There are many things tasty about Japan. In Nagoya alone we have spicy tebasaki, rich miso and crispy hitsumabushi. But let’s face it, Japanese beer is not exactly flavorsome. Those wanting to interject a little piquancy to their beer are often forced in the direction of a Red Eye, a beer with tomato juice in it, which, let’s face it, is just plain wrong.
Fortunately, for those of you living in and around Nagoya, you may have discovered that there has been a craft beer revolution going on, with places springing up all over. Here is the JIS guide to the places you should be hitting up to get your beery fix.
Hopbuds is perhaps my favourite craft beer place in all of the city. Run by husband and wife team Jamie and Kayoko, this place claims (with good reason) to have the largest craft beer selection in the city, with around 120 bottles to choose from. Focusing primarily on America’s west coast, they also do a fine line in Japanese brews, particularly Shiga Kogen, Baird and Shonan Beer, the latter of whom Hopbuds (along with some other Nagoyan brewers) teamed up with to create Blessing in Disguise, a triple IPA that, at 10%, I almost reconsidered having a third. Almost.
Being more of a bottle shop than a bar (although they do have two taps, and you are very much encouraged to drink on the premises before taking home a few bottles. Recently they have had a selection of Cloudwater from Manchester, a brewery that is causing a bit of a fuss right now, so I’d grab it if you can) means that they are not restricted quite so much by taxes, and thus are a fair a bit cheaper than other places. They also have a great community around them and put on events from time to time. Keep an eye out on their Facebook page for details of what is coming up.
Y Market Brewing
Part of the Okadaya Liquors empire that also includes craft beer pubs Keg and Grillman, Y Market Brewing is a stylish bar that sells a variety of ales and beers, all of which you can see brewing in the ground floor brewery as you walk up to the bar itself. The décor is bright and edgy with nods towards contemporary Scandinavian design, yet adorned with Mexican paraphernalia that matches the cuisine, an extensive tapas selection as well as nachos and quesadillas (with perhaps the pick of the bunch being the chicken, gorgonzola and honey). Fortunately the food and cocktail menu are in English, so if you struggle with the local lingo, you can order your grub safely.
On the many times that I have visited, the beer menu has been completely different, and I have tried all manner of IPAs and lagers, each excellent. If there is one complaint, its that their beers tend to aim towards the Japanese palate (i.e. a little on the weak side) and with a reliance on the citra hop, they can get a little samey.
For a good night out I recommend their BBQ terrace which does a great course menu and 3 hours of pour-yourself craft beer nomihoudai.
Craft Beer Keg
One of the Okadaya Liquors craft pubs, Keg is relatively small, but minimalistically stylish. They have 13 taps which, when one runs out, it is replaced by a new beer, so there will always be something different on the menu. The food choice is as interesting as their beer selection, with the rum gyoza a personal favourite.
Craft Beer & Wine Grillman
Another Okadaya Liquors pub, Craft Beer & Wine Grillman has ten taps of Japanese beer as well as Japanese wine. Choose your favourite to accompany one of their steaks or 100% beef burgers.
7 Days Brew
7 Days Brew is smack bang in the middle of Meieki, right across from the Meitetsu building, and has a pared back wooden décor. Unusually for a craft beer pub there is a smoking section on the third floor. It is slightly more pricey than the others, but it more than makes up for it with its excellent beer selection that is so up to date that the menu will have today’s date on the top.
There are three floors, including a standing section in the basement (with no table charge), but I usually hang out on the second floor where you can chat to the barstaff who do an amazing job of matching your beer to your tastes. If you are hungry they have a wide selection of grilled meats, nabe in the winter, and in summer they grill fantastic jerk chicken right outside on the street. If you just want something to pick on, I highly recommend the octopus and avocado. Much better than it sounds…
Beer Pub Brick Lane
Being in Fushimi, over by the Bank of Brazil, Brick lane is a favorite for many tourists staying at the Hilton, but its also a big hit with both Nagoya’s Japanese and ex-pat beer-loving community. Another husband and wife team (which is not the only connection with Hopbuds as the two bars are extremely supportive of each other, and you are likely to find the owners of each frequenting the others’ place with regularity) they have created a funky spot, with a clean uncluttered appearance and an airy feel.
They have nine taps with a mix of US west coast and Japanese beers, and quite often throw in a cider or two, which gets me every time. The beer menu is updated every day, information on which they post on their Facebook page, so you know what to expect, and on occasion they do low price value offers, so keep an eye out for that.
Another firm selling point is their burger selection, with some real eclectic choices. The last time I was there I went for the Chicago Pizza Burger. As fantastic as it sounds!
Tap Room is close to 7 Days Brew near Nagoya Station, they have a decent array of craft beers on tap and a cheap food menu. The front of the bar opens, and there are some high chairs at the bar that are a very nice place to sit on a comfortable evening.
Trunk Coffee and Craft Beer
A quick disclaimer here, but I haven’t had chance to try out this new addition to the Trunk family, but a good friend of mine who really knows his craft beer raves about it.
It opened this June out in Kamimaezu, and is part of the burgeoning Trunk chain that coffee drinkers will know as a watchword for excellence. My aforementioned friend was there for opening night and raved that I would “love this tiny-ass, no frills bar, man” which sounds like a vote of confidence to me. They have seven taps including a variety of Japanese beers, likely to include Shiga Kogen, judging from their stall at the Go Green Festival in Noritake Park last month.
Image by Hopbuds (Own work), via facebook.com (modified)
Image by Brick Lane (Own work), via facebook.com (modified)