This content was originally published by The Hop Review, a digital magazine that joined the Hop Culture family in March 2020.
This piece was written by Meng Yang.
“DETOURS” is a new travel series by The Hop Review. Being a weary traveler almost always calls for a reward in the form of a pint at the end of the day. Here, we will document those beer breaks–as we travel the U.S. and beyond–with quips, photographs and Q&As. Cheers, to the adventurous beer trekker.
150-0046 Yubinbango Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 1-29-1
It’s not easy to get lost in Tokyo in this modern age (thanks Google!). The streets are clean and for the most part, colorfully lit. Traffic is orderly and obeyed and if one jaywalks, you’ll be looked upon with confusion. Signage ranging from digital, scheduled train departures as well as general public notices are listed in Japanese and English and cutely illustrated for universal understanding. Ordering food at a restaurant and most places (not all) have picture menus. And if you find yourself lost, ask someone (or two for a second opinion) and they’ll happily point you in the right direction.
But, if only finding a good place to drink a craft beer in Tokyo were as easy. Most establishments carry only one house beer on draft like Asahi, Sapporo or Kirin Ichiban; suitable beers when looking for something light on a hot, summer day. But, good luck asking for ‘craft beer’ from a bartender when they might mistakenly translate your request as ‘draft beer.’ Also, depending on what you’re looking for, whether Japanese, American or European craft beer, a Google search can only do so much.
Thankfully, we met up with Mikkeller’s Hamilton Shields and enjoyed a pint at Goodbeer Faucets (a bar in the Shibuya District serving a wide range of Japanese bottles and draft) to gain a broader understanding of the Japanese craft beer and bar scene. Originally from Spokane, Washington–with a background in international securities–Hamilton left a comfy office gig for an opportunity to head up Mikkeller’s outpost in Tokyo. Fluent and well-versed in Japanese culture after years of on/off travels and armed with a good sense of humor and hospitality, Hamilton is the co-owner and partner as well as taproom manager at Mikkeller Bar Tokyo.
As craft beer travels across the world to international and emerging markets in Asia, Hamilton Shields is seeing its effect firsthand in Japan. Although craft beer isn’t growing at the same speed and rate as the western world, its enough for new and enterprising bars to start hopping on the ‘craft beer’ bandwagon. As the partner and co-owner of Mikkeller Bar Tokyo, Hamilton compiled for THR his ‘Best of’ picks for travelers to find a tasty beer as well as a uniquely Japanese drinking experience in Tokyo.*
Top 3 Small Beer Bars
Tokyo is famous for it’s tiny, strange bars run by folks who care–and who more often than not have some real personality. Go to these quirky bars while exploring the neighborhoods.
Top 3 Bars for Selection
Lots of taps and lots of options–here’s where you can try a variety of local and foreign brews.
Popeye (Ryogoku District) – 70 taps with a classic bar vibe
Watering Hole (Yoyogi District) – 20 taps along with some unusual, Japanese beers
Craft Beer Market – Many locations with lots of Japanese brews at great prices
Top 3 Bars with Food
Satisfy your beer taste buds as well as your appetite at these places.
Devil Craft – 3 locations serving Chicago-style pizza and great beers brewed in Tokyo
Beer Wars Tokyo – Grilled meats and veggies with an overall crazy-place-vibe in the back streets
Sansa (Akasaka) – High-end beer and food pairings, crazy glassware (ask about the green tea/IPA blend)
Other Notable Spots
Looking for something unique? Check out these joints! You won’t be disappointed.
Kitazawa Konishi (Shimokitazawa District) – Great bottleshop in a funky neighborhood, can taste in shop for small groups
Craft Beer Titans (Otsuka District) – American beer and amazing gyoza in an old school neighborhood
Mikkeller Tokyo – Popping up around Tokyo until these gypsies find a place to call home*
Photography provided by Tiffany Yang.
Authored by Meng Yang & Tiffany Yang, collaborators for The Hop Review. The Yangs are designers and illustrators from Detroit, Michigan. They are the creators of the ‘DETOURS’ series and will be sharing their beer travels as they traverse the globe.
*Our original plans had us scheduled to visit Mikkeller Tokyo to chat with co-owner and partner, Hamilton Shields. But, due to some business and operations reshuffling, Mikkeller Tokyo left its current location and is currently eyeing a new space with an expected fall 2016 grand opening. Thanks to Hamilton at Mikkeller Tokyo for the help!