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Tatsuo Aoki’s low-key Tokyo bar, Popeye, has become a destination for beer fanatics from around the country. They make the pilgrimage to sample Hokkaido ales and Shizuoka stouts, or for an impromptu lecture from Aoki on hops and yeast.

He’s part of a nationwide uprising against the staggering blandness of local beer. Four beverage behemoths dominate the market, all promoting pilsner-style lagers that account for more than 95 percent of the suds sold. It’s a bit like sidling up to a bar in 1980s Milwaukee: Miller or Budweiser?

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