So there you sit at your enkai, staring at another glass of pale, watery beer. If only you could get your hands on a dark and roasty stout or a hoppy and fragrant IPA. Anything but Asahi! Luckily there are opportunities for better beer in Gunma, if you know where to look.
The first place to check is your local convenience store. While most of them only stock the usual Asahi/ Kirin/ Sapporo choices more and more craft and import beers are showing up. Yo-Ho Brewing and their Yona Yona Ale and Aooni IPA can often be found in Lawsons across Japan.
If that is a strike out, then find your closest Yamaya. This chain of import food/ liquor stores stocks lots of local craft beer, and imports too. Breweries like Anchor from San Francisco and BrewDog from Aberdeen Scotland show up alongside more local Japanese offerings. You can also usually pick up a block of cheddar while you grab that mini keg of Paulaner Hefeweizen. Another worthy spot is the AEON Liquors in Takasaki AEON which often stocks a nice selection of imports.
Sometimes bottles and cans just don’t cut it, and you want a proper pint. Draft beer is a bit harder to come by, but all is not lost. The easiest stop is probably the Red Lion, in central Takasaki. They have four taps, Guinness, Bass, Heineken and Kilkenny. None of them really set the world on fire, but they are certainly a leg up over the local basic lager.
A few blocks down from the Red Lion is Zabun, which is a proper craft bar. There is a cover, but the rotating three to five Japanese Craft beer taps make a stop more than worth it.
Leaving Takasaki, Ota city boasts Daniel House, a brewpub. The beer quality is only fair, but the prices are low and the food menu is delicious. Going in the other direction will bring you to Numata and Kawaba brewing. Kawaba is quite off the beaten track, but the area is gorgeous in the summer. The beer is passable, but of course better at the source than in the bottles you can find in Takasaki station.
One benefit of living is Gunma is being an easy train ride to Tokyo, where you can find anything and everything. Fancy pizza and beer? Then check out the dozens of taps at the two DevilCraft restaurants in Kanda and Hammamatuscho. Or there is also Pizzakaya in Roppongi. And the Baird taproom in Nakameguro.
If you are looking for a few beery souvenirs, then Tokyo has you covered. Even within Tokyo Station you can find Hasegawa Liquors, which stocks an impressive supply. Though the real pièce de résistance is Tanakaya, located right next to Mejiro station on the Yamanote line. Their beer cooler is filled with dozens of worldwide brands. You can find a beer for any occasion at Tanakaya, but beware: they are closed on Sundays.
It does take a little bit of digging to find quality craft beer in Japan. But the digging is usually worth it! Enjoy your next craft brew, and Kanpai!