Top 27 Best Japanese Beers to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!

Our editors searched Japanese e-commerce sites (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and kakaku.com) for the best beer. We then picked out the 27 most popular cans and bottles and tried them all. Lagers, ales, pilsners, Beglian whites, Sapporo, Kirin, Asahi–you name it and we drank it. (Testing was grueling, of course.)

We also asked experts in the industry about how to best enjoy a pint. We then sat down with all the beers, tasting and comparing, in order to find the most delicious of them all. Here are the brews that came out on top and how we decided.
  • Last updated: 10/24/2019
  • 47 views
Table of Contents

First, Let’s Get the Types of Japanese Beer Straight

Not all Japanese “beer” is beer.

What’s Considered a Beer in Japan?

What’s Considered a Beer in Japan?
Beer comes in all sorts of colors; it gives off all kinds of scents, imparts many different flavors, contains varying levels of alcohol. And, depending on what country you’re residing in and what laws you’re abiding by, the definition of “beer” can change. It’s very difficult to come up with an all-encompassing description.
Even Japan’s liquor tax provides a pretty confusing definition of beer. But here’s the general gist of it: beer is a fermented beverage made up of malt, hops, and water (or other ingredients recognized by the government), with an alcohol content between 1 to 20%.
In any case, we kind of ignored the official definitions of beer in this article. We introduce all sorts of beverages that could be considered “beer,” even if they wouldn’t be categorized as such under Japanese law.

What’s the Difference between Beer, Low-Malt Beer, and Third Beer?

What’s the Difference between Beer, Low-Malt Beer, and Third Beer?
Low-malt beer※1 (happoshu) and beer※2 are made up of the same basic ingredients; however, happoshu is either less than 50% malt or contains ingredients not recognized by Japan’s liquor tax. Think of this way: as long as the alcohol’s got some malt in it, it can throw whatever the heck else it wants in there, and it’ll still be happoshu.
“Third beer※3,” actually, is a term coined by mass media; our liquor tax recognizes no such category. It’s made up of two distinct types of beverage, which some may argue are not beer at all:

  • Other Types of Brew (Effervescent)※4

    Malt-free and made up of fermented alternatives, such as soybeans or peas

  • Liquor (Effervescent)※5

    Happoshu made up of less than 50% malt, with other spirits added in

Honestly, Japan’s the only country with these categories of beer–and we have them because each kind of drink is taxed differently. This difference in taxation in reflected in consumer prices. Beer and happoshu over 50% malt are the most expensive, 25-50% malt is a little cheaper, less than 25% malt is cheaper still, and third beer is the cheapest.
※1 発泡酒: low-malt beer (sometimes simply transliterated as happoshu)
※2 ビール: beer
※3 第三のビール: third beer (literal translation; may sometimes be transliterated as daisan no beer)
※4 その他の醸造酒(発泡性): other types of brew (effervescent)
※5 リキュール(発泡性): liquor (effervescent)

Top 27 Best Japanese Beers to Buy Online

We collected beers of every color and variety. We got ales and lagers, Belgian whites and pilsners, low-malt or Premium Malt. Then, based on our taste tests, we ranked the top 27 best Japanese beers available online.
A quick note: we use “sharpness” in the Japanese sense of the word. Drinks that are sharp possess crisp, clear, refreshing aftertastes.
※ As some states prohibit the shipping or online sale of alcohol, we’ve provided Japanese links. Some of these products are available exclusively in Japan and some boast international distribution.
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$2.36
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5.5%
FermentationAle
StyleWhite Ale
Overall Score4.1
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$2.06
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5.5%
FermentationAle
StyleAmerican Pale Ale
Overall Score3.9
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.94
CategoryBeer
Alcohol6%
FermentationAle
StyleJapanese Ale
Overall Score3.9
Volume11.2 oz
Price per Item$2.25
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5%
FermentationLager
StylePilsner
Overall Score3.9
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.79
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5.5%
FermentationLager
StylePilsner
Overall Score3.9
6. Kumezakura Daisen Brewery Dai’sen G Beer Weizen 1

6. Kumezakura Daisen Brewery Dai’sen G Beer Weizen

$5.28

Volume11.2 oz
Price per Item$5.28
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5%
FermentationAle
StyleHefeweizen
Overall Score3.8
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.79
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5%
FermentationLager
StylePilsner
Overall Score3.8
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.18
CategoryLow-Malt Beer
Alcohol4.5%
Fermentation
Style
Overall Score3.7
Volume11.2 oz
Price per Item$4.56
CategoryLow-Malt Beer
Alcohol5%
FermentationSpontaneous/Other
StyleFruit Beer
Overall Score3.7
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.05
CategoryThird Beer
Alcohol5%
Fermentation
Style
Overall Score3.6
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.72
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5%
FermentationLager
StylePilsner
Overall Score3.6
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$0.98
CategoryThird Beer
Alcohol6%
Fermentation
Style
Overall Score3.5
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.01
CategoryThird Beer
Alcohol5%
Fermentation
Style
Overall Score3.4
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$3.17
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5%
FermentationLager
StylePilsner
Overall Score3.4
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$3.05
CategoryBeer
Alcohol7%
FermentationAle
StyleIPA
Overall Score3.3
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.37
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5.5%
FermentationAle
StyleIndia Pale Lager
Overall Score3.3
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$2.82
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5%
FermentationAle
StylePale Ale
Overall Score3.2
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.68
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5%
FermentationLager
StylePilsner
Overall Score3.2
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.68
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5%
FermentationLager
StylePilsner
Overall Score3.1
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.57
CategoryThird Beer
Alcohol5%
Fermentation
Style
Overall Score3.1
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.79
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5%
FermentationLager
StylePilsner
Overall Score3.0
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$2.22
CategoryBeer
Alcohol5%
FermentationAle
StyleBelgian White
Overall Score2.9
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.01
CategoryThird Beer
Alcohol5%
Fermentation
Style
Overall Score2.9
24. Suntory Rich Malt – Kinmugi – with 75% Less Sugar (11.8 oz x 24 cans) 1

24. Suntory Rich Malt – Kinmugi – with 75% Less Sugar (11.8 oz x 24 cans)

$23.73

Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$0.99
CategoryThird Beer
Alcohol4%
Fermentation
Style
Overall Score2.7
25. Sankt Gallen Brewery el Diablo 2015 1

25. Sankt Gallen Brewery el Diablo 2015

$9.67

Volume10.1 oz
Price per Item$9.67
CategoryBeer
Alcohol10%
FermentationAle
StyleBarley Wine
Overall Score2.7
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.01
CategoryThird Beer
Alcohol5%
Fermentation
Style
Overall Score2.4
Volume11.8 oz
Price per Item$1.26
CategoryLow-Malt Beer
Alcohol4%
Fermentation
Style
Overall Score1.9

How We Tested Our Products

Simple–by tasting them.

We Rounded up Six Members from Our Editing Department and Conducted a Taste Test

We Rounded up Six Members from Our Editing Department and Conducted a Taste Test
When it all comes down to it, a well-made beer is one that tastes good. As buyers, we want to know how a brew tastes and what its defining characteristics are.
So we gathered six editors–some of them loved beer and some were merely curious–and had them taste-test all the products. They then rated deliciousness on a scale from 1 to 100, which we reflected in the overall scores (which themselves were on a scale from 0.1 to 5.0).

A Note About Our Charts

A Note About Our Charts
Of course, our tasters’ personal preferences played a big role in how they rated the beer, so to make everything a bit more objective, we added in flavor charts as well. We measured six elements: bitterness, sourness, sweetness, body, sharpness, hoppiness, and fragrance.

  • Body referred to how the beer felt going down the throat–a heavy body meant the beer had a lot of presence and felt “satisfying” to drink, whereas a light body pointed to a clearer beer that may be easier to swallow.

  • In Japanese, when a beer is considered sharp, it means it has a crisp and refreshing aftertaste, as opposed to one that lingers.

  • A hoppy beer can often be described as spicy, bitter, or fruity. Basically, if you’re looking for some zest, you’re looking for the hops.

There’s a good chance you’ll love a beer that wound up at the bottom of our rankings, so when browsing through the top 27, make sure you give the charts a good hard look.

Tips on How to Choose Japanese Beer – Buying Guide

Choosing beer is just about knowing what the options are and discovering your own preferences.

① If You Haven’t Already, Learn about the Different Types of Fermentation

How a beer was fermented will affect how it smells and tastes.

The Standard: Bottom-Fermenting (Lager)

The Standard: Bottom-Fermenting (Lager)
Out of the three methods, bottom-fermenting is the most common in Japan. It utilizes lager yeast strains, and though the end product is greatly swayed by the specific type of strain and the temperature at which the drink was brewed, we can make the following generalizations.
Lagers tend to be less complex and taste clean, clear, refreshing. Hops will lend lagers a crisp bitterness. They also foam easily, resulting in a creamy mouthfeel. If you like Japanese lagers, we recommend picking up a few different brands and brews to taste and compare.

The Richly Fragrant: Top-Fermenting (Ale)

The Richly Fragrant: Top-Fermenting (Ale)
Ale yeast is top-fermenting. Ales are often fermented at warmer temperatures than lagers, which produces more esters. Esters are a flavor compound, which lend ales a fruity aroma and mild sweetness.
Ales have a thick umami and are less frothy than lagers. Since they also tend to feel lighter and easier to swallow, we recommend introducing ales to people who may not like beer.

The Unexpected: Spontaneous Fermentation and Other Alternatives

The Unexpected: Spontaneous Fermentation and Other Alternatives
Ale and lager may be the most common, but they certainly aren’t the only kinds of fermentation. Brewers have always and are still experimenting with different microbes, sometimes choosing alternatives and sometimes allowing them to drop in at random and contribute their own unique flavor profiles to the hot pot.
This handing over of the reins to wild yeasts, instead of cultivated ones, is what gives spontaneous fermentation its name. Spontaneous and other forms of fermentation can result in fun and unexpected flavors. Some are densely sweet, almost like juice, which make them perfect brews to introduce to “beer haters.”
Sour beer, often Belgian, is another form of spontaneous fermentation. The brewers allow wild yeast strains to pop in and sour the beer, giving it a tart acidity you wouldn’t otherwise come by.

② Then, Consider the Different Styles of Beer

There are over 100 different styles of beer around the globe. Here are a few of the most famous, along with their defining characteristics.

For New Drinkers of Beer: Hefeweizen and Belgian White

For New Drinkers of Beer: Hefeweizen and Belgian White
If you’re not into beer with peculiar flavors or you don’t like the taste of hops, then you should try pale brews like Hefeweizen and Belgian White. They’re both perfect for neophytes.
Hefeweizens are over 50% malted wheat. The spice and bitterness of hops are muted and the brew itself is foamy, so it’s very easy to drink.
Belgian whites are always spiced, usually with coriander and orange peels, which give them a certain tanginess. They tend to be invigorating in flavor, a bit sweet, and give off a bright aroma.

For Fans of Standard Japanese Lagers: Pilsner and Pale Ale

For Fans of Standard Japanese Lagers: Pilsner and Pale Ale
If you like Asahi’s Super Dry, Kirin’s Ichiban Shibori, Sapporo’s Black Label, or Suntory’s The Premium Malt’s, then you’ll be sure to appreciate pilsners and pale ales.
The Japanese lagers we listed above are all pilsners. Pilsers are a transparent gold in color and fragrant with the spiciness of hops. They may be the most popular kind of beer not only in Japan, but around the world.
Pale ales originated in England. They’re bitter, refreshing, and dry but also have a fruity, banana-like fragrance that originates from esters. If you’re looking to try something different from your typical lager, then pale ale’s a good place to start.

For Those in Search of a New Taste: IPA and Sour Ale

For Those in Search of a New Taste: IPA and Sour Ale
If you’ve already tried every beer at the convenience store and supermarket and you’re looking for something new, how about trying IPA and sour ale?
If you like bitter, dry alcohol, then you’ll appreciate India Pale Ale (IPA). Depending on the brewery, IPAs can differ in flavor, fragrance, and alcohol content, but they’re generally characterized by the fruity aroma of hops and a clear bitterness.
Sour ale‘s not very common in Japan, but it’s still a fun one to try. Thanks to the wild yeast strains in it, it’s sour–so sour, in fact, that you might just start giggling. It’s fun to drink and all too easy to get hooked.

③ To Save Cash, Look for Low-Malt or Third Beer

③ To Save Cash, Look for Low-Malt or Third Beer
Beer’s delicious, but it can really take a bite out of your wallet. If you want to save some cash but don’t want to cut back on drinking, consider stocking up on low-malt or third beer. They aren’t taxed as highly as normal beers, and that’s reflected in the lower prices. (As of March 2019)
While it’s true that low malt and third-beer are made from different ingredients and brewed in different ways, there are examples that don’t pale in comparison to “real” beer. Of course, you’ll also come across inferior products, so we recommend playing it safe and starting off with popular names.

How to Best Enjoy Beer

There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about everything, it seems. Here are some tips from a Japanese blogger and beer influencer.

Things to Do Beforehand

To make sure you’re having beer at its best.

① Make Sure the Beer’s Less than Two Months Old

① Make Sure the Beer’s Less than Two Months Old
Beer’s best had fresh. Check the date of manufacture and get whatever’s most recent. If the beer’s in a can, the date of manufacture’s printed on the bottom; if it’s in a bottle, then it should be on the label.
Generally speaking, you don’t want anything that’s over two months old.

② Let the Beer Hang out in the Fridge for a Day before Drinking

② Let the Beer Hang out in the Fridge for a Day before Drinking
Ever notice that your beer cans are inflated after you get home? That’s because of carbon dioxide. When you shake a can of beer or when temperature rises, the carbon dioxide tries to escape from the brew. Of course, CO2 is an important element of flavor and mouthfeel, and when you let too much of it go, the beer loses its integrity.
So, if you can, let your beer sit for the fridge for two days; at the very least, let it rest for six hours. And to make sure that the beer isn’t shaken after it’s put in in the fridge, don’t store it against the door–place it on the inner shelves.

③ Pour into a Glass that’s Clean–but It Doesn’t Have to Be Chilled

③ Pour into a Glass that’s Clean–but It Doesn’t Have to Be Chilled
If you want to enjoy beer at its best, don’t drink straight from the can or the bottle. Instead, pour it into a pristine glass–no lint or dust or funny business. If the glass has been sitting around for a while, wash it out with a sponge and rinse well.
A clean glass ensures that the CO2 in your beer won’t get caught on anything and will spread as it should throughout the brew, contributing to mouthfeel, aroma, and a nice topping of foam. You’ll also get to see some lacing (the ring-shaped residues of foam left after each successive swig of beer).
Some people also enjoy pouring into a chilled glass, but that may change the flavor of your beer. A chilled glass can, however, give you better mouthfeel and make each gulp more satisfying, so it’s up to you whether or not you want one for yourself. If you do choose to chill your glass, we recommend doing so by rinsing it out with ice water.

Ways to Pour Your Beer

You’ve heard it time and time again. 45 degree angle, aim for the middle of the glass, right the glass once you get to the halfway point. But there’s more to pouring beer than just that.
You can actually fill your glass in one, two, or three goes–that is, single-pour※6, double-pour, or triple-pour. How many times you pour will determine how much foam you get. And foam not only contributes to mouthfeel, but also acts as a lid for your beer. It keeps aroma from escaping and makes sure your brew doesn’t oxidize.
It also softens bitterness–the bigger the foam head, the milder the beer.
※6 一度注ぎ: ichido sosogi or single-pour (double- and triple-pour are known respectively as 二度注ぎ and 三度注ぎ)

Single-Pour

Single-Pour
You’re familiar with this one. You tilt, pour, and right the glass, moving along at a brisk pace. And that’s it.
Because you’ve just filled your glass in one go, you lose some carbon dioxide. Foam gets a little thin and coarse, and the beer goes slightly flat. However, you can also get beer that smells and feels lighter and is easier to drink–basically, the quicker you fill your glass, the quicker you can empty it as well.

Double-Pour

Double-Pour
This is how you double-pour in Japan.

  1. Pour quickly, letting the beer hit the bottom of the glass, until it’s about one-thirds full.

  2. Once the foam has settled a bit, tilt the glass and top off–gently, as to not create any more foam.

The foam head on double-pour beer is creamier than that on single-pour, but the brew itself tastes crisper. It’s because that thick foam is trapping carbon dioxide in the beer, giving you a fizzier drink.

Triple-Pour

Triple-Pour
Finally, the triple-pour.

  1. Hold the can or bottle a good distance away from the glass and pour quickly until the foam head hits the top of the glass.

  2. Wait for the foam to settle. Once you’ve achieved about a 1:1 ratio between foam and liquid, fill your glass again, but more gently. (※Don’t tilt the glass for this step.)

  3. Wait for about a minute, or until 60% – 70% of your foam dissipates back into the beer.

  4. Gently top off your glass.

With the triple-pour, you’re letting the foam soak up a lot of bitterness from the beer. That means the foam head will be extremely bitter, but the beer itself will taste milder.

How to Pair Food with Beer

How to Pair Food with Beer
There’s actually a shortcut you can use when matching foods with beer–just choose pairs that are similar in color. So if you’ve a pale brew, then try pairing with cheese, pizza, and fries. Dark brews go well with demi-glace sauce and chocolate. Amber brews complement fast food and beef.
You can also pair styles with dishes from their home countries. So German pilsners are often matched with potato dishes (mashed potato, knodel, fries, ect.) and sausages. British pale ales are often stuck together with fish and chips. And, apparently, IPAs make a killer companion to English muffin sandwiches.

Some Other Japanese Alcohols to Try

Some Other Japanese Alcohols to Try
Japan’s not all about beer and sake–recently, its winemaking industry has been booming. If you haven’t tried Yamanashi wine before, you’re missing out. Below, you can read our reviews and learn more about this delicious alcohol.

Summary

We rounded up members from our editing department, purchased the 27 most popular Japanese beers, and tasted them all.
Just looking through our rankings, you get an idea of all the different kinds of “beer” there are, from sweet to sour to bitter, from white to amber to black, from malt-free to very malty. And brewers are always experimenting, coming up with new twists.
So before you label yourself either as a “pure pilsner person” or a “beer hater,” take some time to hunt around because you could be shutting out some very delicious options.
Original by Rikako Miyazaki; Translation by Jasmine Li

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    Top 10 Best Decaf Black Teas to Buy Online 2019
    Stressed? A cup of hot tea is perfect for relaxing your body and mind. Whether you’re caffeine-sensitive, pregnant, or just want a nice hot drink in the evening, you’d probably appreciate a good cup of decaffeinated tea.So, you want to cut down on caffeine intake but worry that decaf teas don’t taste the same as their caffeinated counterparts? Don’t worry; you don’t need to compromise on taste. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the 10 best decaf black teas that actually taste like “real tea.” Enjoy your teatime.
    Food and drinks
    483 views
  • Top 10 Best Salts to Buy Online 2019
    Top 10 Best Salts to Buy Online 2019
    No spice rack is complete without salt. But there are so many kinds: processed salt, sea salt, table salt, himalayan salt, and so on. How are you supposed to figure which’ll suit your palate?Well, it’s important to know what features to consider when purchasing salt. Find out where it’s from, how it tastes, what it costs, what’s inside, and what people have said about it. Then flip through your recipe book, and figure out just how you use salt.
    Food and drinks
    237 views
  • Top 10 Best Healthy BBQ Sauces to Buy Online 2019
    Top 10 Best Healthy BBQ Sauces to Buy Online 2019
    Barbecue sauce has a history that stretches as far back as the 1800s and is a common ingredient in many American foods today. From Sweet Chuck’s All Natural Barbecue Sauce to Annie’s Original Original BBQ Sauce, choosing the right sauce that’s healthy and that also complements your food can be a tough choice.In this article, we’ll show you how to choose the right healthy barbecue sauce, tell you which ingredients to avoid, and recommend some delicious, healthy barbecue sauces. Whether you’re looking something sweet and subtle or something bold and spicy, there’s a healthy barbecue sauce out there for you; here are our top picks for the best healthy barbecue sauces that you can buy online today.
    Food and drinks
    344 views
  • Top 9 Best Japanese Soy Sauces to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!
    Top 9 Best Japanese Soy Sauces to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!
    Soy sauce※1 is the driving force behind flavor in a number of famous Asian dishes, be it stirfry, soup, or cold seaweed salad. That’s why there’s so many different kinds–each with a different color, depth, and flavor profile, some best when heated in a pan, some best when poured straight into a little sauce dish. Depending on the kind of soy sauce you use, you could completely rework a flavor.And whether it’s because you love Japanese cuisine and want to be as authentic as possible or you live in Japan and need help navigating the supermarket, you’re interested in finding the ultimate Japanese soy sauce. Well, this time around, we ordered the 9 most popular bottles of soy sauce available in Japanese supermarkets and on e-commerce sites and tested them all.We also invited three certified seasoning sommeliers and asked them to taste each product. (For those that are unfamiliar with seasoning sommeliers, they are professionals that have passed an exam proctored by the Japan Seasoning Meisters Association.) The three experts then compared the following:1. Savoriness※22. Sweetness3. Fragrance4. Umami (or Fullness of Flavor)※35. Utility and Compatible FoodsThis is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese soy sauces.※1 醤油: soy sauce※2 塩味: savoriness (here, used to indicate saltiness and flavors opposed to sweetness)※3 旨味: umami (while often translated as savoriness, here we use it to mean a lush layering of flavors, like what you would find in a full-bodied wine)
    Food and drinks
    344 views
  • Top 10 Best Juices for Drinking to Buy Online 2019
    Top 10 Best Juices for Drinking to Buy Online 2019
    Sometimes you want a sweet drink without the excess sugar and empty calories of typical juices. That's why we've decided to look for the best healthy juices available online. In our research, we found that the best juices are made from cold-pressed whole fruits and vegetables, have no added sugars, and adhere to your personal diet guidelines. Keeping these things in mind, here are 10 of our favorites juices for drinking to buy online. 
    Food and drinks
    38 views
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