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The Local Brew

By Bryan Harrell

Yona Yona Ale


Yona Yona Ale
Yoho Brewing Company
Karuizawa, Nagano

Yoho Brewing is one of the few Japanese craft breweries without a brewpub or restaurant. Yet the well-known Yona Yona Ale they brew at their facility near Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, is one of the easiest craft beers to find in Japan, thanks to a surprisingly effective distribution system.

Yona Yona is a pale ale served on draft, as a hand-pumped “real ale,” but the vast majority produced is sold in cans, which are found throughout Japan in a surprising number of supermarketsand are priced at an amazingly friendly ¥260.

This all-malt 5.5% ale is very brisk and refreshing, and definitely in the American style. While it reminds me a lot of Liberty Ale brewed by Anchor Brewing of San Francisco, a former Yoho brewer said the original intent was a beer like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. In terms of color, though, it is far closer to Liberty Ale.

Yoho also brews Tokyo Black, a very smooth and mellow porter beer with 5% alcohol. It is less bitter than the Yona Yona but has a somewhat richer flavor with lots of dark roast malt.
The latest in their regular beer lineup is the Aooni India Pale Ale, a powerfully bitter 7% brew with gobs of flavor. Both this beer and the Tokyo Black retail for just ¥280.

Interestingly, they call themselves “Ya’ho Brewing” in Japanese, and “Yoho Brewing” in English. Even more curious is their oddly animated Website which requires some reading ability in Japanese. Still, the beer they offer is among the best tasting and least expensive craft beer brands in Japan.

Yoho Brewing Karuizawa, Nagano
Tel: (0267) 66-1211