Post: Wednesday November 11, 2015
The cup of the Tokyo craft beer scene runneth over, with breweries of all sizes starting up, expanding improving their line-up of quality craft beers. Whilst Tokyo has its share of microbreweries, as of yet there are no craft breweries in the Hiroo and Azabu-Juban areas. Despite that, there are plenty of options which allow you to try some excellent Japanese craft beer—from burger joints to basement bars and even supermarkets, here are eight cool spots you should definitely try!
Finding Tokyo Craft Beer in Hiroo and Azabu-Juban
Address: 5-15-25, 2F Rokkokan, Minami-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Directions: Exit Hiroo Station, exit 1. Turn right. It is on your right side, on the 2nd floor.
In Hiroo, one of the best options for Japanese craft beer on tap is actually a hamburger restaurant. Opened in 2011, this high end hangout offers 6 taps of rotating craft beer and a few more options in bottles. The layout is American style, the friendly staff speaks English well and they have English menus. It is non-smoking inside, but you may smoke outside on the patio.
Being Burger Mania, they obviously feature an extensive burger menu with lunch specials available until 4pm. The food here is excellent and burgers are cooked to your specification. When choosing which form of liquid glory to have with your avocado cheeseburger (reasonably priced at 1290 yen with large, chunky fries and a small salad), you have a number of options.
The beer selection is based on style, featuring an IPA, pale ale, a lager, a white beer (wheat or weizen), a stout or porter and a special category. The styles are fixed but the choice of beer of each style changes.
Prices are a touch above average for Tokyo craft beer, at 880 yen for 370ml and 1,100 yen for a US pint of 473ml. Beers are poured well and received in good condition. The focus is spread between imported and domestic craft beer. They also have a reasonable selection of wines and spirits.
An example of one of their beers is the Nippon Craft Beer, Far Yeast, first Ascent IPA. This is contract brewed by Gotenba Kogen brewery (near Mt.Fuji).The beer arrived perfectly poured, with a centimetre of soft, smooth foam atop of a slightly hazy, tangerine orange coloured body of beer. The smell and flavour are of grapefruit, fruity citrus, pine resin and slight caramel from the malts. The dry hopping added a touch of sharp grapefruit and pine and spice. Its craft beer Tokyo style, a very nice Japanese take on a West Coast style American IPA and a great option to go with fatty, meaty or spicy foods.
Address: 3-13 1-chome, Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0045
Directions: Located just a short walk from exit 7 of Azabu-Juban Station. Simply exit, turn left, then left again and you should see the round, neon sign and bar ahead, on the right side.
When searching for a good craft beer-focused bar or restaurant in Azabu-Juban, Craft Hands immediately springs to mind. This beer and wine bar opened 5 years ago and features a craft beer bar and counter on the first (or ground) floor and a wine bar in the basement underneath.
The beer bar section offers 14 taps plus more in bottles. Of the taps, about half are imported beers, while the rest are domestic Japanese beers. This bar is one of the very few places where you can find Sapporro Edelpils; an excellent, hoppy, crisp and refreshing lager made by Sapporo, one of the big 4 (along with Asahi, Suntory and Kirin) companies that make up about 95% of the Japanese domestic market. Many will claim that Edelpils is Sapporo's best beer. Along with Edelpils, Crafthands offers the Sapporo Shirononoka, a Belgian wheat ale styled offering that is soft, fruity and spicy with clove flavours.
Prices here are a tad on the higher end for Tokyo craft beer, being 680 yen for a 270ml regular glass and 1100 yen for a larger 450ml glass (just shy of the 473ml or a US pint).
Service is friendly and efficient, and each order comes complete with a small side dish, such as a porcini mushroom and chicken pâté, served with Italian bread sticks. Pours are good, with about a centimetre or less of foam in each glass. Crafthands offers a limited selection of about 6 or 7 Japanese craft beers but the selection includes some beers that are hard to find, elsewhere. Crafthands offers free WiFi and is non-smoking.
The Tippler’s Arms
Address: 1-8-12 Ground Floor, Westel-Azabu-Juban, Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0045
Directions: Located just a short walk from exit 4 of Azabu-Juban Station. Simply exit, turn left and it will be on your right-hand side at the end of the second block.
In this Azabu-based English-style pub, chow down on classic fish and chips, hamburgers or other combination plates—just don’t forget to choose your favourite beer (including Scottish, Belgian, and others including Japanese varieties) while you’re at it! Speaking of beer, come on Sundays to experience the pub’s specialties: Roast beef and beef stew, both using beer as a “hidden ingredient” to make the flavour all the more satisfying.
Other Options for Craft Beer in Hiroo and Azabu-Juban
Whilst burger joints and basement bars are great for a night out, what should you do when you want to satisfy sudden cravings for craft beer in Tokyo at strange hours of the day or night? Luckily, there are many ways to get your hands on some craft suds.
Directions: Located just a short 3 minute walk from Azabu-Juban station (exit 1/2), next to Arisugawa park. (8:30–21:00 daily)
Among the area’s supermarket options, National Azabu has by far the larger Japanese craft beer selection, ranging from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south and everything in between. Expect prices for 3330ml cans or bottles to range from about 260 yen to slightly upwards of 500 yen.
National Azabu supermarket is a very popular shopping destination for foreign people living in the area. Along with a nice range of beer, they also feature a good range of wines, meats and items that might be hard to come by elsewhere.
Directions: Meidi-ya’s Hiroo location is just one minute from Hiroo Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line, Exit 2. (10:00–21:00 daily)
Meidi-ya is an ample supermarket that specializes in canned goods. It also has a large and diverse selection of import items enticing to the foreign community in Hiroo, including beer, wine and whiskey. In addition to Tokyo craft beer, British, German, and even Trinidadian beers can be discovered here.
Nissin World Delicatessen
Directions: Nissin is located a 3 minute walk from Azabu-Juban Subway Station on Namboku-line (Exit #3) or Oedo-line (Exit #6). (9:00–21:00 daily)
Nissin supermarket, aka Nissin World Delicatessen, is another option that is very popular with foreigners, as it offers a wide choice of international products, including craft beer. They stock a wide range of British, American, German and Belgian beers. Unfortunately, the Japanese options are rather limited.
Another option for Japanese craft beer, close by, is the Natural Lawson chain of 24-hour convenience stores which, true to its name, offers more healthy choices than some stores—excluding perhaps the beer. The selection is different to that found in Nissin and includes beers such as Coedo, from Saitama and Iwate Kura, from Iwate.
Directions: Head away from Hiroo Station, past the Meidi-ya building and you will find it on the left side, after a few blocks.
Finally, for a much more local option, try the cosy alcohol store, Masukatsu, next to Hiroo Station. They feature mainstream Japanese beers plus a reasonable range of Japanese craft beers in cans and bottles, such as Shiga kogen, Yaho, Oh!La!Ho, Echigo, Kinshachi and the Tokyo-based Ishikawa brewery. The staff does not speak English, so remember to bring a Japanese friend or two if looking for a particular brew.
As long as you know where to look, there are plenty of great Japanese craft beer options in Hiroo and Azabu-Juban. For other things to do in and around Hiroo, Azabu-Juban and the great Tokyo area, we invite you to visit our Travel and Recreations page.
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