We will have more in-depth reviews of the major brewers in Japan, but first here is a brief rundown of some of the brewers that are doing good work in Japan:
- Tamamura Honten (also known as Shiga Kogen) – Based in Nagano, they are probably the best brewer overall in Japan. Their most favored styles tend to be either hoppy beers or saisons, and the best of their beers are definitely among the few world-class beers you can find here. Also very forward-looking and experimental for a Japanese brewer. They are fairly well-known here and not hard to find, and very reasonably priced to boot.
- Recommended year-round beer: saison one
- Recommended seasonal/limited beer: The Far East Barrel Aged Imperial House IPA
- Baird – A consistent but workman-like brewery in Shizuoka. Their beers do not often reach the heights of Tamamura Honten or even some other breweries here, but they make consistently average to above-average beer. They also have a varied seasonal lineup. Baird is in the process of scaling up and is starting to export in larger numbers.
- Recommended year-round beer: Kurofune Porter
- Recommended seasonal/limited beer: Dark Sky Imperial Stout
- Shonan – Located in Kanagawa. Perhaps not that consistent, but a few of their beers are awesome and definitely worth hunting down. They are definitely on the rise, still hard to find their bottles but on tap they are starting to pop up in a lot of places.
- Recommended year-round beer: W-IPA
- Recommended seasonal/limited beer: Belgian Stout
- North Island – A small operation in Hokkaido that doesn’t make a large variety of beers but makes some very good ones. Their stuff also isn’t distributed very widely, which is a shame because not only do they make some excellent beers they don’t have too many duds in my experience.
- Recommended year-round beer: Coriander Black
- Recommended seasonal/limited beer: Haskap Blonde (brewed with Mikkeller)
- Fujizakura Heights – Fujizakura Heights is a German-style brewery based in Yamanashi. Like most of the German-style brewers here, they rarely venture into non-German beers so you won’t find your hoppy or sour beers here. However, the beers that they do make tend to be quite nice. A very consistently solid operation.
- Recommended year-round beer: Rauch
- Recommended seasonal/limited beer: Rauch Bock
These are what I consider the best brewers in Japan at the moment, although there are a couple of relatively new ones we are keeping an eye on. There are also some other breweries here that should be mentioned for reasons both good and bad, so we’ll cover those in our next post.