Beer might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Japan, but there’s a budding craft beer scene that’s gaining popularity. And where there’s beer, there must be snacks to nibble on.
Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from yeast-fermented malt. There are many types of beer, each with its own color, smell, and flavor profile. Different varieties are flavored with everything from barley, hops, and wheat to corn and rice.
Beer is a satisfying drink on its own, but it can be easily elevated by pairing it with the right snack. From savory chips and crackers to a few sweet options, check out this list for some of our favorite beer and Japanese snack pairings. Please enjoy responsibly!
Stouts and porters are thick, silky, dark-colored beers known for their coffee, cocoa, and/or caramel undertones. Porters originated in London and have a crisper finish while stouts feature a variety of subcategories, including dry, oatmeal, milk, and imperial stouts.
Both beers pair well with something sweet, especially chocolate. Mousse-filled Puku Puku Tai: Chocolate, soft Okinawa Kokuto Black Sugar Cookies, and buttery Nama Chocolate Sable Cookies all make great pairings.
India Pale Ale (IPA)
Indian pale ales have seen a spike in popularity thanks to the craft brewing movement. While there’s much variation among IPAs, they tend to be hoppy and a bit bitter, but are often balanced with citrus, floral, or herbal notes.
IPAs pair well with strong, salty, spicy snacks. Depending on the flavor profile of your preferred IPA, we recommend Uni Rice Crackers to those looking for umami flavors or Kabukiage Rice Crackers: Uma Kara Spicy, if you prefer some heat.
Double IPAs, also called Imperial IPAs, are even hoppier, doubling or tripling the amount of hops used while balancing with more malts. As a result, Double IPAs boast deep flavors and pair well with smokey, savory flavors and sweet desserts.
If you’d prefer a savory snack, go for something like OFU Smoked Crackers and Peanuts: Fukairi Shichimi Seven-Flavor or crispy Ajimai Senbei. Sweet pairings like chewy Aomori Apple Caramel Yakkoi Sable Cookies and M Baker's Cookie: Custard Flavor are great too!
Lagers can be light, dark, and anywhere in between. Light lagers are crisp and refreshing while dark lagers have a more distinct taste. The roasted malts used to make dark lagers lead to nutty, slightly caramel-y flavors.
Light lagers will wash down spicy snacks like Wasabi no Kiwami Rice Crackers. Dark lagers pair well with cheeses, so consider Salt and Camembert Cheese Cookies. Or, compliment the sweeter notes of your dark lager with Funwari Meijin Mochi Puffs: Black Syrup Kinako.
Named after the Czech city from which it was made, pilsner is another type of pale beer. Pilsners are clean, crisp and the perfect pairing to light, salty snacks.
You can’t go wrong reaching for some Jaga Pokkuru. These French fry lookalikes are buttery, salty, crunchy, and made from Hokkaido-grown potatoes! The crunch and simple flavor of Onigiri Senbei: Ginshari and lightness of Natural Yeast Bread: Hokkaido Cream also pair well with pilsner.
Brown ales aren’t as extreme as some of the other beers on this list. This beer isn't especially bitter or hoppy and features hints of chocolate and/or coffee—although not as much as a porter or stout.
Brown ales do pair well with sweet and savory flavors, including hearty, spicy snacks and nutty sweets. Mala Agesen Fried Rice Crackers bring some heat, while treats like Chestnut Drum Manju, Golden Financier Cake, and Maple Butter Cookies compliment the sweeter undertones of brown ale.
Sour beers utilize wild yeast while brewing, leading to beverages ranging in flavor from acidic to tart. You’ll want snacks with big, bold flavors to stand up to the tartness of sour beers.
The puffed rice cracker and peanut mix of Ebi Crunch makes a great compliment to sour beers. The sweet, savory, peppery, and tangy flavors of Dondon Yaki make another perfect pairing. Finally, there’s the spicy kick of Onigiri Senbei Wasabi.
American lagers are pale in color and relatively mild in flavor. They are generally sip-able and pair well with salty, savory foods.
Some of our favorite munchies to pair with American lagers include Funwari Meijin Mochi Puffs: Hokkaido Cheese, puffed Red Snapper Crackers, and umami-rich Takoyaki Tei Corn Puffs.
There are no hard set rules when it comes to beer pairings, but knowing which snacks could compliment your preferred brew can elevate the whole experience. From savory chips and crackers to sweet treats, Japanese snacks pair well with many types of beer.