Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer)

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  • Not sure which Japanese beer to try when you’re in Japan? We taste the big beers and craft beers of Japan and take the guesswork out for you. Kanpai to Japanese Beer Guide!

    When we visit Japan, I love trying all the different beers that are available in the local supermarkets and grocery stores. There are hundreds of beers that are only available in Japan (at least not easily accessible in the US) and being a beer lover, it’s always an adventure to try new beers.

    You’re probably familiar with Asahi, Sapporo, and Kirin beers but there are many popular craft breweries in Japan as well and it’s not too hard to find their beer throughout Japan. We previously shared a post on the different kinds of Japanese beers and here is part two of the Japanese beer tasting. Kanpai!

    Where to buy Japanese Beer in Japan

    You can easily find beers all over Japan, besides bars and restaurants, most convenience stores like Lawson’s and Seven-Eleven carry a decent generic selection. When in a pinch, the basement floor of department stores that sells food would also have some.

    However, based on our experience if you want the best selection of Japanese beer, head to a discount supermarket like Okay Supermarket. The neighborhood Okay Supermarket near Nami’s house usually has 20+ “beer-like” drinks to choose from. The beer selection also changes based on seasons and time of year so new beers are always being rotated in.

    Japanese Beer Guide – Ratings

    Similar to the previous beer tasting, I’ve recruited my Japanese beer buddy (Nami’s mom) to drink and discuss each beer. We would share what we liked and what we didn’t like. Yes, we do the heavy lifting and take out the guesswork for you.

    Ready to taste some beers? Kanpai! (Disclaimer: We are not professional beer tasters, simply two beer lovers trying different beers and sharing our feedback). For ratings below, any 3/5 beer is worth trying and 4/5 is fantastic, at least according to the two of us.

    Japanese Big Beer and Craft Beer Reviews

    Kumano Kodo Beer - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Kumano Kodo Beer – Smells great, sweet, the head disappeared quickly, bitter finish. 3.5/5
    Karuizawa Clear Beer - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Karuizawa Clear Beer – Good head, fruity, light, soft water, doesn’t have a strong aroma. No dry feeling. Sweet floral after taste. 4/5
    Sorachi 1984 Ale Beer - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Sorachi 1984 Ale Beer – Very interesting flavor, lemon, coconut, dill. Different from regular beer. Too strong for regular drinkers but great for beer lovers. 4/5
    Premium Yebisu - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Premium Yebisu – Light aroma, no bitter taste, light texture, decent head, a bit dry. Watery. 3/5
    Hokkaido Brewing Company Otaru Bakusyu Pilsner - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Hokkaido Brewing Company Otaru Bakusyu Pilsner – Smells like regular Pilsner beer, not too outstanding, decent head. Smooth and soft texture. Strong aftertaste. 2.5/5
    Hokkaido Brewing Company Otaru Bakusyu Amber Ale - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Hokkaido Brewing Company Otaru Bakusyu Amber Ale – Sweet and hoppy smell, not much head, sweet candy finish, dry. 3/5
    Yona Yona Ale - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Yona Yona Ale – Smells fruity, pale ale, good head but disappears quickly. Slight bitter flavor. 4/5
    Kinkura - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Kinkura – Smells good, floral, hoppy, head disappears quickly. soft, gentle, typical Pilsner flavor. Sweet. Mineral taste. 3/5
    Karuizawa Black Beer - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Karuizawa Black Beer – Smells Smokey, dark, caramel, soft water, tastes like caramel soda, head disappears quickly. Sweet aftertaste. 3/5
    Asahi Gold Label - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Asahi Gold Label – Soft, mild, easy to drink, a bit sweet. 2.5/5
    Lucky Chicken Red IPA - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Lucky Chicken Red IPA – Smells like light IPA, good head, bitter, on the dry side, hoppy. 2.5/5
    Premium Rich Ale - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Premium Rich Ale – Good head, smells hoppy, tasty, dry, just slightly bitter. 4/5
    Asahi Prime Rich - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Asahi Prime Rich – Smells like light beer, taste like light beer, watery. 2/5
    Kirin Beer Ichiban Shibori - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Kirin Beer Ichiban Shibori – Good head, sweet, soft tasting, metallic after taste, a bit dry finish 3/5

    Shiro Nigori - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com

    Upside down can of Shiro Nigori - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Shiro Nigori – Citrus smell, hefeweizen, not much head, slightly dry, lemon finish. 3/5
    Sapporo Lager Beer - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Sapporo Lager Beer – Smells like regular Sapporo, head disappears pretty quickly, sweet aftertaste, smoother than the black label. 3/5
    Sapporo Extra Brew Black Label - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Sapporo Extra Brew Black Label – Smells clean, head disappears quickly. Taste like regular Sapporo. A bit sour at the end. 2/5
    Sapporo Black Beer - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Sapporo Black Beer – Not much smell, not much bubble, light, slight stout taste. The after taste was not pleasant. 2.5/5
    Koshihikari Echigo Beer - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Koshihikari Echigo Beer – Smells clean, slightly sweet, nice head, not beer taste, very small bubbles, almost water-like, smooth, not much hop taste. Contains rice. 3/5
    Suntory Koimenohitotoki - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Suntory Koimenohitotoki – Not horrible but no hop Taste, it’s like water. This is happoshu and not beer. 2/5
    The Premium Malt's The Black - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    The Premium Malt’s The Black – No strong smell, sparkly, light and refreshing, light stout flavor. 3/5
    Captain Crow Extra Pale Ale - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Captain Crow Extra Pale Ale- Smells clean, sweet, strong hop taste, not sparkly, dry. 4/5
    Lucky Dog Pale Ale - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Lucky Dog Pale Ale – Pale ale, smooth, flavorful, sparkly, clean, sweet, delicate.  3.5/5
    Echigo Beer - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Echigo Beer – From Niigata, smells rich, not too sparkly, almost like champagne, honey, not too hoppy.  3.5/5
    Orion Draft Extra - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Orion Draft Extra – Not much head. Smells floral, honey, sweet. Taste light, dry, easy to drink in summer. 3/5
    Lucky Cat White Beer - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com
    Lucky Cat White Beer – Like a wheat beer, hints of yuzu and peppercorn, small bubbles, refined, 4/5

    Japanese Beer – Big Beer vs Craft Beer

    Based on our tastings, in general, the Japanese craft beers are much better than big beers. The craft beer flavors are more pronounced and refined.  A few of our favorites Japanese craft beers are from breweries in Karuizawa including Karuizawa Brewery and Yoho Brewing Company.

    The most disappointing beers are the ones with the coolest packaging, but the beer is either tasteless or unpleasant. If you have tried the beers above let us know what you thought in the comments below. If your favorite beer is not on the list, let us know what it is and we’ll try to find it on our next trip to Japan.

    Varieties of beer in a Japanese Supermarket - Japanese Beer Guide (Big Beer + Craft Beer) | www.justonecookbook.com

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