Osaka Craft Beer Guide
We learned during our first visit to Osaka, Japan, that it is a city that celebrates food and drink. Of course, during our first trip a decade ago, the idea of craft beer in Osaka was virtually unheard of. Just like other big cities, though, this is quickly changing. During our most recent trip, we found so many places to drink craft beer we were shocked. We also learned that craft beer bars in Japan are not like they are in other parts of the world. We tried to hit as many of them as possible to bring you this Osaka craft beer guide.
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The Osaka Beer Scene
Craft beer really started to take off in Osaka around 2012. Currently, there are bars that brew their own beer, bars that specialize in both international and Japanese craft beer, and restaurants that offer more than just the typical, commercial Japanese beer brands, like Asahi or Sapporo. As much as the bars focus on Japanese craft beer, there are a wide variety of international, and in particular, American craft beers on tap.
There are a few things to note about Osaka’s best bars for craft beer. All of them serve food as it is normal for Japanese to drink and eat at the same time. For food and drink travelers, the food menus at the craft beer bars tend to focus on international cuisine, like tapas. That didn’t really appeal to us as we were looking to save the belly space for the great local food.
Also, some bars charge a “cover” charge, which is important to understand. We will share more tips about that below.
With all of these differences it’s most important to know that the pubs in Osaka are great places to meet locals and international travelers and expats alike. There is a social scene and a dedication to just enjoying life.
The Cost Of Beer In Osaka – The Cover Charge
Japan is not known as a budget destination, but craft beer in particular is pricey. A typical draft beer of Asahi or another commercial beer can range from ¥400-600 depending on the size. Craft beer tends to run from ¥600-1500 depending on size and which craft beer bar you choose.
That brings us to the Osaka “Cover Charge.” This is a per person fee that is charged relatively randomly at the discretion of the owner. It is technically the mandatory charge for a small appetizer or snack provided to each guest. It can range from ¥200-300 per person. If you plan on visiting a craft beer bar and staying there all night, it is not much. If you want to make a few stops in a night, it can get pricey.
We visited a few craft beer bars where we each drank one small beer and with the cover charge ended up paying about $10 a person for a third or a half pint. For people from New York or London, this might not seem like much. But for others, it can be a little shocking, so be prepared. The cover charge makes more sense if you plan to spend an evening at the bar, less you if you are trying to Osaka pub hop.
Where To Drink Craft Beer In Osaka
In this Osaka craft beer guide, I share our recommendations on where to drink craft beer in Osaka. I try to offer recommendations that are centrally located for food and drink travelers as well as some that might be a little bit farther out. Unlike in other cities where we’ve written about craft beer, the most popular craft beer bars are spread out all over the sprawling city. But there are a few clusters where you can visit a few in one night.
Included are as many details as we can include about opening times, food service, etc. Please be aware that things change frequently, so we can’t offer specific beers on tap, but will try to include a general feel of the place so you know what to expect. Most Osaka craft beer bars are only open at night, generally opening around 5pm.
Looking for something fun to do in Osaka that includes drinking beer? Check out this day tour in Osaka that involves fruit picking and beer tasting!
Minoh Brewery Osaka And Beer Belly
Minoh Osaka is a brewery that started the chain of Beer Belly bars in Osaka. Their goal was to create a series of comfortable bars to allow patrons to chill out, of course while drinking their local brew. Currently operated by the daughter of the founder, Kaori is a master brewer who works with her sister to control the business. I’m always a big fan of tracking down female brewers. Their beers started to gain notoriety before the craft beer scene really took off in Osaka.
The Beer Belly bars only sell Minoh Beers, but they normally have a good selection, with at least a dozen on tap. Look for their award-winning stout and their chili-flavored Pale Ale, which they recommend pairs well with spicy food.
Beer Belly Tenma
Beer Belly Tenma is located in the Tenma market area, near the JR Tenma station. This is the flagship and the largest of the Beer Belly Osaka bars. Beer Belly Nishi is probably a little more accessible to travelers visiting Osaka. The Minoh brewery is located just outside of the city and they have a brew pub too.
We visited Beer Belly Tenma, which is open from 3pm to midnight seven days a week. They have an international and tapas-style menu. The beer menu is in English and the staff able to help. They do not charge a cover charge. Although a bit far from most of the tourist areas, the bar is a good walk from Umeda Station area. It’s in a fun neighborhood too, with loads of restaurants and izakaya, and definitely worth a visit.
Craft Beer Bar Marciero
If craft beer bars can be considered intimate, this one certainly would win a prize. It only holds less than a dozen people, and offers eight taps. That means almost one tap per person (almost, I was never good at math). They tend to carry mostly Japanese craft beers but have some international ones as well.
Craft Beer Bar Marciero is located at C8-10 Doyama-cho, Kita-ku, near Umeda Station. Marciero is about a 15 minute walk west of Beer Belly Tenma so it is possible to do both in one night. It’s in a small alley way. Eric felt like a giant inside, but it was pretty adorable. They are closed on Tuesday.
Dotonbori Craft offers about a half dozen of their own taps as well as a half dozen rotating taps from other brewers in the region. They also offer tasting flights to try several of their beers at once, which I like. Some of their beers are aged in sake tanks or barrels, giving it a unique flavor.
Dotonbori Craft definitely has more of a restaurant feel than a pub feel, with most people sitting in small tables or private booths. But, their food is pretty good and they say pairs well with their beer offerings.
Dotonbori Craft is located in Namba City Mall, just above the train station.
Dotonbori Brewery Factory at Dotonbori Osaka Shochikuza
They also have a Dotonbori Brewery Factory at Dotonbori Osaka Shochikuza. It is in the basement of the theater on the main drag of Dotonbori. We visited this one first and it was, well, strange. It’s a quiet, Japanese restaurant, with three taps. They appear to be brewing on site. We did a tasting flight for ¥900.
We ran into an Australian couple there who seemed to follow the signs from street level. He called it “the strangest craft beer bar he’s ever been to.” That is probably because it is more a Japanese restaurant that happens to be run by a brewery.
This makes a good stop during an evening exploring Dotonbori Food Street, which is nearby.
Craft Beer Works Kamikaze
Craft Beer Works Kamikaze has almost two dozen craft beers on tap, most under a regular rotation. They offer craft beer flights of their mostly Japanese craft beer selection.
Craft Beer Works Kamikaze is located west of Shinshaibashi shopping street in the Nishi Ward. This was one of my favorite craft beer bars in Osaka. It’s a small bar, and filled with stools. Eric also felt a little large. But, even on a Monday evening, there was a good crowd and a good feel. Staff were knowledgable and attentive. They had a great sour beer from Japan that was my favorite of all the beer I drank in Osaka.
We also checked out Sauce Boss, which is located about a 10 minute walk west of the Shinsaibashi shopping street. It’s also a few blocks from Craft Bar Works Kamikaze, which made it easy to do both even on a rainy night.
They carry a handful of international craft beers in bottles and cans and a few Japanese and Osakan ones as well. The real treat are their chicken wings and happy hour specials until 7:30 pm.
Although I didn’t quite measure, Garage 39 is probably one of the largest bars in Osaka. They are making a name for themselves in a variety of ways. First, they are housed in a former garage. They have over a dozen taps and are known for great food and service. The rear of the bar is set up like a beer hall, which is pretty unique in Osaka.
Garage 39 is located at Awajimachi 2-5-15, Kobayashi Awajimachi Bldg 1F
Yellow Ape Craft
Yellow Ape Craft is in the business district and seems a bit far from where most visitors to Osaka hang out. That does mean, though, that it gets a good amount of post-work hang-outs in its petite bar.
Yellow Ape Craft is located in Kitahama, Osaka. They open at 3 pm each day.
Craft Beer House Molto!!
This one of the best bars in Osaka if you are looking for craft beer with a view. Craft Beer House Molto is located on the 31st floor of the Hankyu Grand Building. Their food options focus on Italian-inspired food rather than Japanese pub grub.
They charge a ¥300 per person cover charge, making it one of the more expensive places to drink craft beer in Osaka. For that charge, they served a large bowl of peanuts. Unlike other restaurants and bars, they did not disclose the charge ahead of time. But, the view was pretty cool over one of the largest train stations in the city. They are open during lunch and dinner, but close in between.
Craft Beer Gulp
With a focus on Japanese as well as craft beer from the American west coast, Craft Beer Gulp is clean and contemporary. A far cry from some of the other pubs that have a definitive hipster sort of feel. I sort of felt more like I was in Palo Alto than Osaka.
Craft Beer Gulp is located about a 15 minute walk from Namba. They open at 5pm. Don’t be deceived by the location of their sidewalk sign, which seems to be in front a different, more seedy kind of bar. We walked in by mistake and felt very out of place. Craft Beer Gulp also charges ¥300 cover charge. We paid ¥2400 for two small beers, making it one of the more pricey stops on our craft beer bar crawl of Osaka.
TNT Craft Beer Pub & Bottle Shop
TNT offers five rotating taps of craft beer as well as a large selection of bottles and cans. It’s a little off the beaten path, about a 30 minute walk west of Dotonbori, but it is close to the Osaka Dome. If heading there during late night hours, try one of their flavors of grilled cheese sandwiches. They often schedule live music, trivia nights, and offer some board games to keep guests occupied and drinking.
Other Craft Beer Bars In Osaka
We heard good things about Craft Beer Base, which has a few locations near Umeda. More a bottle and can shop, Craft Beer Base has four taps to offer drafts in shop as well as food. There is a large international selection and the staff speaks some English to help shoppers explore. Craft Beer Base has four locations within Osaka.
We tried to make this our fourth stop of the night one night, after Beer Belly Tenma, Marciero, and molto! We chose the location closest to us (Craft Beer Base Bud) and for the life of me couldn’t find it. We circled the dot on Google on street level and across two basement levels. Maybe it was upstairs, but we saw no signs. I swear we weren’t drunk, just confused in Japan!
If you are into late night crowds, check out Rock Bar Cherry Bomb. It has a reputation for being a fun hang out for expats and foreigners. It’s located just eat of the Shinsaibashi shopping street.
We also saw a few other “craft beer” bars that offered Asahi’s “craft” range, so just be careful before you sit down what is on tap. We also found a few places that were very focused on American craft beer, which we checked out but didn’t drink at. For example, Craft Beer Bar W&W in Namba had a few Japanese beers, but seemed to be pushing a lot of Brew Dog, which I was happy to drink in Glasgow. But we passed on it in Osaka.
Where to drink craft beer in Osaka
Yes. This still surprises me about eating and drinking in Osaka. The smokiness of places is not as bad as it used to be, but it’s still there. Smoking is not allowed in public places, including bars and restaurants of a certain size. Larger places are smoke-free, but smaller places are not. I will say, though, that ventilation at most places is pretty good and I normally end a night smelling more of food than smoke.
It’s not really in the Japanese culture to drink without eating, so every craft beer bar we visited offered some sort of food menu. Some are more extensive than others. It is rare to find a bar that doesn’t serve anything to eat.
Yes! Check out our guide to the Best Osaka Food Tours And Cooking Classes. Although there are no craft beer tours (yet) there are a few fun tours that take you through the backstreets of Osaka or that take you pub-hopping through Osaka.
At most Japanese bars (izakaya) the price of a mass-produced Japanese beer (Sapporo, Asahi, Kirin) averages around $3.50. Japanese craft beer is a bit more expensive with the average price being around $5.