10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!

10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!_10 Japanese Beers You Must Try in Japan!

Foreigners might think Japanese prefer sake with their meals, but it is actually beer that we drink and, as a nation, in copious quantities. Japanese beers are mostly lager type, following German brewing methods learned in the 19th century and, though many brews use rice as an adjunct to the malt, contain traditional ingredients with a malt content of at least 67%. The huge beer market in Japan is dominated by four major brewers: Kirin, Asahi, Suntory and Sapporo, so wherever you go in Japan, you will encounter their beers. As with most mass-produced beers, these are rarely impressive, though they provide enough chilled and fizzy feel-good effect for an evening of eating and drinking.

However, since the 1990s the beer industry in Japan has been deregulated, Prompting the creation of dozens of small independent breweries making a wide variety of craft beers. How quickly the craft beer scene has exploded in Japan, where imported speciality beers have long had a niche, demonstrates something of the dissatisfaction many consumers have felt with the bland offerings of the big four.

Here are my top ten Japanese beers that you should definitely try when you visit Japan. Take note that the list below is not just the common beers you can find at any convenience stores or bars and some Japanese locals might not know them.



 

10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!

 

1. North Island Beer – Coriander Black (5.0% ABV)

10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!_North Island Beer

North Island Beer is brewed in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Alongside their classic brews is this herbed beer, Coriander Black. More a stout than a spice beer, the herb aroma never overpowers the bitter sweetness of roasted malt. This is one of the most interesting Japanese beers.

 

2. YO-HO Brewing Company – Yona Yona Ale (5.5% ABV)

10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!_Yona Yona Ale

YO-HO is probably the best known independent Japanese brewer since they decided to target the general beer drinker at home and abroad. Their award winning Yona Yona Ale is an American style Pale Ale with a fruity aroma and a sweet, hoppy flavor.

 

3. Kiuchi Brewery – Hitachino Nest White Ale (5.5% ABV)

10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!_Hitachino Nest White Ale

A fine Belgian style witbier since 1996, winning gold medals at beer festivals in the U.K. and U.S. It is a refreshing brew with a mild hop flavour with some hints of coriander, orange peel and nutmeg.

 

4. Baird Brewing Company – Baird BB15 Bay Steam (5.0% ABV)

10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!_Baird BB15 Bay Steam

This rapidly expanding brewery was started in 2001 in Shizuoka. Their BB15 Bay Steam brew is a California Common lager type with a reddish amber hue, fruity aroma, rounded malty flavor and slightly bitter hops after taste.

 

5. Hyouko Yashiki No Mori Brewery – Swan Lake IPA (7% ABV)

10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!_Swan Lake IPA

A popular strong micro brew with an attractive orange-amber body, a large off-white head and fresh, fruity aroma. It has a well balanced flavor between the malty sweetness and hoppy bitterness. An extremely nice IPA.

 

6. Abashiri Beer Brewery, Hokkaido – Okhotsk Blue Ryuhyo Draft (5.0% ABV)

10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!_Okhotsk Blue Ryuhyo Draft

This must be one of the most unusual craft beers from Japan. Apparently, Abashiri use water from icebergs (ryuhyo) in the Okhotsk sea to brew this blue beer, along with barley malt, hops, Chinese yams and gardenia coloring ingredients. Some people hate it as a gimmick, whist others appreciate its unusually smooth and fruity taste and bright blue hue. Love it or hate it, it is a uniquely Japanese beer.

 

7. Okhotsk Brewery Inc. – Red Ale (5.5% ABV)

10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!_Okhotsk Red Ale

Another Hokkaido brew, Okhotsk Red Ale (when available) is brewed using English style top fermentation to produce a dark amber ale with a mellow malty sweetness and bitter hops flavor.

 

8. Miyashita Sake Brewery – Doppo Beers

10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!_Doppo Beers

Miyashita Sake Brewery is famous for sake in Japan but now also for their Doppo brand craft beers, brewed in Okayama’s favourable climate. Omachi rice is a key ingredient in the success of their most popular lager beer. Pioneers in Japanese craft beer, their seasonal products include a dark chocolate stout produced for Valentine’s Day!

 

9. Minoh Beer, Osaka – W-IPA (9% ABV)

10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!_Minoh W-IPA

Run by two sisters, Minoh is Kansai’s best known craft brewery with standard beers of Weizen, Pilsner, IPA, and the award winning W-IPA. Despite its high ABV, W-IPA’s malt and hops flavors are not overshadowed by the alcohol. Other Minoh brews include Stout, Cabernet, Dark Lager, and special/seasonal brews.

 

10. Outsider Brewing – Innkeeper Bitter Lager (6.0% ABV)

10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!_Innkeeper Bitter Lager

Founded in 2012, Outsider Brewing in Yamanashi has quickly acquired a remarkable reputation in the local craft beer industry. Innkeeper Bitter Lager is a flavorful pilsner type brew with medium maltiness and a slightly dry hops bitterness.

 

Conclusion

What you pay for a glass of beer in Japan will depend on what you drink and where you drink it, so it is difficult to give a realistic average price. However, one need not assume that craft beers will be significantly more expensive, if at all. Indeed, many Japanese beers sold in craft brewery bars are actually cheaper by volume than the mass produced ones.

Perhaps it is better to say that what you pay for a glass of beer in Japan depends on what you are prepared to pay, so try to do some research ahead of your trip on the craft beer bars in the locations you will visit; most are already well reviewed in English language internet blogs.

Tokyo is particularly well-catered for with craft beer bars, and you will find a good selection of these in Tokyo TimeOut’s craft beer bar guide (http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo/feature/5263/Tokyos-best-craft-beer-bars). I recommend Craft Beer Market for its wide range and good prices, and The Aldgate in Shibuya for a decidedly British pub atmosphere.

I hope you will try at least one of the modest selection of beers I have listed above, but there are many many more for the discerning beer drinker. Good health and kampai!

 

10 Rare Japanese Beers You Must Try!

1. North Island Beer – Coriander Black (5.0% ABV)
2. YO-HO Brewing Company – Yona Yona Ale (5.5% ABV)
3. Kiuchi Brewery – Hitachino Nest White Ale (5.5% ABV)
4. Baird Brewing Company – Baird BB15 Bay Steam (5.0% ABV)
5. Hyouko Yashiki No Mori Brewery – Swan Lake IPA (7% ABV)
6. Abashiri Beer Brewery, Hokkaido – Okhotsk Blue Ryuhyo Draft (5.0% ABV)
7. Okhotsk Brewery Inc. – Red Ale (5.5% ABV)
8. Miyashita Sake Brewery – Doppo Beers
9. Minoh Beer, Osaka – W-IPA (9% ABV)
10. Outsider Brewing – Innkeeper Bitter Lager (6.0% ABV)