Sunday, 5 November 2017

Another hiatus

Just a quick post to let you know that I'm taking another break. Not sure how long for, possibly forever. As I always have said this blog takes a lot of enthusiasm, time and money to keep up to date and I don't think I have enough of any of these to make it worthwhile for me anymore. There are a huge amount of places opening, many of them barely indistinguishable from each other. There's no way for me to wade through the swamps of mediocrity to find the good stuff without a load of effort and to be honest, I've got a lot of other things that I enjoy doing a lot more that I have been neglecting. The donation button on here seemed like a good idea to ease the financial burden a little, but it hasn't in any way helped. Literally no help actually. But to be honest, it's more a matter of time and enthusiasm. The beer scene here was fun, but it seems to have decayed into an online swagger fest with loads of people shouting as loud as possible to show how much they know and tell others how little they know. I would rather stay as far away from that kind of thing as possible.

At the moment, I'm not sure what I'll do with this going forward. I'll try to delete anywhere that closes and I might continue adding places to the map, but part of me thinks I'd be better off just leaving things behind completely, at least for a while. It's pretty unlikely that there will be any new posts on here, at least in the immediate future. But thanks for reading over the last few years, and thanks for bearing with me through these strops. A special thanks to all those who have helped out with posts. And thanks to those who have left comments too. I've met some great people through this blog and it's been a pleasure to share beers with some of you. Hopefully it will still be some use, even in its dormant state.

Cheers!

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Cluster


Cluster is a beer bar with a bottle shop quite near Kashiwa station out in Chiba. It has its own dedicated group of regulars but was still very welcoming on the couple of occasions that I’ve been there. Here’s what you need to know.

- Counter for around ten and tables for four more. Lots of wood as we have come to expect.
- Ten taps and a selection of around 70 bottles which can be drunk on the premises or taken away. Beer selection is import heavy with German, Belgian and US dominating, but with a sprinkling of Japanese stuff. Beer is served in two sizes, 240ml and 480ml and prices range from ¥700-900 for the half and ¥1000-1400 for the pint. There is also a beer flight available for ¥1600 (4 x 120ml of the staff’s recommendation it says, so maybe you can’t choose). What seems like a decent selection of ‘craft’ spirits too.
- No smoking and no cover charge and it’s open during the daytime!


Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Atsugi
Shiga Kogen

Opening Hours:
Daily, 12:00-23:30

Location/map:
1-10-5 旭町 2F, Kashiwa, Chiba-ken



Telephone:
04-7115-6528

Links:
Facebook
Website
Twitter

Friday, 21 July 2017

Brew La La


Today a post about a bar I have been waiting to visit for a while. First of all, in the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I am friends with the owner who first contacted me through this blog. He has been wanting to open a bar in Tokyo for a while now and I've been eagerly awaiting the chance to visit his creation. It's now open so I'm posting about it on here. Brew La La's concept is a New York style bar serving craft beer and a wide range of other kinds of drinks too, the idea being that it's not just a craft beer bar, but more of a bar that happens to have craft beer. I visited on their grand opening night, so perhaps I didn't get a true feel for the place, but will be back soon and if anything on here is wrong, I'll fix it afterwards. Here's what you need to know.

- Pretty spacious compared to many of the other places on here. Seating for about 40, with eight at the bar, 12 at a counter along the windows, and around 20 seats at high tables. There is also a large communal standing table and a sofa. The decor is unsurprisingly New York themed and they have what I imagine must be the only shuffleboard table in a bar in Japan. The second floor corner location gives views of the local Shinbashi nightlife if that's your thing. Also there are a few TVs dotted around and a projector and big screen for special events.
- 12 taps (or at least the capacity for 12 and apparently they are building towards having that number on all the time). At the moment there are a few less on, which makes sense as the place is pretty new and its popularity is still growing. Better to keep your beers fresh, rather than having a huge amount of taps where the beer is a bit old. All beers are served at the same price and in two sizes, 266ml and 400ml and they are priced at ¥700 and ¥1000 respectively. They are a verified venue on untappd, so you can check out what they have on tap at all times here, but judging by their opening taplists it seems to be mainly Japanese with some imports thrown in, covering a range of styles. There is also a growing selection of bottles and cans, mainly imports.
- New York themed bar snacks available with the focus being burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. Have yet to try the grilled cheese but it looked very nice.
- No smoking and no cover charge. English spoken, so if your Japanese is not good, or non-existent you'll be fine here.


So, a fun new place in an area where there is a bit of competition, but I think the New York theme and atmosphere means that they are offering something a little different. I'm no New York expert, in fact I think it would be more accurate to describe myself as a complete New York novice, so I can't tell you how authentic it is, but the feel was nice and it's good to find a bar with plenty of seating which isn't squeezed into a tiny place. This also probably means that it will be somewhere where it's possible to walk up and have some drinks without a reservation as even when all the seats are taken there is still plenty of room to stand. I'm yet to try to shuffleboard, but that looks like fun. Although I worry I might end up getting some fingers broken somehow.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Kyoto
Ushi Tora
Izu No Kuni
Johana
Oh La Ho
Zigzag
Tazawako
Marca
Minoh
Hitachino Nest

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 11:00-15:00, 17:00-24:00
Saturday, 17:00-24:00
Closed Sunday

Location/map:
新橋 3-2-2 2F, Minato-ku, Tokyo



Telephone:
03-6205-4230

Links:
Facebook
Website

Monday, 17 July 2017

Alpha Beta Coffee Club


Alpha Beta Coffee club was kindly suggested to me by a reader of this blog. He said it was fast becoming his go to place to drink. Bizarrely, considering I pass through the station twice a day, three or four times a week, I have never actually been to Jiyugaoka, so this was an all round exciting experience for me. Well, maybe that's overdoing it a little, but I had a nice time here, sitting on the roof terrace enjoying a happy hour pint on my way to the football. As you have probably guessed from the name of the place, it's fair to say that beer is not the main focus of this establishment, but it is an important part of their business it seems. Here's what you need to know.


- On the 3rd floor of a fairly unlikely looking office-type building. Open, bright and airy with plenty of seating. The decor is modern and the whole place feels kind of trendy and brand-spanking-new. The main focus is a large communal table in the middle of the cafe. There is also a nice patio/roof terrace with lots of bench seating round the outside. It was a very pleasant place to sit on a not too hot summer's day.
- Five taps of craft beer, dominated by US imports. On the day I visited, they were all US imports in fact, but they did have a Kyoto beer listed as coming next. There is also a small fridge of bottles and cans with probably round about 20 different beers in stock. Beer is served in two sizes, pint (US) and glass (who knows... but probably around 225-250ml judging by the price. If anyone can tell me, please do). All beers were priced the same, ¥1200 and ¥650, so not the cheapest. However, they have an afternoon happy hour from Monday to Friday from 15:00-18:00 when the prices are ¥950 and ¥500 (very nice!).
- Obviously, given that it's a cafe and the fact that they have an afternoon happy hour, it's open during the daytime. In fact it's open from 07:00, but not sure how many people drink beer at that time. The shop itself is no smoking, they have wifi and there is no cover charge. Think they allow smoking on the terrace though. Well, at least someone was smoking on the terrace when I was there.


This is a nice option for daytime drinking in an area that is woefully under-represented on my map at the moment. Whilst the taplist isn't so exciting, being made up of beers that are seen around in plenty of other places, there always seems to be something nice on. The happy hour prices make it an inviting destination during the day and I'm sure that the design and feel, and the scarcity of options locally mean it will be popular at other times too.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Kyoto (sometimes, but mainly imports)

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 07:00-23:00
Saturday, Sunday & holidays, 10:00-23:00

Location/map:
ミルシェ自由が丘 3F, 自由が丘 2-10-4, Meguro-ku, Tokyo



Telephone:
03-5726-8433

Links:
Facebook
Website

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Beer Ma Base


It's taken me a while to get here, but I finally did it. A few people had told me that this place was a lot more fun that the Beer Ma bar in Kita Senju. Depending on your point of view though, there are a few disadvantages, the most significant of which is the fact that it's in a pretty inconvenient location compared to the other one. But this is all relative I guess. And what it lacks in convience it makes up for in fun. At least in my opinion. But then again, I am partial to a walk in fridge. Here's what you need to know.

- Unusual layout with a huge walk in fridge on the ground floor and the cash register, glass shop and drinking space upstairs. This is where you should head first, rather than walking straight into the fridge. The system is that you leave your bag upstairs, take a token and a basket and then head downstairs. I have to admit, I'm not sure what the token part is for, I just copied the guy in front of me, but I suppose it is a bit like your passport to enter the fridge. You then head back upstairs to pay.
- Big, big bottle selection. This is the warehouse for Beer Ma and their Rakuten webshop page Sake no Taniguchi. Not sure if they also supply bars but there is a serious amount of stock here. The selection feels bigger than at Beer Ma and features beers from all the big beer making countries (and quite a few of the small ones...), with plenty of US and Belgian stuff. Beers are sold to take away or for on site consumption, like at the other branch. Unlike Beer Ma, there aren't any taps. It's all about the bottles here.
- The bar feels pretty relaxed and much more pleasant than the other place. There are even seats here! Definitely somewhere where you'd want to spend a bit more time. In the other bar, I always got the impression that they didn't want you to stay particularly long, but here the atmosphere is pretty laid back. The place is no smoking and they have wifi. There's no cover charge, but understandably there is a corkage fee of ¥200 per small bottle and ¥200 per glass for the larger bottles. But remember you are basically drinking for beer shop prices so the fee isn't so bad. Take cash with you, as they don't accept cards, which is a bit of a shame as I reckon many people probably end up wanting to spend more than they have on them.


In conclusion, it's a similar set up to Beer Ma, but in spite of being much less like a bar, ends up being a lot more comfortable than the bar. The location means that it isn't the easiest place to get to. I walked from Kita Senju and it took about 20 minutes. It's geographically closer to other stations just over the river from it, but the fact that you have to go a fair bit out of your way to cross the river means that you might be better off just going from Kita Senju after all. Or Senjuohashi, which is quite a bit closer, but isn't on the most convenient of lines for me. If you're after taps, then clearly Beer Ma is better for you, but if you want bottles and a more enjoyable drinking experience, but are not bothered about walking a bit further, then Beer Ma Base is the place for you!

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
No taps, bottles only

Opening Hours:
Daily, 12:00-19:00 (but it might be worth checking before you go)

Location/map:
千住緑町 1-22-10, Adachi-ku, Tokyo



Telephone:
03-3882-7841

Links:
Facebook (joint facebook with Beer Ma)
Website (online shop)
Twitter

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Brimmer Beer Station


Brimmer Beer Box is back! But it's not a box anymore, it's an actual bar. And it's moved a lot closer to the Brimmer Brewery, just outside Kuji station over the Tama river in Kawasaki. There are a few similarities with the Box, but as there are also quite a few differences, I'll go in to the details in full below. Certainly, it's not as centrally located anymore. But if you're a Brimmer fan, it's really not that far for you to travel from central Tokyo. Here's what you need to know.

- Small cosy bar on the second floor of a building just over the road from the station. Entrance is via the stairs on the right of the building as you look at it. Counter for six, a couple of tables and a very small patio out front.
- As with the beer box, four taps of Brimmer beer, three regulars, Pale, Porter and Golden Ale, and one seasonal/speciality, which on my visit was their IPA. All beers are served into two sizes at the same price. ¥600 for probably about 300ml and ¥900 for US pint.
- No smoking, no cover charge and some daytime opening (at the weekend). Not the full holy trinity, but pretty close.

I was only able to stop here briefly during the day on a Saturday on the way to the football, but it seemed like a nice place. If you're in the area it must be nice to have a place to drink your local brewery's beer. If you're a big Brimmer fan and you miss the Beer Box but always wished it was more like a small bar, you'll be delighted! It's not so difficult to find Brimmer beer in Tokyo so maybe there won't be anything new here for regular bar hoppers, but I think it's always a good thing to try a brewery's beers as close to the source as possible, and given that the brewery is pretty nearby, this is your best bet to get some fresh Brimmer!

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Brimmer

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

Location/map:
久地 4-12-5, Takatsu-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa



Telephone:
044-712-3385

Links:
Facebook
Website

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Ebina Beer


Initially I had decided not to visit Ebina Beer until they started brewing. I had heard that the brewery had been started by a Czech friend of the Nihonkai brewer but at the moment the beers were all Nihonkai. It just so happens that I really like Nihonkai beers though, and despairingly looking at the huge backlog of places I have on my list, and also with a yearning for Nihonkai pilsner, I decided to bite the bullet and head off down the Odakyu line.

- Fairly small place but with a surprisingly large amount of seating, situated opposite LaLaPort in Ebina. Bar is adjacent to the brewery and has two counters for round about ten, one looking out the front window and one at the bar, and tables for around 16. There’s also a standing counter outside (you pay cash on delivery there).
- Eight taps, which I believe at the moment are all Nihonkai beer. There is an exclusive house beer called  ‘Ebina Lager’ and alongside the normal Nihonkai suspects (including their pilsner which I seem to be craving constantly recently…), there are a few seasonals that I had never heard of which were mostly fruity versions of their other beers and were very nice. Beers served in two sizes, 260ml for ¥500 and 480ml for ¥850 which is really very nice pricing.
- Bar snacks with a bit of a European slant. I liked the fried cheese a lot. Also reasonably priced. And this place has what I will now always refer to as the ‘holy trinity’ of no cover charge, no smoking and daytime opening. What’s not to like?

It’s not often that I visit a place for this blog and immediately start thinking about going back, but I have been thinking about Ebina Beer a lot! Maybe this is due to the pilsner, but I did also like the feel of the place and will be interested to see how it is when they start brewing. Sure it's a little way out of the centre of Tokyo, but it doesn't really take that long if you're on an express train. Will definitely be going back soon!

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Ebina
Nihonkai Club

Opening Hours:
Monday-Saturday, 14:00-22:30

Location/map:
扇町5-4, Ebina-shi, Kanagawa



Telephone:
046-259-8730

Links:
Facebook

Monday, 19 June 2017

Craft Beer Market Kanda


There are now so many Craft Beer Markets around that I’m running out of ways to start these blog posts referring to how they are pretty much all the same. Check these posts if you would like to see how repetitive I have been so far. I will also refer you to the same posts for the details but they will also be written below. Kanda is a pretty busy area for bars, and if you spread the net a bit further you could probably say that this is a pretty busy area for Craft Beer Markets. Aside from Kichijoji, Koenji and Sendai, they have kept things fairly close together with a lot of branches in the vicinity. I guess they know their customers! I think I said this before, and perhaps it's because we are all getting a bit more savvy about Japanese craft beer, but it does seem that the selection in the various branches has got a bit less exciting recently. This was probably my feeling when I visited Kanda. But all the same, they do always have at least a few taps of stuff that is good, if not particularly exciting. Anyway, a long intro to me basically cutting and pasting the listing from my last CBM post. Here we go…

- 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.
- The usual CBM decor, lots of wood and stone. Counter for 14, tables for 24 and there also seemed to be a standing area at the front. No smoking which is good by me! And wifi!
- Cover charge of ¥300, which, unlike at some of the other branches, is charged during the day (at least during the ‘cafe time’ on Saturday when I was there. I suspect probably not at lunchtime though as at that time these places are much more about serving set menu lunches, rather than beers).
- And finally, the things that make this place different from the others… The food speciality this time is Lamb. And the weekend opening makes a nice change as many of the other branches in this area are closed at weekends. That’s about it.

So, exactly what you probably expected. Recently I only seem to go to these places when a new one opens, but they definitely serve a purpose and always seem to be fun. Although, as I said above, perhaps the selection is not as exciting as it used to be. I imagine the empire will be growing again soon. At least that’s what their website seems to suggest. It’s kind of a shame that they don’t push the boat out a bit and change things up a bit in some of their branches. But I guess, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And they still seem to be getting plenty of custom, so who am I to give them advice?

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Ushitora
Inawashiro
Gotemba Kogen
Outsider
Blue Magic
Shiga Kogen
Sankt Gallen
Coedo
Oni Densetsu
Preston
Yo-Ho
Johana

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

Location/map:
鍛冶町1-7-5, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo



Telephone:
03-6260-9477

Links:
Facebook
Website

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Another8


Another8 is the new Tokyo bar from the people who brought us Before9 in Kyoto, which holds the distinction of being the place where I drank my least favorite Japanese craft beer ever. Of course I don’t hold that against them though! If you have been to Before9, you will probably know what to expect from Another8. They definitely have some clear similarities. If you haven’t been to Before9, read on, as here come the details.

- Snazzy place in an area that I currently have nothing in on my Tokyo Beer Drinker map. Pretty surprisingly as Meguro is fairly central and is a place that people go to to eat and drink. There are a couple of bars here but for a variety of reasons, I have deemed them not worthy! But Another8 has made the cut. Very modern feel with swanky decor and clientele to match. Wood smoker thing out front and a couple of decks by the door, although the music being played wasn’t coming from them. There is seating for around 20 on low tables and sofas, a high communal table for maybe ten more and seats along the wall with kind of 'half-a-table tables' (you heard that great phrase here first!), for maybe ten more. There is also a very small patio out front.
- Eight taps of craft beer. We went whilst there was a Kyoto Brewing tap takeover (they are a Kyoto permanent tap) but looking at their Facebook page it seems that their list is normally a mix of Japanese craft and imports. Beer served in three sizes (260ml, 330ml and 500ml), in similar shaped glasses, bit like shakers but with much thinner glass. The prices are the same for all beers, ¥700, ¥850 and ¥1200 respectively, so not the cheapest of places. But, no cover charge and tax is included.
- Seemed to have a slightly strange system of bar service and cash on delivery, with the bar being right by the door. Consequently everything was getting a bit jammed up in that area. Also there seemed to be a few problems of them not knowing exactly where to deliver the food that had been ordered, but maybe these are just teething issues or maybe it was because it was quite busy that night.

I’m not sure what to think about this place. It’s certainly a nice looking bar and on the Kyoto takeover night the taplist was great, but it’s priced a little higher than most other places. Also, maybe this is just my personal prejudices coming out, but the clientele were a bit strange. But that’s all I’ll say about that, as maybe they were thinking the same about me. I can definitely see that it will be a fashionable place for people to hang out if that’s what you’re in to.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Kyoto
Shonan
Swan Lake

Opening Hours:
Wednesday-Monday, 17:00-01:00
Closed Tuesday

Location/map:
下目黒1-2-18, Meguro-ku, Tokyo




Telephone:
03-6417-9158

Links:
Facebook
Website

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Nawlins BBQ & Craft Beer House


Whilst visiting the new Yokosuka Beer standing bar, it seemed like a good idea to pop into another place serving craft beer in the area. Nawlins has been open maybe a couple of years now but I haven’t managed to visit it till now. This is probably due to a combination of it not being in easy reach of my place and also the fact that its speciality is barbecue, which let’s be honest is never the best for vegetarians. Consequently, I can’t really give you a full overview of all aspects of the place, but I’ll do my best!

- Split over two floors. The ground floor has a counter with seating for around ten and a few other tables for maybe 20 more. The second floor was closed when we went there early on a Sunday, but there is a picture of it on their website and it looks pretty big! Seems like they hold events up there including live music. The decor is dominated by New Orleans Saints posters and memorabilia. Not a surprise given the name! There were a few people in there early on a Sunday but it was a kind of subdued atmosphere. I guess that it gets livelier later on.
- Loads of taps on the wall but not all of them were on. There was however a decent choice of 13 beers, dominated by Baird but with a couple of US imports and some other Japanese stuff thrown in. They have their own house beer, a smoked amber which is made for them by Baird. On the menu there are only prices for US pint size, but there were some smaller glasses behind the bar so maybe they’ll give you a half if you want one. Maybe Navy guys don’t drink halves. The Japanese stuff was mainly priced at ¥900, but there were a couple that were a little more expensive, but nothing over ¥1100. The US imports were ¥1200. As seems to be the case in most places that have a Baird connection, the Baird beers are cheaper here than they are in the Baird taprooms.
- Serves apparently excellent barbecue. My friend had some and said it was very good. It seems they have a good reputation judging by the comments on their Facebook page and it also seems they do take out which suggests it most definitely has a focus on the food.
- No smoking (apart from the meat, ho ho ho…), no cover charge and daytime opening. The holy trinity! They have wifi too!

I’m sure that I am 100% not their target customer but I had a nice time here and was pleased to get the chance to have their house beer which was very nice. Beer wise this is perhaps their big selling point as their other selections are widely available elsewhere. The pricing was good though and obviously most people go there to eat, so maybe it's more a restaurant with some good beer, rather than a bar with some barbecue. All the same, I think it’s worth popping in for the Smoked Amber if you’re heading to Yokosuka Beer, as it’s just around the corner.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Baird
Tama No Megumi

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Friday, 11:00-22:00
Saturday & Sunday, 11:00-22:30
Closed Monday

Location/map:
大滝町1-8, Yokosuka-shi, Kanagawa



Telephone:
046-821-0321

Links:
Facebook
Website
Ratebeer

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Yokosuka Beer


Yokosuka beer is a fairly recently opened new brewery out in Yokosuka. So far, totally as expected from the name I guess! What is surprising is the fact that in spite of being new, they seem to know what they're doing. Quite a lot of breweries in Japan seem to start slowly but Yokosuka are making some nice beers already. Apologies to the person who tipped me off about this place last year for not getting in touch. My friend invited me to visit with him at very short notice so I wasn’t able to take you up on your kind offer. Next time! Here is what you need to know about the place.

- Situated in a fairly large building not far from both Yokosuka JR station and the Keikyu line stations. First floor houses the brewery, a standing bar and an interesting camping themed room where you can sit down and pretend to enjoy the outdoor life with your beer. The second floor is a restaurant with seats for 90 apparently. I didn’t go up there though, so everything on this post relates to the ground floor.
- Eight taps, five of which were their own beers and the other three were guests from Yokohama breweries. The Yokosuka beers which were available were a pale ale, weizen, black IPA, beetroot Belgian style strong ale and a ginger beer (not a soft drink, a real beer!) Pricing was pretty good! Their own beers cost ¥500 for the half (probably around 300ml) and ¥680 for a US pint. Guests were a little more expensive, but still cheap (¥700 and ¥880). Some of the more unusual beers are made with locally sourced ingredients and there seems to be an eco kind of feel to the place, if you know what I mean.
- No cover charge, tax is included in the prices and it's no smoking. The staff were very nice and friendly and I had a thoroughly pleasant time. Oh, one other thing, they will soon apparently have the first Crowler machine at a brewery in Japan, so they are definitely a forward looking place.

I have to say, this place was really a pleasant surprise. Not only have they managed to open a brewery and actually start brewing (still waiting for many of the ‘brewpubs’ in Tokyo to start…), but they also are making some nice tasting beers and also trying some interesting new ideas. I certainly have never had a Belgian strong ale with local beetroot in it before. They are open during the daytime every day, which is good too. I’m not sure how often I will be visiting, as it’s a bit of a trek from Tokyo, but it would be a nice double header with Yorocco, or could be done first thing, with a stop in Yokohama on the way back. It was my first trip to Yokosuka and that was quite an experience too. It had a very different feel from other places in Japan. Please check one of my other blogs japantownvisitor to find my thoughts on the locality.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Yokosuka
Bay Brewing
Yokohama

Opening Hours:
Daily, 10:00-22:00

Location/map:
大滝町1-23, Yokosuka-shi, Kanagawa



Telephone:
046-874-8588

Links:
Facebook
Ratebeer

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. [Update, I went back yesterday and it seems that the large size in the Teku glass is beer up to around the 250ml mark and then a large head (no problem with that). Maybe coming out around 300ml in total, I reckon. I'd guess the smaller size can't be more than 200ml. So, actually it's pretty expensive. Still quite like the place though, but not quite as much as before]
- 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

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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

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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, 15:00-22:00
Closed Wednesday

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



Telephone:
050-7128-3201

Links:
Website
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