Beer, the most commonly drunk liquor in Japan

In Japan, only those with malt content of 50% or more can be called beer, but if including beverages similar to beer that do not meet this definition, it is the most drunk alcoholic beverage in Japan.

Beer can be found in restaurants, bars, taverns and all other eateries, as well as in convenience stores, food supermarkets and train station Kiosk.

What is Beer and can I drink it?


Barley malt, hops, rice, corn, starch

Gluten-free Low-gluten Wheat-free Low FODMAPs High FODMAPs
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Characteristics of Japanese beer

There are four major breweries in Japan, each with a popular brand.

  • Asahi: “Super-dry”
  • Kirin: “Ichiban Shibori”, “Lager”
  • Sapporo: “Black label”, “Ebisu”
  • Suntory: “Premium Malt’s”

In fact, these are all Pilsner. Alcohol is 4.0-5.5%, light in color, and is characterized by a dry and sharp texture.

Besides this, dark beer is also produced, but the amount is very small. Beers such as Ale, IPA, Alt, and Stout, which are often found in the United States and Europe, can only be drunk at a bar that sells a wide variety of beers.

By the way, in Japan, there are “happoushu” and “new genres” of beer-like beverages. This is legally out of the definition of beer, but it tastes almost the same as beer. It’s rarely sold in restaurants, but cans are easily available at convenience stores and food supermarkets.

The price is about half that of beer. The reason why it is cheap is that the amount of malt used is small and the liquor tax is low. The popular products of major brewery are as follows;

  • Asahi: “Style Free <Raw>”, “Clear Asahi”
  • Kirin: “Tanrei”, “Nodogoshi-Nama”, “Hon-kirin”
  • Suntory: “Kinmugi”
  • Sapporo: “Mugi to Hop”

Please note that the ingredients of “happoushu” and “new genres” are different from beer.

Try to drink Japanese Beer!

How much ?

  • Restaurant: $ 3-7 (depends on size)
  • Convenience stores, food supermarkets & liquor shop: $ 2-3 per a 350ml can

Where can I drink Beer?

  • Most restaurants
  • Convenience stores, food supermarkets, liquor shop and KIOSK

Precautions when drinking Beer


There is no gluten-free beer in Japan.

Those that do not use barley malt as a raw material do not meet the definition of the beer. However, there is only one beer-like product in the new genre.

It is “Nodogoshi-Nama” by Kirin.

The ingredients are hops, sugars, soy protein, and yeast extract. There is  no gluten. “Nodogoshi STRONG” and “Nodogoshi ZERO” are not gluten-free because the ingredients derived from barley are used.

Japanese writer’s comment for Beer

In Japan, there is frequently used phrases ” Please give me a beer first”. This means that when you enter an izakaya or restaurant, you order beer first without looking at the menu.

Recently, the number of people ordering from other drinks has increased, but 30 years ago, when ordering something other than beer, it seemed strange. Beer is so popular in Japan.

Most restaurants have contracts with one or two of the four major breweries (five breweries including Orion Beer in Okinawa Prefecture), and only handle beer from that brewery. If you want to drink a particular brand of beer, you should check in advance if you are dealing with that brewery’s beer.

Beer goes well with most foods. The beer season is summer, but even in winter, we drink beer while eating hot pot.

Beer is also an indispensable drink for rail travel. On the Shinkansen, we often see people drinking canned beer in the car at night. You can also buy beer on some trains for in-car sales. However, it is currently unknown due to the influence of COVID-19.