I went to Japan a couple weeks ago to visit and see the country. I wasn't there on any beer related quests or anything, but I did notice it was hard to find anything for and for a decent price. So I've started a "guide" on my blog hoping to help anyone that is looking in the future. Check it out, and please contribute if you know of anything else.Guide to Beer In JapanMy Experience
Or, in English, “Cheers”!
After about 10 years of yearning to go to Japan, I was finally able to cross this place of my list of places to visit. I was vacationing and visiting a friend while taking in some sites. I wasn’t really there to experience the beer scene but being the beer nerd that I am, I tried to anyway. All I have to say is that I am happy I wasn’t there strictly on a beer mecca because I may have been thoroughly disappointed.
I do have to admit that I didn’t do a lot of research into different places to go to get beer, nor different brands/styles of beers to look for while I was there. A lot of my research went into accommodations, sites, culture and general getting around. My wife wouldn’t have been so happy had we only gone to a bunch of breweries and beer shops. So, I went in a little bit blindly.
Finding Beer in Japan
Vending machine with beer in it, in JapanJapan is a very interesting place with lots of culture, people, neon lights, seafood and vending machines…6 million in Tokyo alone. Inside some of those vending machines was one of my favorite things in the world. Beer. That’s right. You can buy pints of all the mass produced beers right out of vending machines. If that isn’t awesome enough, you are able to crack it open, walk down the street and hop on the subway if you wish.
As cool as that sounds, none of the beer was to die for. Ninety-five percent of the beer I was able to readily find in vending machines, convenience stores, grocery stores and even liquor stores was usually of an all malt variety or rice beer. None of which was very good unless you were extremely thirsty, had a bad day or you just hadn’t had a beer in a while. There were a couple of cases that I was able to find a stout created by one of the big Japanese brewers, Kirin, which was a nice change, but pretty run of the mill.
Frustration Sets In
I honestly didn’t think it was going to be that hard to find a “craft” type beer in a place with so many people, until I found out that the importation tax on grains makes beer more expensive to drink than Jack Daniel’s. It was at this point that I was determined to find something.
I jumped on the Internet and found some pubs in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima. However, I kept finding the same thing each time I went and looked at menus…$15 for a pint of Rogue. Almost all the “craft” beer I could find was in the form of an import and had a hefty sticker price. I didn’t bother buying anything that was something I could get in America for a cheaper price. There were beers one the lists that could have been locally produced, I couldn’t find info stating if it was local or an import, but they were still $15 a pint.
It was not until I found a website “Beer in Japan” that I was able to track down some “local” brew made right in Japan. The site directed me to the “Harvestmoon Brewery” in Tokyo. This just so happened to be a hop, skip and a jump away from where we were staying. So we went. I was actually able to do a review on one of their beers and you can see it here, later this week.
It was difficult to find any kind of beer that I really wanted to drink in Japan. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the occasional Sapporo or Kirin Lager, but I ended up falling in love with Sake and spent most of my nights drinking up glass after glass of the rice wine. A $3.50 flask of Sake lasted me as long as $9 worth of beer did for my wife. If your looking for American Craft beer, you can find it, but be ready to pay an arm and a leg for it…
I’m curious though. Have any of you found different local brews in Japan? Let me know. I plan to go there again someday and I’d like to add them to this list!