The cheapest way to enjoy a glass of craft in Tokyo is to buy some at a bottle shop and drink it either outside or at home. However, if you want to sample some rarer brews or you can’t convince your friends to hang out with you in the park regularly, then one of the more reasonably priced Tokyo craft beer bars listed below may be what you are looking for. As a point of reference, the average price for an American pint (about 450ml) in Tokyo is around ¥1,000 to ¥1,200. All of the places below are considerably cheaper.
OK, we’re cheating a bit here since this oasis of West Coast craft beer is actually in Yokohama (south of Tokyo). However, you’ll soon forget the time it took you to get there when you’re sitting with a 400-yen glass (prices have drifted up of late with the declining exchange rate) of Ballast Point or Green Flash in your thirsty mitt. More info and review here.
Shinshu Osake Mura
Literally “Shinshu (Nagano) Alcohol Village”, this place has beer from only a single prefecture in Japan. Luckily for you, that prefecture makes some of the best beer in Japan and luckier still you can drink at the bar for wholesale prices. The price of Shiga Kogen beer is even cheaper than you’ll find in a liquor shop. The staff are knowledgeable and friendly and will do their best to explain the different brews. In summer it can be a little hot and stuffy, but beer is the perfect antidote. More info and review here.
Craft Beer Bar IBREW
Nestled next to an elevated expressway between Yaesu and Ginza, IBREW is a tiny bar that spills on to the street with kegs and rounds of wood for tables outside. They have 10 taps pouring a variety of Japanese and Tokyo craft brews. On the day Tokyo Cheapo visited there were beers from Hideji, North Island, Baird, Hakodate Beer, Romantic Village (better than it sounds) and Minami-Shinshu. According to the barman, they often have Minoh and Shiga Kogen brews on tap as well. Prices are 421 yen for a smaller glass and 745 yen for a large glass.
GBF has more than 40 beers on tap, focusing on Japan, the US and Europe. While a lot of beers on tap exceed 1,000 yen/pint (American size), the locally brewed beers are more reasonable—including the house brand 750-yen Endless Brown Ale. All Tokyo craft beers are 200 yen off during happy hour bringing the 750-yen GBF Brown down to 550 yen. Happy hour is from 5 to 8pm, Monday to Thursday and from 4 to 7pm on Sundays.
Craftsman is on the first floor of a building full of bars and pubs just a 3-minute walk from the west exit of Gotanda Station. There are 31 craft beers on tap and a well priced food menu to go along with your beer (a huge plate of Belgian frites for 600 yen + tax). Beer is priced by the glass. Irrespective of the maker or variety, it’s 500 yen + tax for the smaller glass and 800 yen + tax for the larger glass. The larger glass holds approximately 350ml. While this isn’t extraordinarily cheap (á la Shinshu Osake Mura) they have an incredible range: Minoh, Romantic Village, Tokorozawa Beer, T.Y.Harbor, Outsider, Sankt Gallen, Kagua and more. Even a dedicated craft beer explorer will find a number of rare varieties that they haven’t tried. Also be aware of the seating charge of 300 yen per person.
Two Dogs Taproom – Hoppy Hour
Sandwiched between the usual clubs and bars in Roppongi, Two Dogs stands out with a range of 24 Japanese and international craft beers on tap. Split equally, the beer menu is regularly updated and features a mix of the big names and seasonal craft beers from across Japan, some familiar American labels and their original house brew Roppongi Pale Ale. Japanese beers are all below 1,000 yen a pint, while some internationals go above, but smaller sizes are available too. To make the most of it though, Hoppy Hour is the time to go. Between 5 and 7pm every day, pints are reduced down to medium price and medium to a small, knocking a good few hundred yen off your bill. A full-menu nomihodai (all you can drink) deal is also available for 3,600 yen if you want to try a good selection. The pizza is great; freshly made in the wood-fire oven—with a vegan options available, and half price on Sunday evenings, for the perfect cut-price combination. If you’re a bit of a beginner, or not sure where to start, the owner Mike knows a thing or two about his beers and is always willing to give recommendations (and tasters if you’re nice). All staff speak English, free wifi is available and there is no seating charge, but it can get quite busy!
TAPxTAP opened their first Tokyo branch in July 2016 (branch number one was in Fukuoka). This small cafe-style bar seats about 20 and offers 20 beers on tap. Most of the beers on offer when we visited were from lesser-known Japanese brewers with a few big brand (not craft) international beers from Belgium and Germany. While some of the brewers are a little less renowned, there’s plenty of variety and it’s a good chance to sample some new brews and flavors. The “Cannonball IPA” from Tokorozawa Brewery in Hyogo prefecture was the highlight of our visit.
Small glasses cost 500 yen while American pints (450ml) are 800 yen. There’s also a menu with light meals and snacks like chicken karaage, mussels, pasta, pizza and salad.
Titans Craft Beer Taproom & Bottle Shop
Titans is the beautiful offspring of a partnership between two beer importers: AQ Bevolution and Beer Cats. The 10 beers on tap rotate through the offerings from AQ Bevolution and Beer Cats with the odd Japanese guest beer. Prices are from 700 yen for a goblet and 1,300 yen for an enormous 700ml “Titan” tankard. For value hunters, they have an 8,000-yen discount card that entitles you to 11 regular-size beers and one titan. Given that regular size goblets may range up to 900 to 1,000 yen, the discount card is a good deal. Bottles in the fridge start from about 500 yen. If you want to drink it inside Titans, though, there’s a 300-yen corkage charge.
Apparently the “Ma” stands for “Mania” rather than “Mama”. Either way, Beer-Ma will have you drooling like a baby over their enormous bottled beer selection (1,500 varieties) and 10 taps of draft beer. Beer-Ma originated as a bottle shop on the other side of Kitasenju Station. Now, you can either drink your bottle on premises (there is a 100-yen charge per bottle) or take it with you.
Craft Beer Market
Craft Beer Market is a wildly popular craft beer bar now with seven branches in Shinbashi, Jimbocho, Awajicho, Mitsukoshimae, Koenji and Kichijoji. While not super cheap, the prices are reasonable and the range of beers (about 30 domestic brews) are extensive. Sadly, on the day that I visited, neither of the two best beers on the menu were available. Prices are 480 yen for a glass and 780 yen for an American pint. Due to its popularity, it’s a very good idea to reserve your table in advance.
Brew pubs Ginza Hachiban and Koenji Bakushu Kobo were on this list, but with the profusion of new venues they’ve been well and truly relegated – worth a look if you’re in the neighborhood, but not worth a special trip. Likewise, the Beersaurus happy hour was listed, but they’ve been demoted due to their slightly limited range and high regular prices.
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