Kamakura – Being a tourist can be thirsty work, even in the genteel surrounds of Kamakura. Just an hour south of Tokyo, the former samurai capital of Japan offers green hills, sea views, leafy backstreets and no shortage of Buddhist statuary. After a day of temples, rambling through woodlands, inhaling the bracing sea air or just romantic rickshaw rides a deux, the chances are high you will be looking for good local pubs.
There are two breweries within the city limits. Kamakura Beer is a mainstay at tourist restaurants and souvenir stores. Meanwhile, the serious craft beer aficionados champion Yorocco Beer, a newer independent operation producing excellent innovative brews, often in small batches rarely found even in Tokyo.
Where to rehydrate? Here are six of the best local watering holes. All but one are within a couple of minutes’ walk of Kamakura Station, which makes them perfect for a craft beer crawl before jumping on the train home.
If you’re anywhere near Kamakura’s focal point, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, then the ever-mellow Magnetico is the place to rest your legs. Besides his five taps (all Japanese microbrews, including Yorocco), owner Mio Namikawa rustles up some excellent dishes, from shūmai dumplings, spicy nanban chicken and deep-fried vegan tempeh to homemade ramen and a great taco rice plate. He’s also a DJ and music connoisseur, so sit back, cradle your beer and enjoy the grooves.
Yukinoshita 4-1-19, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0005; 0467-33-5952; bit.ly/magneticobeer; open 12-4 p.m., 6-10 p.m.; closed Tue., Wed.
Despite its diminutive footprint — five seats at the counter, plus a dozen more at small tables — Rudy Brew offers an impressive nine taps (all Japanese brews, many of them local). Manager Jeremy Kircher hails from the U.S. and makes a mean Philly cheesesteak. Don’t miss the garlic shrimp and ahi poke, either. Conveniently close to the station for both commuters and day-trippers, you’ll find Rudy Brew open daily from 3 p.m. on weekdays and noon on weekends.
Komachi 1-4-24, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0006; 0467-50-0043; rudybrewkamakura.org
For close to two decades, sommelier Hidefumi Ishii has been a pioneering advocate of natural wine in the Kamakura area. But his wine bar Pilgrim caters equally to those with a thirst for local craft beer (two taps of Yorocco, and another two of Barbaric Works, brewed down the Shonan coast in Chigasaki). Occupying the ground floor of an old timber shophouse, Pilgrim is simple and spare. For a more extended leisurely session with a full course of food, book yourself into Sosan, his beautifully refurbished, self-styled gastropub-winebar upstairs.
Onarimachi 2-9, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0012; 0467-37-8549; bit.ly/sosan-pilgrim; open weekdays 5-10 p.m., weekends 2-10 p.m.; closed Mon.
A warm, welcoming interior of wood and brickwork; reggae playing softly on the sound system; and the perfume of charcoal-grilled barbecue wafting from the kitchen: Barchie’s Kamakura is hidden down a small side street, but for meat-eaters this laid-back grill/bar/neighborhood hangout is well worth tracking down. The bacon and Iberico pork sausages are great, but it’s the barbecue spare ribs that really hit the spot, especially when paired with a local microbrew.
Onarimachi 10-13, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0012; 0467-24-3388; barchies.com; open 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-10 p.m.; takeout available
VanaVasa is a recent arrival in Kamakura, but is already carving out its own niche, thanks to its focus on imported (predominantly U.S.) craft beers. Besides the exotic bottles and cans filling the large, brightly lit refrigerator for retail and takeout, it also has four taps of draft. There are only four seats, outside the entrance. If there’s no standing room left at the small counter, just join the other people spilling out onto the patio.
Onarimachi 2-9-1B, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0012; bit.ly/vanavasa; open 12-8 p.m (Sun. till 6 p.m.)
From VanaVasa, head around the corner to Copen Local Base Kamakura. Spacious and light-filled, it boasts comfortable furniture, a menu of Tex-Mex tacos, burritos and quesadillas, and serves mojitos and brews from the U.S. West Coast. There are also a couple of Daihatsu minicars to inspect. You’ve never been out drinking in a car showroom? Here’s your chance.
Onarimachi 4-10, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0012; 0467-38-8520; copen.jp/localbase; open 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
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