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The Best Japanese Beer You Have Never Heard Of

By Okinawa - Posted on 28 January 2009

photo of yona yona ale, best japanese beerWhat do you get when you take a serious Japanese brewer and send him to study for three years at a California brewery that makes the best IPA in the US? The best tasting Japanese beer that you have (probably) never heard of.

Yona Yona Ale is an American style golden pale ale that is changing the dynamics of the Japanese beer market and winning the palettes of beer enthusiasts around the world. A remarkable cask conditioned ale, Yona Yona Ale has won Gold medals in several international beer competitions. The beer has an amber color and creamy head, and the grapefruit and other citrus aromas give it a crisp finish.

While quite a bit richer and tangier than standard Japanese pale lagers, Yona Yona Ale's hoppy flavor is balanced with sweet undercurrents and can be enjoyed by both beer enthusiasts and those that fall into the “beer is beer” category. The 5.5% alcohol content and refreshing maroyaka-ness give truth to the drinkability of the beer's name – Yona Yona means Every Night in Japanese.

Yona Yona Ale is made by Yo-Ho Brewing in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture. The Brewery Director, Toshiyuki Ishii, studied brewing techniques at Stone Brewing in southern California from 1998-2001. Stone Brewing is famous for crafting massive American style ales with tremendous punch, both in flavor and alcohol content.

In addition to Yona Yona Ale, Yo-Ho also brews some other great beers. Stout lovers should be sure to try Tokyo Black, an American porter whose aromas of burnt oak and coffee, hoppy bitterness, and spicy bouquet are bound to leave you wishing you had ordered more, no matter how many you get. Other beers include the National Trust Porter, Wild Forest Blonde Ale, Seasonal Scottish Ale 2006, and Yo-Ho Barleywine (a member of Michael Jackson's prestigious Rare Beer Club).

While Yo-Ho's following in Japan has steadily grown over the past several years, the popularity of its beers still pales (no pun intended) in comparison to macrobrewies such as Kirin, Asahi, and Sapporo. Yo-Ho brews provide a refreshing change from the push into the “as-cheap-as-possible” happoshu and even worse beer-flavored happosei liquor, so be sure to spread the word and do your part in supporting the market for new styles of ji-biiru in Japan.

People who live in Japan can order Yo-Ho beers at Rakuten.

Do you know where you can find Yona Yona Ale and other So-Ho brews on tap? Let us know so we can provide a list of places that serve nama glasses of these great tasting Japanese beers!

The Blarney Stone in Azabu Juban has Yona Yona on tap. Definitley the best beer I have had in Japan and would like to try the other Yo-Ho brews...Tokyo Black is the only othjer one I have seen and most places that have it also have Yona Yona cans like Natural Lawsons, Yamaya and Seijo Ishii Supermarkets (more like a grocery import shop).

I've noticed that around Hanami season they start selling Yona Yona at Life supermarkets (or at least the one in Kyodo). I am sure to always pick up 3-6 every time I go since I know they wont be there forever.

Other places I've noticed it are some conbinis (few and far between) and also at the Pororoka supermarket in Azabudai.

I absolutely love this beer and will pick it up anytime I see it!

They have yona yona ale, and the Tokyo black porter at the Deluca's NY deli in the Midland building near Nagoya station in Nagoya. I just found it and it is delicious.

By the way your "CAPTCHA" is very difficult to read.

Thanks for the info about where to buy Yona Yona Ale in Nagoya and sorry you had trouble with the CAPTCHA -- we'll look into it.

Tullamore- Quaint Irish Pub with friendly service. Run by a husband and wife. They have Yona-Yona Ale on tap and it is great. Located near Yoyogihachiman station. 3 stops from Shinjuku on the Odakyu line.

Yoyogi-koen Bldg, 1-6-10 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.
Tel: 03-3481-0216

Thanks for passing on the word!

Yona Yona is available on tap in the Aldgate English pub in Shibuya

Yoho Brewery's 2011 seasonal is called Belgian Dark and is fantastic.

Makes me thirsty just reading about it :)

I have recently really gotten into this beer. It is currently in some convenience stores, Lawsons I think, and I have seen in both Yao Osaka and Nishinomiya Koshienguchi... so seems to be in a many places. I really want to order a case, and probably will, but is there any reason that the case is the same price as the per can in convenience stores? I know that Japan doesn`t always offer bulk discounts, but I have never seen it where the conbini price is the lowest price>

Is there any cheaper way to order it??

Just to fix my previous message... Yona is available at Sunkus stores in many different places i have been.

I's Public Ale House in American Village on Okinawa serves up some good Japanes microbrews. Right now they have Yona Yona, Tokyo Black, Toshi's IPA, Ise Kadoya Malty Field, and others.

I went there a couple of times a few years ago. Great beer from great people, and a gem for beer lovers in Okinawa!

At The Green Sheep pub near Yokohama station. Also an award winning Guinness watering hole.

I wonder if anyone knows if there is a place with Yona Yona on tap in Kyoto (or Shiga)? I have had it in Tokyo but it is a bit far from home.

Kyoto: Kyoto City Hall -- K6. 075-255-5009
A pleasant, medium-sized bar with a serious selection of single-malt Scotch whiskies and one very good Japanese microbrew beer (Yona Yona real ale on tap).
Nijo Kiyamachi Higashi-iru, Valls Building 2F. (across the street from Hotel Fujita) Open 6pm-3am (5am weekends) daily.

Thanks for sharing the yona love. Anyone know where you can get yona yona ale or any of their other beers in the States?

Teach English in Korea


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