Beer is a popular choice of alcoholic beverage in Japan, with many customers at izakayas asking for a pint for their first round of drinks to cheers. However, the craft beer scene isn’t as prominent as in The West. When Japanese people think about breweries, they often think about Sake Breweries. Did you know that there are, in fact, some Craft Beer Breweries that have gained popularity recently for their quality and flavour? For those craving a cold brew with more depth, I have compiled a list of breweries that specialise in craft beer nationwide.
Uchu Craft Beer
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As their name suggests, Uchu Brewing creates craft beer that is out of this world. Uchu means outer space in English, and many of their brews are named after something cosmic, such as ‘Mars’ and ‘Dark Matter.’ The founders first tried craft beer in the United States and wanted to bring such flavours to the Japanese market. Located just half an hour’s drive west of Kofu City in Yamanashi, the land is rich in nutrients to grow crops. The company prides itself on growing pesticide-free Hops and being a sustainable brewery. They update their Instagram with new releases so customers know when Uchu’s online store is stocked. I also recommend trying Uchu’s amazing smoothie sour ales!
West Coast Brewing
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Established in Shizuoka in 2019, West Coast Brewing is owned by Derrek Buston, who was inspired by craft beer on the West Coast of the U.S. to start making his own in Japan. They combine U.S., Australian, and New Zealand hops with pure Japanese water to craft the finest beers. West Coast Brewing enjoys getting creative with each batch, bringing some exciting flavours onto the market for craft beer enthusiasts. Their taproom is located near Mochimune Station on the Tokaido line, which is not too far from Shizoka City. If you’re interested in learning more about how they make their beers, feel free to take a tour of their brewery. You receive a complimentary beer, and you can see the home of their mascot, Hop Dude!
Far Yeast Brewing Company
Founded in September 2011, Far Yeast Brewing Company has been striving to tackle social and environmental issues outlined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Although the founders of Far Yeast take inspiration from their classic brews from Tokyo, they moved their main brewery to Kosuge, Yamanashi, to encourage community engagement. This can be further seen through employing locals and revitalising tourism in the area. Far Yeast collaborates with other businesses to reduce food waste, such as using grapes from Mercian Corporation to brew beer. This beer is so good their Tokyo Blonde brew recently won a gold medal in the Session IPA category of the Japan Great Beer Awards.
Would you believe that you can find craft beer down in Oita? Daren Aaberge had 20 years of experience brewing in the American Northwest before starting Monkey Mountain right in the middle of Oita City. The brewery may be small, but it’s located across from a park, which is the perfect spot to stop and drink it from the tap. The light beers are a good introduction for first-time craft beer drinkers. I recommend the Kabosu Ginger Ale, as Kabosu is a citrus local to the prefecture. Monkey Mountain exclusively sells its beer in glass bottles for the freshest flavour, which can be brought online and shipped across the country.
Baeren Craft Beer
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Baeren means bear in German. This Iwate-born craft beer is named Baeren Craft Beer both to represent Iwate, which has a high population of bears and as a nod to the European-inspired beer brewing process they use.
What makes it so special is the 100-year-old equipment they use to brew directly imported from Germany. I enjoyed the Red Larger, but if you prefer something sweet, they do great cider too. They were awarded for their Yuzu Cider, which contains yuzu and apples from the region, as Iwate is well-known for these high-quality fruits. You can take a tour virtually through the website or reserve an in-person tour to see the craft beer brewing process.
Hitachino Nest Craft Beer
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Which Craft Beer Will You Try First?
The Japanese Craft Beer market has grown in the past few years. Along with its popularity, more breweries are being established and are expanding all over the country. The best part is even if you do not live close by, many companies offer online shopping and shipping services that bottle and deliver their brew straight to your door. Japanese people and non-Japanese alike enjoy brewing craft beer, and you can taste the passion in their drinks. This list has a couple of craft beer makers, but there are so many more to explore, so which one will you try first?
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