JAPAN – Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

I’m a big fan of craft beer and always have a few dozens of new beers in the fridge at home. When I travel the world, I try to visit local breweries like Carakale in Jordan two years back. If that’s not possible I visit craft beer bars to sample the ones they have on tap. I thought Japan had only the big Asahi and Sapporo brands with their premium pilsners but was I surprised to find out they have a huge craft beer scene. It’s not just sake they serve!

I travelled for two weeks from Tokyo to Osaka and from there did trips to Kobe and Kyoto. In each city, I visited the craft beer bars that I thought would be the best and had at least 10+ beers on tap. One thing I must say is that most of them don’t serve taster sets. I recommend to go for half pints of the beers you really want to try and ask a small tester of one you think you won’t like anyway. Then you still manage to finish all the beers they have on tap and most of them didn’t mint to do that. All of the craft beer bars below are centrally located near subway stations and easily reached from major hotels. If you know of another one with at least 10+ craft beers on tap then let me know in the comments below.

Craft beer in Tokyo: Harajuku Taproom

I wanted to visit the Baird Brewery in Shizuoka but they were closed due to the Christmas and New Year holidays. When I learned that they have various craft beer bars in Tokyo dedicated only to Baird brews I could not resist visiting. The Harajuku Taproom (Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 1-20-13, No Surrender Bldg 2F) is located near Takeshita Street which is a great place to visit if you are in Tokyo. They open at 5PM and after a bit of shopping I was sipping my first taster at 5:05PM. It was a bit early for dinner so I ordered some yakitori to go with the beer. Their spring rolls and shiitake are delicious! I’m not going into detail on each beer but they have about 20 on tap and personally I liked their IPA’s the most. There are also seasonal beers on tap at the Harajuku Taproom which rotate and some are just a one-time brew. I also loved the names of their craft beers!

JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

Craft beer in Tokyo: Goodbeer Faucets

Another area in Tokyo I can recommend everyone to visit is Shibuya where you’ll find the most famous pedestrian crossing of Tokyo.  The area has many bars and restaurants but for craft beer I recommend to go to Goodbeer Faucets (Shibuya-ku, Shoto 1-29-1).  They have a huge range of craft beers (over 30) but what I didn’t like is that you can’t choose your own testers. There is a fixed tester set of 5 beers which unfortunately had 3 foreign beers and just 2 Japanese in it. If I travel I want to taste local beers and those I didn’t have before; it’s still a great bar however. Goodbeer Faucets has mainly bar tables and standing tables with two places for seating. I can recommend their Kobe beef if you want to have dinner; it’s not A-level quality Kobe but still very very good!JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

Craft beer in Osaka: Yellow Ape Craft

Yellow Ape Craft (Imabashi 2-4-9) is my favorite craft beer bar in Osaka and if you look at it from the outside you will understand. A lovely small two-story cube between high-rise buildings. It’s just a lovely sight. The interior is small and the bar and kitchen takes almost 80% of the floor size but that makes it authentic. On the second floor are more tables especially if you would like to have some food too. They serve small dishes including pizza, but as I had already dinner I just had beer. With over 20, mainly Japanese, beers on tap I had enough choice to try beers for a long evening. They don’t serve tasters so I had to taste everything from half pints. I really recommend to go here if you are in Osaka as the place is uniquely small, at least for European standards, and there is a great selection on tap.JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

Craft beer in Osaka: Kamikaze

I probably spend 5-6 hours at Craft Beer Works Kamikaze as they had over 20 beers on tap that I didn’t taste yet. I simply had to try them before I would leave Japan the next day. It’s a small bar, as with most places in Japan, and I recommend to arrive early to avoid it’s full. They serve great food too but I won’t go for a full dinner here, there are better places in Osaka for dinner. The fried chicken, shiitake and prawns are delicious and go perfect with the beer. Their craft beers rotate and when one is finished it gets replaced by a new one. When I visited an IPA which I wanted to taste just gave some foam and the bartender directly offered me five choices of barrels they had ready to go on tap. My choice was another IPA I didn’t have before. Their real ales are also worth a try. Great service for sure!JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

Craft beer in Osaka: Craft Beer Base Umeda

Craft Beer Base (Oyodo-minami 1-2-11) has several outlets in Osaka and is more a shop to buy beer than to go out in the evening. Their outlet near Umeda station was within walking distance from my hotel and I stocked up on some beers there to take home. Actually, most of them I finished during my trip in Japan but a few survived. They do have 3 or 4 beers on tap but only one was Japanese which I tried on the spot; a great red ale.  I loved their beer cellar; a small blue door that gave access to a huge cooled room with hundreds of beers. A good selection of Japanese craft beers but a huge selection on foreign beers. If you are looking to buy beer I recommend to go there!

JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

Craft beer in Osaka: Beerbelly

Yeah, I have a small beerbelly but that’s OK I think if you like the good life. Beer Belly Osaka (Tosabori 1-1-31) serves mainly craft beers of the Minoh brand which is a brewery located near Osaka. A brand I didn’t drink earlier during my trip as I knew I would taste those in Osaka.  Their W-IPA (double IPA) is legendary for sure but try a bit of the Cabernet or Black Berry fruit craft beers too. Interesting but totally not my thing! At Beerbelly it wasn’t possible to order a taster set but each time I ordered one beer I would totally like I asked for a small sip of one of the fruit beers. That wasn’t a problem at all. They also brew two beers on location which are worth a try as you won’t be able to taste them anywhere else. They are seasonals and rotate throughout the year; now they had a Christmas Ale on tap. It’s quite a big bar with plenty of seating but it can get crowned as it’s quite famous so come in early.

JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

Craft beer in Kyoto: Tadg’s Gastro Pub

Kyoto is a city full of culture but has also a few great craft beer bars. One of them is Tadg’s Gastro Pub (Kamikorikicho 498) located near the famous Kiya-machi Dori street which is THE place to go for bars and restaurants in Kyoto. I visited with my family after we had sushi for dinner. They have about 10 taps with mainly Japanese craft beer and a large food menu of which my kids loved the chicken wings. A funny thing is that I forgot my camera gear bag when I left but only found out the next morning; luckily, they kept it safe and I could pick it up the next morning. A place I recommend to go also with larger groups as the place is quite big with enough seating.JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

Craft beer in Kyoto: Takumiya

Each evening when I walked back to the hotel I passed Takumiya (Funayacho 400) but it was closed each evening due to Christmas and New Year holidays. Only the last night it was open but I had to get up early the next morning as I would go from Kyoto to Osaka. I couldn’t resist and went for a beer; no English menu; no English but the locals did speak a bit and translated for me. I had so much fun in this local neighborhood bar which guests at the time were just locals. Just perfect and their 10 taps were also very great including a few I hadn’t seen anywhere else yet. I didn’t try the food though but what others were having looked delicious. If you look for a more local place without tourists I recommend to go to Takumiya which is one of my favorite craft beer bars in Japan.JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

Craft beer in Kyoto:  Tokisirazu

Tokisirazu (400-1 Izutsuyacho) only serves Belgium beers and no Japanese beers. I was looking for a craft beer bar serving Japanese beers but Tokisirazu has so many Belgium beers it’s worth mentioning in this list too. I arrived late and they were already cleaning the restaurant a bit but I could have a beer. Their selection is impressive and if you want something else than Japanese beer I highly recommend to go to Tokisirazu. Their selection is huge!

JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

Craft beer in Kobe: Hop Stand

Hop Stand (Kita-Nagasa-dori 2-9-5) is another example of a small Japanese craft beer bar and located in the nightlife area of Kobe. They mainly serve Rokko brewery beers but have also their own Hop Stand beer which I recommend to try. Together with the beer Hop Stand serves a selection of yakitori of which I can highly recommend the mushrooms but also the raw chicken liver sashimi is a great choice. I never had that before and it’s delicious! Great place but don’t go with huge groups as it’s simply to small. I saw mainly locals here and no other tourists. If you travel in Japan you will notice that bars, but also restaurants, are often very small sometimes only having room for 8-10 people. Great service and friendly staff.

JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

Craft beer in Kobe: Starboard

Starboard (Kita-Nagasadori 2-7-12, PMPT Bldg 2F) is a large pub with over 10 beers on tap mainly from Starboard and Rokko brewery. They DO have taster sets which come with 6 different beers of their choice (fixed) but if you ask nicely they let you choose. This is great as I could sample 6 beers I didn’t have before. I can recommend the roast beef as a snack as it’s prepared well and delicious. I think, but I’m not sure, that this bar is of the same owner as Portside (see below) as the tap system was the same, the menu almost the same and the waiter too 🙂 Great service, good selection of beers on tap and the food is delicious. I recommend this one over Portside in Kobe due to the better location. JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

Craft beer in Kobe: Portside

For Portside (Sannomiyacho 1-1-1, Shin-Kobe Bldg B1F) I can repeat what I said for Starboard as the menu is the same. They do however serve some different craft beers but the taster is the same. Also at Portside I opted to make my own taster which was not a problem but I had to pay 200 yen more as some beers were more expensive. The location in Kobe is not perfect as it’s just outside of the main nightlife area so if you have only a night in Kobe I wouldn’t recommend to go here for a party. If you have more time I do recommend to go as they have great craft beer on tap and the selection is quite large which not all the bars in Japan have.

JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

Craft beer in Kobe: New Munchen Kobe Taishikan

New Munchen Kobe Taishikan (Sannomiya 2-5-18) was the last craft beer bar in Kobe I visited but I must remark I couldn’t find more anyway. They have two craft beers of interested which are brewed at the bar but for the rest is all Sapporo beers. Their fried chicken and sliced octopus are delicious and I would recommend to go for lunch at New Munchen Kobe Taishikan. It’s close to China town and other sights in downtown Kobe. Recommend for the two beers that are brewed at location but for the rest not the place to go for craft beer. I wouldn’t have dinner here either to be honest: go for real Kobe beef instead!JAPAN - Top places to drink craft beer in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto & Kobe

As you can see in the list above craft beer is much alive in Japan! I was surprised to find such a huge variety in Japan as I thought they where more about sake and the like. I hope the list above is of help for you to choose the bars to go if you like craft beer. I’ll share with you the cultural highlights of the cities in various destination articles later. Read all about my Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, and Osaka experiences in those destination articles or check out all my articles about Japan.

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Did you visit any of these craft beer bars in Japan? too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

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