With its bustling Ginza shopping street, veteran shopkeepers, winding backstreets and well-preserved architecture, Yanaka is one of the best places to experience the Tokyo of yesteryear. All over the neighbourhood, you can catch glimpses of Showa-era (1926 – 1989) aesthetic, but one of our favourite spots to really soak it in—while enjoying a craft beer—is at Yanaka Beer Hall.
Modern beer in a traditional home
Opened in 2015, Yanaka Beer Hall is housed in the Ueno Sakuragi Atari (上野桜木あたり) complex, comprised of three double-storey houses built in 1938. This complex seeks to reinvigorate the neighbourhood while paying homage to the past, and we think they nailed it. The houses are connected by a central courtyard and narrow alleys which lend a tight, community feel. While the beer hall occupies the street-front location, there is Norwegian bakery ‘Vaner’ as well as ‘Oshioribu’, a great place to buy quality oils, salt and sake, tucked away behind it.
Yanaka Beer Hall’s interior is a cosy, mid-century dream. Every room of the renovated house features antique furniture and retro bric-a-brac. The room to the right of the entrance is even lined with vintage newspapers which were found in the house before renovations began. It’s like stepping into a cosy time capsule—kind of like visiting your grandparents’ house…if they were stocked up with craft beers, that is!
To the left of the entrance, a steep wooden staircase takes you to the tatami room which retains many original features. The staff member who showed us the room was—rightly—excited to show us a chest of drawers that plays like an accordion as you open and close the drawer. Very handy for protecting against snoopers!
To complete the sepia-toned picture, the Manager, Ms Hitomi Yoshida, wears a kimono to the beer hall every day. Being poured a Golden Ale or IPA by someone in traditional dress is a rare sight, indeed. But it’s the perfect representation of the business’ vision: to bring something new to the neighbourhood while paying homage to the past.
Craft beer on the menu
At the bar is a row of gleaming taps ready to pour a refreshing drop. Yanaka Beer Hall has teamed up with the local August Beer to create their own local range, exclusive to the neighbourhood. On the lighter side are the easy-drinking ‘Yanaka Beer’ and ‘Yanaka Dry’—perfect after a few hours of sightseeing. Their range also includes a lovely Golden Ale and a Bitter. On tap, too, are a few August craft beers: a Lager, Black, White and IPA. If you can’t decide which ones to try, we’d suggest ordering the tasting set.
Beer is truly the star here, but it wouldn’t be a proper Japanese drinking session without an exciting array of snacks at hand. ‘Otsumami’, or finger food, are a common staple at izakaya, restaurants, bars and snack bars all over the country.
Food-wise, Yanaka Beer Hall offers a nice blend of Japanese and western fare from traditional to modern. If you’re after small nibbles, you’ll find classic snacks like edamame (soy beans), pickles, nuts and french fries. A little more filling would be gyoza (pot sticker dumplings), karaage (fried chicken), sausages and takoyaki (squid dumplings). For those looking for a full meal, you can expect to find things like pizza, pasta, curry and rice bowls.
Getting to Yanaka Beer Hall
Yanaka Beer Hall is a 10-minute walk from JR Nippori Station which is serviced by multiple lines. It’s also roughly 10 minutes’ walk from Sendagi Station which is on the Chiyoda metro line.
Post by Japan Journeys.