This is another article for FukuokaJET.com. Each establishment’s address, phone number, and opening hours can be found at the very end of the post. Please leave a comment if you need directions!
In response to comments graciously informing of new beer developments in Fukuoka, I have updated this article on September 23, 2009.
Kyushu is known across Japan as a veritable Shangri-La of shochu, with distilleries galore and a glut of shops and bars well-stocked with the beloved spirit. But many foreigners may be unimpressed with such a wide selection of shochu when all they’re craving is a decent pale ale.
Fortunately, Fukuoka prefecture is not the beer wasteland it may appear to be upon first glance; you’ll just have to make a bit of extra effort and spend a bit of extra money to get your beer of choice into your gullet. Unlike most Western countries, bars and restaurants in Japan usually serve only one kind of beer – or, if they do serve more than one, all of them tend to be pale Pilsener-style lagers. Though there is currently a budding interest in craft beer throughout the country, imported and microbrewed beers are still in fairly low demand and are considered a specialty item, so expect to pay a bit more for them. The Sam Adams or Sam Smith’s you may have enjoyed back home as an everyday beer will most likely be twice as expensive here, so be prepared.
Now then, let’s enjoy beer in Fukuoka. Kanpai!
Beer Bars and Breweries
If you’re looking for beer diversity, your first stop should be Cotton Fields コットンフィールズ in Fukuoka City’s salaryman-packed nightlife district, Nakasu-Kawabata. Cotton Fields has only one beer on tap – Sapporo – but their bottle selection is truly formidable, with over 400 varieties of beer from around the world, including some rare gems like Aventinus Eisbock from Germany, Lion Stout from Sri Lanka, and Anchor Old Foghorn from the United States. Bottles run fairly steep at about ¥600-1200, but bear in mind they’re pretty much the only game in town for many of these beers. Cotton Fields is also well-known for their ribs, tacos, and (among Americans) controversial décor.
Your next best bets for beer will be Fukuoka’s English- or Irish-style pubs, especially if you’re craving a silky-smooth Guinness on tap. Draft Guinness may seem like a fairly common thing in Japan, but be warned that many bars advertising “draft” Guinness (nama 生 or tarunama 樽生) actually pour the stout from a bottle and then employ a contraption called the Guinness “Surger” that sends electromagnetic waves through the beer to froth it into a pathetic forgery of real nitro-tapped Guinness. These draft Guinness impostors are disturbingly common, and the Surgers are made to look like real taps – so bars can get away with charging draft prices for bottled beer. Beware!
Rest assured that your draft Guinness is the real McCoy at this sextet of charming pubs: Morris, The Craic and Porter, and The Three Kings in Fukuoka City; Ye Olde Little Monkey in Kurume; and Booties and Bravo! Public House in Kitakyushu.
In addition to Guinness, Morris offers Yebisu lager, Vedett White, and Old Speckled Hen on tap. They also have a respectable bottle list with the likes of Fuller’s, Hoegaarden, Sam Adams (Boston Lager), Grolsch, Bass, and Newcastle, and their happy hour is a fantastic bargain – only ¥590 for any draft beer, including Guinness or their tasty half-and-half (ordinarily ¥850 a pint). Just up the road in the entertainment district Oyafuko-dōri, The Craic and Porter’s Irish-American owner Mike has amassed the best draft selection in town: Kilkenny, John Smith, Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier, Heineken, Marston’s Pedrigee and a rotating Rogue beer in addition to the standard Guinness (¥650-850 per pint) are all available on tap here, plus a handful of special bottled brews. The Three Kings is Fukuoka’s newest player on the British pub scene, and the first to bring authentic, cask-conditioned real ale to the city. Rotating offerings such as Old Speckled Hen, Greene King IPA, and Abbot Ale (¥800 or ¥600 during happy hour) are all well-kept and properly hand-pumped for that soft real ale mouthfeel. They also pour a variety of ales on normal tap and operate a retail store in Maebaru.
Ye Olde Little Monkey, or “the Monkey,” as it is more commonly known, is perhaps the only UK-style pub in the Kurume area, so if you live in Chikugo and don’t want to truck it to Fukuoka for real draft Guinness, this is your bar. It’s near Nishitetsu Kurume Station but it’s easy to miss – look carefully for the painted hanging sign with two monkeys next to a car rental shop.
Up north in Kitakyushu, Booties is an easy-to-find Irish-style pub in Kokura with Guinness, Kilkenny, and Yebisu on tap, and they make a satisfying basket of fish and chips (complete with fake newspaper) with big hunks of blowfish in an herb-flecked batter. They also have a lengthy list of Irish whiskeys. Bravo! is a new pub run by an outgoing bartender named Oti, who trained under the owner of Booties before setting off to start his own bar in Kurosaki. Bravo!’s only draft beers are Guinness and Yebisu, but the menu also lists Hoegaarden, Bass, Heineken, Orval, and Chimay in bottles. Prices run fairly high, but there is a daily happy hour from 6:00-8:00, and Oti is sometimes willing to organize a trade if you get to know him and bring in a rare beer for him to sample.
A couple blocks away from Bravo! is a little bar called Daimaru, which has only two taps, but one of them rotates each month, usually with offerings from Belgium – in the past, they have had Belle-Vue Kriek and Orval. Also in Kitakyushu is Kokura Genghis Khan 小倉ジンギスカン, which pours two beers from the local Mojiko Retro Brewery (Mojikō Ji-bīru Kōbō 門司港地ビール工房) – a pilsener and a Hefeweizen – to wash down mouthfuls of fat-broiled lamb and vegetables. Other options for trying locally brewed beer can be found in Fukuoka at Suginoya 杉能舎 in Hawks Town, which offers a tasting set of all four of Hamachi Brewery’s excellent “Suginoya” beers, or at the award-winning Okura Brewery in Nakasu’s Hotel Okura, which specializes in wheat beers.
Back in Daimyō, two closeby restaurants feature surprisingly good bottle lists: Base Camp and Goo, just a few doors down from each other on the same road. Base Camp offers a large curry menu along with a few other Japanese homestyle Western dishes like omuraisu, with a decidedly non-homestyle Western beer list focusing on Belgium. Grimbergen, Delirium Tremens, and more are all available here for your drinking pleasure. Goo maintains an eclectic bottle selection of beers from around the world, like Franziskaner (Germany), Traquair (England), and Baltika (Russia) to accompany their eclectic tapas-like food. In Kurume, about a ten-minute walk away from the Monkey (see above) is another eatery worth checking out for beer: Brava, by all accounts an excellent Italian restaurant with bottled Guinness and a few Italian lagers.
There are also a few state-of-the-art industrial breweries in the area. Hakata is home to the Asahi Beer Hakata Brewery アサヒビール博多工場, which offers 90-minute tours daily that include a 20-minute tasting session (three glass limit per visitor). From April through September there is also a beer garden serving fresh Asahi and a variety of red meat-based dishes; a two-hour nomihōdai is only ¥1650 and includes Asahi’s hard-to-find, easy-to-drink dark lager (food sold separately). In Tachiarai-machi, near Amagi, you can visit the Kirin Beer Park キリンビアパーク, a gigantic factory complex that includes brewery tours with free samples and a nearby restaurant called the Kirin Beer Farm pouring several varieties of terrifically fresh Kirin beer to accompany hearty homestyle dishes like ribs, Genghis Khan, and roast chicken. The complex also includes one of the largest cosmos fields in the country, which comes into bloom around late October. Slightly further afield in Hita (Just outside Fukuoka prefecture, in Oita), there is the sprawling Beer Forest Sapporo ビアフォレストサッポロ, Sapporo’s answer to Kirin’s Beer Park, offering free tours and tasting sessions, a Hita souvenir shop, a beer and barbecue garden, and a retro-style beer hall.
Within Fukuoka prefecture there are two bottle shops that should pretty much satisfy your beer demands: Hiromatsu Shōten ヒロマツ商店 in Kitakyushu and World Beer Hiroshima ワールドビール廣島 in Fukuoka City. Hiromatsu’s several beer coolers and shelves are packed with beers of all different styles from both Japan and abroad: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (England), Delirium Tremens (Belgium), Unibroue Trois Pistoles (Canada), Negra Modelo (Mexico), and many more comprise a very comprehensive import selection. They also sell Samuel Adams’s 25% alcohol Utopias, 750ml bottles of Duvel, and magnum bottles of Chimay – perfect for parties. Hiromatsu also boasts what may be Kyushu’s best selection of Japanese craft beers (called ji-bīru 地ビール, “regional beer”), with offerings from Echigo (Niigata), Hitachino Nest (Ibaraki), Suginoya (Fukuoka), Ginga Kōgen (Tokyo), and Ezo (Hokkaido). The owner does not speak English, but he is very friendly and may be willing to order something special for you if you get to know him. He also runs a yakitori stand next door.
If Hiromatsu doesn’t stock what you’re looking for, chances are you’ll be able to find it at Hiroshima, which has an equally impressive and surprisingly different selection. While there are almost no Japanese beers and only a few North American beers at Hiroshima, Belgium, Germany, and England are all extremely well represented. They also have an entire wall of official brewery glassware and some random breweriana such as signage, posters, bottle openers, and bar towels for sale. Both Hiromatsu and Hiroshima are slightly off the beaten track, so if you’re looking to pick up a few rare brews while you’re out and about on your usual shopping route, try Alliq オーリック in Daimyō. Alliq’s name is a portmanteau of “all” and “liquor” and its selection of wines, shochu, and liquor is quite impressive. The beer cooler isn’t quite as large or exciting as those at Hiromatsu or Hiroshima, but it does stock some out-of-the-ordinary treats and its convenient location near central Tenjin makes it well worth a visit.
Department store basements are also good sources for good beer. Colet Izutsuya in Kokura has a small but consistent stock of Japanese craft beers and a few miscellaneous imports, and Iwataya in Daimyō usually stocks regional Kyushu brews and a handful of imports. Sometimes uncommon beers turn up in common places, so keep your eyes peeled while perusing the shelves of liquor stores, grocery stores, and even convenience stores. In the past year, certain branches of Lawson have sold Guinness, Hoegaarden, Corona (with a packet of lime juice!), and Yona Yona Ale from Nagano; am/pm has sold Suginoya Beer; and 7-Eleven has recently sold Coedo Beer from Saitama and Hideji Beer from Miyazaki. Special beers often turn up at convenience stores around holidays, especially New Year’s and Father’s Day. Costco stocks cases of Coopers ales from Australia, among other imports, and random branches of Red Cabbage, Maruwa, and Spina sometimes sell a Belgian or two. The imported food chain Kaldi (see article on foreign foods in Fukuoka) also sells a small amount of imported beer. And in Canal City, there is a Fukuoka souvenir store called The Hakata Gift Shop that offers beer from two of Fukuoka’s most famous microbreweries, Suginoya and Brewmaster.
The following are websites that sell imported and craft beers in Japan. Prices tend to be high, but shipping is often surprisingly cheap – sometimes free – and most offer beers that are otherwise unavailable in Fukuoka. Unfortunately only a couple of these sites are in English, but if you ask a friend who speaks Japanese for help, you’ll tap into a whole new world of beer!
Hiromatsu Shōten ヒロマツ商店
This is the online version of the Kitakyushu shop; inventory changes every now and then and the website sells beers that the actual store doesn’t stock, so check back often! To order, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Beer Café Ueda ビアカフェウエダ
Based in Osaka, Beer Café Ueda is one of the most respected sources for imported beer in the country. The proprietor is dedicated to bringing the finest beers from Europe and America to Japan, which means the site often sells rare or exclusive items such as Anchor’s Our Special Ale and Dupont’s Avec Les Bon Voeux. Shipping is free if you spend over ¥6000 yen (a rather easy mark to reach), and they sometimes include free breweriana with large orders. Keep your eye out for limited beers and sale items!
Rakuten Ichiba 楽天市場
Rakuten Ichiba is something like Amazon.com, but with a greater focus on food and drink. Rakuten brings many different retailers together into one big online marketplace, including various liquor stores, breweries, and importers, so its beer selection is wide and varied. Weird katakana transliterations of beer names make searching difficult, but you can browse the entire list of beers as a broad department or by country or prefecture.
Ezo Beer 蝦夷麦酒
Ezo Beer is actually the Japanese label for Rogue Ales, brewed in Portland, Oregon. In addition to Rogue flagships like Chocolate Stout, Shakespeare Stout, St. Rogue Red, and Old Crustacean (sold as Choco Bear Beer, Brown Bear Rich Beer, Northern Fox Red Beer, and Phred’s Nightcap), Ezo also distributes for a few breweries from the Netherlands, Belgium, and Scotland. Shipping is expensive as they are located in Hokkaido, but it’s free if you buy two cases (48 bottles).
Tokyo Food Page (bento.com)
Bento.com is one of the best online English-language resources for learning about Japanese food, and it also offers a long, comprehensive list of online beer sources, with special attention to Japanese craft breweries.
Local Brewery Listing
Asahi Beer Hakata Brewery アサヒビール博多工場
(see description above)
Fukuoka City Hakata-ku Takeshita 3-1-1
Tours offered 9:30-15:00; closed around New Year’s and the second or third Wednesday of the month (call ahead to confirm)
Asahi Beer Garden
Fukuoka City Hakata-ku Takeshita 3-2-19
11:30-22:00 (last order 21:30); closed around New Year’s
Bengala Mura ベンガラ村
Bengala Mura in Yame is a unique recreation and relaxation complex consisting of private hot spring baths, a swimming pool, a farmers market, green tea and herb gardens, a restaurant, and a microbrewery. It is a bit out of the way, but its beers are only available on-site, and the baths and gardens make this a unique place to unwind while quaffing fresh, tasty beer.
Yame City Miyano 100-Banchi
10:00-22:00; closed Monday
Sapporo New Kyushu Brewery/Beer Forest Sapporo サッポロビール新九州工場・ビアフォレストサッポロ
(see description above)
Ōita-ken Hita City Ōaza Takase 6979
Tours offered weekdays 9:45-16:00, weekends and holidays 8:45-16:00; closed every Wednesday in December and January and December 24-January 5
Restaurant open 10:00-22:00
K’s Brewing (Brewmaster) ケイズブルーイング（ブルーマスター）
K’s is perhaps the smallest brewery in Fukuoka, and their beers are few yet creative and flavorful. In addition to a standard pale ale they also brew a porter with coffee and a blonde ale with honey and kabosu (a lime-like citrus fruit) juice. Their beers are on tap at the brewery’s small bar in Befu, and their bottles are available at The Hakata Gift Shop in Canal City and occasionally at department stores.
Fukuoka City Jōnan-ku Befu 1-19-1
12:00-18:00; closed Sundays and holidays
Okura Brewery (Hotel Okura) オークラブルワリー
(see description above)
Fukuoka City Hakata-ku Shimokawabata-machi 3-2
Hakata Riverain, Hotel Okura B1F
11:30-14:30, 17:30-21:30; weekends and holidays open from 17:00
Kirin Beer Park キリンビアパーク
(see description above)
Asakura City Mada 3601-Banchi
Tours offered 9:30-17:00; closed Mondays or the following day if Monday is a holiday and around New Year’s
Kirin Beer Farm
Asakura City Mada 3205-7
11:00-22:00 (last order 21:30); closed December 31-January 1 and erratically throughout the year for maintenance (call to confirm)
Mojiko Retro Beer 門司港地ビール工房
At least for the time being, Mojiko brews just two beers, but in the past they have offered three along with a seasonal special. Their brews can only be found at Kokura Genghis Khan and at the brewery itself, which is worth a visit for its remarkably tasty pizzas and pleasant view of Shimonoseki across the Kanmon Strait.
Kitakyushu City Moji-ku Higashi Minato-machi 6-9
11:00-22:00 (last order 21:15)
Hamachi Brewery (Suginoya) 浜地酒造（杉能舎）
Under the name “Suginoya,” Hamachi offers a pale ale, an amber ale, and a stout, plus seasonal releases. They are one of the more expensive breweries in the area (about ¥450-500 a bottle) but they are also consistently delicious. Suginiyoya is also notable for their sparkling sake and their non-alcoholic golden ale, called B-Drive. Their beers can be found on tap at their izakaya in Hawks Town (information below), at the brewery’s small restaurant, or in bottles at Hiromatsu Shōten, Iwataya, Alliq, and other random liquor stores and souvenir shops in the Fukuoka area. They occasionally turn up at conbinis as well.
Fukuoka City Nishi-ku Moto’oka 1442
Open Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays only; 10:00-19:00
Bar, Restaurant, and Bottle Shop Directory
Alliq (Daimyō Shop)
Chūō-ku Daimyō 1-3-41
Chūō-ku Daimyō 2-2-51
Weekdays 11:00-15:00, 18:00-23:00 (last order 22:30); Sundays and holidays 11:00-15:00, 18:00-22:00 (last order 21:30); closed Monday and every second Sunday
California Cotton Fields
Hakata-ku Nakasu 4-2-15
Main Street Building B1F
Ōaza-Yamada Aza-Takayanagi 1152-1
10:00-20:00; December 31-January 1 10:00-18:00
The Craic and Porter
Chūō-ku Tenjin 3-5-15
Chūō-ku Daimyō 2-2-47
Ono Building 1F
Lunch 12:00-15:00; dinner 17:00-24:00; Friday and Saturday dinner only, closed Sunday
The Hakata Gift Shop
Hakata-ku Sumiyoshi 1-2
Canal City B1F
World Beer Hiroshima
Jōnan-ku Befu 2-9-1
Hours erratic; call ahead to confirm
Chūō-ku Tenjin 2-5-35
Chūō-ku Daimyō 2-1-4
Stage 1 Nishi-dōri 7F
Monday-Thursday 17:00-01:00; Friday, Saturday, and days before holidays 17:00-0:300; Sunday 17:00-24:00
Chūō-ku Jigyōhama 2-2-1
Hawks Town Mall 1F (Map No. 128)
11:00-14:30, 17:00-22:00 (last order 21:30)
The Three Kings
Chūō-ku Daimyō 1-11-22
Metro Building 1F
Monday-Thursday 17:00-00:00; Friday and Saturday 17:00-late; Sunday 17:00-22:00
6th Tomitaya Building 1F
11:30-14:00, 17:30-22:00 weekdays; 11:30-14:30, 17:30-22:30 weekends
Ye Olde Little Monkey
Kokurakita-ku Kyō-machi 1-4-21
17:00-02:00; Fridays, Saturdays, and days before holidays until 03:00; closed the first and third Tuesday of each month
Public House Bravo!
Yahatanishi-ku Kurosaki 4-1-2
Kokurakita-ku Kyō-machi 3-1-1
Kitakyushu City Yahatanishi-ku Kurosaki 4-6-1
Yahatanishi-ku Kumanishi 1-5-1
Kokura Genghis Khan
Kokurakita-ku Kyō-machi 3-7-14
18:00~, closed erratically; call ahead to confirm opening hours