Tuesday, April 5, 2011


You wouldn't expect to find a Czech embassy in the middle of the countryside somewhere, but that's exactly what's being promoted at "Barrel Valley" Praha & Gen, located just across the freeway from the Kagoshima airport. Gen is a shochu brewery, and two of its current products are a sweet potato-, and a rice-, based shochu, while they also have a line of local beers (a weizen, a blonde, a dark and something they call a "golden"), as well as some non-alcoholic energy drinks and the Korean-style rice wine called makkori.

The brewery is open for viewing, although it's really just a walkway with a window overlooking the plant floor, and some glass display cases showing the brewing process and ingredients. Apparently because he somewhat resembles local hero Saigo Takamori, there's some pictures of former sumo wrestler Musashimaru as well. While you can look around for free anytime during normal business hours, the tasting room is only open for prearranged tour groups.

The grounds are surprisingly open and spacious, with two restaurant areas, several gift shops, an area for eating udon and another for ice cream, and a garden in back (there's even a daycare center for small children). According to one staff member, the Gen brewery people wanted to start up a line of beer and after some research selected some Czech recipes to work with. This led to the connection with the Czech Republic and the promotion of various Czech style wooden toys in the gift shops, while one of the shops also sells a variety of sausages and some bacon. I had dinner in the main restaurant one night, which consisted of a potato pancake-like entree, bread and a salad, plus a good-sized glass of the weizen, for about 2000 yen ($25 USD). Very tasty and decent-sized portions. The chef is from the Czech Republic and is very friendly. He doesn't speak English so we had a kind of rambling conversation in broken Japanese.

Definitely worth coming to if you're living in Kirishima for some reason. If you're just passing through the airport and don't have time to go outside, you can get the shochu and beer in the airport's gift shops (the beer is 500 yen/bottle; the shochu ranges from about 1500 yen to 3000 yen, although the flagship product is 10,000 yen ($125 USD)).

What I found interesting is that in the latest volume of Moyashimon, #10, there's a link to an iPhone application, which includes a map of shochu breweries, and Praha&Gen is one of the two places mentioned for Kagoshima. I just picked up #10 yesterday and will post the summary soon. (Satsuma Brewing is the other one.)

Display case of their current products, set up in front of the brewery entrance.

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