Japanese Beer

The Best Beer in Japan

Want to know more about Japanese Beer? Here’s my guide to the best beer in Japan and an introduction to the most popular Japanese beer brands.

While craft beer has gained popularity in recent years, there are four main producers of beer in Japan. Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo and Suntory are the most popular beer brands, and they all have a long tradition of making Japanese beer. 

Asahi Super Dry

The Asahi Super dry is very popular and this Japanese beer is even sold in other countries around the world. It’s very easy to drink and comes with a crisp and nice taste.

The aftertaste is sharp and the Asahi Super Dry goes very well with local food from Japan, but can also be enjoyed on its own.

Name in Japanese: アサヒスーパードライ

Asahi-Super-Dry-Beer-in-Japan

Photo: icosha / Shutterstock.com

Kirin Lager

The Kirin Lager is another traditional beer in Japan, and it has long been Kirin’s flagship. It’s a very smooth lager that goes well with food, and it has pleasant notes of grass, malt as well as hints of honey.

Kirin Lager

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Kirin Ichiban Shibori

Another best selling beer in Japan is Kirin Ichiban Shibori, which has 100% malt content and a bittersweet taste. It’s brewed using only hops, water, and malt using the first press method. 

Kirin Ichiban Shibori has a unique taste which is both crisp and rich. It goes well on its own, or together with some Yakitori and Yakiniku.

Name in Japanese: キリン一番搾り

Kirin Ichiban Shibori

Photo: LunaseeStudios / Shutterstock.com

Yebisu Beer

If you want to taste one of the more exclusive beers in Japan, the Yebisu beer is a good option. It follows very strict rules during the brewing process and only ingredients from Germany are used. 

The Yebisu Beer is brewed in Sapporo, and it’s a favorite among the locals and foreign beer enthusiasts. If you enjoy a good premium beer, you shouldn’t miss this one. 

Name in Japanese: ヱビスビール

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Hitachino nest white ale

Craft beer in Japan is on the rise, and this particular one is very popular. The Hitachino nest white ale has a nice smell of pepper and orange, and overall, it’s an excellent craft beer in witbier style with a flowery citrus aroma.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Sapporo Premium Beer

My personal favorite among the classic beers in Japan is the Sapporo Premium Beer. It’s very smooth and has a well-balanced taste. If you prefer a darker beer, there is also a black version of the same style from the Sapporo brewing company.

Sapporo Premium Beer in Japan

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Yona Yona Ale

If you like fruity craft beers, the Yona Yona Ale is a Japanese beer for you. It does have a slightly bitter taste, but the aftertaste is nice and it’s quite enjoyable to drink.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Premium Malts from Suntory

Suntory has a lot of beverages, and this is one of their premium beers. It has a creamy foam and flowery aroma.

It comes with a nice depth and rich flavor, which has made the Premium Malts from Suntory into one of the best selling beers in Japan.

Name in Japanese: プレミアムモルツ

Premium Malts Suntory

Photo: Oriohori / Shutterstock.com

Kin-Mugi by Suntory

The Kin-Mugi is another popular beer in Japan from Suntory, and it is known for its rich malt content and light bitterness. It also features a nice golden color. The Kin-Mugi beer can be found across the whole country and is available in most supermarkets.

Name in Japanese: 金麦

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Yo-Ho Tokyo Black Porter

If you like Guinness, you should give the Yo-Ho Tokyo Black Porter a try. It’s a balanced beer with pleasant notes of chocolate and coffee without being too overwhelming. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Where to enjoy Beer in Japan

Craft Beer is especially popular in larger cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, but even smaller cities have some local craft beer bars. Additionally, beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage along with Sake, and every Izakaya will serve up Japanese beer. 

An Izakaya is essentially a Japanese bar where you can get some good and drink some beer. 

Izakaya beer in Japan

Photo: Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

More about Japanese Beer

There are four main breweries in Japan, whereas Sapporo is the oldest brewery, dating back to 1876. Beer is typically the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the country, and it’s widely available in supermarkets, restaurants, and bars. 

Additionally, there are many beer-like beverages that have less malt content. This is due to the fact that the government imposed a tax on products containing a certain limit of malt. 

Furthermore, the Japanese craft beer has risen in popularity and in addition to the main breweries, there are various smaller breweries that have created some really nice craft beers in Japan. 

Sapporo Beer Museum in Japan

Photo: Bz Bl / Shutterstock.com

Different types of beer in Japan

  1. Malt Beer – Traditional Japanese beer
  2. Happoshu – Low-malt beer with less than 50% malt content
  3. Liqueur – Carbonated beer-like drinks containing very little or zero malt

As already mentioned, the Japanese government is imposing higher taxes on beer that has a higher content of malt. At first, the limit was set to 67% malt for higher taxes on beer in Japan. This gave rise to the Happoshu, which typically has around 50% malt. 

As tax revenue dropped, the government lowered the limit of malt and included beverages that had 50% malt content as well. The breweries are going a long way to avoid the higher taxes on beers in Japan, and there are many alcoholic drinks that have a beer taste but doesn’t contain much malt at all.

Of course, there are lots of “regular” Japanese beers as well, but now you know why there are different types of beer in Japan.

Types of beer in Japan

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My Recommendations

Happoshu is not something that is likely to please beer enthusiasts, so it’s better to stay away from these if you want to taste a nice Japanese beer. Go for the beers with higher malt content to get that nice rich flavor and aroma. 

If you’re buying Japanese beer in a supermarket, look for the text “発泡酒” which means Happoshu, and “リキュール” for beer-like beverages without malt content. Of course, they are fun to try, and some of them can be quite enjoyable at times. 

They are especially great for those who like lighter beers since they are easy to drink and has a lighter aroma and flavor. Japanese lager beer typically goes well with local foods, but can also be enjoyed on its own.

Overall, I find that the rise of craft beer in Japan is very positive, and they are usually of great quality. However, some of the Japanese premium beers from the main breweries are nice as well. The price is definitely an indication of quality when it comes to beer in Japan.

Japanese Beer brands

  • Asahi
  • Kirin
  • Sapporo
  • Suntory
  • Orion
  • Kiuchi brewery (microbrewery)
  • Yo-Ho Brewing (microbrewery)
Japanese Beer brands

Photo: PATARA / Shutterstock.com

Japanese Beer Festivals

In my opinion, besides a well-renowned izakaya or craft beer bar, you should attend some of these Japanese beer festivals if you want to taste some unique beers in Japan.

  • Snow Monkey Beer Live
  • Kyushu Beer Festival
  • Yokohama Fruhlingsfest
  • Keiyaki Beer Festival
  • Great Japan Beer Festival Okinawa

What is your favorite Beer in Japan? Leave a comment below!

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