Japan’s drinking community has finally brewed up (pun intended) a great arena for craft beer to take the hearts and livers of Japanese drinkers.
Japan’s beer culture started off back in the Edo period when Dutch arrived and introduced beer halls for traveling Dutch sailors. Throughout history, Japanese laws and regulations had favored major breweries which contributed to the creation of an oligopoly state within the Japanese beer market. But the top dogs are being challenged. It’s been 110 years, but finally, the government overhauled the beer tax laws which lowered the required malt content and allowed for extra ingredients within the classification of beer.
What does this mean and why is it important?
This new law allows brewers to realize their creative strength. Not that they weren’t before, but pre-2018, a melon beer (yes, this exists) was technically classified as happo-shu. Which is the same classification as that cheap insta-regret in a can that you get at the konbini. And I may be wrong but I don’t think anyone really wanted to have that classification and it’s often associated with cheap alcohol.
A lot of the changes I’ve seen are that now, Japanese breweries are experimenting more with Japanese flavors and they’re coming up with products that aren’t of American or European descent. And what’s great is that the quality has been continuing to grow, and I think Japanese breweries are defining what Japanese craft beer is like. With over 300 breweries and new bars opening up across the land, it’s difficult to try them all. But here’s is a salute and a little shout out to the gems that I’ve tried.
Shiga Kogen (Nagano)
Rooted in the art of sake, this distillery began brewing ales back in 2004. To me, they are among the OG-ranking in terms of true Japanese craft beer. If you’re going to give your v-card away, go for the Shiga.
Specialising in traditional ales and lagers, founder and brewmaster Scott Brimmer has helped cultivate quality beer in Japan.
Devil Craft (Tokyo)
Founded by three American’s in Tokyo, DC beers are the closest to American-style as you can get that’s made in Japan. And since craft beer is a fresh product, DC often provides tastier brews than some of the imported beers.
Rise & Win (Tokushima)
Dedication and passion, synonyms for Rise & Win. Whether it’s the quality and taste of their beers, improving education or setting an example of what it means to be sustainable, these guys are doing amazing things.
Thrash Zone (Yokohama)
For those who like the higher alcohol content, this one’s for you. Brewpub and rock bar, they’ll have 20 taps lined up with most of them over 7.0%. You can only find these at their own bars.
Do you like these places? Got more interesting places to recommend to us? Leave a comment below and let us know!
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