Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beer Life in Japan


"Wait a minute," my friend said. "There's good micro brew beer in Japan?"


Yeah, there's TONS. Actually, I think beer culture is a three tiered system in Japan.
  1. On the first level, you have the mass produced lager beers that most people around the world know. Sapporo, Asahi, and Kirin. There are different varieties, but they all taste the same. Much better than their American lager counterparts, but that's not saying much. By the way, I usually drink Asahi, because the can is silver. Silver like the Coors I used to drink in America. I drank Coors because I like the way the name sounds when a Southerner says it. Kers. That's me reasoning.
  2. "Pub" style beer. I have a lot of friends who see a Guinness sign and they go crazy. Duuuuude, Irish beer is the best! Then every friend from the UK talks about how Guinness is better back home. Then people fight about corporate world brands that they think represent their identity. By the way, a pint of Guinness will cost about $10. My favorite pub style place could be Kirin City, they are everywhere and not too expensive.
  3. Craft beer. This is the secret that most people are clueless about. Get with it yo!


Popeye's in Ryogoku is a good place to start in Tokyo. They have something like 70 beers on tap, most of which are from local breweries in Japan. Japanese micro brew, or ji-biru, is excellent. If you go at happy hour you get free food with each beer.


These pictures are from the recent Real Ale festival. You order a set, and it comes with all the different raw hops and malts that went into the beers. Eat the malts, don't eat the hops.


Trust me, them hops taste hella rank.


Another good place to get some craft beer is the newly opened Craftheads. Koji, the owner, is famous for his whiskey and beer collection. They've got a lot of American and Japanese beers on tap. Very rad, and in a cool spot hidden in Shibuya.


Akira on the tube, and Stone on tap.


This dude was tracking all his beer adventures in a notebook. What kind of nerd keeps meticulous track of all the stuff they've ever consumed? That's some otaku bullshit!


Nice place; expensive place. You'll pay the same for a cocktail at the Hub though. I'd much rather have something good. Sorry Hub, you're gin and tonic is lame. Nearby is Cataratas, a cozy place with cool owners. Good luck finding it though. Sorry Yuko, your place is hella hard to find.

There's also a few Belgium places, like Belgaube in Roppongi and Delirium Cafe in Akasaka, but they are really spendy and full of banker types in suits with attitudes.


If you want to drink at home, just go to Tanakaya like I said a couple weeks ago.


And get a real bottle opener so this doesn't happen for christ's sake.

Bonus, the 24 "Kuso!" drinking game!

Step 1: Download some episodes of 24. It's not illegal if you don't get caught.

Step 2: Get the Japanese subtitles here. The voice actor who does Jack Bauer in Japan is totally famous for screaming くそっ!


くそっ = Shit, Damn, Nooooooo!, etc. It's basically the safe translation of any curse. Jack says it a lot. As do others. Little kids age 6 will say it if they think you don't understand Japanese.


So line up your shots, and take one whenever someone says くそっ, or the longer, more exagerated くそううううう! One episode won't get you too drunk, but watching 8 episodes in a row, on a snowy Saturday afternoon will.

Some useful beer in Japan links:
  • The boozelist is a massive list of whats on tap at good places in Tokyo and Yokohama. If I ever get some money I'll use this as a guide and maybe make a proper review. Someday.
  • Good Beer and Country Boys is an ongoing "life in Japan" style blog that features beer on every post.
  • Baird is my favorite ji-biru. They have 2 taprooms in Tokyo.


Ivor Biggun said...

I'm guessing Cataratas was recommended to you by Koji, the Craftheads owner. Yuko, the lady from Cataratas seems to be going there quite a bit recently.
Have you checked out the craft beer scene in Tokyo/Yokohama?
There are quite a few bars featuring quite a few beers, not all of which you will find in Craftheads, Cataratas (when you eventually find it! - close to another craft beer bar, Amusement and a recommended UK styled bar, Aldgate) or even Popeyes, withit's 70 beers (max - not always got 70 on tap) on tap.
Check out the boozelist.
This simple blog features what's on tap around Tokyo/Yokohama - if and when I get round to updating the bloody thing!
Hope you enjoyed the Three Floyds in Craftheads. Craftheads is the only place over here that has it.
The geek that was writing in the book? It wasn't me (writing wastes good drinking time) but there's a good chance I know the guy.
If only the price of craft beer were cheaper over here, I'd probably be dead by now.

Ramen Adventures said...

I knew the Cataratas staff from waaaay back.

It's true, there are a ton of bars with good craft beer, especially in Yokohama. And I didn't mention anything about the Baird Taprooms. I'll add some links this page.

Al said...

Send me an email if you ever want a drinking partner at Popeye's during happy hour. I'd love to give them a try, but it is rather far to go to drink (and eat) alone.

Adam said...

Bless you and your wonderful blog. And here I thought the only way to get craft beer was in train stations.

thegypsie said...


Also thanks for posting all your booze info. It will come in handy when I finally get to visit out there. OR I could always fly by the seat of my pants like in Germany. Talk about adventure!