Asia’s Top Craft Beer Bars
Travellers, rejoice: Here’s a quick overview of the top craft beer bars in Asia—from award winning breweries, beer serious cafés to hardcore ‘punk’ bars. The craft beer scene is growing in Asia, and it’s time you take some notes.
Popeye (Tokyo, Japan)
Craft: With over 30 years of craft beer experience, Popeye is known for serving one of the most extensive range of Japanese craft beer in the world. It’s been regarded as the go-to destination for beer enthusiasts with their spectacular 70 beers on tap selection, most of which are produced by local Japanese breweries and are kept in an impeccable condition.
Vibe: Though the bar is relatively large in size for Tokyo standards, Popeye is always densely packed, with visitors seated almost shoulder to shoulder. Nevertheless, the crowd is always answered to by the owner himself, Aoki-san, in the most amicable manner. A picture of Aoki-san with the legendary beer expert, Michael Jackson, can be found among the antique walls.
Find it: Popeye
Thrash Zone (Yokohama, Japan)
Craft: Self proclaimed as “Extreme Beer for Extreme People”, Thrash Zone distinguishes itself by catering to a limited crowd of hardcore beer drinkers with their intense, funky beer. Today, Thrash Zone has 14 local and imported craft beers on tap, half of which are brewed by their own ‘Thrashzone Brew Labo’ in Yokohoma.
Vibe: The small, homey, owner-run pub caters to their regular “extreme” beer drinking customers. Many of these regulars travel all the way from Ryogoku (40 km away from Thrash Zone), which may as well be testament for their mark, since Popeye (a bar with one of the world’s largest range of Japanese craft beer selection) is situated in Ryogoku station.
Find it: Thrash Zone Yokohoma
Craftworks Taphouse (Seoul, South Korea)
Craft: Holding the title as South Korea’s pioneer beer crafter, Craftworks was conceived from a close group of friends bound together by their passion for beer and their desire to elevate Seoul’s beer drinking culture. After four aspiring years, Craftworks has 9 signature beers, each inspired by the owner’s love for Korea’s infamous mountain locales. Their brew have also been created using the actual spring fed mountain water in Gyeonggi Province, a province notable for quality H2O.
Vibe: With locations in Namsan, Itaewon, Euljiro and Pangyo, Craftworks is closer to a homey restaurant than a bar. The place incorporates bright lighting, friendly staff, and North American dishes with a twist.
Find it: Craftworks Taphouse
The Four Seasons (Seoul, South Korea)
Craft: The Four Seasons distinguishes itself as a bar for craft beer maniacs. The bar brings together bar owners and beer fanatics through the owner’s collection of exotic beer. The Four Seasons provides craft beer that puts the uniqueness of Korea’s climate into consideration. “Brisk and beautiful for the spring, easy to drink and light for the summer and dark and creamy for the winter. A beer for all the seasons Korea has.”
Vibe: Despite the bar’s proximity to Itaewon, a foreigner-packed area, the dimly lit half-basement echoes with Green Day music and local crowds. The bar is packed with mostly local beer maniacs, showing little regard to food or ambience.
Find it: The Four Seasons
Magpie Brewing Co. (Seoul, South Korea)
Craft: Established during the boom of craft beer, Magpie is one of Seoul’s original hipster craft beer bars. Magpie’s founders began home brewing as a hobby, with little professional background in beer. Today, Magpie has become a community center for beer drinkers, hosting concerts, classes, and workshops for food and drinks, as well as distributing beer to many sought-after Seoul restaurants.
Vibe: With branches in Noksapyeong, Hongdae, and Jeju, the dimly lit bars are decorated with graphic posters of Magpie’s beer. The bars draw in artsy type hipsters and beer nerds from all over Seoul, many of whom are accompanied by their dogs.
Find it: Magpie Brewing Co.
Full Moon Brewworks (Phuket, Thailand)
Craft: Known as the one and only microbrewery and restaurant in Phuket, Full Moon Brewworks is home to a small batch of handcrafted beer famous for the owner’s never-before-seen incorporation of local Thai flavours and 100% all natural ingredients. The beer, ranging from Phuket Lager and Oriental Wheat to their famous Chalawan Pale Beer, are brewed on site giving hops and malt lovers a chance to exhibit the meaning of true Thai beer.
Vibe: The stannic and wooden furniture, combined with the 17th century ceiling fans adds to Full Moon’s rustic, yet classical character. Situated inside Jungceylon Shopping Center, Full Moon Brewworks is home to a wide array of crowds, from travellers looking for a cold pint after a day at the beach to local beer enthusiasts for their weekly dose of brew. . The restaurant also features their brewing tanks, allowing customers to discover the process behind their latest work of art.
Find it: Full Moon Brewworks
Mikkeller Bangkok (Bangkok, Thailand)
Craft: Born from the passion of three guys who share the same love for epic beer, Mikkeller became Thailand’s first craft beer bar and forever changed the beer platform in Asia. Mikkeller offers up to 30 rotating taps, in addition to 4 garden taps and an amazing line-up of bottles, providing drinkers with the ultimate craft beer experience in the City of Angels.
Vibe: Renovated from an old house, the bar is decorated through a modern-meets-rustic ensemble. Unlike most dimlit bars in Bangkok, Mikkeller employs the use of bright lighting to accompany the white and aquamarine painted walls, resulting in a chummy, peaceful space for hops and malt fans.
Find it: Mikkeller Bangkok
Nickeldime Drafthouse (Singapore)
Vibe: The graffiti painted brick walls, concrete floors, and naked light bulbs provides an intimate space for beer connoisseurs kick back and relax with their cold pints.
Craft: With international craft beer from USA, UK, Japan, Denmark, Germany and Belgium, Nickeldime pints are stored in a top condition cold room with correct carbonation in order to pints with absolute freshness and consistency. With constant rotation of their inventory, Nickeldime surprises you with 15 taps of limited edition seasonal favourites.
Find it: Nickeldime Drafthouse
Necessary Provisions (Singapore)
Vibe: Founded by the folks behind Smitten Coffee and Tea Bar, the airy, laid back cafe brings about locals looking for a comfortable place to get away from the busy city.
Craft: Necessary Provisions is a craft-serious café that brings together all of man’s “necessary provisions”—food, coffee, and beer. The restaurant-cafe-bar roasts beans on-site, as well as brew quality craft beer with their exclusive partnership with British brewery Moor and Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula.
Find it: Necessary Provisions
Taps Beer Bar (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Craft: The family-owned craft brew institution originated from the desire of five cousins for a dedicated local brewery. The five cousins routinely schedule dedicated beer trips to pick up beer from breweries around the world. Taps has 14 beers on tap at any time, continuously replaced with new and different flavours.
Vibe: The cement floors and brick walls lined with empty beer bottles provides a friendly, low key atmosphere. A large blackboard with day-to-day chalk scribbles indicates the current beer available on tap. With a movable performance space, one of the cousin’s uncle often entertains the crowd by jamming with his musical friends, though there are also live bands on every night from Thursdays to Saturdays.
Find it: TAPS Beer Bar
Boxing Cat Brewery (Shanghai, China)
Craft: Since opening its doors in 2008, Boxing Cat has accumulated up to 14 medals between the annual Asia Beer Cup, Australian International Beer Awards, and International Beer Cup. Though China is still relatively new to the craft beer market, Boxing Cat takes the North American approach to brewing and distinguishes itself with high quality ingredients from various countries and collaborations with numerous breweries.
Vibe: With two branches (Yong Fu and Sinan Mansions) and a sister branch (Hong Qiao), Boxing Cat maintains the essence of a brewery in all of its bars. The bars are lined with wooden tiles and furniture, and are decorated with wooden barrels for to provide drinkers with the authentic brewery spirit.
Find it: Boxing Cat Brewery