Friday, 22 July 2016

Craft Beer Baby



Post by Mothy

There was a time I would go to Craft Beer Baby in Urawa 2-3 times a week. Then I had a kid and that number fell to once a week. Then, in December, they closed and it fell to once a month that I would walk past their shuttered shop and mournfully sigh. But in May they reopened, and there was much rejoicing in my home.
Before closing it had been around, I think, 4 or 5 years, so maybe some of you have been before. For those people, there are some differences now. First, and most inevitably, the atmosphere is different. The staff is completely new, and staff have such a big effect on atmosphere that in many ways it feels like a different bar. I should stress the new staff is good. Just as a former regular, it feels weird.
Second, it's now no-smoking. Before they had no-smoking on the second floor and smoking on the first. Now if you smoke, do it outside. There are some other minor changes, but I think for return customers, those are the things that will really stand out.
Now, for the Baby virgins (is that the best way to say that?), what are the details? It's located close to Urawa station in a rather old and somewhat disgusting shopping arcade. The inside of the bar is quite nice, and though small, only feels cramped on the busiest of days. The bar itself is on the 1st floor, which has counter seating for ten and table seating for four. The second floor has table seating for ten. So as you can see, it's not a big place. But for Saitama, it's big enough. The food is good, but not great, with some interesting menu items.
Now, the most important part, the beer. They have ten taps, but usually only have eight on. The beers are predominantly Japanese craft, with an occasional import or something upscale from one of the Japanese macrobreweries. The breweries represented are some of the better known and well respected breweries, so it's rare to find something you've never tried before, but it's also rare to get a real stinker that you instantly regret ordering.
Prices are no bargain, but seem close to standard. ¥1000-¥1200 for a US pint, about ¥300 less for the smaller size, which I believe is a half. Import beers, add a couple hundred yen to that. No table charge, but tax is added on after- which is another new thing since the reopen. The beer list is put up on their Facebook page every day, so if you're thinking of going, take a look.
All in all it's a nice place. One drawback is it's in Urawa, so there's a good chance you'll bump into Urawa Reds fans. But try not to make eye contact with them and you should be okay.

Japanese breweries on tap:
Coedo
Outsider
Ise Kadoya
Sankt Gallen
Baird

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Friday, 17:00-01:00
Saturday, 15:00-01:00
Sunday & holidays, 17:00-23:00
Closed Monday

Location/Map:
高砂 2-8-9 ナカギンザビル, Urawa-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama-ken



Telephone: 

048-705-3000
 

Links:
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Website

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Thursday, 21 July 2016

Hamamatsu round-up part 3: Tir Na n-Og

(This post was originally on three different places. They have now been split into individual posts. Click the links for part 1 and part 2)


An Irish bar in Japan that serves Baird beer. Not sure what the Irish part is, apart from the name actually. This is pretty much a Baird taproom with the occasional guest. Managed to quickly squeeze in one of their house beers (made by Baird naturally) as soon as they opened and still get to the match on time.

- Basement bar, so look for the sign on the street. Decor seems pretty standard Japanese craft beer bar rather than any Irish theme pub stuff. Counter for around eight and tables for 12. Nice looking place and the staff were friendly.
- 15 taps, 14 of which were Baird. 12 regulars, their house beer and one seasonal. The other tap was an imported US cider. Beers served in three sizes, pint (US, I guess, but didn't see it), half and taster. Prices for the majority of the beers were ¥850, ¥550 and ¥400 respectively. Suruga Bay was a little more expensive, ¥950, ¥850 (flutelet, which was a stemmed tall glass, probably about 300ml) and ¥450. The strong seasonal by Baird was ¥1000, ¥900 (flutelet) and ¥500 and the cider ¥1100, ¥1000 (flutelet) and ¥550.
- Food menu which we didn't get a chance to investigate.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Baird

Opening Hours:
Monday, Wednesday-Friday, 18:00-23:30
Saturday & Sunday, 15:00-23:30
closed Tuesday and the third Monday of the month

Location/Map:
田町 329-8 B1, Naka-ku, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka-ken



Telephone: 
053-450-6006
 

Links:
Website

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Hamamatsu round-up part 2: Shinnosuke O

(This post was originally on three different places. They have now been split into individual posts. Click the links for part 1 and part 3)


Bookshop/bar combination located very close to both of the central Hamamastu stations. Nice atmosphere and friendly clientele and staff. We only had time for a couple of beers and to buy a couple of books but this was probably my favourite place in Hamamatsu.

- 2nd floor location, look for the sign outside. Fairly spacious but with seating only for 10 at the counter and 12 at tables. Books are scattered round the room on shelves so you can browse them whilst you are drinking.
- Seven taps, but one is Heineken. The other six are mainly Japanese craft but with one Belgian and one US import. Beers served in two (apparently flexible) sizes, regular 400-470ml and half 250-300ml but the pours seemed quite generous. Prices are ¥1080-¥1280 and ¥750-¥950 respectively. Tax is added at the end and they round up to the nearest ¥100, I guess because they don't want to mess around with small change.
- Food available. The pizza menu looked good but unfortunately we didn't have time. Next time!
- Occasionally closed, so best check their blog for their monthly days off. Daytime opening at the weekend.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Preston
Oh La Ho
Beer Hearn/Herun

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Friday, 17:00-23:00
Saturday, Sunday & holidays, 13:00-23:00
closed Monday and some other days too. Check their blog for details.

Location/Map:
鍛治町1-43 2F, Naka-ku, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka-ken




Telephone:
080-6960-9393
 

Links:
Blog

Facebook
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Hamamatsu round-up part 1: Mein Schloss

(This post was originally on three different places. They have now been split into individual posts. Click the links for part 2 and part 3)

Another post about a city mainly centred around a football away day. Hopefully, I will be able to get back to dealing with some of my Tokyo backlog soon. But anyway, Hamamatsu seemed like a nice city and the three places mentioned are all within easy reach of the station (less than 10 minutes walk for all of them). No cover charges anywhere and a bit of daytime opening going on, which is always welcome!


Huge German themed brewery and restaurant serving, unsurprisingly, German style beers and pub food. It's easy to be snotty about these kind of places, but I found it quite fun.

- Massive. No way I could count chairs but it has to be at least a few hundred. Super fast service of beers and food. Food is reasonably priced and the portions are pretty generous.
- Five taps of their beer, four regulars (Helles, Weizen, Alt and Munchener) and one seasonal (when we visited Kölsch). Beer served in three sizes, 300ml, 500ml and 2l. Prices are ¥470, ¥760 and ¥2850 respectively.
- No cover charge and some daytime opening.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Hamamatsu

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 11:00-14:30, 17:00-23:00
Saturday, Sunday & holidays, 11:00-23:00

Location/Map:
中央 3-8-1, Naka-ku, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka-ken



Telephone:
053-452-1146


Links:
Website

Ratebeer entry

Twitter 

Monday, 11 July 2016

Mikkeller Summer Pop-Up (NOW CLOSED)


THIS POP UP IS NOW CLOSED. NEW BAR IN SHIBUYA COMING SOON!

Just a quick post today on the new Mikkeller pop-up in Daikanyama. You may notice that there are more photos and that they are of a higher standard than usual. That's because I forgot to take one and had to ask Hamilton to send me some. Thanks Hamilton!


- Another unique location, this time at the other end of Log Road from Spring Valley. The pop up is basically the outside area of Garden House Crafts, a cafe and bakery and has seating for probably around 20. Hopefully the weather will be good. It's open only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (and holidays) but you once again get daytime opening and it starts early. Beware though, as it closes a little earlier than the previous places did. 
- Six taps of Mikkeller beer with similar prices to the old bar and the old pop up. The house beers and more regular stuff are ¥600 and ¥1000 (small and large being around 200ml and 400ml) and other stronger or sourer or barrel aged stuff is a bit more expensive (¥1000 and upwards and served in only the smaller size). Payment is done by token which you can buy in ¥200 denominations in the cafe itself. So get your tokens before going to the bar. Food is available from the cafe (naturally) so you can keep yourself fueled and in a drinking mood.
- Only around till the 11th September, so if you want to visit, don't hang around. One big plus is the fact that there is much less chance of the building being torn down before the end date than there was in the last place. That was a shame! Hopefully the end of this pop-up could be close to the opening of the new bar, the details of which are being worked on as we speak.


So there you have it. Something to tide you over till the new bar. As usual with Mikkeller bars the experience is a little different from other bars and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours getting destroyed by high strength beers. Next time I go I might explore the contrast between the Mikkeller beers and the Spring Valley stuff at the other end of Log Road. From what I've heard they will probably be significantly different! Sure I'll be back here quite a few times over the next couple of months.

Japanese breweries seen on tap here:
None

Opening Hours:
Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays, 11:00-21:00
Last day September 11th

Location/map:
Garden House Crafts, 代官山町 13-1, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo



Links:
Website
Facebook

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Sendai intermission part 3: Amber Rondo

(This was originally one post rounding up Sendai, but now it has been split into separate entries. The other places are mentioned in part 1 and part 2)

[To see all the Sendai posts on this blog, click here]

 

After Craft Beer Market and Craftsman I really felt like I should be giving some money to an independent bar and as I had heard of Amber Rondo before we thought we'd pop in for one for the road. It's just round the corner from CBM and in the middle of what seemed to be a lively nightlife district. It was definitely the most fun out of all the places we'd visited. They have just celebrated their 8th anniversary so you can see that they were around before a lot of these newer places had even tried their first Yona Yona. Actually, most of the staff member of CBM probably weren't even allowed to drink when Amber Rondo opened. Whilst other places in town have more taps, Amber Rondo has plenty of atmosphere. The master was very keen to talk to us and gave us lots of information about events that were going on or about to happen. We mentioned that we'd come to Sendai for football and I think he presumed we were Vegalta fans. We didn't correct him as we had beaten Vegalta 3-0 that day. If you are reading Amber Rondo master, sorry, we are actually Frontale fans, but we love your bar and your city. Here are the details.

- Around five taps. I'm a bit vague on the details as it was quite 'late'. Was very happy to see some local stuff on. He had two anniversary beers made especially for his bar, one from Aqula and one from Yakurai. The Aqula one was absolutely great. So good we had it twice. Two sizes, 330ml and 500ml, ranging from ¥800-¥880 and ¥1150-¥1280 respectively. Around 50 bottled beers too with an emphasis on German and Belgian stuff. Didn't see the prices. Cover charge of ¥300 for which you can a bowl of bar snacks. In an independent place like this, I don't mind that so much.
- Small and comfortable. Seating for maybe 20 including a small counter. Unfortunately it's smoking friendly which would trouble me more if I came here every week, but given that we were on a trip I didn't mind so much. It does affect your enjoyment of the beer though, I think, especially if you're drinking something subtle. But it more than made up for the smoking by having a great atmosphere.
- It's on the second floor with its windows facing the street. Look for what you see in the picture above and then enter down the corridor on the left and go up to the second floor.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Yakurai
Aqula

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Thursday, 18:00-02:00
Friday-Saturday, 18:00-04:00
Closed Sunday and holidays and some Mondays

Location/Map:
国分町 2-5-7, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi-ken



Telephone:
025-211-5686

Links:
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Sendai intermission part 2: Craft Beer Market Sendai

(This was originally one post rounding up Sendai, but now it has been split into separate entries. The other places are mentioned in part 1 and part 3)

[To see all the Sendai posts on this blog, click here]

 

I think I always say the same thing when I put a new CBM on here so I'll do it again in order not to disappoint you. Another day, another CBM. Actually Sendai has been open a while, but it's obviously a little more tricky to get to for me than the ones in Tokyo. There's probably not a great deal of original things to say about it as these places are very similar in many ways, branch to branch. As usual, I recommend checking the other posts on CBMs to get an idea. I'll go into brief details below about what you need to know though.

The usual stuff:
It has the usual 30 taps of cheap beer in the usual sizes at the usual prices. Most beers are served in two sizes 250ml (¥480) and 473ml (¥780). Barley Wines and stronger beers come in smaller serving sizes at the lower of the two prices. There is a ¥300 cover charge but this is easily covered if you have a few drinks as the prices are pretty cheap. Taplists for all the branches are updated daily on the CBM website. Has the usual CBM decor, lots of wood and stone, and at 10pm on a Saturday night it seemed to be very popular, so get there early or make a booking. [This was pretty much cut and pasted from my last CBM entry].

The differences:
- Sendai's food concept is seafood. The place smells a little of seafood unsurprisingly.
- They have a nice patio out front and it seemed a little bigger than other CBMs (although their tabelog says only 43 seats).
- It's open late. Closing time varies but the earliest it closes is 01:00 and the latest 03:00. Also seemed a little more lively than other branches. Not sure if this is because it was late, because it was the weekend or because it was Sendai. Or a combination of these. Party on!

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Gotemba Kogen
Inawashiro
Baird
Tainai Kogen
Outsider
Izu No Kuni
Hitachino Nest
Swan Lake
Oh La Ho
Nihonkai
Shiga Kogen
Rokko
Hideji
Coedo
Yo-Ho

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Thursday, 17:00-02:00
Friday, 17:00-03:00
Saturday and Holidays, 15:00-02:00
Sunday, 15:00-01:00
Closed Monday

Location/Map:
国分町 2-1-12, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi-ken




Telephone:
022-796-6366

Links:
Website

Facebook
Twitter
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Sendai intermission part 1: Craftsman Sendai

(This was originally one post rounding up Sendai, but now it has been split into separate entries. The other places are mentioned in part 2 and part 3)

[To see all the Sendai posts on this blog, click here]

Another trip out of Tokyo for football, and once again I thought it was worth mentioning some places on here. I didn't bother with Fukuoka when we went there a few weeks ago as it seemed just a little too far. But Sendai is only an hour and a half from Tokyo (which surprised me, but really just shows up my lack of Japanese geographical knowledge). It may seem ironic, given that I have in the past lamented the effort that it takes to keep this blog up to date, but I have started another blog about my football team. The football blog seems somehow easier to keep up to date than this one. Probably given that several new football teams aren't opening every week. My problems with not being able to visit all these new bars are a lack of available time (most places are only open in the evening and on most of them I have to work), lack of available health (come on, we're all drinking too much if we're honest. A nice bout of gout will convince you if you are doubting) and a reluctance to spend an evening going to somewhere that might not be very different from many other bars when I could be going to somewhere I actually enjoy. Anyway, don't think that I'm not going to be updating this blog anymore. It's still a priority and I have been greatly assisted recently by some much appreciated help from some generous people. Thanks to you all! So, apologies for this lengthy preamble which could have been more succinctly stated as 'I went to Sendai, so here are some bars' and on with the post.


I was looking forward to giving the Craftsman chain another chance. Some people seemed to think I was being a bit harsh with my comments on the Yokohama branch. Others said that they had experienced the same kind of things there though. Hope that they can sort out their issues. Needless to say, the Sendai branch was much more like what I had expected after being told about the chain in the past. It does seem to be the case that they are pretty similar to Craft Beer Markets but things seem to be done to a bit of a higher level (aside from Yokohama...). The food is pretty classy and the pours and service at Sendai were great. Pleased to be back on side with them and looking forward to going to Craft & Romance which I have been intending to visit for a while now.

- 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 ¥520 and regular ¥790, probably about 250ml and US pint. Beer flight of three 150ml glasses for ¥1100 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. And this time there were plenty of beers that we were interested in drinking. No cover charge but tax is added on at the end.
- Nice atmosphere at lunchtime. Comfy booth like sofa seats, a few counter areas. Decent size and nice decor. Like the fact that they are very into the 'eat local' concept. There were some beers from the local area but I was hoping for a few more, but this is only a minor gripe. Certainly local beers were more prevalent here than in CBM. Food was good too. Margherita didn't have squid in it. What were they thinking in Yokohama?!
- Pretty close to the main Sendai station and open during the day at the weekend. I think this is a great first stop, straight off the train.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Ushitora
Fujizakura Kogen
Swan Lake
Hitachino Nest
Minoh
Coedo
Yokohama
Kinshachi
Baeren
Kure
Baird
Johana
Tainai Kogen
Harvestmoon
Ise Kadoya
Iwatekura
Outsider
Romantic Village
Rokko

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 17:00-01:00 (website says all day, but facebook shows these times)
Saturday & Sunday, 11:30-01:00

Location/Map:
中央 2-2-38, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi-ken



Telephone:
022-797-8431
 

Links:
Website

Facebook
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So Sendai is a bit of a mix. Along with the bars I have mentioned (on this and the other posts linked to above) there are quite a few more establishments with a few taps to try out. My advice if you are visiting is to pick up a copy of the Sendai beer map (made by the master of Amber Rondo) and dig a little deeper. I really enjoyed Sendai. The locals seemed friendly, the places seem to stay open very late and it seems that people there like to drink a lot. One thing which was a bit of a shame is that in the two chains, there weren't so many local beers. I was hoping to drink more local stuff but CBM and Craftsman had pretty similar selections to what you would expect to see elsewhere. This is definitely a city I want to come back and visit again next season and I'd like to explore a little more next time.