Thrash Zone Yokohama
In the quieter side of Yokohama, on the other side of the highway from the department stores and their basements of food, and a five to ten minute walk north from Yokohama station, lies what to me was the best beer in Japan. While I did not get to figuratively (and literally?) immerse myself in the Japanese craft beer scene, I’ve had a reasonable share of experience with its brews. Hitachino Nest, Baird Brewery, even Shiga Kogen and Yona Yona – I’ve had at least a couple bottles or cans of. Hitachino is more of a European style brewery, and Baird makes some IPAs which are decent, but leave the hophead in me wanting more. Luckily, while doing my research on where to go for craft in Yokohama and Tokyo, I discovered a place that sold “EXTREME BEER ONLY”. IPAs, Imperial IPAs, Imperial Stouts, Barleywines. With hardcore heavy metal music. My kind of joint. Enter: Thrash Zone. \m/ \m/
As one of my references stated, you’ll know you’ve found the place when you see the amp with the caveat. It’s a heavy metal-themed tap house that sells only big beers, but let me digress first.
Correct my history if I’m wrong, but Yokohama is the first port that reopened to international trading after the Japanese Sakoku, so it’s a lot more multicultural and foreigner-friendly than other Japanese cities. It also has one of the largest Chinatowns in the world by area (if not by population), and has traded with Arabic, European and American countries for a long, long time. Thus, it comes as no surprise that it is the most craft beer friendly city in Japan. There are a lot of options in the district south of Yokohama station, between the futuristic Minato Mirai and Chinatown. You can get the full range of American craft (at Antenna Americ), German and Belgian traditional styles and Japanese microbrews (such as, duh, Yokohama Brewery). But if the words hops, imperial, and IPA mean anything to you, you would ditch the Sakuragicho-Kannai area, and stay as long as you can in Thrash Zone.
Aside from house brews, they have some heavyweights from the US, as well as guest beers and collaborations with other Japanese breweries. All 15 of their beers are fresh from the tap. No bottles. They also had Ballast Point Indra Kunindra on tap. I gladly passed on this, having tasted it before at The Bottle Shop’s opening in Magallanes back in 2014. It was an interesting, but far from pleasant experience.
I thought this was a wall of amps, but it was actually cloth — canvas or something similar. On the screen above, one can view heavy metal videos. The wall is filled with well-wishes and foul language – usually in the same sentence – from famous clients, either related to the beer or the metal scene.
Surprisingly, this was a kid-friendly haunt. Having already been turned away from one craft beer bar and one coffee shop, I had to make sure if I could bring my baby here. I was surprised when the friendly bearded bartender said yes, so much so that I asked twice. Not bad for a heavy metal extreme beer place, huh? My wife and child were in a nearby cafe, and were supposed to wait for me there while I had a quick drink. However, since children were allowed, I had one quick glass then I went back out to pick them up. NB: You pay as you order here, cash only. At 1000 Yen for a 12-ish ounce glass of strong beer, that’s a more than decent price. They have larger pint glasses for only a couple hundred yen or so more, but if you’re a tourist like me, you’re better off trying a variety of their brews, all awesome.
My first beer was their Speed Kills IPA. Solid stuff. I took no tasting notes, and my month-old memory is already hazy, but definitely, this was a West Coast IPA by any definition and the best Japanese-brewed IPA I’ve had. After savoring this one, I went to pick my wife and daughter up at the cafe. Incidentally, that cafe was much less baby-friendly, not having a designated smoking area. Thrash Zone does not allow smoking inside or even outside its premises. It’s hardcore like that. The bartender also changed the music to something much more chill (like house, if my pre-millennial mind is correct) than the already turned-down-volume metal (like Lamb of God or Mastodon or something, not quite as mainstream as Metallica or Black Sabbath). I assume he did it for the baby, who was asleep, but to be honest, he didn’t have to, as her father is teaching her well (I personally preferred the heavy metal).
They have free snacks (assorted nuts), for a donation. I had read before that they served frites, but for some reason, they no longer do. Their beers are quite filling though, so the mixed nuts are a good pulutan (finger food) to match the brews.
Founders Breakfast Stout. We don’t get this in our neck of the craft beer woods, but it is yum-mee (say that in your best redneck accent). I ordered this for my wife and enjoyed it a lot, but I stuck with Thrash Zone’s IPAs and Double IPAs. She totally loved it, though.
Karumina, a Belgian strong dark ale from Hida Takayama Brewery based in Gifu, near Osaka. Filipino breweries shy away from this style, but the Japanese produce decent versions. Karumina, like Hitachino Nest’s XH is a defensible ode to the style. I’d still go for an inexpensive Belgian Trappist beer, but this one is more than satisfying.
Thrash Zone Hop Slave DIPA (I think. This photo might be of Founders Centennial IPA.)
Random tip: we came here way before dinner, and passed by the depachika (department store food floor) at Sogo in Yokohama station to buy dinner (a.k.a. munchies) to eat at our hotel in Sakuragicho. I would suggest going early and doing the same or loading up on food at the same place or at the nearby Sukiya before heading in for some amazing beer. Sukiya would also work for some post-IPA nosh.
I cannot recommend Thrash Zone enough. Even if you are just planning on staying in Tokyo when you visit Japan, as long as good craft beer is a part of your itinerary, skip the Tokyo joints with their high prices and snooty atmosphere and inflexible rules, and instead make your way southwest to Thrash Zone in Yokohama. It’s a place that purports to be only for the hardcore, but anyone with a sincere interest in good beer is welcome, and the only rules are that you can’t smoke and you can’t be too loud, since they’re in a residential area. Stay a night, even, but you don’t have to. Hotels at their most expensive are just half the price of the same class of accommodations in Tokyo, and the train ride take less than an hour from major stations in Tokyo, without the need to transfer, on the Keihintohoku Line.
Check out Thrash Zone’s (physical and online) address below. They also make Swedish-style meatballs, I think, in a different location in Yokohama. Make sure you don’t confuse the two. I cannot guarantee that they also serve fantastic beer in their meatball house.
1F Tamura bldg., Tsuruyacho2-10-7
Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan