One thing my hometown of Philadelphia seems to have in abundance is beer. Any given bar or restaurant will have a varied selection of local, national, and international brews to choose from. So I was a bit surprised that upon arriving to Japan, many places only have one or two brands available.
Besides a combination of Japan’s top four: Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo, or Suntory, finding local microbrews was next to impossible. That was until about two summers ago. While wandering around in Jinbōchō for a cafe to cool down in, I stumbled across the Craft Beer Market.
Since then, I’ve been casually checking out new craft beer spots on periodic visits to Tokyo. The popularity of these special concoctions seems to have boomed over night, with new brewpubs opening every few months. Here are a few of my favorites:
Craft Beer Market
The Craft Beer Market is located on a quiet street in the already quiet neighborhood of Jinbōchō. In addition to this location they also have stores in Toranomon, Awajicho, Mitsukoshimae, and Koenji. The Craft Beer Market by far has the largest selection of beers on this list: a whopping 30 brands are available daily with Japanese microbrews making up about half of the list.
Whatever type of beer you like, from Pilsners to IPAs and Strong Ales, this place has it. Another great thing about the Market is that all beers are set at the same price: 480 yen for a glass, and 780 yen for the larger pint. So you can go around and try a few beers, or stick to a favorite and still spend about the same amount.
The food is equally as good as the beers; mainly western dishes like chicken and pasta. Yet they seem to add their own little twist to everything; even to the more Japanese dishes like fish and curry.
I can only go off of my experience at the Jinbōchō location, but I would suggest making a reservation if you plan to come with more than two people. If you want to go without making reservations, best to go before the dinner or lunch rush. This place gets packed fairly quick.
From Jinbōchō Station: Take exit A1 and turn right soon after exiting. Then turn right again at the next narrow street. Continue walking past the alleyway and make a left at the next main street. It’ll be on the left. (2 minutes)
Homepage: http://www.craftbeermarket.jp [Japanese]
Location: Google Map
This brewpub, with locations in Kanda and Hamamatsucho, combines beer with my other love: pizza. Where some places prioritize drink selection over food and vice versa, Devil Craft concentrates their efforts on both. As a result you get an experience that’s fulfilling in more ways than one.
On an average night, they have about 20 international beers on tap, in the range of 700-1300 a glass. For the cheap guys like me, it may be a bit more difficult to try a lot beers at once on these prices. Yet the staff know their selection very well, and can help you find something to suit your taste.
Every time I’ve been to the Hamamatsucho location, it was pretty busy. So I’d strongly suggest making reservations when going in groups of 4 or more. They have both English and Japanese-speaking staff available, which is a big convenience.
Buffalo Wings & Smile Tokyo
The last on this list, and possibly the smallest, is Buffalo Wings & Smile Tokyo. Like Devil Craft, this hole-in-the-wall also prides itself on pairing good food with good beer.
For food, their main seller is, of course, buffalo wings. You get a nice bang for your buck at about 700 yen for a 6-piece. There are various seasonings, spice levels, and dipping sauces for the wings. On top of that you can even get tacos here too.
For beer they have about 5 international craft beers available daily. The craft beers are all around 1000 yen. They also have more popular selections in the 500 yen range. Although their selection is small, I would still recommend checking out Smile. It’s a totally different vibe from Devil Craft and Craft Beer Market. You’ll see what I mean when you get there.
From Otsuka Station on the Yamanote Line: Leave from the South exit and walk across the train tracks. Continue walking and upon reaching a fork in the road, head slightly left. Look for the Statue of Liberty. Same route can be taken if leaving from Otsuka-Ekimae Station. (2 minutes)
Location: Google Maps
Small place that mostly does imported crafts but has at least a couple Japanese ones on tap all the time: Bar Sal’s in Saginuma.
Also Baird Beer, based in Shizuoka with taprooms in Shizuoka, Yokohama, and Tokyo http://bairdbeer.com/en/tap/index.html
you are forgetting good faucets in Shibuya. Craftsheads in Shibuya (prob. my favoriry, primarily West Coast crafts and good food and also a major collection of bourbon).
Two Dogs tap Room in Roppongi an BrewDogs which has the Punk IPA’s et al. also in Roppongi, The food at BewDogs is kinda OK, not my favorite, but the beers are always interesting- a good pace to start off the evening.
There are the Belgian beer places such as Brussels in Harajuku – excellent fries and lambics. Or Belago- in Shibuya etc. that is more chain than, but has a good assortment of beers.
Cicada, Beacon and TY Harbor make their own crafts as well and the food is always excellent, but they only have 3 types of beer on the regular menu.
Popeye is very popular but is a bit far away from downtown.