Go beyond the standard lagers and konbini alcoholic drinks – because Tokyo’s craft beer scene is booming. Dedicated drinkers once had to trek out east to Popeye in Ryogoku for something other than mass-produced beer, but now they’re spoilt for choice, with over 400 craft brew bars, breweries and shops in Tokyo. Whether you’re a fan of American IPA, Belgian wheat beer or local Japanese craft beer, you’ll definitely find a brew or two to suit you at these Tokyo craft beer bars.
RECOMMENDED: Looking to sample other drinks in Tokyo? Check out our list of the best Tokyo bars.
Since opening in 2012, Good Beer Faucets has become the place to go to for post-work brews. It boasts one of Tokyo’s best happy hours, with large beers priced from just ¥750, and its diverse menu of snacks and appetisers offers plenty of accompaniments to one of the largest tap lists in the city. Expect over 40 beers from Japan and overseas, including a selection of house brews like Smoke Pump Stout, Yuzu Dream and the tropical-tasting Gyaru Blond golden ale.
Sometimes all you want is some classic barbecue – and that’s what Smokehouse offers. All the meat at this casual Texan-style joint is slow-cooked and generously portioned, while most of the beers on tap are from its parent company T.Y. Harbor Brewery. There’s a super hoppy IPA, an English-style amber ale with citrusy aroma, a caramelly imperial stout, a monthly seasonal brew and more besides. Can’t decide which brew to try? A tasting set of four beers costs ¥1,100.
Danish brewery Mikkeller has opened and closed in Tokyo more times than most places, largely due to bad luck. However, its latest location – a slice of Scandi cool set in a two-storey, cheery yellow art deco house sandwiched amongst a host of love hotels – is here to stay. It offers up to 20 domestic and imported craft brews on tap, covering the entire taste spectrum from fresh to bitter and sweet to sour. It’s a good thing then that Mikkeller also organises a running club every first Saturday of the month so you can burn off those beer calories.
A Shibuya institution, The Aldgate does what most British pubs in Tokyo fail to do – actually resemble a British pub. That said, the tap list doesn’t resemble anything you’d see in London due to its heavy leaning towards Japanese breweries such as Yona Yona and Iwate Kura, on top of several overseas beers and a cider. With classic pub grub – think cottage pie and Cornish pasties – as well as televised football and rugby and the impressive beer lineup, The Aldgate remains popular with expats and Japanese drinkers alike.
Tucked behind one of Shinjuku Station’s many exits, Tap Stand Craft Beer is easy to miss, which would be a shame because its wide range of imported craft beer and great pizza makes it the perfect post-work haunt. While there are 20-plus imported and domestic beers on tap, Tap Stand is particularly skilled at finding lesser known and boutique breweries new to Tokyo. The bar is non-smoking, has a partly bilingual menu, and imposes a ¥300 table charge per person.
What the staff at Watering Hole don’t know about beer is probably not worth knowing. The brainchild of Fujiwarasan, the first Japanese person to win an award for homebrewing in the US, Watering Hole offers around 21 labels of imported and domestic draught craft beers, from IPAs and sours to ciders and Belgian styles. A lively haunt with colourful brewery paraphernalia covering the walls, it hosts events throughout the year to help customers get to know their draught from their cask, their barley from their hops, and their porters from their stouts.
YYG Brewery, aka Yoyogi Brewery, was the first brewpub to open in the Shinjuku area – and remains one of the best. All the beers at the first floor brewpub are produced right behind the bar, though it’s the spacious al fresco terrace that catches the eye in this crowded city. The seventh floor is a more formal affair, with a sit-down dinner service, yet is every bit as inviting. For hyperlocal vibes, don’t miss the Shinjuku Pale Ale, a refreshing beer with citrus and caramel flavours, or the Yoyogi Amber Ale, with its nice malty flavour and tropical notes.
This Belgian-style beer pub is a copy of its original Brussels location, with a little bit of Japanese flavour thrown in for that local feel. The changing craft beer lineup ranges from ubiquitous Belgian beers to a few Belgian-Japanese collaborations – think a yuzu-infused weissbier for example, brewed in Kyoto with guidance from the Belgians. Prices are similar to those at other craft or import beer pubs in the area (from around ¥850 for a regular glass). The food menu is worth a gander too: most dishes are priced around the ¥1,000 mark and are somewhere between actual meals and elaborate, filling bar snacks.
Originally a single store on the east side of Shinjuku, Vector has grown to six bars and a brewery. This outlet, which has a lovely terrace, is famed for being one of the cheapest joints for craft beer in Shinjuku. It has a good mix of ten in-house and domestic beers covering a variety of styles including weizens, stouts, IPAs and fruit beers. A glass will only set you back ¥450, a pint ¥750 and a tasting set of three beers is ¥1,000 – or drink all you can for ¥3,000, which includes everything from beer to cocktails and sparkling wine.
Curry and beer are a perfect match and nowhere does it better than Himalaya Table. With ten domestic beers on tap, this welcoming restaurant prides itself on pairing Japanese craft beer with a variety of dishes from Nepal. The fried cheese samosa goes down perfectly with an ice-cold lager while the excellent momo (Tibetan steamed dumplings) are lovely with the citrusy American pale ale.
Yoho Brewing is one of Japan’s most popular craft beer brands and its eye-catching cans are widely available at local supermarkets. This dining bar in Kanda offers ten of its signature award-winning ales on tap, including the flagship Yona Yona Ale and the smoky, malty, creamy Tokyo Black Porter. The food menu is designed to complement beer; the sausages (12 types in total), whole roasted chicken and grilled pork chops are perennial crowd favourites. Feeling overwhelmed by the extensive food menu? You can’t go wrong with the recommendations on the food pairing chart.
This basement pub serves the rare combo of craft beer and oden (various ingredients simmered in broth). Opened just a year ago, Karakuri draws a loyal clientele with its friendly staff and delicious, well-priced comfort food, with the popular daikon dish costing only ¥250. Order a beer flight and try three of the seven American and Japanese craft beers on tap, or get the kombucha for a healthy alternative. Although Karukuri is known for its oden, the tempura dishes here are particularly inventive, featuring unusual ingredients like cream cheese and sweet corn.
The original branch of the DevilCraft chain may not be the biggest in its stable, or have the widest range of beers, but the friendly, jovial atmosphere can’t be beaten. You’re bound to sit next to someone with a story to tell over a beer and a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. DevilCraft brews its own beers and always has 14 options on tap – expect IPAs, pilsners, sours and a range of guest beers.
Having opened a full-scale craft beer empire since, the first Tokyo pub opened by the Numazu-based Baird Brewing Company is very relaxed: all brick walls and wood panelling, with a long central table that's ripe for communal drinking. It's primarily an outlet for Baird's own brews, which tend to be pretty fine: we're particular fans of the Teikoku IPA and Angry Boy Brown Ale, available year-round. Check the blackboard above the bar for guest beers from the likes of Rogue and Brewdog, and keep an eye out for Baird's own seasonal specials. Note that this is a non-smoking venue.
The sister shop of Kyoto-based craft beer and sake bar Before 9, Another 8 opened in posh Meguro in a space that used to be a garage. A place for laidback drinking, it’s got tables and benches both inside, in addition to a stand bar that tends to get very crowded on weekends. Although beer is the speciality at Another 8 – the place is equipped with eight taps – there is also a small but very nice selection of sake. The bar snacks are pretty good too – we’re big fans of the marinated octopus and celery, while those looking for something more substantial will want to try the shirasu (whitebait) and daikon omelette.
Part of the Craft Beer iBrew chain, this is one of the cheapest places to drink craft beer in Tokyo, with half-pint pours costing just ¥390 and a full pint at ¥690. There are up to 30 mostly, if not exclusively, domestic breweries and styles on tap – but don't expect too much in terms of ambience. This is a rustic, pub-like space, the kind that attracts salarymen looking for no-frills afterwork drinks, and therein lies the charm – it feels very local.
Sitting on the eastern side of Shinbashi is one of Swan Lake’s taprooms. With more than 20 years of history, the gold-medal winning, Niigata-based Swan Lake brewery is known for using pure underflow water from the Agano River in Echigo. Try the Koshihikari Beer, which is a lager made from the eponymous rice, and the Amber Swan Ale if you love strong hoppy bitterness and caramel notes.
One of the cheapest places to drink craft beer in all of Japan (from just ¥267), let alone Tokyo, this often-packed bottle shop and bar hybrid offers a slice of Nagano in Shinbashi. Only products from the prefecture are sold here, which includes craft beer from breweries such as Yoho Brewing, Reijin Shuzo Brewery and Tamamura Honten, as well as sake, wine and other regional delicacies.
Located towards Mejiro, Pump Craft Beer Bar offers a casual, no-frills environment with a range of domestic and imported (mostly American) craft beers that rivals some of Tokyo’s best-known bars. There are up to 15 beers on tap, from weizens to IPAs to sour ales – definitely get the lightly spiced, bergamot tea-infused Earl Grey ale from Toyama-based Johana Beer brewery if it’s available. There are three sizes to choose from: half pint, regular (350ml) and full US pint (473ml).
With around 20 domestic and imported brews on tap, there is something for everyone at Ikebukuro’s oldest craft beer joint – from porters to IPAs to Belgian whites and even fruit beers. The food menu at this low-key establishment leans heavily towards Europe, so expect pasta, pizza, sausages, plus your usual fried snacks.
Though it's long been regarded as the essential destination for beer enthusiasts in Tokyo, Popeye actually started life as a Western-style izakaya. Its transformation into a specialist craft beer haunt has been slow but spectacular: it now boasts an unrivaled 70-plus beers on tap, all kept in impecable condition and most of them produced by Japanese breweries.
There's table seating for groups, but the most fun to be had is at the bar, where the friendly and knowledgable staff entice drinkers with unfamiliar tipples. It isn't the cheapest place in town, and the stodgy food selection falls a long way short of the quality of the beer – but if it's the latter you're after, Popeye is hard to beat.
Step out of Okutama Station and you'll soon come across this traditional Japanese house with a pretty garden. There's a river running down in the valley just in front of the building, completing the scenic setting. It's home to a beer hall that serves five kinds of homebrewed beers, including a fruity session IPA and a light golden ale. They've got their own hop field a 20-minute drive away too, so it's all very local. Having a glass in the garden while listening to the sound of the river and admiring the trees around you will make your clock tick slower. Those visiting Okutama for rafting or hiking will want to keep Vertere in mind – even if it's only for a quick break while waiting for the train home.
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