Habanero Beer, Karinto Fly Off Shelves at Fukushima Roadside Rest Area; ‘Spiciest Town’ Adds IPA to List of Super Spicy Products

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tetsuya Kono, head of the Michi-no-Eki Hirata roadside rest area in Hirata, Fukushima Prefecture, poses with beer and karinto snacks made using habanero peppers.

HIRATA, Fukushima — Beer and karinto, a sweet deep-fried snack, both made using habanero and other extremely spicy chilies, hit the shelves at Michi-no-Eki Hirata, a roadside rest area in Hirata, Fukushima Prefecture, in January.

Hirata is known for producing chilies and touts itself as being the spiciest town in Japan, and its roadside rest area sells more than 30 items made using extremely spicy peppers.

The habanero beer is flying off the shelves, despite being pricier than other beers, and has already had to be reordered. A 330-milliliter bottle of Habanero IPA, jointly developed with a brewery in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, costs ¥1,000. In addition to habaneros, the beer also includes ghost peppers and Carolina Reapers, all of which were harvested in Hirata. The peppers are soaked in brewing tanks during the production process, giving the beer a little kick.

According to Tetsuya Kono, 63, the head of Michi-no-Eki Hirata, it was initially thought that only beer enthusiasts would buy Habanero IPA due to its unique taste. However, it has sold far better than expected and has had to be restocked.

Another new item, habanero karinto, which costs ¥432 for a 70-gram bag, was jointly developed with Nukamo, a confectionery shop in Motomiya, Fukushima Prefecture. The snack comes in two different flavors — very hot and mild — and is characterized by its perfect balance of the karinto’s sweetness and the habanero’s spiciness.

Over the past decade, the number of chili products sold at the rest area has grown to more than 30, including soft-serve ice cream, retort-pouch curry and potato chips.