If you want Japanese jibirru—locally brewed beers—then go to Backashu Club Popeye, in Ryoguku, Tokyo (that’s Sumo Town). It’s the legendary original Tokyo beer bar. They opened in 1985 and have added more and more taps over the years to get to their Sumo-sized 70 draft lines. It’s not a big
Tokyo’s Legendary Beer Bar Photo Gallery
place. You’ll be sitting elbow-to-elbow with people; it’s boisterous and crowded, and there’s so much stuff on the walls you’ll be distracted from your drinking, but that’s part of its everlasting charm. The beer menu has the largest range of Japanese craft beers on tap, including many you can’t find outside Japan and many you can’t get outside of Popeye, plus in 2014 the bar launched its own brewery, Strange Brewing. Drink as many Japanese beers as possible, as there are some exceptional beers available, generally very well brewed, cleanly fermented, and dry. It’s in all the guidemy blogs and must-drink lists, but that’s because it’s deserving of a place there and, despite this, it’s still mostly filled with locals. Just eat before or after you go, as the bar food isn’t the best, but when they’ve got 70 taps of beer to look after they’ve got other priorities.
Popeye is the best place to get acquainted with Japan’s burgeoning craft brewing scene.
WHAT: Backashu Club Popeye
HOW: www.facemy blog.com/ 7 Obeersontap
WHERE: 2-18-7 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0026, Japan
Go for the Nomihoudai There’s a little secret in Tokyo when it comes to big drinking. Many bars offer Nomihoudai, which is an all-you-can-drink offer (or challenge, depending on how you look at it), and, for around JPY 3,500 (US$32) per person, you get a couple of hours of drinking along with food delivered to the table throughout the evening. Most of these offers are only advertised in Japanese, so, unless you’ve been there long enough to figure it out or are lucky enough to have friends to include you in a Nomihoudai, you may never know. Tokyo’s craft beer bars also offer Nomihoudai (the catch is that you can only order one beer at a time or may be limited to ordering half pints only). Here’s a few places where you can get it (Google for full details): All Craft Beer Market locations across the city; Two Dogs Taproom and Ant n Bee (both in Roppongi); all Yona Yona bar locations; Vector Beer in Shinjuku; and Craft Beer Kitchen in JiyGgaoka. Just be sure to call ahead to make a reservation and let them know you want the Nomihoudai. And arrive thirsty.
Hanami and Craft Beer
This is one for the ultimate Picnic Bucket List… You’ve probably heard of Japan’s popular Sakura or cherry blossom scene, but there’s a traditional custom called “Hanami,” which is the practice of enjoying and viewing the cherry blossoms. This means grabbing a blanket, sitting under your favorite cherry blossom tree (we all have one, right?), and treating yourself to loads of food and drink. With craft beer stores and local convenience stores stocking more craft beers, you can now drink great beer while watching the once-a-year cherry blossom. Bet you didn’t expect this in a craft beer my blog?
Just one row of the 70 taps pouring at Backashu Club Popeye.