and minimalist. There are many things tasty about Japan. In Nagoya alone, we have spicy tebasaki, rich miso, and crispy hitsumabushi. But let’s face it, the standard Japanese beer is not precisely flavorsome. Those wanting to interject a little piquancy into their beer are forced in the direction of a Red Eye, a beer and tomato juice cocktail which, let’s face it, is just plain wrong.
Fortunately, for those of you living in and around Nagoya, you may have discovered that there has been a craft beer revolution going on, with places springing up all over. Here is the JIS guide to the places you should be hitting up to get your beery fix.
The newest craft beer spot on the block, Binge, is a fantastic mix of bar and bottle shop. You can regularly find six or seven beers on tap, though this goes up to twelve on the days when they hold special events. If that weren’t impressive enough, the six fridges are packed with up to two hundred cans and bottles, including an eclectic mix of beers and ciders from all over the States and Japan.
Both owners Xicao (pronounced Shikao) and Jiho speak impeccable English, so language is no barrier, and there’s a real friendly buzz amongst the clientele. However, if you don’t want to hang around to chat, they are actively encouraging a take out campaign.
Perhaps the best thing that Binge has going for is is the outdoor sitting area that, should you squint a little, you could swear that you were in a South Asia beach bar. Perfect for enjoying those warm autumn nights with an ice-cold draft, but also an ideal location for events held throughout the year. For further details, keep an eye on their social media for regular updates of the goings-on.
Perhaps my favorite craft beer spot in town, run by husband and wife team Jamie and Kayoko, Hopbuds claims (with good reason) to have the largest craft beer selection in the city, with around 120 different bottles to choose from. Focusing primarily on America’s west coast, they also do a fine line in Japanese brews, particularly Shiga Kogen, Baird, and Shonan Beer.
Being more of a bottle shop than a bar (although they do have two taps, and you are very much encouraged to drink on the premises before taking home a few bottles) means that they are not restricted quite so much by taxes, and thus are a fair a bit cheaper than other places. They also have a great community around them and put on events from time to time. Keep an eye out on their Facebook page for details of what is coming up.
Part of the Okadaya Liquors empire that also includes craft beer pubs Keg and Grillman, Y Market Brewing is a stylish bar that sells a variety of ales and beers. The décor is bright and edgy with nods towards contemporary Scandinavian design, yet adorned with Mexican paraphernalia that matches the cuisine, an extensive tapas selection as well as nachos and quesadillas (with perhaps the pick of the bunch being the chicken, gorgonzola and honey). Fortunately, the food and cocktail menu is in English, so if you struggle with the local dialect, you can order your grub safely.
On the many times that I have visited, the beer menu has been entirely different, and I have tried all manner of IPAs and lagers, each excellent. If there is one complaint, it’s that their beers tend to aim towards the Japanese palate (i.e., a little on the weak side), and with a reliance on the citra hop, they can get a bit samey.
For a good night out, I recommend their BBQ terrace, which does an excellent course menu and 3 hours of pour-yourself craft beer nomihoudai.
Being in Fushimi, over by the Bank of Brazil, Brick Lane is a favorite for many tourists staying at the Hilton, but it’s also a big hit with both Nagoya’s Japanese and ex-pat beer-loving community. Another husband and wife team, Junya and Akiko, have created a funky spot with a clean, uncluttered appearance and an airy feel. Most conveniently for our readers, they are English speakers (well, they have have to be. They spend so much time in America checking out the beer!)
They have nine taps with a mix of US west coast and Japanese beers and quite often throw in a cider or two, which gets me every time. The beer menu is updated every day, information on which they post on their Facebook page, so you know what to expect, and on occasion, they do low price value offers, so keep an eye out for that.
Another firm selling point is their burger selection, with some real eclectic choices. The last time I was there, I went for the Chicago Pizza Burger. As fantastic as it sounds!
Used Like New Beer can be found in Nishi-Ku, not far from Nagoya Station, Noritake Gardens, and the Freebell Apartments. Its MO is its a kind of ramshackle, homemade atmosphere, but in a very positive, friendly way – for some reason, it always reminds me of a quaint bistro in the French countryside, but that’s just me, I guess.
ULNB is the brainchild of the guys at Brick Lane, which means that you are guaranteed to get an excellent selection every time you come in. With one or two taps and three beer fridges, the choice isn’t quite as extensive as in Hopbuds or Binge, but it more than makes up for it in the quality of beers it serves, such as the Saigon Passion pictured above. That was the bomb!
As well as the great beer, they also have excellent sandwiches, made with homemade bread, and stuffed to a ridiculous level (it’s well worth checking out their Instagram page to see what I mean). And it’s also an amicable place, with all English-speaking staff, and some cool people chatting at the standing bar, enjoying some great beer together.
One of the Okadaya Liquors craft pubs, Keg, is relatively small and minimalist. They have 13 taps which, when one runs out, it is replaced by a new beer, so there will always be something different on the menu. The food choice is as interesting as their beer selection, with the rum gyoza a personal favorite.
Another Okadaya Liquors pub, Craft Beer & Wine Grillman has ten taps of Japanese beer as well as Japanese wine. Choose your favorite to accompany one of their steaks or 100% beef burgers.
Tap Room is close to 7 Days Brew near Nagoya Station; they have a decent array of craft beers on tap and a cheap food menu. The front of the bar opens, and there are some high chairs at the bar that are a very nice place to sit on a comfortable evening.
Out in Kamimaezu, a stone’s throw from Hopbuds, this is part of the burgeoning Trunk chain that coffee drinkers will know as a watchword for excellence, and the beers are no different. They generally have about six taps on the go, half of which you can almost guarantee that you’ve never had before, such as the eclectics of the selection.
The seating arrangements aren’t exactly the greatest – more pop in for a coffee than lounge around with a beer – but the top floor is comfortable enough, you can sit outside should you so wish, and the beer selection more than makes up for it.
**** Disclaimer: 7 Days Brew has become 7 Days Kitchen since this article was written and I haven’t been in, so the details below may have changed ******
7 Days Brew is smack bang in the middle of Meieki, right across from the Meitetsu building, and has a pared-back wooden décor. Unusually for a craft beer pub, there is a smoking section on the third floor. It is slightly more pricey than the others, but it more than makes up for it with its excellent beer selection that is so up to date that the menu will have today’s date on the top.
There are three floors, including a standing section in the basement (with no table charge), but I usually hang out on the second floor where you can chat with the bar staff who do an amazing job of matching your beer to your tastes. If you are hungry they have a wide selection of grilled meats, nabe in the winter, and in summer they grill fantastic jerk chicken right outside on the street. If you just want something to pick on, I highly recommend the octopus and avocado. Much better than it sounds…
Images by Binge (Own work) (With Permission)
Image by Hopbuds (Own work), via facebook.com (With Permission)
Image by Mark Guthrie (Own work)
Image by Brick Lane (Own work), via facebook.com (With Permission)