item, however, would have to be the homemade Belgian waffles (¥720) that come to the table piping hot and topped with plenty of ice cream, whipped cream and various flavors of syrup.

As it happens, the 2014 Belgian Beer Weekend Tokyo (www.belgianbeerweekend.jp) will be held at Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo from Sept. 4 to 15. In addition to 64 different varieties of Belgian beer to choose from, there will also be live music and food. Despite the word “weekend” in the name, festivities last for 12 days, so there is no excuse to miss out.

2F Coredo Muromachi 2, 2-3 Nihonbashi-Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; 03-5204-1988; www.world-liquor-importers.co.jp/zot/index.html) Angela Erika Kubo is a freelance writer and bar lover based in Tokyo. Follow her on Twitter @aekubo.