Beer Bar North Island, Sapporo

Another favorite on our list of craft beer bars in Sapporo is Beer Bar North Island. Great beer, with some options for food.

Beer Bar North Island is in a great location (just off of Tanukikouji Four) on the 10th (and top floor) of a high rise building in downtown Sapporo, very close to Odori station. It’s convenient, and a good place to stop in for beer after work, you could make a dinner of it (I have, several times), or swing by for beers after eating at any of the many nearby restaurants.

If you have read our other reviews, there are certain things I look for in a good beer bar; I like a comfortable atmosphere, a friendly open floor plan, maybe something good to eat, decent prices, and and of course, I want really excellent beer. North Island does well on most of those points.

The layout and design at North Island is modern, clean, and cool: It feels good to walk into the place. There is a main bar, and also counter seats that line the windows, giving you a chance to concentrate on whomever you brought with you and also enjoy an interesting view of the streets down below. The rest of the room is open, high-top tables. Not overly social, but not socially prohibitively either – I have met several people at the bar.

And the beer – let’s talk about the beer. This is the real reason to come here. Excellent selection. On the night I stopped in for this review, there were 11 beers on the menu. Their house IPA was more spicy and citrus-y, and was excellent. And the prices are perfect – ¥850 for that they call a “large,” which is probably a 12 oz pour. A good deal for the level of quality they serve there.

And as for beer, I have seen their beers for sale at retail outlets like supermarkets. They bottle their beer, and you can buy some of their products to take home – from North Island beer bar (featured here) or from various places around town.

That is what I like about North Island.

They do have food (and I have eaten here several times), but it’s not why I come here. It’s a little too “izakiya” (small plates) for my tastes. The food is Western, but the portions are too small, and maybe the intention is a little too high-brow; as if they are aiming to be more of a “bistro” than a beer bar. If I wanted a bistro, I’d go someplace else.

I don’t think Sapporo (outside of the traditional Irish/English pubs) really knows how to do beer and simple food properly. Of all the beer bars, not a single one offers a simple burger and fries or a big sausage on a bun to lay down a good base before a night of drinking. You can eat at North Island, but it’s never what I really want. I would rather eat elsewhere (I like Beef Impact, which is around the corner, when I am in this part of town) and come here for beer only after I’ve had a good meal.

And this review takes a turn for the worse tonight because of the music.

Pounding, pounding “techno” music. It’s not techno (actually, I know better than that); it’s house music. And some of the tracks were decent enough, but it has the same effect as techno for how “out of place” it feels. I tend to think of beer as a masculine phenomenon. And while I have done my share of house music parties (believe me), I would never pair basic house tracks with a brewery. Untz, untz, untz, untz… cheesy “shopping” music. House music is more “vodka redbull” than craft beer. They should know better.

I don’t necessarily need “rock” (or whatever), but the house music was a real turn off tonight, and I even put on headphones to get away from it (which almost felt rude, but so is killing the casual vibe with high BPM generic electronica). Looking around the room, I guarantee you not a single one of the patrons goes home and puts on house music. Nobody was bobbing their head. Someone that works there must be a house head, but not me. Minus 1 (maybe minus 2 or 3, for that matter). Painful. Bad choice. Try again.

It’s still a good bar, with good beer. And you could take people there and they’d be impressed and have a good time.

For the beer – I give them high marks.

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