Is Sapporo a great city? Oh, yes it is. And is beer awesome. Yes again. When I put those two ideas together and I bet you want to know if Sapporo is an truly excellent town for those that love to drink beer. I am here to tell you that is definitely true. And just for you, our dear readers, we personally put back several pints (and a few bottles) in order to bring you this, the ICHIBANNOMAHCI list of the best beer bars in Sapporo.
What qualities help a bar make our list of great beer bars in Sapporo? Does it have to be a proper craft beer bar? Is it just the beer? Do the prices matter? Would good food make a difference? How about the atmosphere? Below we offer our insider tips 10 Sapporo beer bars, with special attention to our favorites. And for each bar, we provide links to detailed reviews where you can read more.
For us, it takes more than wheat and hops to create a great spot to enjoy a beer. A good beer bar is more than a place to drink; its about a place where it feels good to drink. There is what the bar is trying to do, but also how the bar and the patrons come together to create a feeling. That “feel good” element is not a simple formula, but when it hits, you have a beer bar where people genuinely want to hang out. That is what we want to show you: a local perspective on Sapporo beer bars where it actually feels good to drink. We will likely revise this post over time, but for now, we’ll give you several of our favorites.
With no further ado, here is the ICHIBANNOMACHI list of the top beer bars in Sapporo:
Top Beer Bars in Sapporo
#1. Our top choice for the best beer bar in Sapporo is Phred’s Beer Inn Mugishutei (in fact, this review was written while drinking a beer at Mugishutei).
The Beer Inn Mugishutei in Sapporo has some great beer, of course. While there are many craft beer bars in Sapporo that have more beer on tap (as of tonight, the Beer Inn has only six on draught), Phred has an impressive cooler full of special bottles and cans to rival the best liquor stores back home.
Beer Inn Mugishutei has food, but to be honest… that is not the reason to come here. Mugishutei is about the environment. It’s about the 1000+ cans and bottles of the “museum” that lines the walls (and even the ceiling). It’s about the well-worn, but completely comfortable benches (that sag when you sit on them). It’s about the foosball table (which I actually have no desire to play). It is definitely about the music and the VH1 music videos (they are playing late 90s RnB right now). It’s about the really causal crowd. It’s about them being open until 3 AM on weekends.
It’s all that. And… it’s the $10 Chips and Salsa™. Ten bucks worth of chips… helps the beer go down (or so I tell myself, again and again).
I really love Beer Inn Mugishutei in Sapporo. I do. This place is a kind of “home” away from home (for me, a dirty American here in the best city in the world). When my friends come to visit, this is where I’d take them.
#2. The second best beer bar in is Beer Cellar Sapporo. Frankly, it is a close second. An extremely close second (I am here, now, second time this week, as I proof read this post).
While Beer Cellar has a completely different vibe than Mugishutei, there are almost equally tempting for me. The “1000 year old carpet” at Beer Inn vs the modern concrete floors at Beer Cellar; which is better? Well, they are different.
Sapporo’s Beer Cellar typically has about six to eight beers on tap. They are more expensive than at Mugishutei (¥1200 vs ¥1000), but they feature some great brews and there is often a guest brewery (several beers, all different styles, with funny names). They also have a cooler full of imports (mostly from the Pacific Northwest in the US).
Beer Cellar offers some snacks (wait for it…), and while they don’t have a food menu, they often have a “food truck” parked out front (and there was a guy doing tacos on blue corn tortillas while I was there the other night). The music is always excellent, whether it’s coming off of the stack of vinyl, streaming from the internet, or on a recent occasion, a guy playing “looped” guitar sounds live. There are a lot of regulars there. In fact, because Beer Cellar closes too early (at 9 PM), they have to literally have to tell everyone to go home. It’s not a big crowd, but it’s a good crowd.
The way the tables are set up makes for a more social bar than almost anywhere in Sapporo (beer bar or not). The “stand up” tables facilitate people moving around. Again and again I have good social experiences here – better than any other place in Sapporo.
A bar doesn’t need a perfect snack to make our list of the best beer bars in Sapporo, but Beer Cellar has that too. The microwave popcorn is surprisingly addictive. “A beer and a bag” is a good time.
While I love Phred’s place, the location of Beer Cellar (it’s near Odori, in the city center) makes it very convenient. I confess… Beer Cellar is where I drink most of my beer these days. It’s not as “one of kind” as Mugishutei, but it’s an excellent spot for a pint.
Highly recommended, よ.
#3. The third spot on the ICHIBANNOMACHI list of the best craft beer spots in Sapporo is Beer Kotan. Another excellent choice.
Beer Kotan is accessible from the alley behind PARCO department store, almost right on top of Odori station. It’s very convenient. As you arrive on the third floor, you’ll find a clean, spacious, well designed “local” beer spot
Beer Kotan is a brewery, so unlike the first two spots on our list, Beer Kotan is not about foreign imports, it’s about local Hokkaido beer. They have an extensive selection of uncompromisingly good beer. So many beers on tap, all delicious. And at ¥800 per pint, they have better prices than anywhere in Sapporo.
Sapporo’s Beer Kotan also has an extensive menu for food. I would still love to see someone do a good beer and burger spot, but Beer Kotan is the first beer bar on this list where you can have a solid dinner and a near perfect range of beers. That is surprisingly hard to do in Sapporo.
The vibe at Beer Kotan is not particularly “neighborhood,” but it’s casual. Not particularly social, but the staff is very real and friendly. It’s a great choice on any night, but especially when the snow is dumping, it’s so easy to get in and out of; with the range of beers they have, it could easily be your favorite spot.
Highly recommended place for a beer.
#4. For the forth spot on our list of great beer bars in Sapporo, we’re going to change it up a little – we really like Beer Hall Mustache.
“Beer Mustache” is not a “craft beer” spot. They are a neighborhood bar, with about eight beers on tap, all of them standard Japanese beers. But the vibe and the feel of that place, is worth a visit. And they have a full bar. And I have been talking a bit about the classic “beer and a whiskey;” sometime soon I am going to be in the mood for that, and Beer Hall Mustache in Sapporo is a perfect place for that combo.
I’ve only been in “Beer Bar Mustache” in Sapporo a few time, but I feel drawn to the very “local” feel and the light, friendly, comfortable vibes. Two of the times I was there, some customer brought some food snack for the owner (the first time was some special bananas from Thailand, the second was some apple pie snack from Honshu); and he immediately shared it with all the customers (including myself).
The TV is always playing (which I generally don’t like), but it works to make the vibe even more comfortable.
Beer Hall Mustache has a nice bar and several big wood benches for groups, but is not much bigger than a large living room, and that is what it feels like. It’s obviously European inspired (there is no way the current owner is the original owner, could it be?), but it’s a Japanese bar now, and it’s got local, neighborhood vibes but is still friendly to hakujin (はくじん) like myself.
Go have a beer there sometime, you’ll be glad you did.
#5. For the fifth 5 spot on this list, we’re going to take the criteria in another direction, and use this as an opportunity to promote a great beer spot, and another spot that feels like home to me; which is Salt Moderate in Sapporo.
Sapporo’s Salt Moderate makes this list of best places to drink beer in Sapporo because one of their many menus (why do the Japanese always give you six different menus?) is a long list of beers. You’ll see Euro classics like Hoegaarden next to “mainstream IPAs” like Goose Island. But the truth is, a pint of Goose Island at the bar at Salt Moderate is such a good experience, I am tempted to stand up and head over there right now. Salt Moderate is more expensive than any other place in the top five. There is a table charge. They like to smoke there, so you might go home smelling like cigarettes (or smoke off the fire in the kitchen, also very likely). You can easily spend a lot of money there, but… the food and the atmosphere is fantastic.
Yes, beer, a full page of beer. And… spam onigiri. And surf movies. And oysters (if that is your thing). Good music. Super cool people running that place.
As for the Sapporo beer bars we really like, we’ll pause there. But as we said earlier, we reserve the right to revise and expand this list as time goes on.
Some Other Favorites
There are, of course many other excellent places to drink beer in Sapporo that don’t make our list.
Off the top of my head, I want to give a shout out to Craft Beer Volta in Sapporo (which has an excellent beer menu, but the food is definitely part of why it makes our recommendation). We could also recommend Famous Door in Sapporo, which has a limited beer menu, but is a exceptional atmosphere.
And while we haven’t listed any of the Irish or English pubs in Sapporo, and we’ll come back to these as this site grows. There are certainly some strong contenders, we’ll get to it.
Beer Bars We Don’t Like
As for places that we don’t like, we wrote some rather blistering reviews of Maltheads Sapporo (because of high prices and the nasty service) and Susukino Brewing Company (because is a beer bar that feels too much like a girly desert shop). And we like Sun and Moon Brewery’s main store much more (great beer, great staff), but we are critical of the overly-fancy choices that make that place more of a “date bar” than a good spot to bring a friend for a beer (and we hate the QR code system also – which is a terrible choice). Read our reviews of those place for more detail and to decide for yourself, but we think our favorites are a much better choice.
We love the city of Sapporo so much, and our goal is not to be negative about any part of this excellent town. But we want to keep it real, and that means we don’t always like what we see. And if we can be honest when we don’t like something, you can trust us more when we say we do.
So trust us – we know our beer spots.
Okay that is it.
If you have comments, we’d love to hear them. And if you have a recommendation for a really excellent beer bar in Sapporo you think we should try, as always, contact us, we love recommendations for restaurants in Sapporo as much as you do.