Yokohama might be Japan’s second largest city, but it has achieved first place in other areas. It’s where the first ice-cream shop was founded, where the country’s first English newspaper was eventually printed, and where the first Japanese breweries opened. In fact, Kirin, one of the largest commercial breweries in all of Japan, traces its roots back to Yokohama circa the late 1800s.
Since then, the city has seen an explosion of microbreweries and other small-scale craft beer operations, all of which have helped create Yokohama’s unique beer scene. While it is true that all of Japan consumes beer, Yokohama is the city that lives it, and here’s how you can get a taste of it:
Established in 1995, Yokohama Brewery has been one of the city’s most famous beer manufacturers for over two decades thanks to their selection of five specialty ales and one lager. Since 2010, the company started focusing more on ales made with Belgian yeast. The pinnacle of this trend was their Hefe Weizen variety, also known as wheat beer. All Weizens are known for their slightly sweet taste and low hop bitterness, but according to Yokohama Brewery, their wheat ales are also lighter and therefore more agreeable to people who might not enjoy the taste of most consumer lagers. It’s therefore not a surprise that this particular Weizen has reportedly found a lot of fans among Japanese women.
Another beer of particular interest is the company’s Dusseldorf Style Alt Beer. With more and more foreign beers being made available in Japan each year, Alt Beer has ceased to be the rarity it once was, but it’s still incredibly hard to find a locally-made one. Also known as Altbier (literally “old beer”), it is a dark copper-colored concoction characterized by a smooth, balanced taste that sadly hasn’t found that many fans in Japan. Luckily, though, it and other Yokohama Brewery beers can easily be found in most major Japanese supermarkets.
For more information about Yokohama Brewery, visit our Concierge listing.
Yokohama Bay Brewing
This particular craft brewery has only been operating since 2012, but in this time, they’ve more than managed to make their mark on the Yokohama scene. Shinya Suzuki, Yokohama Bay Brewing’s founder, trained in Germany and the Czech Republic, but it’s clear that his heart belongs to the latter, seeing as Bay Brewing’s signature beer is a Czech-style pilsner, a 5% pale lager. According to a representative from the company’s Totsuka establishment, the Bay Pilsner remains one of their best-sellers, and for good reasons. With its golden colors, light aroma, and hints of caramel, the Bay Brewing concoction might be the closest to an authentic Czech pilsner you will find in all of Japan.
Yokohama Bay Brewing is also known for their hop-heavy 7% Piledriver IPA, but thanks to the availability of similarly-priced IPAs from abroad, there is little that makes this one really stand out. However, for true hops fans, there is always Bay Brewing’s IBUKI Fresh Hop made from authentic hops straight from the Iwate Prefecture in northern Japan.
For more information about Yokohama Bay Brewing, visit our Concierge listing.
Spring Valley Brewery Yokohama
Created and operated by Kirin as a throwback to their historic roots, Spring Valley probably offers the most variety out of all Yokohama breweries, but at a price. Not a literal one as even their Pairing Set of six different beers paired with various cheeses and fruit will not run you more than ¥2,300. The price that you pay with a visit to Spring Valley Yokohama is that of a loss of authenticity – this is an establishment owned by a huge conglomerate that also operates a Spring Valley in Tokyo and Kyoto. But if that doesn’t bother you, then SVB Yokohama will surely not leave you disappointed.
The brewery’s flagship beer is their “496,” a full-bodied beer that might be one of the richest, most bitter varieties available right now in Japan. On the other end of the spectrum we have Spring Valley’s sweeter offerings like their fruity “Daydream,” the wheat & barley “on the cloud,” or the raspberry-flavored “JAZZBERRY.” The establishment also offers a pilsner and a dark beer.
And yet, Spring Valley’s main selling point is the atmosphere it creates. Unlike its more modern cousins in Tokyo and Kyoto, Spring Valley Brewery in Yokohama has been built in a classic style that seems to mix classic European beer halls with the Japanese style of the Meiji restoration. Combined with their Beer Workshops and an affordable food menu, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that SVB Yokohama can offer a lot to beer aficionados in one convenient location, even if parts of it do feel slightly disingenuous. But as long as the beer is good and cold, and the food is tasty and hot, what does it really matter?
For more information about Spring Valley Brewery Yokohama, visit our Concierge listing.