For drinkers who've foresworn a life of Sapporo and Super Dry, Tokyo is a much more welcoming place than it used to be. It's still worth making a pilgrimage to the legendary Popeye in Ryogoku, but you can now find Japanese and import microbrews on tap at countless bars around the city – and some places are even starting to brew their own. Whether you're new to the scene or a hardcore boozehound chasing that next hop high, it's hard to go wrong with the following Tokyo craft beer bars. And if you're looking for more drink options, our pick of the best Tokyo bars has you covered.
Reviews by James Hadfield
The top 20
The undisputed champion of Tokyo beers bars has an unrivalled 70 varieties on tap, all kept in impeccable condition and most of them produced by Japanese microbreweries. There's table seating for groups, but the most fun is to be had 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 short of the quality of the beer – but if it's the latter you're after, Popeye is hard to beat.
This spacious, chrome-and-concrete bar opposite Shibuya's Bunkamura complex is the work of Teruya Hori, a major player in the craft beer scene who also built the shop's state-of-the-art tap system. With over 40 craft beers on draught – predominantly Japanese and American microbrews – Goodbeer Faucets has one of the largest selections in the capital, and the prices are generally reasonable. Keep an eye on their Twitter account if you want to catch some of the more unusual offerings, as they tend to go quickly.
The first Tokyo pub opened by Numazu's Baird Brewing Company is 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, including seasonal beers and staple tipples like the excellent Teikoku IPA and Angry Boy Brown Ale, though you'll also find a few guest beers on tap. In a welcome addition to the menu, the Taproom now also serves New Haven-style pizza – perfect for soaking up all that alcohol.
Shimokitazawa's high temple of craft beer is actually two shops: Ushitora One is a sit-down affair with a food menu that stretches from sauerkraut to shepherd's pie, while Ushitora Two is a standing bar that serves up kushiage and oden alongside the drinks. Between them, they've got 35 beers on tap, almost all of them from Japanese breweries and some of them practically impossible to find elsewhere.
Planted right in the middle of one of Tokyo's busiest office districts, Craft Beer Market caused a minor sensation when it opened in 2011. Not without due cause, either: with all of its beers priced at a flat ¥780 per US pint, the 40-seater pub is undercutting the competition by a few hundred yen per drink. Choose from 30 draught beers, including local heavyweights like Baird, Aqula and Iwate Kura, plus the occasional imported microbrew. Good food, too. Also check out the Craft Beer Markets in Awajicho, Jimbocho, Nihonbashi, Koenji and Kichijoji.
Opened by a trio of American homebrew enthusiasts in the summer of 2011, DevilCraft immediately stood out on the increasingly crowded Tokyo craft beer scene, for a simple reason: it was getting noticed because of its food. While you can always count on finding some top-grade offerings amongst the 15 draft beers on offer – sometimes including contract-brewed recipes by the owners themselves – it feels as though many customers are going for the Chicago-style deep dish pizzas as much as the beer.
The first Tokyo outpost of Belgium's famed Delirium Café is located in the heart of the Kasumigaseki office district, meaning that it's crawling with salarymen on most nights of the week. Though it can't hope to rival the 2,000-plus beer selection of its Brussels counterpart, it boasts upwards of 60 bottled varieties, with around a dozen available on tap. The food menu includes Belgian staples such as steamed mussels and carbonnade flamande beer stew alongside tortilla, cured ham and Hokkaido venison.
Easily one of the most stylish additions to the Tokyo craft beer circuit, Lush Life looks more like a high-end dining bar than a pub, all soft-lit pale wood surfaces and minimal decor, with an ornate siphon coffee maker perched at one end of the bar. There are a dozen beers on tap, including both Japanese and international microbrews and some rare-in-Tokyo selections. The food menu looks considerably less interesting at first, but even run-of-the-mill offerings like beer-battered onion rings and peperoncino spaghetti are done with real flair.
Welcome to that rarest of Tokyo British pubs: good music, no ersatz trappings, no chain-smoking salarymen, and a good range of beers and ales on tap, with regulars like Old Speckled Hen, Yona Yona Real Ale and Baird IPA jostling alongside a selection of guest tipples from Japanese and foreign microbreweries. The kitchen's baked potato with beans, toad in the hole and fish and chips will have the limey contingent yearning for home, and the results are invariably tasty, even if they aren't always entirely accurate.
One of the forerunners of the Tokyo craft beer boom, Vivo! has both relocated and dramatically increased the number of brews on tap since it first opened in Ikebukuro in 2003. The generic decor of its basement location leaves a bit to be desired, but there's no faulting the selection of domestic and imported microbrews – which (unusually) you can order in both US and UK pint glasses.
In 1998, Ichiri Fujiura became the first non-American to win the Homebrewer of the Year award – too bad that homebrewing is actually illegal in Japan. 14 years on, the suds enthusiast got the last laugh when he opened a craft beer pub that was to house his very own 'nano' brewery. The Tharsis Ridge Brewing Company project never came to anything, but Fujiura's bar nonetheless continues to serve up to 21 draft microbrews (a couple of them hand-pumped) from Japan and overseas.
The sister shop of Kawasaki craft beer haven Sal's Bar isn't quite as snooty as its counterpart, though the atmosphere is more reminiscent of a wine bar than a beer hall. The draft selection – a fairly equal split between American and Japanese microbreweries – gets served in 200ml and 350ml glasses that encourage drinkers to sample a wide variety, and it's the only place in town that serves bottled and draft beers from Indiana's Three Floyds Brewing.
[CLOSED] Scott Brimmer's Kawasaki-based Brimmer Brewing has been the talk of the craft beer scene since it started production in spring 2012. If you'd like to sample all of their brews in one go, this prefab Omotesando bar – really little more than a tasting room – is the place to go. Brimmer's staple Pale Ale, Porter and Golden Ale are all available on tap, together with a seasonal special, and can be had individually or in a sampler set for the rock-bottom price of ¥500.
Youthful brewmaster Kakyu Nomura quit his job as an advertising executive to open this brewpub in 2009, serving his ‘tezukuri’ (‘hand-made’) beer in a cosy, wood-decked interior that he also made himself. There are usually four or five ales on tap, starting from as little as ¥390 for a glass tankard, and you're unlikely to have the same drink twice – the recipes are constantly being tweaked, with a batch number to indicate which one you're getting.
One of Japan's most established microbreweries, Swan Lake marked its 15th anniversary by opening this dedicated pub in May 2012, just a short stumble from Tokyo Station. The Niigata brewery's own beers – including its award-winning Amber Ale and Porter – are available in hearty UK pint glasses for ¥950 a pop, and you should definitely try the barley wine while you're at it, though the selections from other breweries feel a little overpriced in comparison.
It's hard to imagine spending a whole evening in this bare-bones shrine to Nagano booze, but it'd be a good place to start one. This standing bar across the street from Shinbashi Station stocks a wide range of Nagano-made sake and (mainly bottled) craft beer – and it serves them at retail prices. Expect everything from the ubiquitous Yona Yona Ale to Shiga Kogen IPA and Oh! La! Ho! golden ale, plus a couple of brews on tap.
Tucked under the railway tracks near Shinbashi Station, the nautically themed Dry-Dock is certainly one of Tokyo's most distinctive beer joints, with a sunken bar area, portholes for windows and a ship's wheel on the counter. It's also got some unorthodox ideas, not least an enthusiasm for Asahi Super Dry that some microbrew enthusiasts might consider tantamount to heresy.
It may seem like overkill to include two of Baird Brewing's pubs in this list, but the Harajuku Taproom isn't merely a clone of its Nakameguro sibling. Cosier by far, and with much of the seating clustered around the bar area, it's probably the more welcoming option for lone drinkers or couples, while the menu favours izakaya-style offerings like kushiyaki skewers, tamagoyaki egg rolls and gyoza.
Just a short walk from Tokyo Station – and across the road from the ever-popular Dhaba India restaurant – this tiny standing bar seldom has enough room for all the people who want to go there (and the prevalence of regulars can make it a little intimidating for fist-time visitors). Yona Yona Real Ale and Baird's Rising Sun Pale Ale each have a regular berth here, with up to five guest beers also available on tap.
There are always twenty or so draught Japanese microbrews on offer at this compact basement bar, which sits right on the main drag in central Roppongi, with the likes of Sankt Gallen, Shiga Kogen and Iwate Kura well represented. Other places may be cheaper, granted, but there's only one bar we know of in Tokyo where you can order a round of Daisen G Weizen at 6am in the morning. Above-average food, friendly staff and free Wi-Fi add to the appeal.