Tuesday, 22 August 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.


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:
Ushi Tora
Izu No Kuni
Oh La Ho
Hitachino Nest

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

新橋 3-2-2 2F, Minato-ku, Tokyo



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

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



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)

千住緑町 1-22-10, Adachi-ku, Tokyo


Facebook (joint facebook with Beer Ma)
Website (online shop)

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:

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

久地 4-12-5, Takatsu-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa



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:
Nihonkai Club

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

扇町5-4, Ebina-shi, Kanagawa



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:
Gotemba Kogen
Blue Magic
Shiga Kogen
Sankt Gallen
Oni Densetsu

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

鍛冶町1-7-5, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo