Small Business

Beer in mind— Japan


High taxes and rigid regulation have made it a tough sell for Japan’s artisan beer makers. But increasingly astute drinkers are starting to appreciate the superior quality product micro-breweries have to offer.

Ale, Beer, Brewerie, Brewing, Drinking, Lager, Quality

Every convert to craft beer has a story about the “aha moment”. Toru Tanaka remembers his three years ago. Back then, ordering a beer in Japan meant choosing from among bland mass-market lagers. But Tanaka spotted an unfamiliar brand and decided to give it try: Hitachino Nest, made by Kiuchi Brewery in the northern Ibaraki prefecture. “It was a delicious white ale with spices and fruit,” he says. “For me it was shocking.”

Tanaka’s livelihood now depends on giving others a similar jolt. Since he opened Craft Beer Market in Tokyo’s Toranomon district…

Top five Tokyo craft bars

01- Goodbeer Faucets

Owner: Teruya Hori

Opened last December in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, Goodbeer Faucets is a handsome addition to Tokyo’s craft beer scene. Its manager, Eldad Bribrom, is a true beer aficianado. The entire range of light lagers, bitter ales and chocolaty stouts flow from Goodbeer Faucets’ 40 taps and the delicious house beer, Nide, comes from the tanks at Baird Brewing, Shizuoka.
Crossroads 2F, 1-29-1 Shoto
Shibuya-ku, + 81 3 3770 5544,

02- Craft Beer Market

Owner: Toru Tanaka

Toru Tanaka opened Craft Beer Market in early 2011 after noticing that there weren’t any bistros in Tokyo serving great beer.

Located on a backstreet near Kasumigaseki, the seat of Japan’s government, this street-level shop boasts the cheapest craft beers in the city. The bar is a hit with customers who would have shied away from a beer in the past. Tanaka’s second bar opens on the other side of town this month.
1-23-3 Nishi-Shimbashi Minato-ku,
+ 81 3 6206 1603

03- Baird Harajuku Taproom

Owners: Bryan and Sayuri Baird

Baird Brewing was one of the first small breweries to open a bar in Tokyo. Until owners Bryan and Sayuri Baird took the plunge, fans of their award-winning ales had to order bottles online or head to the pub in Numazu, near the foot of Mt Fuji. Now Baird runs three pubs in the metropolitan area, including in Harajuku.
No Surrender 2F, 1-20-13 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, + 81 3 6438 0450,

04- Kurakura

Owner: Kei Tanaka

“No other drink comes in as many different flavours as beer,” says Kurakura owner Kei Tanaka. To demonstrate this, he has a rotating cast of a dozen Japanese amber ales, fruit beers, weizens and stouts. Back in the mid-1990s when Tanaka opened Kurakura, only two other bars in the city had draughts of craft beer. In mid-2009, he relocated his pub to the city’s eastern side.
3F, 1-4-6 Kajicho Chiyoda-ku,
+ 81 3 6206 8866,

05- Popeye

Owner: Tatsuo Aoki

Japan’s craft beer industry has Tatsuo Aoki to thank for its fortunes. Popeye owner Aoki began serving craft from the mid-1990s. Within a few years he had 15 craft beers on tap and was the only speciality pub of its kind. Before long he was making trips to the US to get certified as a beer taster and attend technical seminars at the Siebel Institute of Technology’s World Beer Academy. He has also developed his own beer-tap and organised the country’s first craft beer festivals.
2-18-7 Ryogoku Sumida-ku, + 81 3 3633 2120


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