5 Unique Places to Enjoy Beer in Tokyo this Summer

From homey hangouts to elegant garden terraces, beer-loving in Tokyo is in a league of its own

Although sake is arguably the nation’s most famous alcoholic export, Japan is without a doubt one of the biggest appreciators of beer in the world. Here’s our top pick of places to join the fan club this summer.

Japan didn’t deregulate its local beer industry until 1994 when it lowered the output required to obtain a brewing license, enabling smaller, local brewers to finally get in on the action. This means that, compared to its international contemporaries, mainstream beer is big in Japan while craft beer is still a burgeoning world of alcohol appreciation. Still, there’s no doubt that Japanese lovers of the amber ale are definitely making up for lost time. Local tap houses like Tap & Growler, the first place on our list, are showcasing the incredible depth and creativity of the small-brew scene and introducing the world of beer appreciation to a more discerning audience.

Here in Tokyo you’ll find moody, barely furnished craft beer dens and elegant, decorated outdoor gardens occupying equal space in the beer loving community — making it one of the most fascinating and diverse cities to enjoy a brew. Tip: With the exception of Tap & Growler, for each of the spots on this list it’s better to reserve as spaces can get quickly filled up in advance.

1. Tap & Growler: 18 Taps and counting

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It doesn’t matter whether you’re a long-term beer connoisseur or just learning about the multitude of names that are now flooding the local craft beer market, Tap & Growler in Shimokitazawa should be your first point of call on any craft beer pilgrimage. The vibe of this laidback neighborhood watering hole is tight-knit but wholly inclusive, an atmosphere that can be tricky to embody in a city as busy, and often individualistic, as Tokyo. One of the first things to strike you as you head inside are the 18 taps that protrude from the wall behind the bar. Each of these taps represent a different Japanese craft brew, handpicked from across the country. You can buy by the beers by the ½ pint, by the 32oz or for those extra thirsty, the 64oz.

If you’ve found the perfect beer you can also buy a growler container to take the beer home with you so you can enjoy it at a later date — one of the unique selling points of this place. The bar generally offers beer snack-type foods, but if you’d like to BYO dinner or something else to snack on you’re more than welcome too!

Dates: Ongoing
Open: Weekdays, 6 p.m. – 12 a.m., Saturdays, Sundays, Holidays, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Where: 2-33-6 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Price: On average ¥600 for a ½ pint tasting,¥1,700 for a 32oz growler
Reservations: 03-6416-8767 (though reservations not necessary)
More info: www.craftbeers.tokyo/en

2. Farmers Beer Garden: Healthy beer date

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If you’re a Tokyo local you’ll have to make a little bit of a trek for this one, but it’s well worth the journey. You’ll find the Farmers’ Beer Garden sitting atop the Yokohama Takashimaya rooftop, just adjacent from Yokohama Station. Much different to the typical smoky, sticky beer gardens in the west, the philosophy of this place is deeply rooted in farm-fresh produce, clean eating and making the most of the great outdoors.

It’s an excellent spot to visit for a healthy after-work grill and beer session, or to make the most of a lazy weekend afternoon. The garden offers a range of different all-you-can-eat and drink plans featuring farm fresh vegetables and a selection of meats.  

Dates: Until 24 September, 2018
Open: Weekdays, 4 p.m. – 10:30 p.m., Saturdays, Sundays, Holidays, 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Where:1-6-31 Minamisaiwai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama
Price: Standard grill plan with two hours all-you-can-drink, ¥4,200
Reservations (online via TableCheck): http://farmers-beergarden.com/

3. Miageru Beer Garden: Beer with a view above you

MMiageru Beer Garden (Savvy)

It doesn’t get much more “summertime in Tokyo” than sipping on a fresh crisp beer in the middle of the city under the lights of Tokyo Skytree. Miageru (literally, “look up”) Beer Garden sits on the fourth floor of the Solamachi mall, tucked right underneath the 600-meter Skytree. The Miageru Beer Garden is a special summer-only event that has been running for a few years now and is growing in popularity with each passing season. 

The garden offers a number of different plans, from standard and premium lunches and dinners, and set menus with all you can drink cocktails, highballs, spirits and, of course, beer. If you’re worried about injuring your neck trying to admire the view, don’t worry, the garden has also set up special seating where you can recline on a futuristic banana-style lounger and fully appreciate the view.

Dates: Until 17 September, 2018
Open: Everyday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Where: 4F Solamachi, Tokyo Skytree Town, 1-1-2, Oshiage, Tokyo
Price: Standard lunch BBQ plan with 90 minutes all-you-can-drink, ¥3,800
Reservations (online via TableCheck): http://miageru-beergarden.com/

4. Ginza Sky Beer Terrace: Elegance amid chaos

Of course if there was one neighborhood of Tokyo that had to boast the most luxurious beer garden it would be Ginza. Sitting on the 13th floor of Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan, also known as Tokyo Traffic Hall, is where you’ll find Ginza Sky Beer Terrace — a glitzy European-inspired garden in which soft gold lighting bounces from the bubbles of the free-flowing sparkling wine and premium beers.

For both fine-dining and serious drinking, book a premium dinner plan, which offers Japanese/western fusion fare and a constantly full glass of the tipple of your choice. Running from early June right through until September, the venue also hosts live music while serving up stunning views of the elegant Marunouchi skyline below.

Dates: Until 14 September, 2018
Open: Everyday, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Where: 13F, Tokyo Traffic Hall, 2-10-1 Yurakucho, Tokyo
Price: “Sky” plan with two hours all-you-can-drink, ¥5,000
Reservations (online via website): www.kaikan.co.jp/special/beer/skybeerterrace/index.html

5. Grand Arc Beer Terrace: Imperial respite

Hotel Grand Arc Palace Side Beer Garden

For something a little closer to sea level, it’s worth visiting Hotel Grand Arc Hanzomon to immerse yourself in a relaxing beer garden experience practically on the grounds of the Imperial Palace. Find a little respite from the heat in the hotel’s lush foliage-filled garden “forest” as you sip on your choice of beer, wine, cocktails, sake and spirits.

For the full royal experience, the premium plan offers a selection of dishes masterfully crafted by the hotel chefs. Although most beer gardens have a time limit, if you’re having too much fun and want extend your stay the option is available for a small additional fee of ¥600 per every 30 minutes.

Dates: Until 30 September, 2018
Open: Weekdays 2:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.,  Saturdays, Sundays, Holidays, 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Where: Hotel Grand Arc Hanzomon, 1-1, Hayabusa-cho, Tokyo
Price: Standard plan with two hours all-you-can-drink, ¥5,000
Reservations (online via website): www.grandarc.com/menu-list/2338/