Ask any local craft beer aficionado where to find the best Japanese craft beers in town, and you’d pretty much only get one answer: JiBiru Craft Beer Bar, located in 313@Somerset. In fact the name ji-biru (地ビール) literally means “local beer” in Japanese; the open air bar on the first floor atrium of the busy shopping mall carries easily Singapore’s largest range of craft beers from all across the Land of the Rising Sun.
But that would be little surprise once you find out JiBiru is owned and operated by the same people behind craft beer importer Eastern Craft Trading, the official importer and distributor of various Japanese craft beer marques such as Hitachino Nest from Kiuchi Brewery of Ibaraki, Minoh from Osaka’s AJI Beer, Nagoya’s Kinshachi Beer (Morita Kinshachi), Nagano’s Yona Yona (Yo-Ho Brewing) and Shiga Kogen (Tamamura-Honten), among others. This means that – assuming they’re in stock – you’ll see all these beers at JiBiru, with Hitachino Nest (main picture) especially prominent on its rotating draught taps; in fact, you can say that if a Japanese craft beer is not carried at JiBiru, it’s most likely to be unavailable in the rest of Singapore.
Draft beer prices – ranging from 300ml is $9.00 to $11.50 for 300ml and $11.00 to $15.90 for 500ml depending on the time you visit – isn’t too expensive considering its premium location in one of the busiest malls along Orchard Road as well as the generally high taxes in Japan on making alcoholic products (and especially on beer). You’ll also find some non-Japanese beers: Eastern Craft does import beers from Belgium and the UK, and once a while it features a beer or three from a fellow distributor (it was also a strong advocate for home-grown craft beer brand Jungle Beer before it closed down earlier this year).
Depending on the time of the year you can get seasonal beers as well; YoHo Brewing’s Karuizawa English Pale Ale and the rare Tamamura Honten Yamabushi series, for example.
Other alcoholic options, apart from beer, can be scant – it’s not a beer bar for no reason. But you’ll still find a few sake options (not surprisingly made by the same companies that Eastern Craft imports beers from) to go with your food: Kikusakari by Kiuchi Brewery (which makes Hitachino Nest), and Tamamura-Honten’s Yuki-saru Snow Monkey. We especially like the incredibly fresh-tasting Kikusakari Taru Sake ($32.80 for 300ml, $26.80 at happy hour).
As for food JiBiru is a mini-izakaya of sorts, offering an impressive spread – ranging from finger foods like yakitori to hearty meals such as various donburi – considering its tiny kitchen facilities. Try the mixed Yakitori Set ($22.80 for 8 sticks) to pair with your draught beer; otherwise the slices of grilled dried stingray fins Eihire ($10) or the deep-fried oysters in the Kaki Fry ($13.80) are excellent tidbits to accompany your sake as you watch the crowds walk by.
JiBiru Craft Beer Bar is located at 313 Orchard Road #01-26, Singapore 238895.