Japan is a country renowned for its cuisine, culture, and technology. It also has a unique and varied beer scene, which is exciting and worth checking out. Beer lovers worldwide adore Japanese beers because of their distinctive flavor profiles. There is a Japanese beer to suit every palate preference, from crisp lagers to deep stouts.
We’ll examine the top 10 beers in Japan that you must try in this guide so you may sample the best that country’s brewing has to offer. This guide will pique your interest and expose you to some of the best beers Japan offers, whether you love beer or are just interested in trying something new.
History of Japanese beer
Japanese beer has a long history, beginning in the late 19th century when the country first welcomed Westerners. When Commodore Matthew Perry landed in Japan in 1853 with a force of American ships, the island nation was compelled to abandon its long-standing policy of isolation. As a result, there was an influx of beer and other imported items.
In Yokohama, a Dutchman named Philipp Franz von Siebold founded Japan’s first beer brewery in 1869. However, the bitter flavor of the beer produced at this brewery turned off the Japanese public.
The Japanese government started promoting beer drinking to modernize the nation and foster industrialization in the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The Spring Valley Brewery, Japan’s first domestic brewery, opened in Yokohama in 1870 and produced beer with a more Japanese flavor.
The Sapporo Brewery was established in Hokkaido in 1876 and swiftly became one of Japan’s biggest and most successful breweries. Sapporo beer was created utilizing German brewing techniques, and after taking home a gold medal at the 1896 Berlin International Exhibition, it became the first Japanese beer to receive recognition abroad.
During World War II, the Japanese government strictly controlled the production and distribution of beer, which lasted until the end of the war in 1945. After the war, the Japanese beer industry underwent a period of rapid growth and innovation, with many new breweries being established and a wide range of beer styles being developed.
Today, the Japanese beer industry is dominated by four significant breweries: Asahi, Kirin, Suntory, and Sapporo. However, many smaller craft breweries produce a variety of unique and exciting beers. Japanese beer has come a long way since its early days, and it continues to be a famous and beloved beverage in Japan and worldwide.
Here are the top 10 best Japanese beers you need to try:
1. Asahi Super Dry
One of Japan’s most well-known and popular beers is Asahi Super Dry. Its crisp and energizing flavor soon gained popularity among Japanese customers after being released in 1987 by Asahi Breweries.
The brewing procedure used to create Asahi Super Dry, which uses a particular yeast strain and a lengthier fermentation period, sets it apart from other beers. Because of this, it produces a drier and fizzier beer than conventional Japanese brews, making it a favorite among drinkers who prefer a less bitter flavor.
Asahi Super Dry is well-known for its flavor profile and slick, contemporary packaging. The beer is sold in distinctive silver cans and bottles with a minimalist design that reflects the beer’s crisp and clean taste.
Asahi Super Dry has also gained popularity outside of Japan and is now available in over 50 countries worldwide. It has won numerous awards for its quality and taste, including the Grand Gold Medal at the 2014 Monde Selection, an international quality competition for food and beverages.
2. Sapporo Premium Lager
High-quality hops and malted barley are used in the brewing process to give Sapporo Premium Lager its rich, full-bodied flavor. It features a distinctively crisp and clean taste that is frequently connected to Japanese beers and a refreshing finish that makes it ideal for food pairing.
The brewing technique for Sapporo Premium Lager is one of its distinctive features. It is made using the “bottom-fermentation” technique popular in Germany, which entails letting the beer ferment for a more extended time at a lower temperature. It produces a smooth, well-balanced beer with a light hop bitterness that balances off the malty richness.
Another well-known aspect of Sapporo Premium Lager is its recognizable packaging, which consists of a distinctive silver can bearing the red Sapporo emblem.
3. Kirin Ichiban
One of Japan’s most prominent and oldest brewers, the Kirin Brewing Company produces the premium beer Kirin Ichiban. It immediately became well-known among beer connoisseurs thanks to its distinctive brewing method and premium ingredients.
Using the first press of the wort throughout the brewing process distinguishes Kirin Ichiban from other beers. Using only the cleanest and most flavorful fraction of the wort, this procedure, known as “first press” or “Ichiban shibori” in Japanese, produces a smoother and more sophisticated beer.
Brewing Kirin Ichiban calls for a mixture of hops, malted barley, and water from the renowned Mount Fuji. It gives the beer a distinct flavor profile that is crisp, clean, and refreshing, with a subtle sweetness that is well-balanced by a slight hop bitterness.
The beer is also known for its distinctive packaging, which features a green bottle and a red and gold label that evokes a sense of traditional Japanese elegance and craftsmanship.
The Sapporo Brewing Company produces the premium beer Yebisu. It was made public in 1890 and named Ebisu after the pagan god of wealth and fortune.
Yebisu has a rich and full-bodied flavor that is sometimes referred to as being more complex than that of other Japanese beers since it is brewed with carefully chosen hops and malted barley. It has a smooth finish making it simple to drink, with a slightly sweet flavor complemented by a hint of mild hop bitterness.
The rich and nuanced flavor profile of Yebisu makes it a favorite among beer fans, who can find it easily in Japan. It has won numerous awards for its quality and taste, including a gold medal at the 2020 World Beer Awards.
5. Hitachino Nest White Ale
The Kiuchi Brewery, a family-run business making traditional Japanese sake and shochu since 1823, produces the artisan beer Hitachino Nest White Ale.
A blend of wheat malt, barley malt, and a particular strain of yeast that the Kiuchi Brewery cultivates on-site are used in the brewing of Hitachino Nest White Ale, a witbier in the Belgian style. Several spices, including coriander, nutmeg, and orange peel, are also used in the brewing process to give the beer a unique and diverse flavor profile.
The beer has a creamy mouthfeel, a hazy appearance, and a crisp flavor complemented by a hint of mild hop bitterness. It has a fruity aroma reminiscent of orange and lemon and a spicy finish that perfectly accompanies various foods.
Overall, Hitachino Nest White Ale is a must-try beer for anyone looking to explore the world of craft beer in Japan.
6. Coedo Beniaka
Coedo Beniaka is a craft beer brewed by Coedo Brewery, a small family-owned brewery located in Kawagoe, Japan.
The Saitama prefecture’s sweet potatoes are used in the brewing of Coedo Beniaka, a sweet potato amber ale, and a mixture of malted barley and hops. With undertones of caramel and roasted sweet potato that give the beer a distinctive and complex flavor, the beer has a particular flavor profile that is both sweet and savory.
The beer has a smooth, refreshing flavor that is well-balanced by light hop bitterness. It has a deep amber color and a creamy head. It is the ideal complement to a range of foods because it has a mild sweet potato aroma and a clean finish.
Coedo Beniaka is widely accessible in Japan and a favorite among drinkers who enjoy craft brews.
7. Baird Beer Rising Sun Pale Ale
The American-style pale ale Baird Beer Rising Sun Pale Ale is brewed with a mixture of malted barley and wheat and American and Japanese hops. The beer’s flavor is crisp, refreshing, and well-balanced by light hop bitterness.
It is light amber. With a clean finish and a fruity aroma reminiscent of grapefruit and citrus, the beer is the ideal complement to a range of foods. It boasts a smooth and straightforward flavor, making it suitable for beer fans seeking a crisp and tasty brew.
Baird Beer Rising Sun Pale Ale is widely available in Japan and is a popular choice among craft beer enthusiasts who appreciate its high-quality ingredients and unique flavor profile. It has won numerous awards for its quality and taste, including a gold medal at the 2011 World Beer Awards.
8. Ise Kadoya Brown Ale
Ise Kadoya Brown Ale is a robust and malty beer made using caramel, roasted, and hop malts. Dark brown, the beer has a rich flavor delicately tempered with mild hop bitterness.
The beer has a smooth, creamy texture that makes it the ideal complement to a range of foods, and it has a sweet aroma reminiscent of chocolate and coffee. It is a favorite among beer fans who value the craftsmanship of craft brewing because of its rich and nuanced flavor profile.
Widely accessible in Japan, Ise Kadoya Brown Ale is a favorite among craft beer lovers who value its distinctive flavor and premium ingredients. It has won numerous awards for its quality and taste, including a gold medal at the 2010 World Beer Cup.
9. Yo-Ho Brewing Tokyo Black Porter
Yo-Ho Brewing Tokyo Black Porter is a dark and decadent beer brewed using a blend of roasted malts and hops.
The beer has a smooth, creamy texture, making it the ideal complement to various foods. It has a deep aroma reminiscent of dark chocolate and roasted coffee. It is popular among beer connoisseurs who value the craftsmanship of craft brewing because of its layered, complex flavor profile.
Widely accessible in Japan, Yo-Ho Brewery Tokyo Black Porter is a favorite among craft beer lovers who value its distinctive flavor and premium ingredients. It has received significant recognition for its excellence and taste, winning a gold medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup.
Yo-Ho Brewery Tokyo Black Porter is a beer that everyone who wants to learn more about Japanese craft beer should drink. Its rich and complex flavor profile and use of locally sourced ingredients make it a favorite among beer enthusiasts in Japan and worldwide.
10. Echigo Koshihikari Rice Lager
The Echigo Beer Company, a small brewery in the Japanese prefecture of Niigata, produces a specialty beer called Echigo Koshihikari Rice Lager. Since its establishment in 1994, the brewery has been making premium craft beers with ingredients acquired locally.
The premium short-grain rice known as Koshihikari, which is farmed in Niigata Prefecture, is combined with malted barley to create the light and pleasant beer known as Echigo Koshihikari Rice Lager. The beer’s color is a light yellow, and it has a crisp, clean flavor perfectly balanced by a trace of light hop bitterness.
The beer is the ideal complement to a range of cuisines since it has a subtle aroma reminiscent of rice and a smooth, pleasant texture. It has a quiet and nuanced flavor profile that makes it a favorite among beer enthusiasts who appreciate the artistry of craft brewing.
In recent years, Japan, which has a long tradition of beer brewing, has emerged as a mecca for craft beer fans. Japan provides a wide array of beers to suit various tastes and preferences, from the well-known Asahi Super Dry to lesser-known but no less beautiful brews like Echigo Koshihikari Rice Lager and Yo-Ho Brewery Tokyo Black Porter.
For any beer enthusiast, drinking one of the beers on this list is a must because each has a distinctive flavor profile and background. Japan has a wide variety of beer options, whether you’re touring the breweries in Niigata Prefecture or strolling the streets of Tokyo.
So, Japan is the perfect place to broaden your beer pallet and try something new. With its rich history and dedication to quality ingredients and brewing techniques, it’s no wonder that Japanese beer has become a favorite among craft beer enthusiasts worldwide.
I am a passionate beer connoisseur with a deep appreciation for the art and science of brewing. With years of experience tasting and evaluating various beers, I love to share my opinions and insights with others and I am always eager to engage in lively discussions about my favorite beverage.