Craft beer has come a long way in Tokyo. Twenty years ago, the market was mostly made up of generic lagers produced by major brewers such as Kirin and Asahi. Brewing laws prevented small players from entering the fray, and regulators were skeptical there would be a market for craft beer. Popeye, a bar in eastern Tokyo's Ryogoku neighborhood, was the first to prove them wrong when it began serving Echigo Beer in 1995. Following Popeye's lead, specialty bars began bubbling up all across the city, serving an ever-expanding array of ales and lagers concocted by small-scale breweries across the country and the world.

The number of such venues has spiked over the past few years and, despite frequent forecasts that craft beer in Tokyo has reached its saturation point, new bars continue to open and — most importantly — to attract customers.

I contemplate this while looking out the window at PDX Taproom as I sip a glass of Old Tavern Rat, a sweet and strong Barleywine-style ale from Lompoc Brewing out of Portland, Oregon. Through the glass, I watch shoppers wander the backstreets of Tokyo's Shibuya district as '90s rock plays over the quiet thrum of conversation behind me.