Archive for February, 2014

The best Japanese ales (in bottles and cans)

Updated 21 September 2015

As this is a blog for Brits and anyway I don’t generally like German beer or modern American ales such as over the top IPAs, this is mainly a list of decent fairly traditional British or Irish style ales brewed in Japan. As I don’t get out much, it also ignores draft beer. As such, the only breweries it has in common with the (nevertheless highly recommended) Craft Beer in Japan book are Shiga Kogen and Hitachino Nest. As most of my top ten beers would have been taken up by just a couple of brewers, I’ve made it a list of brewers rather than of beers.

1. Oh! La! Ho! beers, especially for Biere de Rydeen India Pale Ale (also cheaper than their other beers), but also for almost anything of theirs that I’ve tried. Note that Biere de Rydeen is a general name for all their seasonal brews and can vary – the last one was a real disappointment!

2. Hitachino Nest – but only for Japanese Ale (my favourite single beer in this whole list) and Nipponia

3. Onuma Beer India Pale Ale

4. Mitsuboshi Beer, but only for their Vienna Ale (their Pale Ale is so so)

5. Yahou Brewing beers (known as Yo-Ho Brewing in English for some reason) for Aooni India Pale Ale, Tokyo Black Porter, Yona Yona Ale in approximately that order – none of them the very best beer, but an unbeatable range of really very good ones for reasonable prices. Some more recent ones like Kayou no Neko haven’t really been up to standard – and sometimes even happoshu!

6. Shiga Kogen beers, mainly for their Shiga Kogen India Pale Ale, but also for most of their temporary ones (though they all taste a bit similar)

7. Isekadoya, especially for their Brown Ale (though it is a hoppy American style one)

8. Craft Label Pale Ale – not really craft beer and nothing amazingly special but a nice simple, quaffable ale that is becoming my new standard since Ebisu Koku no Blend seems to have gone wrong – 288yen Kinokuniya and some convenience stores

9. Kirin Ichiban Shibori stout (ditto, not as complex as Tokyo Black above and a bit more like a dark lager, but still good, especially in bottles when you can find it)

10. Hyakumanishi Pale Ale

Not really recommended

I’ve been much less impressed by the often very highly ranked brewers Minoh, Baird, Sankt Gallen, Baeren, Coedo and Swan Lake, but that may well be because of the German and/ or American influence or them simply being much better on tap than in cans or bottles.

I would generally avoid anything from the big brewers claiming to be craft beer – the original Kirin one is bearable but more recent ones have been almost bad enough to spit out.

Here are some other lists on the same topic (which I strongly disagree with):

http://www.ratebeer.com/country/japan/105/

http://www.beeradvocate.com/lists/style/169/