1. T.Y. Harbor, brewery, Tennozu Isle
    Photo: T.Y. HarborT.Y. Harbor
  2.  Shushokudo Toranomon
    Photo: Shushokudo Toranomon Shushokudo Toranomon
  3. Folkways Brewing
    Photo: Keisuke TanigawaFolkways Brewing

9 best urban breweries, wineries and distilleries in Tokyo

Hidden down alleyways and backstreets, these pint-sized producers make world-class beer, wine, sake and spirits

Written by
Jessica Thompson
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While we love to head out of the city to sample the best booze that Japan has to offer, there are plenty of world-class urban breweries, wineries and distilleries dotted across Tokyo. You might think the lack of empty warehouses in the capital would be an issue, but Tokyoites are masters of using small spaces, so you’ll stumble upon cleverly positioned venues in little corners all around Tokyo. 

Whether you’re into craft beer, sake, wine or even spirits, Tokyo most likely has a pint-sized place producing tipples you’ll love. Some brands started out as a hobby, while others are passion projects run by people with a strong social conscience. Best of all, you’ll find most venues have on-site bars for tastings and many offer tours, so you can learn all about how your new favourite drink is made. 

Note: these breweries, distilleries, and wineries might close early depending on current Covid-19 measures. Please check with the individual outlets for the latest business hours. 

RECOMMENDED: Stock up at the best bottle shops and liquor stores in Tokyo

Thirsty work

  • Bars and pubs
  • Craft beer pubs
  • Kiyosumi

A few minutes’ walk from Kiyosumi Shirakawa Station, keep a lookout for the beer keg that marks the spot for Folkways Brewing You’ll find it tucked into the first floor of a nondescript apartment block. The interior is simple and sophisticated, with concrete floors and a long timber bar counter, and the vibe is homely and welcoming – just the type of place where you're likely to meet friendly locals over a cold glass of craft beer. To the right of the bar, you’ll see all the gleaming brew tanks and equipment.

Brewer Daisuke Furusawa has a precise palate, and his lineup of pale ales, IPAs, porters and more (from ¥800) is both delicious and creative. Furusawa collaborates with local suppliers for special releases, like a beer infused with leftover grapes sourced from a local wine producer, or a brew made with cacao nibs from a neighbourhood importer. 

  • Bars and pubs
  • Yoyogi-Uehara

While a sake brewery might have you thinking of rolling rice fields, clear streams and snow-capped mountains, Wakaze is more of a hip urban hangout. Snugly fit into a chic, modern storefront along a buzzy Sangenjaya street, the brewing room features large glass windows allowing you to peer in while sitting at Wakaze’s bar and restaurant. Here, you can sample the brews with a food pairing set menu that changes monthly.

The brewery room itself is just 14sqm, but this doesn’t get in the way of a professional setup, with four 200L thermal tanks, a compressor, and even a Shinto altar to bless the brews. If it’s available, don’t miss out on trying the Sangenjaya Doburoku – it’s an unfiltered, thick and cloudy-white sake that’s rich in umami.

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  • Restaurants
  • Toranomon

Tokyo’s first gin distillery is in an unlikely spot: in the fancy yokocho (food hall) in the Toranomon Hills complex. Fitting into the uber-modern vibe of Toranomon Yokocho, the sleek distilling setup sits in the middle of a bar, behind a futuristic-looking glass enclosure. 

The Toranomon distillery’s gin uses local shochu and spring water from Okutama River, with limited-edition seasonal releases featuring botanical infusions like lavender, mandarin flowers and ume (Japanese plum). Head of production Teppei Ichiba trained at the revered Tatsumi Distillery in Gifu, so you know you’re getting a refined tipple. You can choose whether to have it on the rocks, mixed with soda or tonic – and if you’re unsure what to get, ask the staff for a recommendation. If you’re a fan of what you try, you can pick up a bottle to take home – each features a catchy label.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Wine bars
  • Monzen-Nakacho

Founded in 2016, Fukagawa Winery is so committed to making wine in the city that it grows grapes on the rooftop of a nearby supermarket. Although the crop doesn’t yield enough to produce wine, it’s used as the yeast starter in the fermentation process. Head down the narrow path to the back of the building, where you’ll find a compact restaurant with windows looking into the production room. 

From 2pm to 5pm, you can get 20ml (¥200) or 50ml (¥300) tastings. The regular menu kicks in at 5pm, with Italian-inspired dishes and full glasses and bottles of wine on offer – but if you can’t decide, you can still get a flight of three wines for ¥1,600.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Asakusa

This distillery makes inventive, quality spirits from food waste. Tokyo Riverside Distillery is run by The Ethical Spirits & Co, which hit the headlines in mid-2020 with Revive, a gin made by distilling leftover Budweiser beer that was going to waste during Japan’s first state of emergency. The product roster has expanded since then, but the company is still focussed on gin for now, with plans to release its first whisky in 2022. 

In front of the gleaming 500L copper still on the ground floor is a streetside counter where you can buy all the company’s unusual but wonderful spirits, including a silky smooth gin made from cacao husks. Instead of a free tasting, the shop offers a free whiff – staff will spray each spirit onto a pad for you to smell, just like at a perfumery. If you’re looking to get more than a sniff, head upstairs to Stage, the venue's bar and restaurant. It serves cocktails made with different Ethical Spirits gins and herbs from the building’s rooftop garden.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Craft beer pubs
  • Daikanyama
  • price 2 of 4

Spring Valley is set into a lofty former warehouse in the upmarket Daikanyama neighbourhood, and is one of the largest urban breweries in Tokyo. Popular with both locals and visitors, the craft beers are brewed behind enormous glass panels, in full view of guests. The brewery’s six-variety lineup includes the crisp and bitter 496; the rich, fragrant After Dark; and the raspberry juice-infused Jazzberry.

We recommend trying out the beer flight (¥1,000), which lets you sample the entire lineup in 120ml taster portions. The excellent food menu offers excellent pub grub like charcuterie, burrata caprese and pizza, and each item even comes with a suggested beer pairing.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Wine bars
  • Okachimachi

The catchy labels of this young winery come with pairing suggestions: merlot with steak, orange wine with crab, sparkling koshu with…a tent (we assume that means it’s ideal for relaxing around a campsite). Book Road wines are made in a backstreet winery in eastern Tokyo in a petite, immaculate warehouse replete with milk crate tables out front for cellar-door tastings. Tasting cups are ¥300, with around six bottles available daily. 

Chef-turned-winemaker Michiko Suai produces her award-winning wine with 100-percent domestic grapes sourced from the renowned grape producing prefectures of Yamanashi and Nagano, as well as a farm in Ibaraki prefecture. In an area of just 33sqm, 13,000 bottles are churned out each year. Book Road offers winery tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 2pm for up to 8 people for ¥1,000 per person.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Breweries
  • Tennozu
  • price 2 of 4

A former warehouse, this spacious brewery on the canals of Tennozu Isle feels worlds away from densely packed inner-city Tokyo. It’s one of the few places in Tokyo where you can sit outside on a terrace and sip your craft beer with the canal stretching out in front of you. The bar is set amongst the large copper brewing tanks, and from these tanks comes a range of Californian-style ales and porters. The attached restaurant serves up American diner fare: choose from steamed clams, wagyu burgers, buttermilk fried chicken, pork spareribs, Louisiana-style crab cakes, and much more.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Akihabara

You’d never guess there was a fully equipped distillery tucked away under the Yamanote Line tracks just north of Akihabara Station, but this venue from Hitachino Brewing is full of surprises. The Ibaraki-based craft brewery behind the popular Hitachino Nest beer started distilling its Kiuchi Whisky back in 2016, and this is the best place in Tokyo to get a taste.

The 14 whiskies on offer – seven malt, seven grain – start at ¥750 per glass and vary widely in age, cask and flavour profile. There’s a sense of experimentation here which you just don’t get from a bigger distillery. If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for a tasting flight of three different whiskies (¥1,280). While the whisky all comes from the company’s main distillery in Ibaraki prefecture, you can also sample gin, liqueurs and other spirits that are distilled on-site (from ¥750). And of course, Hitachino’s beloved beers are on tap, too (from ¥750).

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