Tokyo is known for being one of the world’s most expensive cities and one of the most populated cities as well. It’s not cheap, nor easy, to open a brewery in Japan due to licensing laws, but in recent years, Tokyo has seen an increase in the number of brewpubs in the city. This is due to the relaxed restrictions of earning a brewing license, more experience on the brewing side, and the ever increasing popularity of craft beer in Japan.
Many brewpubs start out the same way in Japan – the bar and brewing space is constructed, and then the bar opens, selling beers from third party breweries. Once the license has been obtained from the Japanese tax office, then the brewpub begins operating and reduces the amount of beers from other companies, instead relying on their own beers to sustain business.
Brewpubs offer up a very different experience to regular bars – more often than not, you can see the brewing process in action. What better way is there to understand the beer you are drinking than having the brewer often on-hand to answer questions you may have about the beers or the brewing process itself?
Craft beer often has a reputation for being expensive or exclusive, but these brewpubs in the heart of Tokyo show that it doesn’t have to be either. Drinking should be a fun experience for everyone involved, so drop in at one of these spots, pull up a seat, grab a couple of cold beers, and have a laugh with the person sitting next to you.
Located in Shinagawa’s Tennozu Isle, TY Harbor operates Tokyo’s oldest and largest brewpub and has been in business since 2004. TY Harbor has six all-year round beers, with their pale ale highly recommended along with their amber ale too. Also look out for their warming imperial stout. Beers come in four sizes: small (250ml) at ¥550, medium (420ml) at ¥880, large (650ml) at ¥1,250, and boot (1000ml) at ¥1,900. Pitchers (1800ml) are ¥3,500.
The location boasts impressive views over Tokyo Bay and 2017 saw TY expand their brewery, which has enabled them to increase their bottled range and offer up growlers – containers that can be filled with beer and taken away to be drunk at home. TY Harbor serves up a wide-ranging food menu that encompasses everything from meat to vegetarian dishes that change depending on what is in season, and from small snacks to full three course meals.
For more details about TY Harbor, visit our Concierge listing.
What started out as a one-man operation in Koenji has grown to a chain of brewpubs along the Chuo line, with the latest in Takadanobaba. While the quality of beers isn’t as good as TY Harbor’s efforts and the choice in each branch varies, the prices are cheaper and the atmosphere is more relaxed and friendlier. Beers come in two sizes: small at 235ml from ¥250 to ¥500 and jokki at 435ml from ¥400 to ¥600. The food is more Japanese izakaya style than other places: they serve lots of fried food, such as fries, chicken wings, fish and chips, and sausages. They have four locations along the Chuo Line at Koenji, Ogikubo, Nishi-Ogikubo, and Asagaya, with one location inside the Yamanote line at Takadanobaba.
For more details about Bakushu Kobo, visit our Concierge listing.
The owner of Campion Ale, James Williams, was a banker in Tokyo when a trip back to the UK and a chance to take part on the University of Sunderland’s Brewlab course got him firmly set on opening a brewpub in the Asakusa area. Campion Ale specializes in traditional British beers, with their bitter and golden ale two very good examples of beer found in the UK. The beers are sold in UK measures – half a UK pint (268ml) for ¥600, a two-thirds UK pint (379ml) for ¥750, and a UK pint (568ml) for ¥1,050 – and are served alongside excellent traditional British food. Campion Ale also hosts brew days where members of the public can see how beers are made and then come back in a month or so to try the finished product.
For more details about Campion Ale, visit our Concierge listing.
Located in Yoyogi (hence the name), YYG Brewery offers up a more formal dining experience than your typical brewpub. The brewery and bar are on the first floor, with a great little outside deck for drinking, and a more formal dining experience on the seventh floor (both floors serve the same beer for the same price, fortunately). The beers are heavily influenced by US and Belgian styles, so expect plenty of hoppy pale ales, bitter IPAs, and some fruity saisons too. The beers come in one size at ¥800 for about 300ml in a variety of glasses to suit the style of beer. The first floor offers up some simple snacks for munching on while the seventh floor has burgers, pizzas, salads, as well as some side dishes such as olives, oysters, pickles, and calamari.
For more details about YYG Brewery, visit our Concierge listing.
A little out of the way in Kita-Senju, but the beers of head brewer Kanayama-san, who got experience working for Asahi Beer, make it well worth the while. Sakazuki Brewing also has the distinction of being the first crowd-funded brewpub in Japan, using Makuake (the Japanese version of Kickstarter) to get funding. The styles on tap vary greatly and depend on Kanayama-san’s feeling at the time of brewing. They have five different beers on tap, along with regular Asahi so you can even take your non-craft beer drinking friends with you. Try their amber and stouts – two very good examples of beers that are hard to find well done in Japan. Beers come in one size, which is 300ml, and cost ¥540. The food is mostly seafood and meat, with mostly marinated fish-based dishes and grilled or fried beef and pork.
For more details about Sakazuki Brewing, visit our Concierge listing.