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Tokyo and Japanese Beer

We all want to know where we can get quality craft beers in Ireland and abroad, whether in bars, restaurants or off-licenses. Share your experiences here.

Postby irish_goat » Wed Jan 04, 2017 12:17 pm

Heading off to Tokyo next month for 5 nights and wondering if anyone has any recommendations for either bars or specific beers to hunt out.

I've a provisional map done up but given the size of the place I'm not sure where all I'll get to. Staying around the Chiyoda district but I'll have time to travel if anyone has suggestions for a must-see place though.
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Postby oblivious » Wed Jan 04, 2017 2:28 pm

ooh nice enjoy 8)

Sorry no but recomindations
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Postby giacomorizzo » Wed Jan 04, 2017 11:05 pm

I'll be in Tokyo in April. No suggestions yet so, but I'd appreciate yours [emoji14]
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Postby Rory » Sat Jan 21, 2017 2:48 pm

The Japanese macro scene is huge, and generally beer to the Japanese just means Sapporo or Kirin, sometimes Asahi or Suntory. Although craft beer is present in Japan it is not as readily accessible as in the likes of the US. Generally in a bar or restaurant the vast, vast majority of the time there will not necessarily be a craft option available. For that, you need to hunt out one of the craft bars or brew pubs. Although they are reasonably numerous the issue is that Tokyo is so huge that you will need to make your own call on whether it's worth your while making the trek to particular places. Getting a few connections and then walking somewhere can take a while. Think of it a bit like London - if you're staying near St Pauls you might easily make a trip to Soho but you'd be unlikely too really good to far away just for a pub.

General comments-

I've been to a few different Baird taprooms (Yokohama and Harajuku) and they're good fun, but they're a real first wave brewer at this point.

Popeye is a bit of a mecca and I would recommend it. The Aldgate is another one which makes the top lists but did not impress as much.

Something you may want to be aware of is that in Japan sometimes the food and drink hubs in a particular area are actually the depatchika - department store food halls. In Ireland we would probably not intuitively assume this to be the case but in Japan the depachika often contain the really high-end stuff. You can pick up some serious bargains if you shop around closing time - boxed sets of sushi that must be sold by end of day, for example. They're also sometimes the best place to track down cans and bottles of Japanese craft breweries, if you can't make it to some of the specialist off licences. You can pick up a good range of cans fairly cheaply that might allow you to sample more stuff than trekking to craft beer bars.

The Golden Gai area in Shinjuku is a kind of touristy thing to do but I'd still recommend it. Mainly macro beers available but I tend to drink more whisky when in Japan frankly. Eat at Naga ramen restaurant when there.

I'd strongly recommend having a phone with google maps that you can access over there. The Japanese address system is a disaster and just relying on a paper map or written directions will often go wrong, and you cannot count on a Japanese being able to help you. When I started going to Japan in the 90s even fewer people spoke a bit of English and there was less bilingual signage, but it remains the case that the street layouts and address system means even Japanese struggle to find places sometimes. You can walk the same three blocks looking for a tiny place and then realise you need to be looking three levels up as well, 1st and 2nd floor restaurants and bars are not uncommon.

Enjoy, it's one of the definitive food and drink destinations in the world for my money.
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Postby TheMadBrewer » Sun Jan 22, 2017 5:45 am

I had a trip planned to Tokyo a couple of years ago but ended not being able to go.

A couple of friends recommended "Craft Beer in Japan" by Mark Meli, available on Amazon as a Kindle e-book (and maybe elsewhere as well). It was published in 2013 or 2014 so it is out of date I'm sure, but I found it useful in my research.

With help some beer friends who've visited Japan I came up with a list of nearly 40 places that seemed to have interesting beer. I'm pretty sure I have it around somewhere as a spreadsheet and could email it to anybody that was interested.

Added: Turns out the website I built to gather the information is still somewhat functional. For a map of the places...

It was really only for my own use and so there are lots of dead links and stuff that maybe doesn't make sense, but if anybody finds it useful, its there.

Fred Waltman
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(but in Dublin next week!)
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Postby irish_goat » Mon Jan 23, 2017 4:41 pm

Cheers Roy and Fred! Plenty of info in those 2 posts thanks. :)
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