Pure German ales in Akasaka

Pure German ales in Akasaka

by Stefan Van Eycken
Metropolis Magazine

Beer Horn is the Tokyo taproom of Hokkaido-based Otaru Beer, the finest maker of German-style beers in Japan. They follow age-old Bavarian brewing practices and abide by the “Reinheitsgebot,” the beer purity law that has been in place for centuries and only allows for the use of four ingredients (barley, hops, water and yeast) and no chemicals in any part of the process. Just like German breweries would only sell locally, the Otaru beers were only available within a 100km radius of the brewery. Then, in 2011, they opened a bar in the heart of the Akasaka business district. Finally, beer fans in Tokyo had a place to go for authentic German-style brews.

You won’t see the label Otaru Beer anywhere at the Beer Horn and people often wonder whether what’s on tap is really the same as what is sold up north. The answer is yes and no. It is almost the same, but it is transformed a bit because in order to ship it such a distance, some of the yeast has to be removed. This makes the beers on tap in Tokyo a bit drier than they would be in Hokkaido.

The number of taps is purposely limited to six to keep the selection as fresh as possible, and the beer is served in 400ml glass horns or 700ml in genuine cow horns. With the exception of the two non-alcohol beers (a black and a Pilsner-type), all other offerings are draft. The standards are The Horn (a Pilsner), Dark Horn (a Dunkel-type), White Horn (a Bavarian weissbier), Yellow Horn (a mix of weiss and lemonade) and Red Horn (a weiss with raspberry extract put in at tapping—a cocktail, really).

The special seasonal beers are a major attraction at the Beer Horn, and when a new one is put on tap, the place can be packed. General manager Brian Dishman tries to overlap the seasonal treats. When we were there, a stunning mead—the kind that would have been brewed in Germany before the Reinheitsgebot of 1560—made with Okinawa honey, had just arrived. The previous special—a rauchbier (smoke beer)—was still available, so at any given time, you have a choice of two seasonal brews.

There is also a wide selection of food, most of which is prepared in a stone oven. You’ve got the classics—baked pretzels, sausages, sauerkraut—but don’t leave without trying the made in-house, fresh every day, northern-Italian-style pizzas. There are always a few specials that aren’t on the menu, so be sure to ask the staff. When we visited, they had a pizza with an almond-honey-weissbier base, topped with blue cheese and walnuts then drizzled with honey, the perfect companion to the Honey Horn—or any other beer, for that matter.

Many things make this place the perfect contender for a second living-room, but what really seals the deal are the prices: 400ml beer horns are only ¥580, the most expensive food item is ¥1,300 (the sausage plate) and a two-hour nomihodai is a mere ¥2,200. Akasaka may not be your area of choice for an evening of bibulous excitement, but one session at the Beer Horn will change all of that. Guaranteed.

Metropolis Magazine website

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