It was only in recent years that I have started to enjoy beer. I guess it’s an “acquired” taste since until then my usual go-to alcoholic drink was either a mojito or cassis orange cocktail. I still enjoy these sweet drinks but if given a chance, I will go for a light beer with a fruity flavour.
While Japan still has the local izakaya, Japanese styled pubs filled with cigarette smoke, it is great to see more and more craft beer breweries and bars opening in Japan, catering to people who just want to enjoy some time with friends/families in a clean, smoke-free place.
Introducing 7 of these places, not in the order of preference, and some are my favourite hang-outs!
Museum of Yebisu Beer
This is actually one of the first beer places I have visited since I moved to Japan. They serve reasonably priced beer, at 400 JPY per glass, fresh from the brewery. My favourite is Kohaku Yebisu, which is like Amber Ale.
You may have seen their canned or bottled beers in the convenience stores or supermarkets, but nothing tastes like the ones you can get from this museum, and they also serve a few types including seasonal beers only available here.
As the name suggests, this is a museum, so there is actually an exhibition which you can walk through and study about the history of Yebisu Beer, some old products and the famous jingle you can hear at JR Ebisu station. Guided tours are available too at a fee of 1000 JPY for English/Korean speaking visitors, and 500 JPY for Japanese speaking visitors.
I think next time I should go for the Japanese guided tour since you also get to enjoy 2 glasses of beer within the tour.
Lexus Meets… The Spindle
Located on the ground floor of Tokyo Midtown Hibiya, the shopping mall which opened in March 2018, this cafe combined an interesting concept of being a showroom for Lexus car models, select shop for some interior goods and stationery as well as an “atas” place for food and drinks.
Sometimes when we are in the vicinity around the Ginza or Yurakucho area for window shopping, this is a good place to chill and enjoy some coffee, beer, wine or champagne.
The drinks are priced on the higher end when you get half a pint of their signature original craft beer “The Spindle” ale at 700 JPY and a pint of ale at 1300 JPY. I learned that this is a collaboration from Lexus with a brewery located in Tokushima Prefecture.
This place is recommended when your wallet feels comfortable to spend some $$$, get a space to stare at gorgeous cars, interesting lighting effects and people.
Yona Yona Beer Works
With 9 branches in town, this is probably one of the more famous craft beer. I first tried out Yona Yona beer in the form of their canned beers, which tastes amazingly rich to the extent that sometimes I think the canned beer tastes better than the one you get from the bar.
The brewery is located in Gunma Prefecture, and they have a whole range of beers to cater to different taste preferences. My favourite is Yona Yona Ale, and this is also available in canned beer. If you would like to try more of the “fresh” version, you can go for the Yona Yona Real Ale.
They also offer a tasting selection of 3 beers at 1280 JPY in case you are not ready to commit to a pint of the same beer at 900 JPY. They also offer the beer in small or regular sizes which is helpful for people like me who would prefer to have some sips instead of a full commitment.
Besides beer, their food selection is pretty extensive and I like how they have a menu to recommend the food and beer pairing, just to let us know how to best enjoy your beer with food.
Since this place is pretty popular, I will recommend making a reservation to make sure you don’t get disappointed when the staff tells you the place is fully booked. Personally, I haven’t tried making any reservation before since we always go between 2pm and 4pm just for a drink and usually don’t stay longer than 45 minutes, so the staff could allow us to sit at the tables for meant for reservation later.
Hitachino Brewing Lab.
Similar to Yona Yona, Hitachino Beer is also another brand that I first chanced upon in a convenience store where they sell the canned and bottled versions.
Currently they have 2 branches in Tokyo, and the one we always visit in Kanda usually has seats available for walk-in. We love the terrace spot where you can enjoy their fresh beer along the river on a cool breezy day.
I don’t have an absolute favourite here but usually go among the White Ale, Pale Ale or Weizen and home-made nuts to go with their beer is the best choice to chill out here.
Y.Y.G. Brewery & Beer Kitchen
This might be my current go-to brewery with their variety of signature and seasonal beers along with delicious food.
Tucked away in a quiet neighbourhood in Shinjuku/Yoyogi area, I don’t think it’s a place you will notice if you didn’t check up beforehand.
They have the brewery on the first floor and the food kitchen on the 7th floor. In case you just want to grab a beer or two, I think it’s fine to simply walk in and enjoy their beer on the first floor. But if you are thinking of having some food to go along too, it’s best to make a reservation for the area on the 7th floor.
So far, I have visited this place for 5-6 times and every time I have to make sure to have a reservation made a week in advance to avoid getting disappointed.
They have a few signature drinks like Shinjuku Pale Ale, Yoyogi Amber Ale and Shibuya IPA. If you are someone who likes light beers with fruity flavour, you will enjoy these. They do offer stronger ones like stouts too, but since I don’t order them, I am not able to judge how good they are.
Another reason I come here is for the food, where they serve really good snacks, appetizers and main dishes.
Brussels Beer Project
Sitting in the same street as Y.Y.G. Brewery is another bar you can visit if you are planning to go a second place to continue your drinking, typically what Japanese calls as 二次会 (“nijikai”).
Every time I go to Y.Y.G. and passed by this place, I will always tell myself I need to visit this place next time. I never visit it until some weeks ago for the first time.
The beers here are slightly higher priced and they have pages and pages of beer list to choose from. I appreciate that the staff took some time to recommend us some beers based on our preferences. Since I prefer something fruity, my selection was “Jungle Joy”. We ordered some food to go along as well, but wasn’t very impressed with the selection.
In the end, this is probably not a place for me since I also want a good range of food items. I will recommend this for people who prefer to try many types of beers here.
As they say, this is your local British pub in Tokyo. Sorry that this is not really a craft beer brewery, but it is also one of the “beer” places I go to.
Indeed, we have been visiting the Nakano branch since we started staying in Tokyo until it closed down a few years ago. Now we have to go to the only branch left in Ebisu whenever we feel like having their signature Fish & Chips dish.
They have a good varieties of imported beers which are priced at an average of 800-900 JPY, but I think we are here more for the Fish & Chips and this is the only dish that we really enjoy. There’s something to note that they only open from 3pm daily, so we usually go for an early dinner here.
The only downside is that this place welcomes smokers, so depending on your luck, you may end up getting your clothes and hair smelling with cigarette smoke. Alternatively, you can try to grab the only terrace seat at the entrance of the pub, which is our favourite seat on a cool sunny day.
There are a couple more like T.Y. Harbour Brewery or Spring Valley Brewery Tokyo which we visited some years ago and I didn’t really enjoy beer back then. Maybe I should give them another chance and visit sometime soon again this summer!