Decades in the making
The first BeerFes was held in Tokyo in 1998. The Osaka event was launched in 2003, and Yokohama, Nagoya, and Okinawa events followed in 2006, 2011, and 2014 respectively.
BeerFes is famous for its unparalleled selection of quality craft beer. For example, the recent Yokohama event featured over 200 different beers produced by 89 breweries. Additionally, each BeerFes event is an opportunity to taste award-winning beers from around the world. The Yokohama BeerFes, featured in this article, is the largest of them all, attracting an estimated 9,500 beer enthusiasts over a four-day period.
Tips on tap
1. Save money by purchasing tickets in advance
Buying tickets at an authorized seller before the event will net you a 400 yen discount off the standard 5,000-yen price. The easiest way to go about this is to buy tickets at a convenience store.
2. Remember: this is a tasting event—not an open bar
Upon entering the venue, the first thing that you’ll receive is a commemorative beer glass (the first 500 visitors get a special limited-edition variant). As you sample the offerings of all the different breweries, never expect a full pour. Servers will fill your glass with about 50 ml of beer for each tasting (25 ml for stronger brews). That being said, you can savor as many of the 200 beers on tap as you like until the end of the event, which typically lasts three and a half hours.
3. Be prepared to stand
The BeerFes events are standing events, however, there is limited outdoor seating at Osanbashi Hall, the beautiful venue for the Yokohama event. Seating is first-come-first served, so don’t get too tipsy—there’s a big chance that you’ll be standing for the duration of the event.
4. Don’t forget your glass
One of my favorite things about the BeerFes events is that participants can keep their commemorative beer glasses. The event staff will even provide you with foam sheets to protect your prize for the train ride home.
5. Enjoy the scenery
One reason I love the Yokohama BeerFes is its location. Not only is Osanbashi itself a fascinating place for an event, but the upper levels offer amazing views of the iconic Yokohama skyline. It’s also within easy walking distance of several popular sightseeing spots including Chinatown, Yamashita Park, and the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse shopping center.
BeerFes events are annual, so even if you missed all of the 2019 events it’s never too early to start planning for 2020. The nation-wide festivals run throughout the summer, kicking off with Tokyo in June and wrapping up with Yokohama in September. The best English-language starting point for news on the 2020 festivals is the Craft Beer Association’s website. Mark your calendar and make some space in your cupboard for your very own commemorative beer glass.
Still on the fence about checking out BeerFes Yokohama? In case my words aren’t enough to sway you, here’s what a local resident and beer connoisseur had to say: “Although Japan is known for nihonshu [sake], I recommend trying Japanese craft beer as well. BeerFes Yokohama is a well-kept-secret, a place where you can have fun and say kanpai [cheers] with everyone in Japanese!”