Saturday, May 7, 2016

Isekadoya Microbrewery: Adventures in Recursivity

As you cannot step twice in the same river, you cannot twice experience the same place, or the same beer. This rings especially true with the artfully crafted and subtly traditional brewery of Isekadoya, nestled in the heart of the charming village of Ise, Japan.

Ise Jingu on a Rainy Day
Both Ise and Isekadoya have both seen much change in the world during the course of their existence. The main shrine at Ise is rebuilt every twenty years using fresh pine from the surrounding hills – this has happened at least 62 times, with the next scheduled rebuilding of the shrine to take place in 2033. This puts the age of the shrine at 1240 years old. Legend has it that Ise-Jingu was in fact first constructed in 4BC. Christianity and Islam did not exist when this temple was built. The Roman empire was at its peak, as was Han China. Columbus had not visited America, the renaissance was still well over a millennia away. And yet the temple and its grounds are manicured and maintained with such precision that the hard work needed to maintain the timelessness of this breathtaking location is truly something to behold. Perhaps this is the tradition of Ise, that of constant perfection and maintenance.

This approach resounds with the history of Isekadoya Microbrewery. To quote the brewers themselves, “Endeavors worth doing always bring with them certain ups and downs, mistakes and miscalculations and surely a lot of hard work. Yet, if we pay close attention, there is a lot to learn from our missteps—starting Ise Kadoya Brewery is proof positive of that.”

The Road Leading to Isekadoya
The name Isekadoya is an amalgamation of the shrine’s name, Ise, and the traditional family company name of Kadoya. Kadoya is still across the street, and has been for 430 years! They specialize in kinakomochi, miso, and soy sauce. They expanded into brewing in 1993 and have met a level of success that even they did not expect.

Isekadoya has won multiple World Beer awards, including the world’s best Brown Ale in 2010 (I am partial to the Kagura IPA and Sinto lager, myself). They also won the best brewery in Japan award in 2009. Perhaps this is in part due to their open fermentation tanks, a difficult method of fermentation that can produce a smooth, easy-drinking beer. Open-fermentation also produces more variability without extremely tight controls, as wild yeast, microbes, and other particles in the air can now enter the beer and give it a distinct, old-world flair. This means that reiteration is likely a better term than reproduction for each beer brewed in such manner, with a very slight uniqueness imparted into each batch. 

Isekadoya Microbrewery Taproom and Restaurant
The brewpub location itself is easily missed if you do not keep your eyes open – a small beer bar abuts the main pedestrian walkway in town. You can grab a pint and a kakifraigushi (fried claims on a skewer) right on the street and watch the world pass by. Or, walk past the small counter into the bellows of the taproom and find yourself a seat. You will be treated to a historic Japanese atmosphere with a direct view of the meandering Isuzu river. 

Have some beers, fried oysters, and explore the town and temple. Think about where you are at, where you have been, and where you are going as you watch the river pass, knowing that the river, your beer, Ise, and you yourself won’t be the same the next time around.

Fried and Roasted Oysters - their Speciality! Multiple Beers to Wash them Down in the Background.
Isekadoya Microbrewery:

Ise Travel Information:

1 comment:

  1. Great review! I'm looking forward to visiting sometime soon.