Friday, 19 May 2023

New inclusion and posting criteria

This is a quick post to go some way towards explaining my reasons for including or excluding places on here. This post should hopefully remain at the top so if it's posts about bars you're after, scroll down. Going forward, the following will get full write ups as soon as I get round to visiting them:

- Breweries
- Bars and beer shops that are either great, good, ok or in some way unique or interesting.

Bars that are not so exciting or that I have a problem with (and I’m happy to acknowledge that the problem is mine), will probably feature on one of the digest posts. Usually these are to collect places that I haven’t visited yet, but now I’ll also put places I’ve been to that aren’t very good on there too. On the map, unvisited places will be marked with a question mark so you take your chances by going to one of these. All visited places will now have the appropriate coloured pin and be linked to the appropriate post, so if you see a pin and it goes to a digest post, it’s not really a recommendation. I'd always encourage you, if you're finding places on here through the map to actually check out the post linked to the pin in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Favourites will still be marked with a star and also feature in the top group of places in the map notes. Inevitably, there are some places that probably aren’t worthy of a full post in here that already have full posts. I’m not going to remove these posts and put them on the digest post as I can’t be bothered to! The content of the post should give you an idea anyway. Hope all this helps!

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Songbird Beer

 

A quick post today on a brewery that can be visited at certain limited times. So far, so tricky. Also, it’s not easy to get to! But it was a lot of fun so I thought it merited a mention on here. Given the limitations when it comes to opening times and accessibility I’m not going to write too much. So, without further ado, here’s what you need to know.

- Small brewery taproom. Very small! Seats for five or six and not really any standing room. If the weather’s good there are a few benches and boxes to sit on outside too. The focus here is very much the fact that it is a brewery. The mini taproom is an add on.
- Three taps of their own Belgian style beer available in big wine glass servings for ¥500 each (I think). In addition, a couple of big sharing bottles and maybe six or seven small bottles to either drink on site or takeaway. The small bottles were around ¥600 and the big ones were around ¥1200. So all in all, very nice prices!
- That’s… about…. it.

There's not much to say but there’s lots to like about this place. I had a great time going through the tap list and then starting on the bottles. A few things to bear in mind. The train to get there from Kisarazu is very much a branch line and is not very frequent. In fact it’s quite infrequent so make sure to keep an eye on the timetable. Also, the train doesn’t take Suica or other prepaid transport cards. You also don’t seem to be able to buy tickets at the stations on the line. On the way there I’d recommend going out through the barriers and then buying a new ticket for the couple of stops to Kazusa Kiyokawa. You need to give the train driver your ticket as you get off. On the way back from the brewery to Kisarazu you need to go to the office next to the barriers and tell the guy where you’ve arrived from. I think this is the easiest way to do things anyway. Also, be aware that the brewery’s opening hours are quite short and infrequent. Their website usually seems to be up to date and mentions when they’ll be open but generally speaking it seems to be Friday, Saturday and Sundays from 12:00-19:00. They might also be open on holidays too. Also, their website seems to have the current tap list up which shows they are pretty good at regularly updating it. Their beer is available at a few places in Tokyo so I guess if you're going here it's for the fun of it rather than for any kind of intense beer search. I really enjoyed it though, and the slight inconvenience of getting there was definitely worth it. Will certainly go back when I'm next in the area.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Songbird

Opening Hours:
Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 12:00-19:00

Location/map:
清川1-14-12, Kisarazu-shi, Chiba-ken
 

Telephone:
None

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Inkhorn Brewing & Tasting Room


Post by James


Inkhorn Brewing and Tasting Room opened in Mejiro quite recently. The bilingual owner’s first experience of brewing was in Oregon and this place definitely has a unique feel to it. I believe Inkhorn is the first brewery in Toshima-ku to get a beer brewing license. As you can see from the photo, it has huge French Windows so the main counter is like an open air terrace. This is great in spring and autumn and also makes it one of the safest places to drink during the pandemic. The standout feature of the bar counter is a slightly mythical style picture of a blue heron that takes up the whole wall. The taps all stick out from this picture and it definitely gives the tasting room a special atmosphere. Through large glass windows in the tasting room you can see the shiny stainless steel tanks of the brewery. These were imported from Oregon, which is also a first for Japan.

There are 8 taps of beer. Currently 2, an IPA and a New England IPA are brewed on site. The other taps included a Double IPA (a collaboration beer with Tokyo Aleworks), a Maibock (made with Snark Liquidworks) and a Porter (made with Tsukuba Brewing). Definitely a nice range of styles and I thought all the beers were well made. They were also cheap by craft beer standards today, with most pints priced at ¥1,000. The more expensive beers were a reasonable ¥1,200. It is a pay as you go system and there is no tax added. Most craft beer bars have upped their prices in the last couple of years and I was really happy to be able to drink a nice double IPA for ¥1,000. I’m not sure if the prices can stay this reasonable, but the owner is trying to keep them as low as he can. Buying beer to take out in your growler is also an option and there is a canning machine on the counter so you can take the draught beer of your choice home in cans too. The tasting room is all standing and there is no food menu but customers are free to bring their own food if they wish. Because there are no chairs or food, this might not be a place that you’d spend the whole evening but it is a great place to drink a couple of reasonably priced pints in the afternoon or evening and I definitely recommend it.

Currently Inkhorn opens from 12 until 8, Tuesday to Sunday, but it would be best to check their hours before going as they are likely to change.
 

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Inkhorn 

Opening Hours:
(Better check on their social media at the moment. I'll update this if Corona ever goes away)

Location/map:
2-2-2 目白, Toshima-ku, Tokyo  



Telephone:
None

Links:

Sunday, 6 June 2021

7-Eleven Setagaya Chitosedai 2 chome (!)


Thanks to a recent sponsorship deal I’m pleased to announce that the next few hundred blog posts on here will be about the marvelous craft beer heavens that are 7-11s… Only joking. I would never accept sponsorship as my impartiality is not purchasable at any price. Well maybe I’d sell all of this out for some price but, you know what I mean. This throwaway joke is a good link to allow me to thank the two people who have ‘bought me a coffee’ on the Buy Me A Coffee page I recently set up. Thank you so much! It was a lovely surprise. I’ve been holding back on visiting or listing new places recently what with the whole state of emergency impending corona virus disaster closing all the bars. Well, not all of them actually… But it seemed that I wasn’t going to be able to provide any useful information even from looking at websites and Facebook pages whilst we are still in a state of emergency as places are closed and/or are not sharing tap lists. I’m making a weird exception with this post as I have walked myself into the ground in the last couple of days in search of the new Baeren Italian Pilsner and thought that I would have two possible places to buy it in Chitose Funabashi. This was one of them, and it so nearly might have been the place I found it as they had the last Baeren seasonal can but not the Italian Pilsner. But anyway, it did give me a chance to visit the craft beer 7-11 I’ve heard a few things about. (In case you were wondering, I finally got the Italian Pilsner today in the Iwate satellite shop in Higashi Ginza). One caveat before I launch into the bullet points. (Actually it will probably also only be one bullet point as there’s not a lot to say). This 7-11 is very much an exception. In most branches you’ll be lucky to even find a Yona Yona. (The convenience store to go to for fake craft is probably Lawson in case you were wondering). Apparently the franchise holder of this 7-11 is a craft beer fan. I believe franchise holders have some flexibility over what they stock but in my experience of loads of 7-11s this is the only one that has ever had anything that is not macro. Ok, here’s what you need to know.

- One fridge of craft beer with perhaps 30 or 40 selections. Mix of Japanese craft and imported stuff from the US, Australia, Spain and France and probably some others I can’t remember. Imported breweries I remember included the not so often seen Popihn, Stone, Garage (the Spanish one)… Actually that’s all I can remember for the imports. The Japanese breweries are listed below. The usual kind of prices you’d expect in beer shops. Other than these beers, it’s a totally normal 7-11 so there’s no point me writing much else.

Chitose Funabashi is not exactly central Tokyo but it’s not far out on the Odakyu line. It’s probably a fifteen minute walk from the station to the shop though, so I guess this is all pointing to the fact that it’s probably not somewhere you’re going to travel to. However, I’d love to have a similar selection in my local 7-11 and this place must be a godsend for people living in Chitofuna who only have Aeon Liquor apart from this. There aren’t even any craft beer bars I think. Opening in the market there, eh? Some people might think it’s not a good thing to post about a 7-11 but these are individually owned franchises of what is admittedly a massive company and I think it’s only right to support a franchise owner who is using their stocked products to reflect their interests. Bravo!

Japanese breweries stocked when I visited
Hideji
Distant Shores
Repubrew
Izumi
Baeren
Uchu
Two Rabbits
West Coast

Opening Hours:
It's a 7-11 so it's always open

Location/map:
2-27-20 千歳台, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo


Telephone:
03-5490-5900

Links
Instagram

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Grau Craft Beer Bar

 


Post by James

Grau Craft Beer Bar has just opened about 9 minutes from Fujimino station. For anyone who’s never heard of Fujimino, it is about 30 minutes from Ikebukuro on the Tobu Tojo line. A bit of a trek for most people.

The bar looks good both inside and out. The street in front of Grau is quite busy and sees a fair amount of traffic but if you go out the back door there is a quiet Sando (temple street). It’s an interesting contrast and I liked the atmosphere it creates.

The interior is clean and modern. There is an L-shaped counter that seats about 7 and a fair bit of floor space that will probably have some tables later.

There are 5 taps and all were domestic when I was in. Cranc Brewing, Distant Shores, Black Tide, Vertere and Two Rabbits Brewing. Pints ranged from ¥1,200 to ¥1,500. Definitely not cheap but, apart from the chains, there are few places to enjoy cheap craft beers and bars in the suburbs often have to be a bit more expensive as they don’t get as many customers. There were also a few bottles of imported craft beers.

There is a small but nice food menu but this is mostly (he gets help some days) a one man operation so the food has to be easy to prepare. The friendly owner lives only a few minutes away on foot so this bar really has a local feel to it. I must say I rather liked Grau and really hope it does well. If you live in the area, you should definitely check Grau out. That said, If you don’t live on the Tobu line you’d probably have to have a reason to trek this far out. A train pub crawl that took you to Beer Glass Hopper in Mizuhodai and then onto Half Yard and Shiki Beer in Shiki on your way back to Ikebukuro would be a nice night out.

There was no cover charge and no WiFi. Anyway, a nice bar that will mostly appeal to those who live locally.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Cranc
Distant Shores
Black Tide
Vertere
Two Rabbits

Opening Hours:
Monday, Wednesday-Friday, 17:00-21:00
Saturday, Sunday, 15:00-21:00
Closed Tuesday

But please check their website or social media. Due to COVID, hours are all over the place right now

Location/map:
苗間372-9, Fujimino-shi, Saitama-ken

 

Telephone:
049-293-3441

Links:
Instagram

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Craftbeer Gau's


Today, the last post from my Shibuya Beer Party 2021 expeditions and it’s somewhere that I have walked past on numerous occasions but never considered going into. Gau’s is quite near Cidernaut and slightly hidden away on the 2nd floor. But as there's plenty of bright signage it’s probably hard to miss it. In the past I probably have said negative things about their pricing but once again this place was a pleasant surprise. Perhaps I was in a very good mood on the day I went to all these places or maybe I should teach myself a lesson about not judging places without trying them. Anyway, here’s what you need to know:

- Kind of traditional bar feel and layout to it. Long counter with a few tables along the side of the bar and the front window, which provides a nice people watching spot. As well as beer they serve food including their speciality, Poutine, a food that sounds ready made for me if it weren’t for the fact that vegetarians can never probably be too sure about the gravy. I should investigate further though as I've heard one of them here is ok for veggies.
- Usually six taps of beer but only four were on during the weird pre-state of emergency time that we visited. They were all imports, a couple from the US, one from Canada and one from the Netherlands. Prices are not the cheapest but I understand that these are all imported beers and they probably have an expensive location. Beers are served in three sizes S, (200ml, ¥715), M (300ml, ¥1045) and L (480ml, ¥1485). They also have a beer flight of three XS beers for ¥1650. It doesn’t say how what XS means, but I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s smaller than S. They also have a selection of imported bottles and cans.
- There’s no cover charge, and they have WIFI and absurdly late opening hours in normal times. I’ve read conflicting things about smoking being allowed, but I think that info might be out of date as I don’t think it’s allowed anymore in Tokyo, except under very specific circumstances.

So, again, a pleasant surprise. I’m not particularly a night owl but now I feel like I want to go here at 2am when we are allowed to do that kind of thing again. Blanket pricing for all beers means that if you’re canny you can find the best value and given that the beers are all imports here and given the location, the prices are in some way understandable. I can’t imagine it will be a regular stop for me, but it does offer something interesting so will be back when I am able to and have the late night party energy (fingers crossed).

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
None

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Sunday, 18:00-04:00
Closed Mondays and for 'irregular holidays' (guess that means check before you go)

But please check their website or social media. Due to COVID, hours are all over the place right now

Location/map:
神山町16-4ヴィラメトロポリス2A, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Telephone:
03-6804-8729

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Fam333

Today another place visited in pursuit of the Shibuya Beer Party 2021 stamp rally prize. And to be honest it’s a place I had never really thought about visiting before. It was a really pleasant surprise though! Near Kita-sando station in between Shibuya and Shinjuku is a bit of a dry area on this blog but Fam333 more than makes up for any lack of choice. Here’s what you need to know:

- It seems I’m always saying places are small on this blog but Fam333 is really small. There’s a counter for five which backs onto two high tables for two and a lower table which could seat maybe five or six. All of this is crammed into the space the size of which other bars might use for their toilets. So it’s quite intimate! It’s also hidden away downstairs near some old fashioned looking bars so you could easily miss it if you weren’t paying attention. The photo above is of the street level entrance and it’s pretty bad, but I’m sure you’ve come to expect that in this blog.
- Five taps of Japanese craft beer plus one of Heartland. (Perhaps there are a couple more in non COVID times). Beers are served in two sizes, regular (295ml) and pint (480ml). The craft beers were all priced at ¥900 and ¥1100 respectively, which to be honest is a pretty good price I think for a small place like this. Certainly it was one of the cheapest on the Shibuya Beer Party circuit. Perhaps there were a few too many hazy beers for my liking but I realise that at the moment I am very much in the minority in this respect.
- No cover charge, daytime opening and no smoking. The staff were very friendly too. There was a surprisingly large number of them considering the size of the place. The food looked pretty good too, but as we were on a mission to get stamps on a stamp card we only stayed briefly. Their opening is split into morning time (breakfast basically), coffee time (errmmm, coffee, and lunch I guess) and beer time. But we were told that it’s OK to drink beer during coffee time. That rule doesn’t apply to all situations in life, but is great news in this case.

A very pleasant surprise. The fact that the beer lineup wasn’t quite for me but I still really liked this place should give you an idea of how nice it is. It had a personal feel that you don’t always get in beer bars and I definitely would go back here again. I convinced myself that the stamp rally was worth doing for the glass and to be able to tick off some new places that I probably never would have gone to, but it has actually unearthed some hidden gems. Lovely!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Ushi Tora
Hatos
Distant Shores
Repubrew

Opening Hours:
Daily, 17:00-02:00

But please check their website or social media. Due to COVID, hours are all over the place right now

Location/map:
千駄ヶ谷 3-3-3, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Telephone:
03-6812-9135