Top 10 Best Japanese Beers: Japan Beer Guide

Japanese Beer

The world of beers evolves every year, and Japanese beers have emerged as an exquisite and tongue-pleasing choice for every beer aficionado across the world. Japanese beers have made their name and carved a unique niche in the worldwide beer industry, mainly due to the distinct flavors combined with skillful craftsmanship on top of the rich Japanese history dating back many centuries.

There is just so much to explore in this flavorful journey; it can take some time to truly understand the culture, artistry, and unparalleled taste that defines the top 10 Japanese beers.

However, this guide is the gist of an extensive study from traditional classics to innovative new beers. Therefore, the top 10 Japanese beers you will learn about here are simply the selection of the finest.

The History of Japanese Beer

The enchanting tale of Japanese beer traces its origins back to the time when the Dutch traders first set foot on the shores of the land of the rising sun in the 17th century. At the time, beer was a rarity confined only to the elite, but after this arrival, it was inevitable that Japanese beer would become an integral part of the culture.

Moving forward to the Meiji Period, Japan flung open its doors to trading, and foreign brewers dashed to the country with a strong resolve to sow the seeds of expertise in beer-making. During this era, the brewing traditions set their foundation and set the stage for all Japanese beers you know now.

Fast forward to the late 1800s, giants such as Kirin Brewery Company, Asashi Breweries, and Sapporo Brewery manifested, among others. These industry leaders set the fast pace of mass production and made the beers of today possible.

However, the story does not end here. In the 21st century, Japan evolved its beer culture into a tapestry of flavors, utilizing microbreweries that created limited-edition masterpieces, and each unveiled a new symphony of taste that entices avid beer drinkers across the globe.

Japanese Beers Selection Criteria

The selection of crème de la crème from Japanese beers is not an easy task. Therefore, this list was curated by employing a discerning palate and a commitment to uncover beers that truly stand out from the crowd.

The first selection criterion is taste, as taste reigns supreme. Each beer has been evaluated in terms of flavor profile, uniqueness, and balance.

The second selection criterion is the popularity of the beer. The top 10 beers in this article also fulfill this criteria as they earned the admiration of both locals and tourists.

Finally, the third criterion is innovation. To clarify, beers that have pushed the boundaries of tradition and creativity have earned a rightful place among the top 10 Japanese beers.

The Top 10 Japanese Beers: Beer Guide

Whenever you sit down for Japanese cuisine, you’ll be accompanied by either a beverage from Asahi Breweries or Sapporo Brewery (Japan’s beer pioneer). However, this list is a careful composition that involves even the beers that might not have the recognition but will win against any beer production titan.

1. Asahi

Tracing back its origins to 1889, Asahi firmly planted its roots in Osaka under the Osaka Beer Company moniker. This particular beer rivals any top-rated beer because of its iconic creation – globally renowned as the “Super Dry” beer. The Asahi beer brought a delicate touch of German lager finesse to the Japanese art of brewing.

Often addressed only as “Super Dry,” this beer takes distinction when it comes to the crisp and delightfully dry character that perfectly blends with a symphony of harmonizing flavors. It’s by far the best companion you can have when you sit at the table to savor Japanese cuisine. The Asahi Super Dry also contains 5% alcohol content, which gives enough room for the flavors to truly give you the unique experience of a Japanese brewery at its finest.

2. Sapporo Premium Lager

Made and named in the heart of this beer’s namesake city, Sapporo Premium is the best Japanese beer, ranked at the very top of everyone’s list. With 5% alcohol content, it stands out as both, Japan’s oldest and finest beer brand known to date. For countless critics, embarking on a Japanese beer adventure begins with the Sapporo Premium. This beer alone is a testament to Japan’s culture, tradition, and craftsmanship at its finest. 

The Sapporo Premium offers a crisp taste with hints of sweetness that create a refreshing flavoring. Moreover, this particular beer is the most popular name you will hear once you step into the country and it also holds the “Global best-seller” title.

3. Korudo

Korudo is among the few powerful beers that earned a place in the global market. This drink is particularly popular in Australia, where the majority share a common love for beer. Korudo is a rice-style lager that packs the precise light bitterness with a crisp and finally dry touch.

If you are looking for a beast that delivers flavors, then the Korudo will surely surprise you with its flavor play, which is just enough to not be considered overdone. Similar to Asahi, the Korudo is also renowned as the “Premium Dry Lager”, with only 5% alcohol content and perfect after a nice dinner.

4. Kirin Light

Dating back to 1869, Japan’s very first brewery was later renamed Kirin. It also stands as the national favorite of all avid beer drinkers in the country. However, unlike the aforementioned, the Kirin Ichiban is an all-malt lager that gives the exotic mild bitter kick with the signature dry taste.

With only 3.2% alcohol content, Kirin Light is easily one of the best light beers you can find in the country. However, Kirin did face a major backlash in 2015 because of a lawsuit that claimed it was a US product by Anheuser-Busch, that was wrongfully marketed as a Japanese import.

Nevertheless, setting the controversy aside, this beer is one-of-a-kind.

5. Suntory The Premium Malt’s

Suntory is one of the Japanese giants that have earned a name in the global beer industry. You might be familiar with their signature whisky but, Suntory is second to none when it comes to crafting the finest Japanese beers.

If that is not enough praise, then you should know that this particular beer is the brand’s award winner and is crafted only with a selected few hops and malts with nothing short of absolutely pure natural water.

Even though, it has a comparatively higher alcohol content of 5.5%, the Suntory Premium Matl’s is quite easy to drink when compared to Asahi and Sapporo.

6. Tokyo Black by Yoho Brewing

Not as old as the others, Yoho Brewing was founded in 1996 in Nagano but quickly became a popular brewer because of Tokyo Black. Given the short period for earning the recognition, there has got to be something special about this beer.

It has the same alcohol content as other drinks, which is 5%, but it’s a robust beer that takes pride in going toe-to-toe with the oldest and best Japanese beer brands.

7. Echigo Koshihikari

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Yet again another 5% alcohol content dry beer, that will take you on a journey of fine malts, floral hops, and lemons. Regardless of the dry kick, it is as refreshing as a beer can be with rice at the front.

That is to say, this beer is named Koshihikari, which is a variety of short-grain rice. However, not just any rice but a region that is globally praised for producing the finest quality of rice in Japan. The final product is this pale rice lager that delivers a crisp and clean taste to the tongue. 

8. Orion Premium Draft Beer

Orion i Japan’s fifth-largest brewery and is renowned for its lager production that offers unique beers that pack quite more than just a regular punch. Unlike other beers, this particular craft is a standalone beer.

That is to say, there is so much detail to the flavor that you do not want your tongue to have anything else at the tip before and after drinking the Orion Premium Draft Beer. Moreover, it is naturally carbonated with slightly acidic characters and a comparatively complex malt profile.

9. Monsuta

If the name seems familiar, then it is probably because Monsuta is Japanese for “monster”. However, don’t be afraid this drink will not assault your senses in the slightest. On the contrary, it is only slightly intense when compared to the more powerful beers.

Yes, it has the same alcohol content of 5% with wonderful aromas of hops and an exotic malt profile that creates a perfectly balanced beer for any beer lover.

10. Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale

As the name suggests, Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale is a rare beer that uses red rice. With 7% alcohol content, this is among the most powerful beers that will pack the right kick to get you a buzz.

Japanese beers are mostly known because of the rice lagers. Therefore, this particular craft was probably given rice in the name. The red rice gives this beer a fruity flavor alongside its rose red color which makes it a true beauty to behold.

The Future of Japanese Beer

As the future draws near, Japanese beer becomes more engaged in innovations and evolutions. Based on the past trends and how quickly the brands gained global recognition, it is fair to say that the continued practice of microbreweries will eventually push the boundaries of taste and create one innovative beer after another.

Fusing traditional Japanese ingredients with contemporary brewing techniques will not only bring about unique flavors but also set the stage for eco-friendly practices to become the new norm.

Final Thoughts

In the tough competition between Japanese beers for achieving true excellence, the two maestros that stand at the pinnacle of the best Japanese beers are Sapporo Premium and Asahi Super Dry.

One might think it is because they are historical and maybe just a symbol of Japanese heritage. However, it is also important to consider that they had far more time to perfect their craft, offer competitive prices, and keep up with the modern newcomers who keep bringing one innovation after another.

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