For the past week, many of Japan’s metropolitan governments have strongly requested that residents refrain from going outside for nonessential reasons to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Faced with a lot more time at home, you might find yourself reaching for that six pack of supermarket happōshu (a low-malt, beer-like beverage) with a resigned sigh.
But hold off on that desperation purchase! Ordering quality beer online in Japan is surprisingly simple. Although some countries tightly control how, or even if, beer can be sold directly to consumers, Japan has a remarkably relaxed approach to alcohol being delivered via the postal system. So, rather than heading out to a crowded supermarket for subpar suds, why not jump online and order some quality craft beer from the comfort and safety of home?
Most breweries that bottle or can their beers also maintain online storefronts. Many without their own online stores sell through e-commerce sites like Rakuten or Amazon Japan. In addition, there are several liquor stores that specialize in craft beer with online shopping options and even discounts on shipping for orders over a certain amount.
When ordering directly from a brewer, keep in mind that many of Japan’s craft beer brewery websites lack bilingual options, so ordering can be more or less of a challenge, depending on your Japanese level. If you’re up to the task, Minoh Beer (beers from ¥418/bottle) has a robust shipping operation, allowing customers to choose bottles from its regular and seasonal lineups, as well as bundled sets. Minoh’s beers are sent by refrigerated truck, in well-designed boxes labeled with helpful information about the beer’s storage and shelf life.
Other companies of note that maintain their own online stores include Nagano’s Shiga Kogen (beers from ¥389/bottle), well-known for its IPAs and saison-style beers; Mie’s Ise Kadoya (beers from ¥352/bottle); Aichi Prefecture’s Y.Market Brewing (beers from ¥440/bottle); Shizuoka Prefecture’s Baird Beer (six-bottle set from ¥3,000); and Chiba Prefecture’s Locobeer (beers from ¥550/bottle).
For newer breweries, like heavy metal-themed Yggdrasil Brewing (six-bottle set for ¥3,900), the disruption has required quick thinking and adjustments on the fly. Brewery supervisor Davido Gardahaut admits that Yggdrasil has switched to bottling 90 percent of its output, up from only 10 percent in March, to cope with the drop in sales at brewpubs and bars. Yggdrasil received shipping boxes from Kyoto Brewing Co. and a bottling machine from nearby Yorocco Beer, allowing it to quickly launch an online store. High demand in the first week has led to difficulty keeping sets in stock, though Yggdrasil hopes to increase capacity moving forward.
The craft beer website BeerTengoku has a wealth of information on even more of Japan’s breweries and stores in English.
Breweries using Rakuten or similar sites include Fujizakura Heights Beer (four-bottle set from ¥1,936), makers of world-class German-style beers; the recently opened, yet already award-winning, TDM 1874 Brewery sells beers through Rakuten (beers from ¥550/can), though it can also handle larger orders by cash on delivery if requested; and Tokyo Aleworks, which just launched an online shop on Saketry this week selling bottle sets of its well-received beer (¥3,300 for a five-bottle set).
For even more variety, a good number of liquor stores sell beer from a wide variety of domestic and overseas breweries online. Chouseiya (prices vary, minimum of six beers per order), stocks a staggering amount of beer from Japan and around the world, which it ships, refrigerated, across the country. Even more surprising is that it’s all run from a tiny shop in rural Chiba Prefecture. Beer Volta (prices and shipping costs vary) in Tochigi Prefecture and Beer Owle (prices and shipping costs vary) in Shizuoka also have extensive inventories of imported and domestic craft beers, not to mention flexible payment options.
Whether you’re ordering from an old favorite or checking out a new brewery, what better way to both help small businesses and do your part to prevent the spread of a pandemic than to sit at home drinking delicious craft beer?
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