Thursday, 29 September 2016

Highbury - The Home Of Beer

Today a pub which, if it was in London would be a very divisive place, but perhaps doesn't have the same effect in Japan. Highbury, as you may have guessed, is a British style beer pub with a big Arsenal influence. Although there is definitely still something here for you if you have no interest in football. If you are a Tottenham fan though, you might find it a bit testing. Don’t confuse it with one of the many British or sports pubs around Tokyo as the place is very serious about its beer, evidenced by the fact that they will start brewing some time soon (hopefully) with their new ‘Gunners Brewing’ venture. Ando-san, probably known to some of you from his time at Bay Brewing or more recently working at the Hitachino Nest Brew Lab will be making the beers, drawing on his experience of working at breweries in the Czech Republic and more recently Thornbridge. The Thornbridge connection is in full display in the decor and the beer selection at Highbury too.

- Very much a British pub feel. Seating for around 16 at tables, a few standing tables and a standing counter too. To keep the British feel going, you order at the end of the bar and pay as you go. Food seemed like a mix of traditional pub food and some Japanese stuff. Didn't try it, but it looked nice.
- 11 taps, set out on the menu and blackboard as a football team line-up would be. The centre backs are not so interesting for craft beer lovers as they are Sapporo and Ebisu but the other nine taps are craft beer and are dominated by Thornbridge beers (five taps). The other four are made up with a couple of Hitachino Nest beers (one on handpump) and a couple of Ushi Tora beers. The logos for these breweries are painted on the outside of the building so I guess there will always be beers from these breweries on. Although this will probably change a little when they start brewing their own stuff.
- Beer is served in a variety of sizes. The Thornbridge stuff is available in half (UK half), medium (US pint, I think) and pint (UK pint) and is priced at ¥750, ¥1000 and ¥1200 respectively. The Japanese craft is available in half and pint too (¥800 and ¥1000) but the more special beers (including Hitachino Nest barrel aged beers), are just sold in one size and, judging by the menu, in a fancy glass. It's a nice touch that they have what is coming up next on the menu, so you know what to expect. No cover charge and tax included.
- Also a big bottle cellar with a big variety of styles, breweries and countries available, (US, Belgian and others) with some very interesting stuff there. Not sure how they are priced as I just peaked through the window, but it certainly shows that you have somewhere else to turn when you have exhausted the tap list.
- Just round the corner from Bamboo and from the two Vector places, so good chance for a nice pub crawl in a small area (if you don't mind the cover charge at Vector).

So, a new place with something that sets it apart from many of the other newly opened bars around. I think I'll be back here to drink Thornbridge some time, as whilst you see it around in some bars, you don't get it in such quantities in one place. The interesting bottle selection also sets it apart. It's clear that there is a real passion for beer here, something that is not present in all of the places I've been to for this blog, sadly. The daytime opening is a big plus too. A nice place that is recommended unless you are a sensitive Tottenham fan, but even then, there's still something here for you if you can get over the one small sticking point.

Japanese breweries seen on tap:
Hitachino Nest
Ushi Tora

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 15:00-23:00

Saturday 13:00-23:00
Sunday, 13:00-21:00

Location/Map:

新宿 1-17-5, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo



Telephone: 
070-6456-1080 
 

Links:
Website
Facebook
Ratebeer listing

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Craft & Romance


This post will be a bit of a weird one as I have had this on my list to visit for a while as I had heard great things about it. In the meantime, one of my generous helpers, popped in there and sent me a few notes. So, I’ll state the facts about the place and then let you know what both James and I thought about the place individually. This seems fair as I had a slightly negative experience as you will see later, but it’s one which would probably only affect a tiny percentage of people, so I think it’s fair to get someone else’s opinion too. We have also each provided a photo, one of the entrance at street level and one of the bar entrance on the seventh floor, both equally bad (hope you don't mind me saying this James!).


- As usual with Craftsman bars, has a slightly fancy yet comfortable feel to it with plenty of seating, this time packed into a fairly small space. All in all it probably seats around 50 and most of it is at tables, with a couple of tiny counters. There isn’t a bar, the taps are along one wall, so you can sit with staff pouring beers behind your back. A pretty unique experience! Also, very nice small terrace seating 16 with views of the tops of buildings and the train station. Think it is much nicer than I made it sound. No smoking too.
- 31 taps, 28 of which are craft beer, the majority being Japanese stuff. Menu is divided by style and there are a decent mix of beer types and breweries. Small is ¥500 and regular ¥800, probably about 250ml and US pint. Beer flight of three 150ml glasses for ¥1050 isn't the greatest deal if you are looking for value for money, but works pretty well if you are looking to try a few things. ¥300 cover charge and tax is added on at the end, but we were able to get over cover charge waived if we ‘liked’ their Facebook page. Unfortunately we forgot to do so.
- Usual Craftsman food menu with an emphasis on pizza in this branch. Many people rave about how good the Craftsman chain’s food is.
- Fantastically late opening hours for a place of this kind. Very welcome!

James said:
"Better beer menu than Craft Beer Market… great beer flight… the outdoor terrace is pretty cool too…had a thoroughly enjoyable time and staggered out at 2am.  I walked the 6km back to my place partly to sober up and partly because even the night bus had gone. Late opening is great but you really need to live locally. Pretty sure I'll be back."

I am broadly in agreement with him, but as usual my problem was the food. I’m not complaining about a lack of vegetarian options as after all we are in Japan, but we were informed that a salad was ‘vegetables only’ and it contained bacon. It wasn’t a language difference as we were speaking Japanese and I was with a native speaker. The squid ink margherita pizza was back again too. The small amount of vegetarian items they had were delicious though, but I think I would have really enjoyed the experience a lot more if it wasn’t for the same food problems as Yokohama. Beer pouring was great though, (unlike Yokohama). Out of the three I’ve been to, Sendai is out in first place, Craft & Romance in the middle, purely for the food problem and Yokohama very far behind.

So thanks to James, you have some balance. The opening hours are amazing, it’s nice they let you off the otoshi (at least at the moment anyway, and at least if you remember to do it) and the beer selection and prices are decent. They publish their taplist on their Facebook page daily so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. They were pretty busy on the day we went though, so unless you’re heading there at a strange time it might be worth booking.
 

Japanese breweries seen on tap:
Baird

Harvestmoon
Hideji
Hitachino Nest
Ise Kadoya
Loco
North Island
Oh La Ho
Romantic Village
Shiga Kogen
Swan Lake
Ushi Tora

Opening Hours:
Monday-Thursday, 17:00-01:00

Friday, 17:00-03:00
Saturday 11:00-03:00
Sunday, 11:00-00:00

Location/Map:
 
吉祥寺南町1-5-3, KICHIJOJI PIATTO 7F, Musashino-shi, Tokyo




Telephone: 
0422-24-6170
 

Links:

Website
Facebook
Ratebeer listing
Twitter

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Beer Cafe Vertere


I have been looking forward to visiting Vertere for a while, mainly because of their unique location in the mountains, two hours out of Tokyo, but actually still in Tokyo. I actually didn’t realise until fairly recently that they had now started making their own beer and this, along with a nice Silver Week holiday from my work gave me the perfect reason to make the trip. To be honest, it wasn’t actually that bad. The change of train at Ome is very easy and the times link up nicely if you chose the right trains. Probably worth taking a book though as until you get to Ome, the scenery is not very exciting. After Ome though the train winds its way through a valley up to the town of Okutama. There is apparently lots of nice hiking around here, but we settled for having a quick look off the side of a couple of bridges and then went to Vertere shortly after opening. 


As suggested above the place has a great location. It’s half way up a mountain next to a river (you might be able to see it if you are in the garden and stretch a little, but as the weather was bad, we were sitting indoors so can’t really say for sure). The building looks a bit like a converted house and the seating area with a counter for four and tables for about 30 is light and airy with plenty of wood. There is also a nice garden with seating for probably about the same which I’m sure would be great in the summer. When we visited they had a small photo exhibition on too, which is another thing to look at whilst enjoying your beers.

They have a total of ten taps, divided into three categories, Prototype (five taps), Experimental (two taps) and Guest (three taps). The first seems to be their regular beers (Golden, Session IPA, Red IPA, Weizen and Cream), being tweaked batch by batch. As at the Bakushu Kobo places, the batch number is noted on the menu. The experimental section seems to be their seasonal beers. Sadly there were none on when we visited. The guests were all US imports but they did seem to be interesting ones. Beers are served in two sizes which I would say are in the region of 300ml and UK pint. Their own beers range from ¥500-¥700 for the small and ¥900-¥1300 for the large. I have to say that I really enjoyed some of their beers. All were pleasant but some were great. Impressive considering that they have started fairly recently. The imports were all ¥800 and ¥1500. The prices don’t seem to be the cheapest but you have to remember that the serving size is a little larger than some other places. And I certainly didn’t mind paying a little extra for the experience. They also sell growlers and do growler fills. Not sure how these are priced though. Along with the beer, they have a nice range of pub meals and snacks. You pay as you go with food and drink, ordering at the bar and with no running up a tab. Naturally, tax is included and there is no cover charge.



As you can probably guess, given the amount of photos in this post, the whole experience was probably as important as the beer for me. It was really nice to get out into the mountains, even if I restricted myself to looking at them through the window, and I am really happy that this place exists. I will definitely be back again, maybe in a few different seasons. I would imagine this would look pretty nice in Winter too! Not sure how their opening hours work in different seasons though, so I would suggest that you check their Facebook page in advance of making the trip. The post their monthly opening hours on there, so if you are planning on visiting during the week, I’d definitely check first. All in all, a great experience and one that I’m definitely going to repeat soon.

Japanese breweries seen on tap:
Vertere

Opening Hours:
Variable. Each month they post the month's hours on their facebook page as a photo, so check it out there.

Location/Map:
 
奥多摩町氷川 212, Nishitama, Tokyo



Telephone: 
0428-85-8590
 

Links:

Website
Facebook
Ratebeer listing
Twitter

Monday, 26 September 2016

CraftBeer Cafe & Bar Synchronicity


I visited Synchronicity ages ago, back in the Spring and was intending to pop in to Living the same night and combine them in one post. Sadly Living was closed for a private party that night and I have only now managed to finally visit it. Ironically, after having the Synchronicity photo and details sitting on my computer for so long, I have now decided to revamp the tags on this blog (coming soon…) and now am going to post most places separately in order to not confuse matters. Nevertheless, it feels good that the two places (which as far as I know have absolutely no connection, other than the fact that I intended to visit them both the same night) can now be united and sit next to each other in the list of posts on this blog. Anyway, guess this is not the most relevant intro, so I won’t waste any more time and will get on with telling you what you need to know.

- Another Kannai bar, very close to Bay Brewing and Antenna America on that side of the train tracks and consequently another option for a Kannai crawl.
- Feels more like a pub than some of the new fancier bars and that’s a good point for me. Quite comfortable with a counter for around ten and seats for maybe 20 more. Unfortunately, smoking is allowed.
- Eight taps of craft beer, for some reason added to the menu in an apparently random number order. All Japanese craft and a mix of the more common names around with a couple you don’t see so often. Beers served in three sizes, S (280ml), M (360ml) and L (568ml), priced from ¥500-¥700 (S), ¥650-¥900 (M) and ¥900-¥1300 (L), so not too bad prices at all (remember the UK pint here is much bigger than usual US pints). No cover charge and tax included in the prices.

And that’s about it. The details are hazy as it has been a while since my visit and my notes were restricted to a couple of lines and a photo of the beer menu. When writing this post I noticed that their beer line up is posted on their Facebook daily and by the looks of some recent posts they get some pretty good stuff on tap here! Have a look for yourself and pop in and see. Their website doesn’t seem to really be working very well, but according to their Facebook they have lengthy opening hours which includes the daytime. Hooray!

Japanese breweries seen on tap:
Johana

Hansharo
Takikawa
Minoh
Tainai Kogen
Shiga Kogen
Outsider

Opening Hours:
Thursday-Tuesday, 12:00-02:00

Closed Wednesday

Location/Map:
 
福富町東通 1-7-9, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa-ken

 

Telephone: 
045-315-2532

Links:
Website
Facebook
Ratebeer listing

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Living Craft Beer Bar


It took me a while to finally make it here after my first attempted visit was thwarted by a private party. Living is maybe the closest craft beer place to Yamashita Koen, so isn’t quite in Kannai, bar centre of Yokohama, but is still pretty close in the whole scheme of things.

- Bit of a classy atmosphere to it. Long room which basically consists of a counter seating about ten and some private style rooms at the back with tables for maybe 15-20 more. Nice design and feel to it. Particularly enjoyed gazing at the wall of 1980’s CDs, for nostalgic rather than musical reasons. The music being played was probably from a decade or so earlier though.
- Ten taps of Japanese craft beer. Pretty good line up to be honest. Nice mix of local stuff and beers from some of my favourite breweries round Japan. Same price for all beers, three sizes, ¥600 (230ml), ¥900 (350ml) and ¥1200 (500ml). So, not the cheapest of places. They do offer a beer flight though! Chose any three beers and get 120ml servings of each for ¥1000. No cover charge but tax is added on at the end.

I visited Living at opening time on a holiday afternoon (photo was from my first unsuccessful visit in case you were wondering) and really enjoyed the experience. The beer flight is a good opportunity to try lots of stuff without getting totally smashed and is something of a rarity in Yokohama, as far as I can remember. Sure, it’s a little pricier than other places around, but they do offer a nice selection of beers and the atmosphere is nice and relaxed.

Japanese breweries seen on tap:
Brimmer

Fujizakura Kogen
Hideji
Hitachino Nest
Kazakami
Kaze No Tani
Rokko
Y Market
Yamaguchi
Yokohama

Opening Hours:

Monday-Friday, 17:00-00:00
Saturday & Holidays, 15:00-24:00
Closed Sunday

Location/Map:

山下町24-7, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa-ken



Telephone: 
045-662-3938

Links:

Website
Facebook
Ratebeer listing
Twitter

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Beer Garage 87


 Today, the first of a few posts that will come in quick succession. The Silver Week holiday has given me an opportunity to tick a few places off the backlog, which incidentally is still totally out of control. There is a bit of a Yokohama theme to a few of these posts so I'll put those ones out first. This one is in an area that I visited for the first time, not too far out of the centre but a bit off the beaten track. So, if you're in the area, Beer Garage 87 is your best bet.

- Small place, standing mainly but with a couple of old armchairs. Not sure if they are decoration or for sitting on, but I guess most people stand here. Visited right at opening time so it was quiet, but I got the impression that it could get a bit lively in the evening! Be warned though, smoking is allowed.
- Ten taps, but maybe only four or five of interest to craft beer drinkers. Beers are served in glasses of around 350ml I'd guess for ¥800. Aside from these taps of Japanese craft, the others are macro. No cover charge and tax is included.
- Very friendly master who I enjoyed talking to. As it always seems with one man bars, they are always a fun place to visit.
- Bit in the middle of nowhere, but you can walk pretty easily from Oguchi, Koyasu or Shin-Koyasu stations.

So, that's about it. I think it's always nice to support a small independent bar as the scene, particularly in Tokyo is starting to get dominated by chains and companies who have several different themed beer bars. One man bars are the way to go! There are definitely places with bigger taplists around, but not in this immediate area and it's a fun place to visit, so please pop in if you are passing. 

Japanese breweries seen on tap:
Iwatekura

Hansharo
Helios
Hideji
Rokko

Opening Hours:
Daily, 16:00-23:00, but best to check the calendar on their facebook as they close on various days occasionally

Location/Map:

入江 1-33-28, Kanagawa-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa-ken



Telephone: 
045-710-0884
 

Links:

Facebook
Ratebeer listing
Twitter

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Titans Craft Beer Taproom & Bottle Shop


Post by James

Titans is a Taproom and bottle shop that has just opened right next to Otsuka station. It is a collaboration between two beer importers AQ Bevolution and Beer Cats.
Titans has three floors. The first floor has the counter and large fridges. There is one small table and standing space. The second floor, while not tatami, is a take your shoes off and relax on cushions space. The third floor is conventional seating and there is room for at least 25 people.
There are ten taps which are posted daily on Facebook. These are mostly their own American imports. As Titans is run by two importers, the taps almost all non-Japanese. Beers come in two sizes. The smaller size is ¥800 and comes in a nicely shaped glass. I guess it is at least half a pint (300ml I have heard). The large size is ¥1400 yen but it is big (750ml), think Izakaya daijoki. This is a place where you can certainly drink like a Titan!
There is also a very interesting and big selection of bottles (all imports). Unusually, customers can choose take-out or drink-in. Prices for take-out are written on the fridge. If you drink-in you pay this retail price plus an extra ¥300 for regular bottles and ¥500 for large bottles.
Food is very limited, just bar snacks and nice gyoza. However, you are welcome to bring in food from outside. Staff will even recommend neighbourhood shops that do take-away. Titans really seems to try to be part of the community and support local shops. The coffee comes from Riddle which is a stone's throw away.
Thanks to Titans the Otsuka area now has a lot more to offer craft beer lovers and I will certainly be visiting more often.

Japanese breweries seen on tap:
Ise Kadoya

Opening Hours:
Daily, 15:00-23:00

Location/Map:
南大塚 3-53-7, Toshima-ku, Tokyo


Telephone:
03-5904-9531
 

Links:
 

Website
Facebook
Ratebeer listing