While Asahi and Kirin beers are world renowned, it could be argued that, along with Sapporo, they do not have the most exciting tastes. As such, expats often have somewhat justifiable cause to pine for the beer of their homelands. While there are the usual chains of British and Irish bars all over Tokyo, these still tend to sell the same big three Japanese brews.
However, in recent times craft beer has made important inroads in the capital. As more discerning drinkers search out a more flavoursome pint, various brewpubs are springing up. While it is impossible to highlight all here, below you can find some of the more heralded places in Tokyo
Brew Dog, Roppongi
Having just opened in March, this split-level bar is the Scottish brewery’s first dalliance into the Eastern market. You may know Brew Dog for their famous Punk IPA and Libertine Black Ale, but there is so much more to sample. There are twenty taps, ten of which are their own beers including four special editions.
Food is also a big thing, and to perhaps compliment the Punk IPA they have brought in a chef who has cooked for Johnny Rotten as well as the Emperor of Japan.
- Open: Mon-Thur 17:00-00:00, Fri 15:00-00:00, Sat-Sun 11:00-00:00
Devilcraft, Hamamatsucho and Kanda
The first Devilcraft bar opened in Kanda in 2011 and, while its range of 15 beers were considered to be of very high quality, it is possibly their pizza that has most people talking. While Italian restaurants do a relatively passable pizza in Japan, the deep dished Chicago style pizza is not seen all that often. However, when people from the Windy City repeatedly tell you how great it is, it’s time to sit up and take notice. The sister bar in Hamamatsucho opened in August last year with twenty-two taps and replicated the same world wide craft beers and Chicago pizza winning combination.
- Open: Mon-Fri 17:00-23:00, Sat 15:00-23:00, Sun and National Holidays 15:00-22:00
While the food selection is nothing to shout about, the winner of The Japan Beer Times’ 2013 Best Bar award, has long been considered the number one place for a top tipple in Tokyo. With a mind-blowing 70 beers on tap, it has to be said that if you are tired of Popeye, you are tired of beer. The owner Aoki Tatsuo, something of a celebrity in Tokyo craft pub circles, spends less and less time on site. Still, it is a testament to his wonderful staff that waiting times are kept to a minimum, the atmosphere is always cheerful and you are always tempted to try something new from the mostly Japanese range of beers.
- Open: Mon-Sat 17:00-23:00, Sun closed.
Baird Taprooms, Nakameguro and Harajuku
Baird Brewing started as a two man (well, one man and one woman) organisation in Numazu in 2000, but its success has helped it expand across the country. The first Tokyo branch opened in Nakameguro in 2008 with another in Harajuku following a year later, and each has its own distinct style. The former has a distinctly American vibe selling New Haven-style pizza. It also boasts 26 taps selling a mix of their own microbrew and imported beers, as well as four hand-pull real ale pumps. The Harajuku branch is heavily influenced by izakaya and serves Japanese food such as kushiyaki and an interesting Shimaguni stout edamame. However, the beers are still very much their own with 15 taps selling Baird beers along with two hand pumps, one of which supplies the house Harajuku ale.
- Nakameguro: Mon-Fri 11:30-14:30 & 17:00-00:00, Sat-Sun and National Holidays 12:00-00:00
- Harajuku: Mon-Fri 17:00-00:00, Sat-Sun and National Holidays 12:00-00:00
Photo: wikipedia "Gravity Tap" by John White CC-BY-SA-2.5
Written by Mark Guthrie