“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.


No. 009


N1 1-25-4, Kandasudacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

In Chicagoland, you may have seen the bottled beer perched somewhere on a shelf or handily available at a sushi or ramen restaurant. A simple, illustrated owl encircled with the words ‘Hitachino Nest’ as well as Kanji characters strewn on the label. Besides major Japanese brands like Asahi, Sapporo and Kirin Ichiban, Hitachino Nest is one of the more notable Japanese craft beer brands readily available in the US market with their White Ale and Red Rice Ale usually on display.

Although we wanted to visit Kiuchi Brewery, brewers of Hitachino Nest Beer, we didn’t have enough time to make the trek. The original brewery is located in the town of Naka in the Ibaraki Prefecture–roughly 80 miles north of downtown Tokyo and a ride on the high-speed Shinkansen didn’t fit our schedule. However, Hitachino Nest happens to have a convenient option for beer drinkers in Tokyo: the Hitachino Brewing Lab.

From Akihabara station, a short but stimuli-intense walk passing by sound-deafening multi-level arcades, flirtatious maid cafes and sweaty hordes of Pokemon Go players, Hitachino Brewing Lab provides a nice refuge from the rapid pace of the area. Modern, clean and minimal in design, Hitachino Brewing Lab is essentially a taproom serving an assortment of Hitachino beers and a small food menu. Calm, quiet with a cafe-like vibe, it’s an ideal place for meeting up and chatting with fellow beer fans.

Hence, we met up with Joe Robson, one (of two) of the fine folks at BeerTengoku to drink some Hitachino Nest beers and chat about Japanese craft breweries. Run by expats Rob Bright and Joe Robson, BeerTengoku (translated ‘BeerHeaven’) is a website covering craft beer in Japan (not unlike The Hop Review in Chicago…same but different). From in-depth brewery interviews, beer reviews, beer gossip as well as a continually updated beer map of Japan, what started as a mutual interest in Japanese craft beer between the two has now morphed into a full-on passion project. BeerTengoku has teamed up with The Hop Review, to provide a ‘Best of’ list for THR readers looking to visit Japan–be sure to check out the list below…


  Hitachino Brewing Lab is a calm respite tucked off the busy streets of Tokyo.
Hitachino Brewing Lab is a calm respite tucked off the busy streets of Tokyo.

Craft brewers are bringing Japanese influences to their recipes – sake-barrel aging, domestic hops, plums and yuzu citrus; even miso paste and shiitake mushrooms have found their way into beers.

— Rob Bright, BeerTengoku

  Cozying up to a Hitachino Nest Beer  Dai Dai IPA
Cozying up to a Hitachino Nest Beer Dai Dai IPA
  Hitachino Nest Lab's brewpub equipment & a unique way to show SRM.
Hitachino Nest Lab’s brewpub equipment & a unique way to show SRM.

The Japanese craft beer scene has exploded over the past few years. We hear about a new bar or brewery opening every week. Even the mainstream breweries are getting nervous.

— Joe Robson, BeerTengoku

  Joe Robson, of Japanese beer website, BeerTengoku.
Joe Robson, of Japanese beer website, BeerTengoku.
  Tokyo's busy streets beckon just outside the cafe.
Tokyo’s busy streets beckon just outside the cafe.

With 4 islands and 47 prefectures, BeerTengoku has curated a ‘Best of’ list for THR readers planning to visit Japan. Whether you’re taking in the majestic and feudal temples in the central mainland or simply enjoying the natural scenery up north, excellent Japanese craft beer straight from the brewery can be easily tacked on to your travel itinerary.

Best in the North (Hokkaido)

North Island Beer (Hokkaido)
Otaru Beer (Otaru)
Hakodate (Hakodate)

Best in the North (Tohoku)

Baeren (Iwate)
Iwate Kura (Iwate)
Fukushima Michinoku (Fukushima)

Best in Kanto

Yorroco Beer (Kanagawa)
Atsugi Beer (Atsugi)
Outsider Brewing (Kofu)
Devilcraft (Tokyo)

Best in Chubu

Tamamura Honten/Shiga Kogen (Nagano)
Y Market Brewing (Shizuoka)
AJB Co (Nagano)
Nihonkai Yuki (Kanazawa)

Best in Kansai

Kyoto Brewing Company (Kyoto)
Minoh Beer (Osaka)
Ise Kadoya (Mie)

Best in Chugoku

Daisen G Beer (Tottori)
Shimane Beer Company (Shimane)

Best in Kyushu/Shikkoku/Okinawa

Hideji Beer (Miyazaki)
Shiroyama Brewer (Kagoshima)
Umenishiki Yamakawa (Shikoku)




Photography provided by Tiffany Yang.

Special thanks to Rob & Joe at BeerTengoku for compiling the ‘Best in Japan’ list. Grab a beer with these blokes when visiting Japan! 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.