Nippon Craft Beer Festival 2016

The Nippon Craft Beer Festival 2016 took place on Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday at Sumida-ku Town Hall, on the banks of the Sumida River in Tokyo, Japan. Within view was the famous Asahi building, with its distinctive ‘Asahi Flame’ visible from the windows.

The entry fee was quite steep at ¥4,500 per person (about USD $45 per person), but we were immediately handed a strip of tickets – representing payment for ten beers each to sample.

Asahi Beer BuldingLayout

The Japanese craft beer scene is still quite small, but building rapid momentum. The festival was held inside the Sumida Riverside Hall, on the second floor of the Town Hall. Small tables were set up near the walls and windows, in a wide ring around a central counter for all the taps.

Beer festival layoutSome 27 craft breweries were present from all over Japan, and all represented within the same outward-facing rectangular counter. Near the central counter were the glass washing facilities, which was a very nice touch.

The festival was a little cramped, but not excessively so. Intoxicated patrons generally managed to avoid staggering into each other.


I think it is fair to say that my alcohol tolerance is higher than that of the average Japanese person. We arrived late, with only two hours remaining, and there were a lot of flushed but happy faces to be seen. There was a very even mix of men and women, generally in small groups standing at tables and sipping beer.

beer festival stageThe crowd was very polite, even by Japanese standards. Making friends was relatively easy, but that is generally the case at craft beer festivals, especially when you are one of the only foreigners present and introduce yourself as a brewer.

With about one hour remaining, I was approached by a tipsy young man who decided to give me his remaining tickets, and so we pooled them with a nearby group who were trying to drink their way through their remaining stash.

The Beers

Beer tickets

Still in its youth, the Japanese craft beer scene has a somewhat random feel to it – some beers could be done better by a novice home brewer, while others are at the pinnacle of skill and technique. No matter the skill levels though, I applaud all Japanese craft brewers and home brewers alike, and hope that the movement continues to grow.

Of the 66 available beers, I managed to taste the following 16, although my notes are at a progressively lower standard of legibility as I read through the list:

Brewery: Agula Beer

Beer: Kiwi IPA

Style: American IPA

Alcohol: 6%

IBU: 55

Notes: A great example of an American IPA with NZ hops. Malty, fruity, and heavy with a subtle sweetness. Very tasty.

Brewery: Iwatekura Beer

Beer: Oyster Stout

Style: Stout

Alcohol: not given 

IBU: not given

Notes: Very rich, smooth mouth feel, chocolate and sweet malt dominate with heavy but pleasant bitterness.

Brewery: Nasu Kogen Beer

Beer: English Ale

Style: English Ale

Alcohol: not given 

IBU: not given

Notes: Malty and surprisingly fruity. the club!-468x60 banner

Brewery: Nasu Kogen Beer

Beer: Scottish Ale

Style: Scotch Ale

Alcohol: not given 

IBU: not given

Notes: Heavier than their English Ale and less fruity.

Brewery: Preston Ale

Beer: Brown Ale

Style: Brown Ale

Alcohol: 4% 

IBU: 8

Notes: Heavy molasses taste and aroma. Somewhat slimy, likely DMS.

Brewery: Preston Ale

Beer: IPA

Style: IPA

Alcohol: 6% 

IBU: 50

Notes: Very malty and bitter.

Brewery: August Beer

Beer: August Original

Style: Pilsner

Alcohol: 5.5% 

IBU: 30

Notes: A bit average, left an unfortunate impression of old yeast.

Click to visit Craft City

Buy craft beer online

Brewery: Sagami Beer

Beer: Weizen

Style: Weizen

Alcohol: 5.1% 

IBU: 18

Notes: Pleasant banana, but overshadowed by strong clove flavor.

Brewery: Sagami Beer

Beer: Fruit Flavor Style Kabosu

Style: Fruit beer

Alcohol: 5% 

IBU: 16

Notes: Hoppy on the nose but fruity on the palate. A winning beer for my fiancé.

Brewery: Brimmer Brewing

Beer: Golden Ale

Style: Golden Ale

Alcohol: 5% 

IBU: 32

Notes: Clean and slightly bitter. I liked it, but it was too bitter for my fiancé.

Brewery: Brimmer Brewing

Beer: Porter

Style: Porter

Alcohol: 5.5% 

IBU: 36

Notes: Complex roasted and smoky flavors. Nice, but a little bit too harsh.

Beer of the Month Club

Brewery: Baird Beer

Beer: Wabi-Sabi Japan Pale Ale

Style: American Pale Ale

Alcohol: 6% 

IBU: 50

Notes: Very good, as expected from Baird. Clean, fruity, and hoppy.

Brewery: Fujizakura Kogen Beer

Beer: Weizen

Style: Weizen

Alcohol: 5.5% 

IBU: 12

Notes: Has won awards. Very smooth, with a good banana/clove balance. Low on bitterness.

Brewery: Matsue Beer Hearn

Beer: Pilsner

Style: Pilsner

Alcohol: 5% 

IBU: 17

Notes: Complex, dry, with a pleasantly bitter finish.

Brewery: CREW Republic


Style: Imperial Stout

Alcohol: 9.2% 

IBU: 71

Notes: German import. Very chocolatey and a bit of a wine flavor to it. Heavy.

Brewery: CREW Republic

Beer: Drunken Sailor

Style: German IPA

Alcohol: 6.4% 

IBU: 58

Notes: German import. Dark for an IPA. Malty and a bit of funky sourness, like some Belgian styles.


Final table

All in all it was a fun afternoon and we had a great time sharing some good Japanese craft beer.

If you would like to try your luck in sourcing these beers to try for yourself, try this online craft beer supplier:
Craft City

The Winning Beers directory also has several ‘beer of the month’ clubs which are interesting for beer nerds like me.

A special shout-out to everyone at the table we finished on. Kore wa honto ni omoshioroii deshita! Yoparatta!

If you have any questions or remarks, or you met me on the day, please leave a comment below!

It's not a Japanese festival until you see a cute mascot

It’s not a Japanese festival until you see a cute mascot

6 thoughts on “Nippon Craft Beer Festival 2016

  1. Sound like a great festival! Would love to have been there. Beer and a chance to meet other people what could be better!
    I like your site, seems like a useful site to visit with how to guides and recipes. And love the pictures of the festival you have put up.

  2. Hi Jesse,
    Fantastic event, I liked this Nippon Craft Beer Festival 2016, congratulations to the organizers.
    Of the 16 kinds of beers that you masterfully enlist as, there are some who have indicated alcohol degree not given, but in your opinion as a good taster, could you prove if they had some degree? or was only because not given the number?
    I’m relishing the Japanese beer 🙂

    • Hi Renan!

      I’m afraid I’m not good enough to tell alcohol content accurately just by taste, and the number of beers I tried made it even more difficult 🙂

      In fact there was a list of beers on offer, most of them had alcohol and IBU information but a few did not.


  3. I found the information on the Beer Festival fascinating and the pictures show a nice turnout.
    I have no understanding of the 16 beers here that you tasted, but I found the price of admission not too bad considering that for $45 they gave you 10 tickets.
    I have been to a tasting restaurant here in Florida and they bring out tray with 6 different ones. I found it to be a very interesting concept. Your site is very helpful to anybody who wants to make beer. Now I know where to send people if they want to do this.

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