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

Links:
Facebook
Website
Twitter 
Ratebeer

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.