The world’s best beer you’ve never heard of

By Hrothgar Jones 04/26/2016

While I cannot claim to be a beer expert, I can undoubtedly claim to be a beer lover. Yes, I do love it. Truly, deeply. Perhaps even madly. I’ve trudged through howling snowstorms, crossed raging rivers, rocked upon angry seas just to taste its hoppy, malty, intoxicating bliss. Okay, I didn’t actually do any of that… but I have drunkenly waded through the choppiest of chlorinated waters just to sit at a crowded pool bar in Puerto Vallarta—when I had a sunburn, even. (More dangerous than it sounds, my friend.) And I certainly would do all that other dangerous stuff if the necessity arose. Yes, I surely am that mad for beer. Which is why I was thrilled to learn that right in my very own backyard stands a bona fide world-class secret.


A thirsty visitor enters the belly of the beast—GAMBARIUS, Hoki, Tottori Prefecture (photography by Shiho Oshita)

I remember that day I first learned of the secret—a fine April day nearly five years ago. I was on a two-week vacation visiting my future wife, who had just moved back to Tottori Prefecture following a work stint in Tokyo. It was my first visit to her hometown, and my first time to see the Japanese countryside proper. We had just come from Mt. Daisen–the crowning glory of the region—where we hiked to the venerable Ogamiyama Shrine. As we drove around touring the surrounding area afterwards, my head still spinning from the mountain’s spectacular beauty, we happened upon the Gambarius beer hall—home of Daisen G-Beer, a local craft brewery. My future wife suggested we give it a try. As I was parched from the hike, and not averse to an afternoon beer on vacation, I did not protest. One lonely tour bus occupied a corner of the otherwise empty parking lot as we pulled in. My brow furrowed. Did this bode well?


Vats of beer on display for all to see at GAMBARIUS, brewing center of Daisen G-Beer

Inside, a single table of middle-aged Tokyo tourists in day-glow hiking gear drank and chatted sporadically by the fireplace amidst the vacant seats. The beer hall itself was beautiful, spacious, immaculate—a seamless combination of cultured polish and rustic charm. And empty? A server politely sat us at our choice of the many, many open tables. He suggested the house specialty, a German-style weizen beer. I followed his advice, and ordered tako karaage (deep fried octopus) as a snack. He promptly returned with the order. I eyed the gleaming glass of wheat beer as he placed it before me, awash in bubbles, beckoning like a siren call. We first doused the basket of sizzling breaded octopus with a fresh lemon wedge and dug in.


A patron enjoys a second (or third) helping of G-Beer weizen, winner of the 2011 World Beer Awards ( at GAMBARIUS

Fresh, crispy, delicious. And the beer? It stood there, waiting, watching my will melt away as it serenaded me from across the table with a golden love song. I paused, perhaps in anticipation of a life-changing detour. “Once you taste me,” it cooed, “things will never be the same.” I studied the glass for a moment with a touch of skepticism, lifted it to my lips, and tilted it back. (NOTE: The flavor I will not attempt to describe for lack of words to convey that transcendent experience.) I set the beer down in a haze of disbelief and declared to my future wife, with no reservations, “This. This is the greatest beer I have ever had.” She nodded slightly without looking up from her dish as she ate—a wordless “that’s nice, dear.”


G-BEER_04_newTako karaage, one of the many delicacies to keep the beer company at GAMBARIUS

I immediately questioned my own judgment. Was it the merely the dazzling panoramic view of Daisen’s snowy peaks? The mountain air mingled with the invigorating spring thaw? The thrill of simply being back in Japan with my future wife on such a perfect, sun-washed April afternoon? These questions and more flooded my thoughts as I reevaluated my statement. “Look,” said my rational self. “What does it matter if it’s hyperbole or objective statement of fact? Either way, this brew is a wonder of human creation. So shut up and drink, you blithering fool.” Fool that I am, I obliged, drank the glorious beer to its very last drop, crunched the karaage with gusto, and tried my best to ignore the regrettable, inevitable passage of time.


The staff of Daisen Hotel raise their glasses to an evening at GAMBARIUS

Indeed, too soon for my liking it was all over, and off we went on our merry way—mine slightly less merry than my future wife’s once we had exited the door. Walking to the car, I found myself calculating my slim chances of joining the Tokyo tourists. I shook my head in puzzlement. I asked her how a place like that could be so empty. “Locals don’t go there,” she explained. “They figure it’s just for tourists.” But haven’t they tried the weizen?? Driving off, I watched the beer hall linger in the rear-view mirror before slowly sinking into the horizon. Heaving a deep sigh as the siren call echoed in my ears, I vowed to never forget that beer. Or my newly-discovered secret.

Name   Bier Hof GAMBARIUS
Address   1740-30 Maruyama, Houki-cho, Saihaku-gun, Tottori
Phone   0859-39-8033 (Only Japanese speakers are available.)
Open   11:00-22:00 (11:00-21:00 in winter)

From January to February, open only on Fri. Sat. Sun. and Holiday.

Closed   Monday, 14:30-17:30 on weekdays
Station   JR Yonago Station
Access   30min drive from JR Yonago Station, 60min bus ride for Gambarius      orDaisen Garden Place by Daisen Loop Bus from JR Yonago Station