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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