For the first few days of each year, Tokyo is relatively quiet. Businesses are shuttered for the New Year's holiday, and many of the city's inhabitants retreat to family homes in the countryside to unwind with loved ones. Neighborhoods that are typically crowded with office workers, such as Yaesu, east of Tokyo Station, become ghost towns. However, it isn't long before workers return to their daily grinds — and watering holes. In Yaesu, bars are plentiful, including conventional standing bars and traditional izakaya taverns. But I'm not here for the conventional and traditional; I'm looking for Yaesu's best craft beer bars.

I make my way down drab side streets in the mid-afternoon cold and feel the eyes of distracted salarymen newly returned to work peering down at me from the glass-faced offices. The sky is crystal clear but the bone-cutting wind hurries me into Swan Lake Pub Edo, an outpost for Niigata Prefecture-based Swan Lake Beer with 32 taps featuring Swan Lake brews and guest beers from around Japan.

It's 4 p.m. when I take a seat, which gives me a head start on the post-work crowd, but a few other afternoon merrymakers converse quietly over tightly held glasses. Happy hour promises ¥800 pints of Swan Lake Brew's regular beers, but I'm too intrigued by their seasonal offerings to take advantage of the cut-rate prices.