Written by: Jaii Fredregill
Destination: Osaka, Japan
Visited: April 2018
It would take weeks, if not months to try all of the breweries and brew pubs in Osaka. To say that beer and microbrewing are "popular" does not come close to explaining Osaka's love for beer and brewing.
Craft Beer Works Kamikaze 4 Beer Tasting Flight ¥1200 / USD 11.00
Beer enthusiasts will have a good time in this city, which even has a Craft Beer Map. The map is available at some beer bars, or you can download Osaka Craft Beer Map, Volume 5 here.
Osaka Beer Map Vol. 5
All bars serve food, so do as the locals do and snack as you go then finish up with a late-night bowl of ramen. More than just a drunken meal, ramen before bed helps to take the edge off any hangover you may have inflicted upon yourself.
Bicycles & Nightlife in Dotonbori
Dotonbori Craft via Brewery Namba CITY
Dotonbori Craft is in the Namba City mall above the Namba train station.
While in Osaka, I stayed nearby in Namba, and it was practically on my doorstep. Most patrons here sit in a private booth, and it is more of a restaurant than a bar.
Mall drinking at Dotonbori Craft
According to their website is their beer “fits Japanese food,” so the restaurant atmosphere makes sense. The beer, food, and service were excellent. Was it like nothing I have ever had before? No, but I’m a fan of both West Coast style IPA, and chicken karaage dipped in Japanese mayonnaise. They have both, so I was a happy little fat kid at Dotonbori Craft.
Heaven is filled with kaarage and beer
In addition to 8-taps featuring their beer, Dotonbori Craft rotates 7-taps from other brewers in the region. Flights are available and offer generous pours.
According to Dotonbori, aging the beer in sake tanks makes it “mellow.” You can also visit the Dotonbori Brewery Factory located at Dotonbori Osaka Shochikuza.
The bar at Dotonbori Craft. 4-Beer Tasting Menu ¥1200 / USD, Half Pint ¥600 / 5.50 USD, Pint ¥800 / 7.25 USD
Beer Belly Tenma
Monoh Brewery created the Beer Belly bars as comfortable local spots where patrons can chill out and enjoy the efforts of their labor. Minoh manages both bars which serve their beers exclusively. Minoh was founded in 1996 by Oshita Masaji who appointed his eldest daughter Kaori as head brewer. Kaori has gone on to become a master brewer joined now by her sister Mayuko who oversees the daily operations of this family owned and operated business.
Beer Belly Tenma by Minoh Brewery
Minoh’s stout was the first of their beers to bring them notoriety when voted World’s Best Dry Stout by World Beer Award in 2009. The stout won this honor again in 2014 and consistently continues to rank among the top stouts in the world.
Beer Belly Taps
I'm a real fan of their Sansho Pale Ale made by adding hanazansho, the flower of the Japanese pepper, to Minoh Pale Ale. Not all chili-infused beers turn out well. However, Sansho Pale Ale is exceptional.
The flavor of the chili does not overwhelm the Pale Ale. It can be sampled only at the Minoh Brewery warehouse or Beer Belly. Pairing it with spicy food is recommended. Something to keep in mind when ordering a snack at the bar.
Minoh Sansho Pale Ale. I never managed to keep my glass full long enough to get a picture of a whole beer
Half Pint ¥520 / 4.75 USD, Pint ¥830 / USD 7.60, UK Pint ¥930 / USD 8.50
Beer Belly is located in the Tenma market just a short walk from the JR Tenma station or the Tenjimbashisuji Rokuchōme Station via the Osaka subway Sakaisuji line.
Bartenders and chefs join forces at Smoke House Ape
Smoke House Ape
This cozy tucked away spot is a tiny bar cluttered with an assortment of toys and other stuff. Making it reminiscent of drinking beer at your stoner friends house in college. Smoke House Ape does not brew beer, but they do keep an assortment of craft beers in rotation on their 10-taps.
Bar snacks at Smoke House Ape
Most were from Japan when we were there. Those who want to get their Ape on can check out their larger sister bar, Yellow Ape Craft. Located in Kitahama, Osaka, Yellow Ape keeps their 20 taps flowing with a rotating selection for more beer and good times.
Both Ape bars update their websites regularly if you would like to check to see what is on tap. Of the beers I sampled at Smoke House Ape I have to say the Cabernet Ale by Minoh the most creative. This brilliant concoction does weigh in with a 7% ABV, so tread lightly.
Arrive early to beat the crowds for a seat at Kamikaze
Subway lines near Smoke House include the Midosuji line, Yotsubashi line and Yamatoji line, which is the closest.
Craft Beer Works Kamikaze
Kamikaze is a non-smoking bar with over 20 beers on tap. They do offer sampling flights and rotate their offerings regularly. Many of the beers are domestic, but they do have some from other parts of the world as well, so you can send your taste buds traveling without ever leaving your bar stool.
Wall of Taps Kamikaze
I was only here for about an hour, but my early arrival was lucky, because by 5:30 pm the place was full with even more butts waiting to squeeze in and find a seat.
200ml ¥500 / USD 4.60, 284ml ¥600 / USD 5.50, 425ml (American Pint) ¥1000 / USD 9.15
To reach Kamikaze via subway take the Nagahori Tsurumi Green Line for the Osaka Municipal Subway to the Nishi Ohashi Basho Station (3-min walk) or the Osaka Municipal Subway Yotsubashi Line to the "Yotsubashi Station" (5-min walk).
Craft Beer Gulp in Dotonori
Craft Beer Gulp
Gulp was also only a 15-minute walk from where I was staying in Namba, so I finished my evening here twice during my visit to Osaka.
I didn’t hear much hype about Gulp, but the place fills up and has all the things I feel make a bar great. A decent selection of beer (and Japanese whiskey which we got into at one point), a friendly bartender who promotes a fun environment, and chatty intelligent patrons.
Japan is the perfect place for those who like a little whiskey to go with their beer. The bar staff at Gulp are very knowledgable about beer and whisky if you need a recommendation
The Gulp beer menu was primarily beer from Japan and the U.S. West Coast. Being from California and living in Asia, craft beer from home is not always accessible, so I was happy to have the opportunity to spend a few hours drinking beer from home.
250 ml ¥800 / USD 7.25, 473 ml ¥1200 / USD 11.00
Thank you, Osaka. You were a blast from sunset to sunrise, and I can't wait to see you again.