Japanese craft beer can be hard to find. Luckily for beer aficionados some people have made it a point to gather as much excellent beer as possible in one place. So it is with Aoki Tatsuo’s craft beer pub Popeye. Aoki has long been a supporter of the Japanese craft scene, and Popeye is one stop shopping for the very best craft beer in Japan.
Popeye is located at Ryogoku station in the eponymous area, across the Sumida river from Akihabara on the Japan Rail Chuo line. The area is far more famous for Sumo matches and the excellent Edo-Tokyo Museum than it is for a vibrant night life, but what Popeye lacks in a centralized location is more than made up for in selection. With 70 beers on tap Popeye is well worth a trip out of the core of Tokyo. The beers are mostly Japanese, with some American and Belgian imports as well. All varieties are well represented, with plenty of stouts and lagers and India Pale Ales and more. With this many options anybody can find something that they will enjoy. If it all seems a bit overwhelming the staff are very knowledgeable and can help you select the perfect beer. It is hard to stick with just one or two, so a ten beer tasting flight is a great way to try as many different beers as you can.
There is seating at the bar, in booths and tables, and outside. We sat outside in late January and there were enough enclosing tarps and kerosene heaters to take the edge off the winter evening. The bar can be a great place for a solo drinker to make some new friends and get a great view of all those taps.
When you get hungry you will have plenty of food options, though much of it is standard western pub fare filtered through Japan. All of the food is reasonably tasty, but not really terribly exciting. I will say that one of the standouts is the hop pizza. The hops added an interesting flavor and of course went well with the beer. On the menu many beers have a small crown next to them. Order one of those beers between 5 and 8pm and you can choose a small plate of food that comes free.
Popeye does suffer from many of the common downsides that come with drinking in Tokyo. Like anything in a city of over 13 million inhabitants Popeye can get very crowded. Make plans to arrive early or be prepared to wait in line. Prices for a pint usually start around 1000 yen (about 10 dollars) and rise from there. I found most pint prices to be a shade higher than other bars in Tokyo, though only by a couple of hundred yen.
Tokyo has seen an explosion of craft beer destinations over the past few years, but Popeye remains a mecca for the craft lover in Tokyo. Popeye is an essential stop for anybody who wants to sample the width and breadth of beer in Japan.
Have you been to Popeye? What did you think? Leave a comment!