Japanese beer is admired around the world for its unique flavours and innovative brewing methods (sweet potato beer anyone?). Despite all the tasty domestic microbrews and boutique beers that are available in Tokyo, sometimes the palate gets a touch of wanderlust and wants to go global.
Tokyo has plenty of spots that offer international brews, some of which are making their export debuts in Japan. Coupled with light menus or interesting music, these spots are the perfect place to check out beers you may not be able to sample anywhere else.
In addition to Shinjuku and Shibuya, Akasaka, Roppongi and other locales play host to world beer bars that are ready to quench your thirst. If you’re up for a world tour in a beer glass, but don’t want to leave the city then try visiting some of these spots.
In and around Akasaka & Roppongi
Belg Aube Roppongi
A Belgian beer bar that’s neatly tucked away down a side road that’s a stone’s throw away from both Tokyo Midtown and The National Art Center, Belg Aube Roppongi offers beers that are bought in directly from breweries in Belgium and imported in special cold storage containers. From the 50 different varieties of barrelled beer they carry (many of which aren’t available anywhere else in Japan), 3 to 4 are chosen each week and offered on tap. In addition to beer, they also offer a range of Belgian snacks and cuisine. Other establishments in same chain include Belg Aube LaLaport Toyosu, Delirium café Tokyo and Delirium café Reserve in Akasaka.
Address: Okano Bldg 1F, 7-9-2 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)3403 1161
Open: Mon 5.30pm-12midnight, Tue-Thur, Sat 5.30pm-2am, Fri and days prior to a nat. holiday 5.30pm-5am, nat. holidays 3-11pm
Delirium Café Reserve
Located on the first floor of a building attached to Akasaka station, on Tokyo Metro’s Chiyoda line, next to TBS broadcasting centre and Akasaka Sacas, this Belgian beer bar is the second bar in Japan to be directly operated by the Belgian Delirium Tremens brand – a brand that fans will recognize by its famous pink elephant mark. In order to continually stock the finest beer they can, the management makes as many as four (sometimes more) annual trips to Belgium to negotiate directly with the various breweries they deal with. Of the 100 different varieties of Belgian beer on offer here, approximately 50 are on tap – a figure that's reported to be approximately 40 more than anywhere else in Japan. Also noteworthy here is the menu – which has been praised by the brands Guinness record holding flagship, in Belgium, for accurately recreating authentic-tasting Belgian cuisine. Other establishments in the same chain include Belg Aube Roppongi, Belg Aube LaLaport Toyosu and Delirium café Tokyo.
Address: Akasaka Biz Tower 1F, 5-3-1 Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)5545 7730
Belgian Beer Café Antwerp Port
Belgian Beer Café Antwerp Port was the first European style Belgian beer café to open in Asia and, in keeping with this pioneering reputation, they make a point of offering a number of beers that aren’t available anywhere else in Japan. For example, they offer all six varieties of authentic Belgian Trappist beers, which are brewed by Trappist monks and only available in limited quantities. At Belgian Beer Café Antwerp Port you’ll find a total of 60 different varieties of Belgian beer, including 5 on tap, and a staff that’s more than happy to pour you a beer in the authentic Belgian manner. Other establishments in the same chain include Belgian Beer Café Antwerp Six in Ginza, and Belgian Beer Café Antwerp Central in Marunouchi and Belgian Beer Café Antwerp Barrel in Osaka.
Address: 4-3-6 Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)3584 3301
Open: Mon-Fri 11.30am-2pm, 5pm-3am, Sat, Sun and nat. holidays 12noon-12midnight
This well established bar, located in the basement of a building on the eastern corner of the Roppongi intersection, offers 130 brands of beer from 36 different countries. The owner of this unique bar is a beer connoisseur who set up shop after spending time learning about beers first hand in various locations including pubs in both Britain and Belgium – if you’re looking to deepen your understanding of world beers, you can rest assured that, should you ask for it, you’ll get some sound advice here. Another point that makes this establishment unique is their katsu sando (pork cutlet sandwich); however, this popular fare regularly sells out so make sure to arrive early.
Address: Coco Roppongi Bldg B1, 3-11-10 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)3478 0077
Open: Mon-Thur, Sat 6pm-12midnight, Fri 6pm-2am, closed Sun and nat. holidays
This relatively compact establishment opened as the Brussels brand’s flagship bar in 1986. There’s a counter on the first floor, a standing area on the second floor and a seating area on the third floor – the different styles of which make each area popular with different types of customer. They offer 3 direct-import beers on tap and another 60 or so bottled varieties. The staff here is friendly and relaxed and always happy to give advice to all, from the novice beer drinker to those who are simply looking for new flavours to try. Brussels Kanda is part of the local Brussels chain, which also includes the Hoegaarden branches in Shinjuku, Kamiyacho and Kagurazaka, and the Chambre Claire café at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Ebisu.
Address: 3-16-1 Ogawamachi, Kanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)3233 4247
Open: Mon-Fri 5.30pm-2am, Sat 5.30-11pm, closed Sun and nat. holidays
Located almost directly across from the north exit to Shimo-Takaido station, on the Keio line, Algio offers approximately 50 varieties of Belgian beer and a good selection of Belgium cuisine that, in addition to regulars such as Belgian style potato fritters (or fritten), and blue mussels steamed with white wine, also includes their very own, and particularly popular omelette, the ‘Torotoro Tamago Omuraisu’. Aglio is part of the chain that also includes Kaiseitei Honten in Shimotakaido and Shironama Agoo in Shibadaimon.
Address: Hasegawa Bldg 2F, 3-42-1 Matsubara, Setagaya, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)5300 1955 (from 4pm)
Open: Mon-Thu 6pm-2am, Fri and days prior to nat. holidays 6pm-3am, Sat 5pm-3am, Sun and nat. holidays 5pm-1am
Tucked away down a quiet alleyway behind the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space, not far from Ikebukuro station’s west exit, Gibbon is both hard to find and very much appreciated by those who know where to find it. The bar, which is owned and operated by an old hand from the renowned Brussels chain, serves only Belgian beers. Although Gibbon provides an ideal space in which to relax and appreciate a fine Belgian beer or two, there’s not much of a menu; making it a drinking spot that’s best visited after you’ve already had a bite to eat elsewhere.
Address: 3-25-7 Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)3982 9244
Open: Mon-Fri, Sun 6pm-1am, Sat and nat. holidays 6-11pm
・World beers, Tokyo bars (part I)
Drinking beers from across the globe in Tokyo: Shinjuku and Shibuya
・One night only
Whet your appetite with the top chefs at CHEF-1 Night
・Where to watch the winter games
Get an eyeful of the Olympics from the best seat in the bar
Translated by Brin Wilson