TOP 10 craft beer in Japan (Part 1)

Japanese people love beer and I think there is good reason to. Japanese beer is very good, even the cheaper kinds. Even I fell in love with beer when I first came to Japan.

Thus today, we will be introducing the Top 10 craft beers in Japan voted by our readers (by HIS SNS trend research)

So everyone knows the big companies like Asahi, Sapporo and Kirin but did you know that there are many smaller craft breweries all around Japan? Today we will be introducing a ranking of the top ten local breweries located in different prefectures around Japan.

Why not try the local beers from each prefecture during your trip to Japan?

Top 10 craft beers in Japan voted by our readers no. 1-5

1. 【Wakayama Prefecture】 Nagisa Beer

Nagisa Beer

The most highly ranked beer was the Nagisa, craft beer from Wakayama prefecture.

Nagisa Pale Ale is a British style bitter, with a thick head, malty, fruity nose and a clean finish. It is made with 5 kinds of malt and 4 kinds of hops, giving it a complex flavour.

This beer has been manufactured and distributed since 1997 in Nanki Shirahama of Wakayama Prefecture. The water used to make this beer is called “Tonda” and it comes from Nanki Shirahama. This high quality water brings out the umami and flavors of the ingredients used to make the beer.

The founder of this brewery, Manabe Kazuya wanted to build his own brewery ever since he first tried beer when he turned 20 years old. His dream came true after the Microbew Liberalization went into effect in Japan in the 1990’s. He called the brewery Nagisa Beer because his parents and grandparents also owned businesses named “Nagisa”.

Recommended Sightseeing Spot in Wakayama

Safari World, Marine World and Enjoy World; these three sections make up Adventure World where you can spend all day having a blast! This amusement park even ranked very highly in TripAdvisor’s 2015 ranking of zoos and aquariums. It placed 4th on the list for Asia and it was number one on the list for Japan!

Safari World
Marine World

Voice from our voter:

“Once I tried this beer, my life became full color! I love this beer ♪”

2. 【Akita Prefecture】Tazawako Beer


This beer is made without any filtering of the yeast so the yeast is still alive in this draft beer.

Altbiers like Tazawako are brewed at a medium temperature but matured in a cooler environment, giving the beer its dark copper colour. It is a rich, sweet beer that would go great with cured meats, nuts and cheese. It is recommended to drink at room temperature to fully taste each layer of flavor.

A theatre troupe called “Warabiza” created this beer in 1997, the first local beer of Akita Prefecture, from the idea of “creating a new culture”. This beer won first place in the 2015 World Beer Awards in the smoked beer category. It has also won various other awards since then.

Recommended Sightseeing Spots:

Semboku,  Akita Prefecture’s Kakunodate is a castle town first developed in the Edo Period. It is a town with samurai and beautiful cherry blossoms.

Cherry blossom in Akita

From April 20, 2016 to May 5, 2016 a sakura (cherry blossoms) festival is held where approximately 1500 sakura trees can be seen blossoming beautifully.

In the summer, the trees and greenery create a lush wonderland. Also, Lake Tazawa is Japan’s deepest lake, at 423.4 meters and has been selected as one of Japan’s top 100 views.

Lake Tazawa

Voice from a voter:

“I only started to like beer after trying Tazawako beer!”

3. 【Iwate Prefecture】Gingakogen Beer


This beer was created in 1996, the 100th year since the birth of Kenji Miyazawa (poet and author) in the village of Sawauchi.

This region has a similar climate to Bayern, Germany so it is perfect for beer making. Only made with malt, hops and water this is a particularly genuine beer.

It pours a golden yellow with an off white, foamy head. It has a fresh, fruity flavor with strong notes of banana. A refreshing beer!


Recommended Sightseeing Spot:

Koiwai Farm is located about 45 minutes, by car, from Nishiwaga, the hometown of Gingakoen Beer.

This farm is over 120 years old and has truly idyllic scenery. You can enjoy horse riding, archery and even try making your own butter. It is worth visiting even in rainy weather.

Koiwai farm

Voice from a voter:

“This beer, carefully created in the severe and snowy environment of the northern part of Tohoku, is delicious!”

4.【Aomori Prefecture】Oirase Beer

奥入瀬ビール_330ml瓶 4種.jpg

Another delicious beer from the Tohoku region!

The Oirase brewery sells four types of beer: pilsner, dark lager, Weizen and the award-winning Amber Lager.

From the banks of Lake Towada to Yake Mountain it is about 14 kilometers long.

This beer was born in Oirase where you can enjoy the beautiful nature all four seasons. Brewed with the local water of Oriase and created using technology from the Czech Republic, this beer has an excellent fragrance and goes really smoothly down your throat.

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Recommended Sightseeing Spot:

Flowing from the boundary between Aomori Prefecture and Akita Prefecture from Lake Towada, is Oirase stream. When the air becomes clear in the forest, you can see moss covered boulders and trees everywhere and hear the murmuring of the mountain streams.

If you take a walk through this serene forest, it will surely heal your mind and body. In May and June you can enjoy the vividness of the new green leaves and from mid to late October, you can see the changing colors of the fall leaves.

Oirase stream

Voice from our voter:

“I want to drink a nice refreshing beer while gazing at the scenery of Oirase!”

5. 【Aichi Prefecture】 Y.MARKET BREWING


Opened in January, 2014 it is the only local beer of Nagoya.

Located in “meieki” in the entrance of Nagoya Station, you can try up to 8 different kinds of beer on the second floor of Y.MARKET.

Y. Market brewing started in the Yanagibashi Market (which is why it’s called Y. Market), which is a cluster of family-owned wholesale businesses. The founder of this brewery grew up near the market and he wanted to breathe life back into the area after many businesses started to lose to bigger chains. The head brewer is very passionate about brewing and commutes a total of five hours every day for his job! (Source: http://japanbeertimes.com/2014/05/y-market-brewing/)

The beers are brewed very carefully to achieve the optimum flavor profile. If you are in the area, you should definitely check it out as it is only a ten minute walk from Nagoya Station.


Recommended Sightseeing Spots:

You can’t leave out Nagoya Castle which was selected as one of Japan’s 100 famous castles. Originally built for Tokugawa Yoshinao, the ninth son of Tokugawa Iyeyasu.

Nagoya castle

Nagoya castle is one of Japan’s three major castles, along with Osaka Castle and Kumamoto Castle.

You should also visit the Tokugawa Art Museum along with Nagoya Castle. The museum features relics of Tokugawa Iyeyasu. They are well preserved and you can see over 10,000 cultural relics.

Tokugawa art museum

Voice from a voter:

“This beer was just as delicious as I expected!”

Have you tried any of these craft beer? If you have, please tell us which one you like most. Tomorrow we will continue with the no.6 -10 ranking of craft beer.

Stay tuned!




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5 thoughts on “TOP 10 craft beer in Japan (Part 1)

    1. Department store like Isetan or Takashimaya in Japan usually have some of these craft beer in their inventory. I have seen Coedo beer from time to time. Also, Yamaya import liquor store have some stock of Gingakogen Beer. I guess it’s bit difficult to get a hand on these craft beer from overseas


      1. I still have hope! Actually, I can get Coedo and Hitachino (very limited variety of either beer) but that’s it. Everything else is Asahi, Sapporo, or Kirin. That’s here in Italy, but my online source is based in France. Look forward to your next post on beer!


      2. We are posting no.6-10 tomorrow and rest assured Coedo is on the list. Please share our post with your friends;)


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