Photo by Toby M

Tokyo’s Best Craft Beer is Hiding in Harajuku

Harajuku’s ultra-hip paradise of kawaii, Takeshita Doori, has a secret. Beneath that gaudy veneer of colourful cafes, crepes and character cuteness, Harajuku is hiding a beer belly! Right in the midriff of Takeshita Street, is one of Tokyo’s best craft beer taprooms, serving awesome beer and top-notch Yaki-Tori!

Photo by Toby M

Baird Beer Taproom opened its doors in Harajuku in 2009, since providing a haven to exhausted shoppers and tourists who’ve had their fill of kawaii. The brewer originally hails from near the foothills of Mt Fuji, where they began crafting beer in 2000. They have slowly built a name for themselves as one of the country’s top brewers of small-batch craft beers. In recent years they have expanded operations throughout Tokyo to satisfy the capital with their excellent brews. Read our review of the Harajuku Tap Room below, and discover why you should ditch the bubble tea for a beer next time you’re in Takeshita Street.

The Baird Beer Taproom

Getting to Baird Beer requires pilgrims, weary of Takeshita Doori’s crowds, to veer off the beaten track for their beer. The taproom is nestled down a side street on the second floor of a stout apartment building. Behind the nondescript exterior however, hides a treasure trove of rich amber ales waiting to be indulged. So be on the lookout for a small, colorful signboard on the street and Baird banners by the windows to help you find this haven of hops!

Photo by Toby M

The pub’s interior is warmly lit and decked out with polished wooden tables and stools. Canvases of Baird Beer’s Japan-inspired labels and pictures of the cheerful bar staff adorn the faux stone walls. The bar, jutting out in the centre of the room, is alive with the chatter of friends and the flow of beer from tap to tumbler. As you take a seat, the occasional mouth-watering aroma of yakitori being grilled wafts by. The pub really is like a ye-olde tavern, fused with a Japanese Izakaya. Its welcoming atmosphere invites everyone, lone patrons or groups of mates, to unwind while savoring a beer. And while it may be hard to find; after soaking in the sights, sounds, smells and that first refreshing gulp of beer, it’s even harder to leave.

The Beer

Photo by Toby M

Baird Beer’s menu is bursting with flavorful beers brewed in small batches. From balanced lagers through to dark, chocolaty stouts, there is something for everyone to enjoy. For research purposes, of course, this writer sampled the menu widely and can recommend the following:

Shuzenji Heritage Helles (5%)

This Bavarian-style lager is smooth and refreshing, a real thirst quencher. Every mouthful is satisfyingly light and malty.

Baird’s also donates no less than 1% of all profits from this beer to Non-Profit Organizations that support the natural environment which is so essential for brewing beer. According to Baird’s website, their nature-rich Shuzenji brewery, at the heart of the beautiful Izu peninsula, inspires them to actively work to preserve the environment. Drink Shuzenji Heritage Helles, if not for your pallet, then for the natural world.

Photo by Toby M

Rising Sun Pale Ale (5.5%)

With a label displaying the rising sun emblem, framed by Mt. Fuji, this is a beer that epitomises Japan. The ale’s flavor is a perfect balance of bitterness and malty sweetness. It’s the kind of beer you can drink at any time of the day. This all-rounded quality has been crafted by Baird to reflect the importance of Japanese aesthetics places on balance. Just be careful not to drink too many, especially before noon!

Suruga Bay Imperial IPA (8.5%)

This imperial IPA is the strongest beer on the menu and an explosion of hops. The rich flavors of citrus and slightly sweet maltiness means the beer goes down beautifully. This writer’s favorite!

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Wabi-Sabi Japan Pale Ale (6%)

The mysterious centerpiece of Baird’s beer menu. It’s flavor is bold and herbal with a hint of tartness, and a certain something else. It is a special drink achieved by brewing hops with green tea and wasabi. Far from tasting like a health food store potion, this beer is level and simple, evoking the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi can be translated as “less is more”, a central idea to the Japanese concept of beauty. This is reflected in everything from the subtle complexity of flavor to the label of this beer. The almost entirely black and white design, which hints at color, will draw your eye as you peruse the menu. Follow your instincts and order!

Numazu Lager (5.5%)

Finally, a lager with some character. The Numazu larger is easy to drink whilst retaining a rich, malty flavor. The secret of this luxuriant larger? Water, according to Baird!

Bair Beer first started out brewing in the fish market port of Numazu city in Shizuoka. This larger is a salute to their roots with a label design based on the Numazu port. It also salutes water as the roots of any beer. Baird credits the unfiltered water they use for brewing as the reason for the characterful flavor of their beers.

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These recommendations are a great start! But we urge you to sample the whole menu! As, balanced and complex, each of Baird’s beer has its own unique character that begs to be experienced. You can make your way through the menu in any of the following measures:

  • 250ml glass: ¥600 (Suruga Bay @ 200ml)
  • 500ml glass: ¥1100 (Suruga Bay @ 400ml)
  • 3 x 140ml sampler set: ¥1100

The sampler set is a cost-effective way to try multiple beers!

Photo by Toby M

The Yakitori

Photo by Toby M

To complement their amazing ale collection, Baird Beer Taprooms in Harajuku serves an equally morish menu of Japanese style grilled and fried chicken dishes. All the yakitori are prepared with care. Each stick is juicy and soft, melting in your mouth with the flavor of salt or sweet-soy tare marinade.

Photo by Toby M

In addition to yakitori, try the fried chicken. The crisp, golden nuggets pair perfectly with the beer.

Photo by Toby M

The same goes for the whole of Baird’s food menu which includes a range of Izakaya style dishes in addition to chicken. Other great choices include grilled asparagus wrapped in bacon and vegetable sticks with garlic miso from the greens menu.

Photo by Toby M

In addition to these Japanese bar-style snacks, more substantial fare is available in the form of Oyakao-don, chicken and egg on rice with a sweet sauce, and yakitori-don, grilled chicken on rice. However much room you have left after the beer, Baird’s food is just as well crafted, and as hard to stop consuming.

Baird Beer Taproom has a bar stool waiting just for you in Harajuku at the following address:

Baird Beer Taproom
1 Chome-20-13 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001

What are you waiting for? Catch the next train to Harajuku now, pick up a poop emoji ice cream or a “God Cheese” bubble tea on the way if you must, and get yourself a taste of some of Japan’s best craft beer!

Baird Beer

By - Toby M.