A newer verson of this article is online at Beer in Japan!

In Tokyo we have Tanakaya, Yamaya, Shinanoya, Tokyu Food Show, Seijo Ishii, Popeye, Nakameguro Taproom, The Aldgate, Vivo, Catarata – in terms of getting good beer, we’re actually rather lucky.

Yokohama – Japan’s biggest “city” – has the Craft Beer Bar, Pivovar and Yokohama Brewery, Pivo, Cheers, and Thrash Zone – all of which will form part of my Saturday night pub crawl.

But even finding those places at first wasn’t easy – and I know there are people in Japan who are not as lucky, living in areas without good bars or off licenses (or not knowing where they are). So here are some ideas. This list is by no means complete – if you know of something I’ve missed out (website, list of bars, etc) please leave a comment and tell me.

1. Finding a bar/off-license/liquor store in Japan

There are a few things you can try to find a bar or store near you:

  • If you live in Tokyo or Yokohama, you’ll know about Boozelist and my Tokyo Beer Map already, right?
  • Bento also does bar reviews, some of them outside Tokyo.
  • Rate Beer has a partial list of bars/stores in Japan. It’s very “partial” though – for example it doesn’t have Odakaya in Nagoya.
  • Seijo Ishii and Yamaya have branches outside Tokyo. Department store supermarkets/food centers are also a good place to look – I recently found Baird Beer in the basement of Seibu in Shibuya, Tokyo.
  • Brewery sites often list retailers that have or may have (ie. occasional guest beers) their beers – this can be a good way to find somewhere near you. Baird has a list in English. Minoh has a list in Japanese (they also have their own Beer Belly bars in Osaka). Look at #4 below for the breweries list.
  • Breweries also often have their own bars – Baird, Hitachino, Minoh, Isekadoya, and Gotemba Kogen do, for example. Brewery bars are usually pretty cheap. Again, look at #4 below for the breweries list.

2. Buying online – Online off-licenses/liquor stores

Please remember that since I live in Tokyo, I have not bought from most of the websites listed myself.

  • Ezo Beer: Importers of Rogue and Ezo Beer. At under 400 yen a bottle, it’s not only priced well – but delivery is free if you order 48 or more bottles. Less than 48 and the charge depends on where you live, but is between 420 and 1720yen.
  • Nagano Trading: Importers of Ballast Point, Bear Republic, Stone, Green Flash, North Coast Brewing, and wine. While you can buy some items online (mostly wines), the beers are always “unavailable”, and I have an incling they don’t actually update the website for beers. Best bet would be to check Beer House Ken (below) or use the contact link to ask Andrew Balmuth directly.
  • Good Beer: A Japanese only website which sells Baird, Hitachino Nest, Minoh, and plenty of other Japanese beers. They also sell have their own “Nide” beer (made by Baird). They have several set deals – by brewery and mixed – which while you don’t save much money, are good if you want a quick and easy way to sample a whole load of Japanese beers.
  • Beer House Ken: They have Youngs, Newcastle Brown, Anchor, Kona, Rogue, Brooklyn Lager – and flat rate shipping.
  • Sugaya Beer: The have a better selection than Beer House Ken including Stone, Flying Dog, Sierra Nevada, and some Scottish beers I’ve never seen before. Orders over 30,000 yen are post free – otherwise there’s a per case charge.
  • Shinanoya: A selection of Japanese and imported beers. At the moment the have Nogne, Mikkeller, Hobgoblin, Guinness, Chimay, Old Speckled Hen, etc. They have stores in the Tokyo area also – see this webpage.
  • Bento also has a list of online retailers but it’s of date and some of the links don’t work.

Again, Brewery sites often list online retailers.

3. Buying online – Monthly schemes

There are three monthly schemes that I know of in Japan – details are incomplete at the moment on the last two but I will update when I know more.

  • Beer Festa: This is a beer fan club. For 3000yen a month, you get 6 bottles sent to you every month. This month they are sending Umenishiki beer, next month Romanticmura beers. I’ve signed up for this and I’m awaiting my first batch.
  • Minoh: One year, six deliveries. For 17,500yen you get 2 x 3 bottles each delivery. You can sign up at any time and beers start from the next delivery, but they insist on a year’s subscription (once you’ve paid, you can’t cancel and get a refund for undelivered months). Since I’ll be out of Japan in less than a year, it’s not an option for me.
  • Beer Hanpukai from Yonekyu (Gotemba Kogen and Mori-no-beer Brewery). I picked up a leaflet about this when attending the Japan Craft Beer event in Ebisu a few weeks ago and signed up for it. It’s 2500yen + 500yen delivery a month for 6 bottles – two different beers. See my write-up for more details.

I like the idea of these monthly schemes – getting random beer sent to me that I probably wouldn’t otherwise try is a good thing. My only concern is perhaps it will be a hassle having to be at home to take delivery.

4. Buying online – Individual breweries

Many of the breweries in Japan have their own online shops. Here is a selection:

Rate Beer has a partial list of Japanese Breweries. There’s also the Brewers Association of Japan list. Bento also has a list of breweries, include some that sell online.

Hope this helps people outside Tokyo/Yokohama. If you have other resources or ideas, please do leave a comment.