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Osaka, Japan

Within 20 minutes of arriving in Osaka from Kyoto, we were back on the train and heading down to Kobe to fulfil the desire for some top quality beef (no offence Osaka, the steak was calling).  The aptly named, Steakland was our destination for a lunch service, seated around a grill watching the chef cook our food in front of us.  Succulent, indulgent… it was everything we could want from a steak, and was one of our favourite meals of the whole trip.

To let our food settle, and definitely not because we got lost (!), we took a slightly longer route to the museum of Sake brewing at the Hankutsuru Sake brewery as our educational afternoon activity.

Back to Osaka we went, checked into our hostel and then made our way to the bustling streets of Osaka in search of some food and good quality beer.

We decided our best bet was to find a nice bar and pick up some food there, so to Yellow Ape we went.  A small, quiet craft beer bar serving some tasty food as well.  A decent range of Japanese and international beers on tap, with more of the same small plate style food we had become accustomed to in Japan.  Satiated with a few beers and some great food, we made our move to the next bar – Garage 39, a short walk away.

Garage 39 is decked out, rather unsurprisingly like an old garage, complete with roller shutter door and very industrial style walls and tables.  The selection is well thought through, if slightly limited to the more well-known Japanese craft beers (this could also be because we had by this point been to a fair number of bars and sampled the majority of what seemed to be on offer), however the beardy hipster staff were extremely helpful and were keen to learn more about our trip.  We enjoyed a couple of drinks here and after a recommendation from the staff, moved to Umbrella RiB a very short walk from where we were sat.

As it turns out Umbrella RiB is one of two bars owned by the same bloke, the first of which is called… wait for it… Umbrella! We chatted briefly with the guys behind the bar, though neither our Japanese, nor their English meant we had a lot to discuss.  That said, their fancy toilet (at which they took great pleasure in sharing the cost was over £4k!!!) is almost enough for us to recommend you stop by!

They very helpfully took us down the road to Umbrella though, where we rounded the night off in true Double-Barrelled style with a 5am departure for home… not forgetting the obligatory meal at stupid o’clock that neither of us particularly remember… probably for the best!

After a day randomly at Universal Studios Japan, we decided to drop into a couple more of the bars we had on our list.  First up was Craft Beer Base Bud, two floors underneath a sizeable office complex and past a series of sex shops. A good selection of Japanese and Australian beers were on offer however there wasn’t really enough to hold our full attention for much longer than a couple of swift halves.  We made our way over to Craft Beer Works Kamikaze, in search of beer and some sustenance for the evening.  Glad we did too – great beer selection and rather unexpectedly, the best pizza we’ve had outside Italy. Who’d thought!? Well worth a visit for the pizza alone, but the beer selection is extensive – a newly kegged Japanese peach sour won the best beer of the night award.

The following day was our last full one in Osaka, and as luck would have it, the first day of a 4-day beer festival in the grounds of Osaka Castle, titled rather charmingly Craft Beer Holiday.  We were tipped off to this by the guys at Kyoto Brewing Co. on our visit to their taproom at the weekend, and had been looking forward to it all week.  The promise of a myriad of Japanese craft brewers and a plethora of food stall was enough to pull us in, however included in the ticket price was 10 samples and a free glass – even better!

The turnout was excellent and the range of breweries even better for a country that is under-represented on the craft beer scene in the UK.

As the festival wound down, we felt we should do our best to tick off the rest of the bars on our list so we stumbled to Beer Belly.

Run by Minoh brewing their whole range was served, along with some eclectic food, unlike your standard brewpub fair. As it turns out, the duck we ordered described as ‘lightly grilled’ was all but raw… Sashimi duck, if you’re interested, is really very tasty!

Last stop, and to round off our Japanese Karaoke experiences was The Drunken Clam.

Yes, essentially this was a complete rip off of the trademarking behind Family Guy’s favourite boozer… inside was very different mind you.

Let’s just say though that we found ourselves on the late end of yet another Karaoke night out… (a new favourite pastime of ours in Japan apparently)

The only thing left to say is a massive thank you to the incredible country of Japan for all it has given us.

From snow monkeys, karaoke craziness, super friendly people and the most colourful cities we’ve ever seen, we really loved every second. We are absolutely certain that one day we will be back, but for now Hong Kong, we’re coming for you!

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