Sunday, 14 May 2017

Brussels Beer Project Shinjuku

FYI, this place has opened on the site of the former Cafe Hoegaarden. I have kept the original post by James below if you are interested in reading that.

2017 seems to be shaping up to be the year of new taprooms in Tokyo. Not long after the opening of the new Mikkeller bar in Shibuya, the fairly new Belgian brewery Brussels Beer Project have taken over the old Cafe Hoegaarden site in between Yoyogi and Shinjuku, just up the hill from YYG. I never made it to Cafe Hoegaarden, but somehow found myself visiting Brussels Beer Project Shinjuku (hereafter referred to as BBPS), very soon after opening. What a difference a name makes! As a big Belgian beer fan, I was a bit put off by somewhere that named itself after one of the more uninteresting Belgian beers. Whilst I'm not sure how I feel about BBP yet, (they're only fairly new after all!), there is definitely a bigger incentive for me to visit this place after it's rebranding. I'm not sure if there is any connection to the Brussels chain of Belgian bars that ran Cafe Hoegaarden. BBPS doesn't appear on their website but it wouldn't be the first time that apparently unrelated places have a hidden connection. And I did spot someone in the facebook photos which would suggest that there is some kind of link. Anyway, enough of the preamble and on with the details.

- Seems to be a very similar layout to the old place. On the first floor, a counter for maybe 10, couple of small tables at the back. Didn't go upstairs but there seemed to be a few people up there and tabelog lists the official capacity as being 58, so there's obviously a bit of room. Decor is the usual bare concrete and bit of wood, but this time decorated with the bright colours of the various BBP beer labels. 
- 18 taps, 11 of which were BBP beers. Of these, five were regulars and six seasonals and collaborations. The remaining seven taps were Japanese Craft Beers with some kind of Belgian connection or feel. Serving sizes are a mystery. There are two sizes, the small probably being around 200-250ml and the large being a Teku glass being filled with probably about 350ml of beer. Just guessing at these sizes though. BBP regulars are priced at ¥700 and ¥950 respectively with the seasonals being ¥800 and ¥1050. Guest beers have a bit more of a price range, ¥700-¥880 and ¥1000-¥1200. The Japanese guests featured some pretty good selections, featuring interesting stuff like Yorocco, Kyoto and Zakko. They also had AJB on but I can't decide if that's a good or bad thing recently. Not sure if these interesting guests will continue or whether they were specials on for the opening events. 
- Pretty busy on the Saturday early evening we visited, but like I said, it was quite soon after opening. The atmosphere was pretty good with a wide range of customers in. Their playlist seemed to consist entirely of 80's ad 90's pop hip-hop which was a little surprising. Pleasingly, it's no smoking and there is no cover charge! They also serve food and the menu seems to be a mix of typical Japanese Craft Beer bar food with a slight nod towards Belgium. I was very very happy to see that they had samurai sauce available to order with the frites. It's been a while samurai sauce!

I was actually quite surprised how much I liked this place. As I said, I'm still not completely decided about their beers. I like them, but sometimes feel that they are being 'crazy' for the sake of it. However, everything I drank on the night of my visit was pretty good. It's good to see that there's no cover charge. Very welcome! I wish they would print the sizes of their servings on the menu though. It would make everything a lot more transparent. As it is, using only my limited skills of estimation, I think that their beers are pretty decent value, but that the Japanese guests are priced a little higher than elsewhere. I think this place could potentially have a recommended star on here, but I want to see how things settle down after a few months and could do with a clarification on the serving sizes. If anyone knows, please let me know. Also, they intend to have a bottle selection, which isn't up and running yet, but which could make it even more interesting. In any case, it's definitely worth stopping in if you are a fan of Belgian beers, or given that their beers run the gamut of styles, maybe if you are a fan of any kind of beer.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Kyoto
Ushitora
Far Yeast
AJB
Barabaric
Zakko
Yorocco

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 17:00-24:00
Saturday, 15:00-24:00
Sunday, 15:00-22:00

Location/map:
代々木 2-20-16, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo



Telephone:
03-5388-5523

Links:
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Website
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Post by James on the former incarnation, Cafe Hoegaarden

Cafe Hoegaarden is in the same street and only 30 seconds away from YYG. It is a two-storey building and looks pretty cool from the outside. The first floor has a counter with seven seats and a few tables and standing space. I didn't go up to the 2nd floor this time, but I once went to a year-end-party on the 2nd floor and 35 of us fitted in easily so it is quite big. Both floors are non-smoking. They have the usual Frites with Mayonnaise and a lot more besides. The food was good.
There are 18 beers on tap. When I went one tap was Mikkeler and the other 17 were Belgian style beers. Nearly all were from Belgium but there was a Swiss beer and a French one too. The beers are split into the following categories: White, Trappist, Abbey, Saison, Lambic, Red, Golden Strong, Specials, Pilsner and Fruits. However, the majority were white beers when I was in. There are also bottles available.
Prices are a bit difficult to summarize as many beers are served in non-standard glasses and these are priced differently. The standard size is 250ml and it costs ¥900-¥950. Not cheap, but Belgian beer seldom is in Tokyo. There is also a four beer taster set for ¥1680 (not sure what size the glasses are). There was no charge and I don't think tax was added onto the bill either. 
Overall, it's expensive but a good place if Belgian beer on tap is your thing.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Mikkeller Tokyo


Mikkeller is back in Japan. After numerous pop-ups they are back in a premises of their own and back in the heart of Shibuya. Although this time it's a quite different part of Shibuya, over the other side of Bunkamura to the old branch, in what is a very 'unique and interesting' neighbourhood. Previous to Mikkeller opening, the only times I had been to Dogenzaka were for gigs at the O-Nest. This area is very much a night life zone, with lots of restaurants, little bars, music venues and hotels where you can have a 'rest' if you find that you and your significant other suddenly find yourselves needing a lie down. The concept of the bar is fairly similar to last time, but in case you never made it there, here's what you need to know.


- Very nice looking place with lots of wood and bare concrete as you would expect. I may be biased but I think it's been done in a much classier way than usual here compared to the many other bars around that employ the same materials. The ground floor houses the bar, a few standing tables and a big wide windowsill that opens out into the street, allowing people to sit on both the inside and the street-side of it. Upstairs there are a variety of tables. Three small ones for two or three, a large table that can seat probably around 10 or maybe a few more if you budge up a bit and what is referred to as 'the best seat in the house', a table for three in the corner by the window, looking out at both the shrine and the love hotel. Something for everyone there I guess.
- 20 taps, unsurprisingly dominated by Mikkeller beers. When I visited for the second time there were three of the house beers (the ones that usually take on the name of the area the bar is in). This time they are called 'Toriaezu ____' which is quite a nice touch from a naming perspective. Hats off to whoever thought of that.  The beers are in a wide range of styles as you'd expect from a brewery like Mikkeller, but there are plenty that will please the kind of craft beer lover that rarely strays from IPAs and similar stuff. In addition to these, they had a few taps of Japanese craft, a couple of European imports and an interesting sake on. Most beers are served in two sizes, 200ml and 400ml. Some of the higher alcohol beers, the barrel aged stuff and the sour beers come only in the smaller of the two sizes. It's difficult to sum up the pricing in an all-encompassing way but I'll do my best. The house beers are ¥550 and ¥950 for the two sizes. The more regular Mikkeller stuff ranges from ¥600-¥750 and ¥1100-¥1300 for small and large respectively. The wilder stuff mentioned above ranges from ¥900-¥1300 for the smaller size. The Japanese stuff is priced around ¥750 and ¥1300.
-  As you'd expect with a place that is focused on beer, it's no smoking. You can smoke outside round the corner a bit, I guess so that the smoke drifts away rather than in through the big open front window. They also have wifi as you would expect. Unlike the last place there is a kitchen and they have employed a baker to bake on site but not sure if that is completely in full swing yet. Sure it will be soon though.


I guess there's not much else that I need to say about this place. You can probably tell that I am a fan. It's not going to be somewhere I go every night as I think I'd be broke and broken pretty quickly if I did that, as some of the beers here are not to be messed with. It's a nice treat though and the afternoon opening hours are very welcome. I think it's definitely a step up from the last bar and although it's taken a while for them to reopen, it seems like it's been worth the wait. As it's Mikkeller, there are automatically going to be people with strong opinions both ways about it, as they have their extreme lovers and their extreme detractors. Personally speaking, I think it's offering something that isn't available elsewhere in Tokyo and therefore a very welcome addition. I guess most people reading this will want to check it out sooner or later and will form their own opinions, but it's certainly not a place that can really be ignored.

Japanese breweries available on tap:
Hansharo
Yorocco
Shonan
TDM 1874
Shiga Kogen

Opening Hours:
Monday-Thursday, 15:00-00:00
Friday, 15:00-01:00
Saturday, 12:00-01:00
Sunday & holidays, 12:00-00:00

Location/Map:

道玄坂 2-19-11, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo


Telephone:
03-6427-0793
 

Links:
Website

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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Brewin' Bar Monde


Brewin' Bar Monde is a place that has been open for quite a while but has gone under the radar of most beer lovers it seems. However, it has recently caught the attention of a few people, including myself, because it has started brewing. Brewpubs are still a bit of a rarity in Tokyo, and I have an unwritten policy which I think I usually stick too, (please correct me if I'm wrong...) that if a place is a brewpub, it is worth a write up on here. It seems that recently there seem to have been a spate of brewpubs that don't actually brew yet. I can confirm that Brewin' Bar Monde is definitely brewing. Whether or not this is a good thing, I'm not so sure. But anyway, here's what you need to know.

- Basement bar situated on a side street between Shinbashi and Ginza. This is not an area well known for its abundance of craft beer places. There is a counter for seven and tables for around 25 more. The decor is kind of what you would expect in Ginza. Much more traditional bar style rather than the wood and concrete we've got used to recently. Slightly bizarrely, it opens in the daytime but after lunch, which is a first for me.
- Eight taps of craft beer, half of which were their own creations. Beer is served in three sizes, half, US pint and UK pint. Pricing is high, possibly as you'd expect for the area, but a little bit painful all the same. Their own beers are, from smallest to largest, ¥800, ¥1200 and ¥1500. There's also a flight of all four of their beers for ¥2000, but there wasn't any sign of how big the servings might be. Guest beers are mostly from the usual Japanese craft breweries and cost ¥1000, ¥1400 and ¥1800. So I guess you can see that we're talking possibly one of the most expensive places on this blog. Tax is added at the end too, so it's even pricier than it looks above.
- During the daytime there's no cover charge, but after 17:00 you can add another ¥500 per person to your total. Those costs just keep going up! Also it's a smoking place. We were fortunate to visit in the daytime when the place was empty, so avoided the cover charge and any smokiness, but I guess these could both be something that puts people off. They do have wifi though!

So a place which I have some reservations on including. I guess their rent is high, but the prices are just crazy. If you are desperate to try their beers, I suggest that you go when you won't have to pay the cover and I might also suggest that you give them a little while as it seemed they were still getting to grips with brewing. Given that they've been around for a while it seems that they are not just riding the craft beer bandwagon. At the same time, the fact that they've been around for a while but have gone under most people's radars does speak for itself a little.

Japanese breweries available on tap:
Brewin' Bar Monde
Ushitora
Fujizakura
Preston
Obihiro

Opening Hours:
Monday-Saturday, 14:00-23:00
Closed Sunday & holidays

Location/Map:
銀座 8-11-12 B1, Chuo-ku, Tokyo



Telephone:
03-3574-7004

Links:
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Saturday, 29 April 2017

Good Sleep Baker


Today a quick post on somewhere that had previously appeared on my digest post but now has a full entry on here. Good Sleep Baker is a bar with bakery upstairs in an area that I didn't really have anything on my Tokyo Beer Drinker map. It's within about a 20 minute walk of Umegaoka's Taptime which I visited before Good Sleep Baker on a walking pub crawl one very rainy Saturday evening. In case you were interested, I went to Small World and Awashima afterwards. Here's what you need to know.

- Nice feel to the place. Quite small, but doesn't feel cramped. Two counters, one at the bar and one against the wall, both seating around six. There is some standing room too. The ground floor houses the bar, which also sells some food items, including bread from the bakery upstairs. I should have tried it but unfortunately I didn't. Sorry!
- Three taps of Japanese craft beer. The menu displays six, but the bottom three are what is coming on next. Beers are served in pint and half pint (both US I think) and are priced from ¥1000-¥1200 and ¥600-¥700 respectively. You pay for your drinks and any food you order as you go at the counter. Whilst there weren't any mind-blowingly unusual or rare things available, the selection steers clear of the kind of 'cheap kegs' that you find in many places recently.
- There's no cover charge and the place is no smoking. Both very welcome! The clientele appeared to be mainly locals who I guess have been waiting for somewhere to drink beer and eat bread to open in their area for a while. Lucky them!

I liked this place. Whilst you are unlikely to find anything here you won't find anywhere else, it's a nice place to drink your way through the tap list. The prices are round about what you might expect and it seems to be a locally run and locally patronised place, which I always think is a good thing. Some people might think that it doesn't deserve a full write up from what I've said, but I like beer and bread, and I enjoyed my time here. It also fills a nice gap on the map. I imagine I will repeat the same pub crawl again some time in the near future.

Japanese breweries available on tap:
Baeren
Minoh
North Island
Harvestmoon
Swan Lake

Opening Hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday, 17:00-01:00
Sunday, 15:00-23:00
Closed Wednesday

Location/Map:
世田谷 4-13-20, Setagaya, Tokyo



Telephone:
050-7128-3201

Links:
Website
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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Cafe & Craft Beer Asaya


Today, the other place that I went to in Fuchu. You can check out the post on Beer House Ken here and I would recommend that if you're in the area, you do both of these places in a mini crawl. Much like Beer House Ken, Asaya doesn't have the largest selection compared to some other places in Tokyo, but it is a nice option if you're in the area and you want to support some local places. I have to say, I quite enjoyed my visit and if I'm out that way again, I wouldn't hesitate to pay a second visit. Here's what you need to know.

- Narrow bar with quite a modern feel. Counter for around five or six and tables for about 20 more. Feels quite spacious and a little different from other craft beer places in Tokyo. Has more of a cafe vibe in that it's quite bright and is nicely decorated with lots of little knick-knacks. Even though I was the only person there shortly after opening on a Friday, it had a nice feel to it. No smoking too. The master was very keen to chat and was a very nice guy. He recommended Beer House Ken to me, which I was actually already planning to go to, but it's good to see the local places sticking together!
- Five taps of Japanese craft, served in three sizes. All beers were priced the same. Half was 260ml for ¥650, regular was 410ml for ¥880 and pint was the UK size, 560ml for ¥1100. So pretty decent pricing! Also these prices include tax and there is no cover charge. Wonderful! The selection included a few breweries you don't see around so often which is good if you are into trying new things.
- Had a food menu and an interesting looking kitchen, but I didn't eat as I was on a bit of a tight schedule. Actually, it seems I always am recently...

There's probably not much else that I can add from my brief visit, but I think I've covered most of the important points. Be sure to check the opening times before you go as I think there is some seasonal variation of opening hours. I think the hours I have put below though are the more conservative ones, so hopefully you'll find it's open more often than you thought, rather than the reverse. I think it's important to support places like these, which seem much more like a labour of love than the numerous chains (and hidden chains) that dominate the Tokyo bar scene now.

Japanese breweries available on tap:
Loco
Tokorozawa
Minoh
Kazakami
Zumona

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Friday, 17:00-22:00
Saturday, 16:00-22:00
Closed Sunday & Monday

Location/Map:
宮西町5-4-3, Fuchu-shi, Tokyo



Telephone:
042-302-0388

Links:
Website
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Sunday, 9 April 2017

Beer House Ken


Today, the first of a couple of places I visited in Fuchu. Beer House Ken has been on my radar for a while but I have never had the chance to visit until now. It's another one of those beer shops where you can drink on site, which I always find quite fun. Unfortunately, as I was in a bit of a hurry and was by myself, I didn't drink anything there. But I was able to pick up a couple of beers to take away. Here's the basics. By the way, don't be put off if it looks like it's closed. The view you see in the picture above shows what the place looks like when they are open.

- World beer shop with about six fridges of beers of various styles and from various countries. Predominately imports, with lots of Belgian, German, US and Scandinavian stuff. There is a handful of Japanese craft beer available (including loads of different Baird beers), but imports are the name of the game here. Prices are pretty much as you'd expect. Also has some glassware for sale.
- Has the feel of a small warehouse/garage with a corner taken up by the office and till and the rest of it being fridges of beer with a couple of little tables and stools for on site drinking. There is no charge to drink on site, which is pretty unusual for these kind of places. I guess realistically though, it's not the kind of place you would really spend a few hours. Probably more a case of have a beer whilst you're browsing, or after you have purchased before you go home.

I guess there's not really much else to say as the concept is pretty self-evident. Certainly there are places around that have bigger selections, but Beer House Ken is a nice place to pick up some good beers if you are in the area and can be easily combined with a trip to Asaya, which will be the next post after this one.

Japanese breweries available:
Yo-ho
Baird
Hitachino Nest
Oh La Ho

Opening Hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday, 12:00-22:30
Sunday & holidays, 12:00-21:00
Closed Wednesday

Location/Map:
宮町2-3-8, Fuchu-shi, Tokyo



Telephone:
042-369-7710

Links:
Website
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Saturday, 8 April 2017

Craft Beer House Kiwi


Post by Iain

This one man operation has six counter seats facing the street for people watching, plus ten table seats. There is a ¥200 cover charge and beer-wise, the selection is given as Wheat, IPA, Barley Wine, Extra, Edelpils, but in practice Wheat often translates as a pilsner, and Barley wine might be a Stout. Extra tends to be something above 10% and is served only in a smallish size. When I was there the beers were Gotemba Kogen Sakura Hime, Shonan Simcoe IPA, Kyoto Brewing Tomin kara no Mezame Stout (although they had just run out and switched to the local-ish Mitaka Imperial IPA), and for the Extra, Baird Ganko Oyaji. Prices were ¥470 or ¥560 for a glass, and ¥890/980 for a tumbler.


Overall I liked the vibe here a lot, enough so that although I don't live in Takaido I would happily stop off for an afternoon beer on the way up or down the Inokashira line. The BGM was folky but unobtrusive, and the winter food menu was curry, gnocchi, fried chicken or fish donburi, and stew. Presumably there will be a Spring menu by the time you read this. Check their website/Twitter for the latest updates.


Kiwi is a No Smoking establishment, and according to the menu they do take out beers in a plastic cup, which could be handy now it is cherry blossom season as the Kanda river is just round the corner.


Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Gotemba Kogen
Cool Air One
Shonan
Baird

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Sunday, 12:00-14:00, 17:00-23:00
Closed Monday

Location/Map:
高井戸東 2-26-2, Suginami-ku, Tokyo



Telephone:
03-5336-3220

Links:
Website
Facebook
Twitter