Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Christmas and New Year

Tokyo Beer Drinker will be resting over Xmas and the New Year whilst I return to England to drink plenty of nice beers, and also make a long overdue visit to Belgium. Considering I used to go at least 5 times a year, the 8 month break since my last trip has been tough. Although it is completely against the whole concept of this blog, I may post a 'beercation' digest when I return. Although I might be enjoying myself too much to take bad photos and make notes.
In the New Year, plenty more places to add to the blog. A lot that I have been to before and never blogged about, and a big long list of new places to check out. But until then, hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Baird Harajuku Taproom

Today, one of the first Ji-Biru bars I went to in Japan, initially when I was over on holiday a couple of times, and now living here. Baird have four Taprooms dotted around Japan, two of which are in Tokyo, and one in Yokohama and one in the brewery's home town, Numazu . Have yet to go to the Yokohama one or the Numazu one, but from what I have heard each is fairly unique, but they have similar character and qualities, albeit with some local variations.
The place itself is full-on wood decor. Fairly cosy with seating for around 40 people, some around the counter and with a few high tables as well.
The beer is naturally all from Baird. They have 15 taps (10 regulars and 5 seasonals) and 2 hand pumps (one regular, one seasonal). The regular keg beers are Wheat King, Single-Take Session Ale, Rising Sun, Numazu Lager, Red Rose, Teikoku IPA, Suruga Bay, Angry Boy, Kurofune Porter and Shimaguni Stout. The regular hand pump is Harajuku Ale, which is made only for this location. The other branches have their own house beers too. Glass sizes are 500ml and 250ml for the regulars, and 400ml and 200ml for the seasonals. Prices are ¥1000 for large and ¥600 for small, and very occasionally a little bit extra if the beer is extra high alcohol or extra special. They also do a tasting set of three 140ml glasses of the regulars for ¥1000. Along with this, for regular visitors or heavy drinkers, they do a 'Nonbei' card which you purchase in advance for ¥10000, (the price of 10 pints), and which entitles you to 12 pints. Along with the beer they offer a pretty big range of Izakaya style food, (I particularly like the Shimaguni Stout edamame) and at pretty reasonably prices too.
To conclude, this is an all-round decent place. If you like Baird beers or want to try them, one of their taprooms has got to be the best place to go. The Harajuku taproom is a welcome refuge from the insanity of the surrounding shopping areas. Open from 5 on weekdays and noon on weekends, non-smoking throughout and with no cover charge, you should normally be able to get a seat without reserving, but might be worth phoning ahead. Posts to follow on the other taprooms in the area!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Baird

Opening Hours:
17.00 - 24.00, Monday to Friday, 12.00 - 24.00 Saturday and Sunday

Location/map
ノーサレンダービル 2F, 神宮前1-20-13, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001

Directions:
From Harajuku station, leave via the Takeshita exit. Cross the road and head down the crazy Takeshita Dori shopping street. Take the first left turn and follow the road to the end. The Taphouse is on the right hand corner on the second floor. You should be able to see the window seats from here. 



Telephone:
03-6438-0450

Links:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Ratebeer listing

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Beer Cafe Gambrinus

Another one a bit out of central Toyko, but once again worth the trip. The Chuo/Sobu lines seem to have a lot of good bars along their length. So, Gambrinus in Kokubunji. We combined our visit with a bit of record shopping in the area and got to Gambrinus shortly after opening time. It's a good thing that we did, as there was a large group booked in, and the place is quite cosy. There is seating for about 5 at the bar where we ended up, and table seating for maybe another 15, maybe a few more, so once again it is quite a small place, but this is quite normal for Tokyo. The decor is modern, but comfortable. When we were there they were playing modern rock music at an unobtrusive level. It was a pretty nice drinking experience, and the food we had was nice too.
So, onto the beers. There are 12 taps and one hand pump, the majority of which are Japanese micros. They have one import which seems to vary between Belgian, German and Czech. The beers are served in a wide range of sizes. They have the regular small (284ml), regular (420ml) and large (568ml), so you are catered for if you like your pints UK or US size. They also have a smaller taster size and an extra large too. There is a formula on the menu for working out the prices of these. Dealing with the general sizes, the prices are fairly standard for Tokyo. One thing I do like though is that they don't massively increase prices for higher alcohol beers like some places do. I think my pint of Minoh imperial stout here was the cheapest I have seen (apart from in the brewery's bars in Osaka). Small sizes range from ¥700-¥750, regular from ¥900-¥950 and large from ¥1200-¥1300. Naturally the imports are a bit more, but to be honest I was much more interested in the Japanese beers.
All in all, a nice neighbourhood beer bar. If you are in the area it is definitely worth checking out, and another place that would be good for a Chuo line pub crawl as it is really close to the station. They regularly update their website with their tap lists and seem fairly accommodating if you arrive and the place is full. There is a small standing area near the front door where you can have a drink whilst you wait for a table. Good selection of interesting beers and nice food, so well worth it.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Bayern Meister
Hideji
Yo-Ho
Noboribetsu
Shiga Kogen
Beer Buddy
Sankt Gallen
Swan Lake
Minoh

Opening Hours:
17.00 - 02.00, Monday to Saturday. Closed Sunday, the first Monday of the month, and public holidays

Location/map
第46東京ビル 6F, 南町 3-16-5, Kokubunji, Tokyo 185-0021

Directions:
From Kokubunji station, leave via the South exit. You will find yourself on a small square with 5 roads leading off of it. You need to take the second road from the right, so not the one the runs next to the station, but the next one anti-clockwise. Gambrinus is on the 6th floor of the second building down this street. There is a small entrance with a lift where they have a sign (see the picture above), so look out for it. If you get to the next street you have gone too far. 



Telephone:
042-325-0484

Links:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Ratebeer listing

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Shinshu Sake Mura

Something a little bit different. Shinshu Sake Mura is a standing bar near to Shimbashi station with ultra low prices. The reason for this is that this place is mainly designed to promote the sake and beer breweries of Nagano prefecture. This is fundamentally a shop, but with a recently expanded standing bar area allowing you to consume the shop's products on site. However, it doesn't feel like you are standing in a shop, it feels like a bar, and a pretty cosy one at that.
From a beer point of view, Shinshu Sake Mura has two taps and around 25 cans and bottles. These are from a variety of Nagano breweries. If you are consuming on the premises, there is also a selection of small food plates to keep you going, but I haven't tried these yet. Along with the beer and food, there is also a massive sake selection. Helpfully for sake novices like myself, small tasting sets are available divided by sake type. The barman on my visit was very helpful and after I had gone through the two beer taps, I moved on to a dry sake set. He wrote the names of the sakes down on a piece of paper for me and even gave me the bottles to look at. This set was basically three small glasses for ¥500. A really good price.
The beer prices vary by brewery, and naturally size of bottle. The two taps were ¥600 each for 400ml glasses but they sometimes, depending on the beer it can come in at ¥500 too. The crucial selling point for those wanting to drink bottles and cans is that you can drink them on site for the same price as you can take them away for. Given that these prices are already pretty good, this makes it an excellent deal. Shiga Kogen bottles were around ¥400, and they also had the Tamamura Honten 750ml saisons available for ¥1260. Other breweries are around these kind of prices, varying from the low (Yona Yona cans for ¥260) to the high (Hotaka 500ml bottles for ¥750, apparently worth avoiding if the Ratebeer reviews are anything to go by).
I really liked this place. In the afternoon it was pretty empty, but someone did tell me that it gets busy in the evening. The prices are unbeatable, and the atmosphere is pretty good too. Not bad for a standing bar in a quite old-fashioned shopping centre. Next time I'll have some food there too so hopefully won't be knocked out after two beers and a sake tasting set. Opening hours are strange and seem to vary, so might be worth phoning ahead to check they are open. The first time I tried to go was a Saturday, and although according to their website they should have been open, they were actually closed. But in spite of this initial setback, highly recommended! I am already planning a trip back.

Japanese breweries available when I visited:
Shiga Kogen/Tamamura Honten
Yo-ho
Minamishinshu
Oh La Ho
Kisoji
Hotaka

Opening Hours:
Monday - Friday 11.00 - 21.30
Saturday 11.00 - 18.30 (But closed on the 2nd and 3rd Saturdays of the month)
Sundays and Public Holidays - closed

Location/map
新橋駅前ビル 1号館 1F, 新橋 2-20-15, Minato, Tokyo

Directions:
The bar is on the ground floor (1F) of the shopping centre and the centre is pretty small, so if you find the right building you should be able to find it. From Shimbashi station, if you are on the Asakusa Line just leave via exit A3 which comes out in the shopping centre very close to the bar. From other metro lines, leave via exit 2 and turn right down the first side street. The building ahead of you at the end of the street is the shopping centre the bar is in. From the JR station, leave via the Shiodome exit which is in the basement. Climb the stairs marked 'for Ginza' and when you get to ground level the shopping centre is on the other side of the bus station/concourse from you. 



Telephone:
03-3572-5488

Links:
Website
Ratebeer listing

Friday, 16 November 2012

Tama No Megumi

Tama No Megumi is located in Haijima, West of Tokyo. Whilst it only takes around 45 minutes from Shinjuku on the Chuo line it feels like it is much further away when you arrive. Getting to the station I was surprised to see Fuji looming on the horizon and after arriving at the brewery it felt even further away from Tokyo. This is possibly one of the most beautiful settings around to enjoy drinking beer.
On site there are two places to drink beer and also a beer and sake shop where you can buy everything they currently have available. The ramen restaurant Zougura serves beer and also the breweries sake. We went to Fussa no Birugoya, the beer restaurant, which also serves their beer and sake along with pizzas, pastas and salads. They also do a nice cheese plate. There are 4 beers available on tap, three regulars, their Pale Ale, Pilsner and Munchener Dark, along with one seasonal. When we visited, this was their Maerzen. Along with this, they have their 500ml bottle conditioned Pale Ale (¥700) and a 500ml vintage 2004 version (¥1500). Tap servings come in either small (¥500) or large (¥800)(approximately US pint and half pint size I reckon) and you can get pitchers too. There were also 8 types of sake available.
For me, the beers were all solid. My favourite was the bottle conditioned Pale Ale which had just something extra that the others didn't. I would be interested in returning in the summer to try some of their fruit beers that they seem to offer. I also had the Tama no Yorokobi Daiginjyo sake which was really good. The food was pretty good too, particularly the pizzas, and it was nice to get a cheese plate with interesting stuff on it, rather than processed cheese. Don't be put off by my lukewarm beer reviews. They are definitely still nice and drinkable. They just paled a little next to the sake. I will definitely be heading back to explore the site a bit more as there is also a small museum showing the history of them brewing there. The whole experience was a great one, so definitely worth doing. Check out the pictures on their website to get an idea as my terrible photo doesn't do it justice, (note to self, in future, take the photos on the way in, before the drinks...).

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Ishikawa/Tama No Megumi

Opening Hours:
Fussa no Birugoya -  11.30 - 22.00 Wednesday to Monday (open Tuesdays too in Summer)
Zougura - 11.30 - 22.00 Friday to Wednesday, closed Thursdays
Sake Cellar (sake and beer shop) - 10.00 - 18.00 every day

Location/map
1 熊川, Fussa City, Tokyo 197-8623

Directions:
First of all, get to Haijima station and leave through the South exit. It is much too complicated to explain the route in words but don't be put off. Just print off this map and you should be fine. Alternatively, their website suggests you should get a cab, but the walk is only about 15 minutes. 



Telephone:
042-553-0171 (Fussa no Birugoya)

Links:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Ratebeer listing


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Brimmer Beer Box (Now Closed)

Now Closed.

Not much to say about this place that isn't said in the name. Newly opened central Tokyo outlet for the Brimmer brewery (based in Kawasaki). Brimmer Beer Box serves Brimmer beer, and is effectively a box (well, a portakabin) on Aoyama Dori between Omotesando and Gaienmae stations. It is slightly incongruous in its surroundings. After all this is an area full of fancy shops, and BBB is a portakabin next to a main road with minimal interior decoration. However, in spite of this, it is a pretty good place to go for a drink.
There are two sizes on offer, the glass and the jumbo pitcher, although I suspect the jumbo pitcher might be intended for sharing. Glasses are ¥500, so pretty good value for beer fresh from the brewer. Not sure how big the jumbo pitcher is, but it is ¥3500. They have four taps here, and the intention is to have three regulars and one seasonal. The regulars are Golden Ale, Pale Ale and Porter. The seasonal has on each of my visits been the Strong Pale Ale, so not sure how often this will rotate. I guess seasonally. Saying this, last time I was there (International Stout Day) they had temporarily replaced the Porter with their Stout.
As for the atmosphere, it is surprisingly good for a bare portakabin. Recently they seem to have tarted up the inside a little bit, but for me the main draw is being able to sit of top of the portakabin. There is a small seating area that they share with the other two units on site and in spite of this being a seat on top of a portakabin next to a main road, it is actually quite nice. Especially if you like bright lights and cities which I do. So, definitely a nice place to have a few drinks and at a good price too. If you find you have gone through all the four taps, just head back for a second lap.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Brimmer

Opening Hours:
16.00 - 23.00 Monday to Friday, 12.00 - 23.00 Saturday & Sunday

Location/map
南青山 3-8-34, Minato, Tokyo 104-0028

Directions:
From Omotesando station, leave via exit A4. Turn right as you exit, and then turn right round the corner at the big junction. No need to even cross the road! Carry on down this road (Aoyama Dori) and look out for the portakabins on the right hand side after about 300m. It is right next to a car park, so might be worth looking out for that too. 



Telephone:
03-3281-6221

Links:
Beer Box Website
Brewery Website
Facebook
Twitter
Ratebeer listing

Friday, 9 November 2012

Craft Beer Bar iBrew

Another place that has opened during the recent explosion of good beer places in Tokyo. iBrew's big selling point is their very low prices. However, that's not the only reason to go there. The food is pretty good too, a mix of Japanese and international stuff, and once again at good prices. It's a very small place in between Ginza and Tokyo station area. There's not much room here, apart from a little bit of standing space and the seats at the counter area. Although there is also an outside standing area, but I guess this will be not so useful in Winter. It's a friendly place with a good atmosphere and helpful staff. Oh, and I should mention the prices again.
They have 10 taps, all of Japanese craft beer. Some people might find that the selection does not have anything new for them, and that it veers towards 'mainstream' micro breweries, but I always find there is something good to drink there, whether it is a new discovery or not. They serve in regular and large sizes. Regular is 230ml and large 410ml. Barley Wines,  of which they seem to always have one on tap, come in 180ml glasses. So, the prices. Regular is ¥390 and large ¥690. Barley wines are also ¥690. Just to let you know, the sales tax is added on when you get the bill, but this is only 5%. So, not a massive difference. This is cheaper than even Craft Beer Market, which is saying something.
So, maybe not somewhere for tourists, given how many places there now are with more difficult to find Japanese micros, but that is not to say it is not worth visiting. It feels very Japanese to me, and the prices are near unbeatable. If you are in the area, it's definitely worth popping in for one, and if you do, you might end up staying for a few.

Update: 11/4/14 Felt like I should put an update on here. iBrew's prices have gone up in line with the tax increase, but unlike many places, they have gone up an understandable amount (3% rounded to the nearest ¥10 I think). Also, the choice of beers here has significantly improved I think. Whilst there was always something you could find that was good, I have recently found that there are always a lot of things that I want to drink here. Definitely a place worth going to.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Baird
Baeren
Beer Buddy
Kure
Iwatekura
Tazawako
Ishikari Banya
Fujizakura Kogen
Harvestmoon
Coedo

Opening Hours:
(Please note, these seem to change quite often, so maybe best to check their facebook posts for up to date info)
Monday to Friday, 17:00-00:00
Saturday, 14:00-23:00
Sunday and holidays, 14:00-22:00

Location/map
ます美ビル1F, 八重洲 2-11-7, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0028

Directions:
This place is in the middle of so many stations that it is probably best to look at the map and find which one is best for you. However, the closest station is Ginza Itchome. Leave by exit 3 and carry on down the road, under the expressway bridge. Immediately after you come out from under the bridge, take a right turn down the side street. iBrew is on your left, about 50m down the street.



Telephone:
03-3281-6221

Links:

Facebook
Twitter
Ratebeer listing

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Devil Craft Kanda

Devil Craft is multi-floored craft beer bar with added pizza, not far from Kanda station. What with Kura Kura and St. Bernardus, Kanda is becoming a good place to drink good beer. The place is run by three American friends and you can always be sure of there being someone who can speak English working if you don't know any Japanese. The ground floor houses the bar and a small standing area, and the floors above have space for 15 on the 2nd, and 18 on the 3rd, so it's not the biggest of places, but let's just say that makes it cosy! Last time I visited my standing table was on one of the landings of the staircase, but let's be honest, you are here to drink good beer, and not to sit down.
There are 15 taps and these are split roughly half and half between US imports and Japanese micros. I have seen beers and brewers here that I have never heard of, so there will always be something interesting on. The US brewers on tap on my last visit were Karl Strauss, Epic, Southern Tier, Crabtree, Coronado and Lagunitas. Nice! Prices are pretty much normal for Tokyo. Pints and glasses are 473ml and 260ml respectively. US imports range from ¥1100-¥1300 for pints and ¥700-¥900 for glasses. Japanese micros from ¥1000-¥1100 and ¥600-¥700. Pretty reasonable I think. And also they have happy hours where you get ¥100 off. These are from 17.00 - 18.00, Monday to Friday, and 15.00 - 17.00 on Saturday and Sunday.
The pizzas are pretty nice too. They specialise in Chicago-style pizzas. Not being an expert in pizza styles I think this means that they are quite deep, pie-style pizzas. Being an expert in enjoying eating pizza, I can tell you that they are delicious. There is a decent amount of veggie options too which is nice. There is also a good selection of appetizers and snacks too. A good place to eat and enjoy good beers.
They are apparently planning to brew their own beer. So far this has meant them making their own beers at other breweries, but there are plans to make the bar a brewpub, which will make things all  the more interesting and enticing. Not that I need much persuasion to go there anyway. It does tend to be crowded, but then I guess good places are like that. Maybe best to call ahead and book if you are in a group, or if you are solo-drinking, you might be able to get my spot on the stairs.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Aqula
Bayern Meister
Ise Kadoya
Iwatekura
Harvest Moon
Baird

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday, 17.00 - 23.30, Saturday 15.00 - 23.30, Sunday and holidays 15.00 - 22.00

Location/map
石川ビル1-5F, 日本橋室町4-2-3 Chuo, Tokyo, 103-0022 

Directions:
From Kanda JR station, head out of the South exit. If you arrive on the metro, to get to this point leave the metro station via exit 1 and walk across the concourse to the East JR exit. If you turn right and follow the tracks you will come to the JR station South exit. From the South JR exit turn right and follow the tracks till you get to the main road. Cross here and carry straight on, but instead of following the tracks, take the left hand fork. Carry on, past a couple of side streets and cross the first zebra crossing. Devil Craft is on the left-hand corner of the next side street. Their website says to call them if you get lost, so I guess people do lose their way. 



Telephone:
03-6265-1779

Links:
Website 
Facebook
Twitter
Ratebeer listing

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Ushi Tora 2


[For your information, Ushi Tora 1 has now moved. Please check here for the new listing]

Perhaps common sense would have said that I should put both Ushi Tora bars together, but I think they are very different places so here is part one, which for some reason starts with bar 2. Ushi Tora 2 is the much smaller one room standing bar that you come to before you get to the main Ushi Tora. There's not much room here, but given that it is a standing bar, you are probably not meant to hang around for too long. Unfortunately, they do normally have a very good and interesting beer list though, which does encourage you to linger. They have around 15 taps, one of which is draught sake, and the rest tend to be interesting Japanese micros. However, they do have themed tap takeovers, so sometimes there may be a few imports from an interesting brewer. The big draw is that they do seem to get things here that other bars don't. On my last visit there were a few that I had never come across, and some one year aged versions too.
The place itself is cosy, unsurprisingly given the size. There are a lot of comic books, some Japanese kids toys, and some bewildered looking goldfish. They have an English translation of the menu available, and I think the staff are probably able to speak some English. If you are coming to Shimo Kitazawa to visit the main Ushi Tora, it is definitely worth saving some time for a couple in the smaller branch. Both branches have different opening times so it is worth checking both will be open before you come. Ushi Tora 2 is closed on Mondays, but open earlier than the main branch at weekends, and they sometimes extend opening hours on public holidays.
Possibly the one drawback is the prices, which are a little over the normal in Tokyo. But if you balance this with the interesting selection it balances out somewhat. Serving sizes are generally US pint and half pint sizes. Half pints range from ¥650-¥750 and pints from ¥1150-¥1300. The one import when I was there was the Schelde brewery's Hop Ruiter which was ¥850 a half and ¥1500 a pint. Draught sake was ¥900, but the serving was quite big.
So, definitely worth the trip out to Shimo Kitazawa. Just a shame that there is no other craft places in the area at the moment. And Shimo Kita is quite an interesting area to wander around with lots of interesting shops (lots of record shops particularly) and cafes and restaurants.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Chateau Kamiya
Shiga Kogen
Sankt Gallen
Gagery
Shimono Loco
Yo-ho
Iwatekura
Ise Kadoya

Opening Hours:
Closed Monday, Tuesday to Friday 15.00 - 23.30, Saturday and Sunday 11.30 - 23.30

Location/map
三久ビル2F, 北沢 2-9-3 Setagaya, Tokyo, 155-0031

Directions:
Firstly, you need to get to Shimo Kitazawa station. You can either take the Odakyu line that runs from Shinjuku, or the Keio Inokashira Line from Shibuya. On both lines, local and express trains stop at Shimo Kitazawa. From the station, exit via the South gate. Turn left immediately out of the gate, , and follow the road round. You'll soon see a supermarket ahead of you, and a level crossing on the left hand side. Turn right here and then the first left. Carry on to the next right turning, but do not turn the corner. If you look ahead of yourself now you should be able to see the view of the bar that is in the picture above. Both Ushi Tora bars are on the second floor of the white building immediately ahead of you. The stairs are on the right hand side and Ushi Tora 2 is right by the staircase on the second floor. 



Telephone:
03-3485-9090

Links:
Website 
Facebook
Twitter
Ratebeer listing

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Goodbeer Faucets

GBF has been open now around a year but given the recent explosion of new places in Tokyo it already feels like a well-established veteran. As with most Japanese Craft Beer places, beer on tap is the focus here. They have 40 taps and 3 handpumps, split fairly evenly between Japanese micros and imports. The Japanese micros come from a variety of brewers, but with quite a few from Baird and Nide, and there always seems to be a decent mix of styles. The imports lean towards the US, but Brewdog also makes an appearance, I have seen Nogne O, and they normally have one or two Belgians on. As a Belgian beer snob, I would probably say that the Belgian taps normally tend to be the syrupy fruity stuff that seems to be the norm for Belgian taps in Tokyo bars. However, they occasionally do have good stuff on. I recently spotted XX Bitter which is pretty good by me.
The decor is modern and minimalist looking, with a large central island bar with a long counter round it. There is more counter-style seating by the large window, which gives you a nice place to drink and stare at the passing crowds if you are so inclined. There are a few tables too if you are in a group.
The big draw of Faucets for me is their Happy Hour. From 16.00 - 20.00 Monday to Thursday, and from 15.00 - 20.00 on Sunday, all pints are ¥200 off. This can make drinking here very economical. The normal prices are pretty standard for Tokyo, pints (473ml) range from ¥900-¥1100 for Japanese micros and ¥1100-¥1300 for imports. Glasses (236ml) are from around ¥500-750 for Japanese micros and ¥750-¥850 for imports. However, I should also mention their house beer Endless Brown Ale, made for them by Brimmer, which is pretty nice, and is only ¥700 a pint, so becomes an ultra-affordable ¥500 during happy hour. They have bottles too, some Belgians, Germans and a few others, in the ¥1200-¥1300 range, but personally I don't think they are as interesting as the tap selections.
All in all, a really good part of the Tokyo scene. A nice bar with a good selection and decent prices. The staff are helpful and there is always someone there who can speak English. They are open late (till 3am) on Fridays too, which is nice if you end up in Shibuya at that time needing a decent beer. GBF is definitely on the must-visit list for any beer lover in Tokyo, whether you are interested in imports or Japanese micros.

Japanese breweries that appear on tap:
Baird
Nide
Chateau Kamiya
Baeren
Aqula
Hidatakayama
Swan Lake
Shonan
Kisoji
Nihonkai Club
Minamishinshu
Oh La Ho
North Island

Opening Hours:
Monday-Thursday, 16.00-24.00
Friday, 16.00-03.00
Saturday, 15.00-24.00
Sunday, 15.00-23.00

Location/map
松濤1-29-1, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0046 

Directions:
From Shibuya station, leave via the Hachiko crossing gate and proceed to the famous scramble crossing. From here if you look across the road you should see a silver tower at a fork just down the road with 109 on it. Head down the road on the right of the fork, past the adidas shop on the right-hand side and then a bit further down electronic superstore LABI on your left. At the next junction (where the Tokyu department store and Bunkamura are) head left. At the next set of traffic lights you will see a Family Mart on the right-hand side and Faucets is above it. If in doubt, ask for Bunkamura and then walk all the way round keeping your eyes on second floor premises at traffic lights. 



Telephone:
03-3770-5544

Links:
Website 
Facebook
Twitter
Ratebeer listing

Monday, 15 October 2012

Koenji Bakushu Kobo

Hidden away in a back street in Koenji is Bakushu Kobo, a brewpub open for just a couple of years. They brew on site so the beer is lovely and fresh. Recent visits have seen the number of choices increasing; last Saturday they were 5 different beers of their own, Amber (two versions), Cream Ale, Blond, Strong Ale (2 versions, one with fresh hops) and the intriguing Hot Ale, which to be honest I haven't tried yet. Maybe in the winter. Have also seen Red Ale and a Belgian White on recent visits, so there is some rotation. [Update: visited this evening and they had swelled to nine of their own beers, including some beers in very different styles to their usual ones]. The different versions are a sign that the beers are still a work in progress, recipes being tweaked each time. Saying that, they are pretty nice already as far as I am concerned. Along with their own beers they also have a few macros, but let's be honest, we're not interested in those.
Beers come in two sizes, a 360ml cup (which is plastic) or a 400ml joki, (glass mug). As there is not much difference in size, I think it's always better to go for the joki and drink out of a glass. Prices for the jokis range from a bargain ¥390 for the Blond to a still reasonable ¥790 for the fresh hop Strong Ale. They also have a decent food selection, and some stuff that is suitable for vegetarians. The highlight is probably the bacon/ham that you get 4 big chunks of, and your own mini grill for you to cook it at your table to your taste.
Bakushu Kobo is very much in a residential area and this might explain the strange opening hours. It is also quite popular with locals, so sometimes it can be difficult to get in. Probably best to book or come around opening time. Along with tables, there is a small counter area so if there are one or two of you, you might be lucky and be able to squeeze in somewhere.
I have to say, I really like this place. Their beers might not be as in your face as some breweries are now making, but they are really tasty, and given that most of them are around 5%, they are definitely good for a session. They have recently opened another branch in Asagaya, one stop along the Chuo line, but I have yet to visit that one.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Koenji (of course!)

Opening Hours:
17.00 - 23.00 Wednesday to Friday
15.00 - 21.30 Saturday and Sunday
Closed Monday and Tuesday (although might be open if these are public holidays)

Location/map
高円寺北2-24-8, Suginami, Tokyo 166-0002

Directions:
From Koenji station, leave via the North Exit. Standing in the North Exit, look across the square and go down the right hand of the three roads you see opposite the station. Carry on at the first junction, past a Pachinko place and at the next jucntion you will see Olympic on the right hand corner. Turn right here and then take the second left (the road after the mini car park). Carry on down this small side street and just before the next junction you will see the bar on the right hand side. 



Telephone:
03-5373-5301

Links:
Blog
Website
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Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Popeye

One of the most famous bars in Tokyo and a longstanding favourite of many. Popeye is a really cosy pub in Ryougoku with a big tap selection and nice food. Their website proclaims '70 beers on tap' and this selection is made up of mainly Japanese micros, with maybe 15 or so craft imports. They also have bottles, but I think most people come here for the taps. Prices are a bit strange, most being odd yen amounts and not rounded off. I have no idea why this is, but I find it quite entertaining. For around 260ml glasses of Japanese beers, the prices range from the low 600's to high 700's in general. 410ml glasses range from the low 900's to mid 1100's. Imports are naturally more expensive, 260ml glasses for the high 800's to high 900's and 410ml glasses from the mid 1300's to high 1400's. However there are a range of different sizes for different types of beer (Barley Wines for example), that don't exactly fit into these parameters. Best thing to do is go to their website and check out the prices for yourself. They publish their tap list on there every day (on the left-hand side, click Todys Beer and click the A and B to view the PDFs), so it's pretty useful to be able to check before you head there.
So, even though the prices don't make it the cheapest place around, they do have a number of pretty good offers that can help bring your costs down. Every time you visit, they will give you a 50% off a glass coupon to use the next time. Also, they have a really good happy hour, which runs daily from 5-8 where you can get a free plate of food with every order of selected beers (a decent proportion of the menu). I would make sure you get there at 5 though, or book in advance as it does get busy.
All in all, it's a great place to go. The staff are always friendly and helpful, they have a big selection and some stuff that you can't get other places. Until recently the had Hakusekikan Hurricane, but sadly this seems to have run out now. It might be a little bit out of the way, but it's always worth a trip. And last year they apparently did a highly irresponsible but quite tempting promotion where you got a good discount off your beer if you managed to spend an hour sitting outside without a coat in the winter. What more could you ask for!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Fujizakura Kogen
Ginga Kogen
Swan Lake
Hitachino Nest
Yo-Ho
Outsider
Baird
Shonan
Preston
Brimmer
Ise kadoya
Echigo
Shiga Kogen
Iwatekura
Minoh
Minamishinshu
Hidatakayama
Nasu Kogen

Opening Hours:
17.00 - 23.30 Monday to Saturday, closed Sunday

Location/map
両国 2-18-7, Sumida, Tokyo 130-0026

Directions:
From Ryougoku station on the Sobu line, head to the West exit and out on to the main road. Turn left and you will pass a McDonalds on the other side of the road and then the hotel Bellegrande on your left hand side. Take the left immediately after the hotel and it is a short walk down the road on the right-hand side. 



Telephone:
03-3633-2120

Links:
Website 
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Sunday, 23 September 2012

Craft Beer Market - Jimbocho

At the moment there are just two Craft Beer Markets, this one in Jimbocho and one in Toranomon. But there are plans to open two more branches in as yet undisclosed locations in the near future. The first notable thing about Craft Beer Markets are the prices. For small glasses (250ml) all beers are ¥480 and for large (generally around US pint size, 473ml) ¥780. Barley Wines come in 100ml servings and are ¥480. These prices are pretty much unbeatable in Tokyo. Craft Beer Market is the place to go if you are on a budget. They do however apparently have a ¥300 cover charge, but when I visited at lunchtime and said I was only drinking I wasn't charged this. Even so, if you are staying for a few drinks, you can easily cover the cover charge!
They have 30 taps, 3 of which are macro, and the rest craft. There is usually one import tap. When I visited it was Hoegaarden, but I have heard that they have US micros on too, and when you consider you are getting these too at ¥780, that is very good value. (edit: looking at recent beer lists, it seems that they now have more than one import tap, in the case of today, there are 4).
The atmosphere at lunchtime was quite nice, not too crowded. Evenings seem to always be busy. Friday nights seemed to be booked up at least a week in advance. My advice would be to turn up shortly after opening, or maybe try Monday to Thursday. The crowd here is mainly office workers, and some have said that this takes away from the atmosphere a little, so go with friends and make your own atmosphere. They have their own branded glassware which is quite nice too.
Will be interesting to see where their next two bars are situated, and then get a better idea of whether they are solely aiming for the salaryman market. It's a shame they are not open at the weekend, as it would be quite a nice place to go when there are not so many people around, but I can understand that the fact it would be quiet would be a good reason for them not wanting to open! Maybe as the Craft Beer scene continues to grow in Japan, they might extend their hours. (edit 2: the Jimbocho Craft Beer Market has now extended it's hours and is open on Saturday evenings too!).

Japanese breweries on tap when I first visited:
Shiga Kogen
Yokohama
Swan Lake
North Island
Iwatekura

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, Lunch 11.30-14.00, Evening 17.00-23.30
Saturday, 17.00-23.30
Sunday closed

Location/map
2-11-15 住友商事神保町ビル 1F, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Directions:
From Jimbocho station, turn right out of exit A6. Take the first right and carry on down this road. Cross the side street and then carry straight on at the next road. Craft Beer Market is on the right hand side just after this junction. 



Telephone:
03-6272-5652

Links:
Website

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Friday, 21 September 2012

Tanakaya Liquor Store

Not just one of the best beer shops in Tokyo, but one of the best beer shops I have ever been to, all over the world. Tanakaya is an all round booze shop, with a large selection of not only beer, but also wine and spirits. Big glass-fronted fridges with beers from the US, Belgium, UK, Germany, Italy, Denmark and others. Japanese micros are kept in a chiller at the end of the beer fridges and breweries include Baird, Shiga Kogen, Hakusekikan, Harvestmoon, North Island, Tamamura Honten, Sankt Gallen, Hideji and they get seasonals in from some of these breweries too. I am a bit of an US beer novice, but there are plenty of names that I have heard of and been recommended. As for the Belgian selection, it is fantastic. I have got bottles here that I have never been able to find in Belgium. There is a big selection of 750ml bottles including plenty of Cantillon. Prices for the imports start from around ¥500 for a 330ml bottle and increase depending on size and rarity. Always seems reasonable though when you consider it is Tokyo. Japanese beers start a bit cheaper, around ¥400. In my opinion, this place is a must visit for anyone who likes beer and is in Toyko.

Japanese breweries' bottles available when I visited:
Baird
Shiga Kogen
Hakusekikan
Harvestmoon
North Island
Tamamura Honten
Sankt Gallen
Hideji

Opening Hours:
11.00 - 20.00 Mon-Sat, closed Sunday

Location/map
目白3-4-14, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

Directions:
From Mejiro station on the Yamanote line, there is only one exit. Turn left out of the station on the main road. You will see a pedestrian crossing. Shortly afterwards on the left hand side you will see St. Marc's coffee shop. Tanakaya is down the stairs in the basement, underneath St. Marc's.



Links:
Website
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Friday, 7 September 2012

Watering Hole


Recently opened beer bar in an area that is currently a little light on good places to drink. It is divided into two halves, the left-hand side being the bar area, and the right-hand side will soon (brewing license pending) be their micro-brewery. There are 21 taps, including a couple of handpumps and at the moment they are divided between Japanese micros, American imports and the odd Belgian and Brewdog thrown in. Not sure how this will change when they have their own beer to sell. Their pint prices are about normal for Tokyo, Japanese micros varied from ¥1000 to ¥1100 and the imports from ¥1050 to ¥1250. Half pint prices however seem expensive compared to the pints, ¥750 to ¥850 for the Japanese ones and ¥800 to ¥1000 for the imports. So, best stick to the pints I guess. They also have a fridge full of bottles, around 30, with lots of Stone, some Green Flash and some well chosen Belgians (De Ranke, Cantillon). Pleasingly, there is no cover charge.
On my last visit I noticed they have started doing flights, 4 x 100ml for ¥1000, weekdays from 15.00-18.00 [Now, flights are available all the time]. You can choose any 4 beers. Pretty good if you ask me! A really nice bar with friendly staff and a good atmosphere. Somewhere I will definitely be visiting a lot.

[Just felt I should update this a little, as it's been a while. The Watering Hole is many people's favourite place in Tokyo, but it just doesn't work for me anymore. Their pricing has gone up a bit and this makes it one of the more expensive places in Tokyo, particularly for halves. Their selection is nowhere near as interesting as they think it is and some of the staff aren't particularly nice. I've never had a horrible experience here, but I just feel that they are coasting a bit and don't deserve the reputation they have. By all means, feel free to comment and tell me I'm an idiot, but I just don't get it anymore.]

[May 2017 update. The prices are maybe better now but it's still expensive. There's not so much difference between the Japanese stuff and the imports. Halves range from ¥700 to Y850, so proportionally slightly better value than before, but it seems that this is mostly due to the pint prices going up. Their cheapest pints were ¥1100 and these were for stuff that is normally much cheaper elsewhere (for example, Hitachino Nest White Ale). They get some good Japanese stuff in sometimes, but the prices are really not good at all.]

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Minoh
Ise Kadoya
Aqula
Sankt Gallen
Harvestmoon
Nihonkai Club
Kisoji
Fujizakura Kogen
Fukushima

Opening Hours:
15.00 - 23.30 every day

Location/map
千駄ヶ谷 5-26-5-103, Shibuya, Tokyo 151-0051

Directions:
From Shinjuku station, go out the South East gate, down the escalators and turn right under the bridge. Continue along the road past Takashimaya department store and turn right onto the main road. Carry on for about 300 metres. The bar is on the right-hand side about 100 metres past the Shinjuku Park Hotel.



From Yoyogi JR, leave through the East exit and head down the road between 7-11 and Freshness burger. When you reach the junction, turn left and the pub is a not far down the road on the left-hand side. 



Telephone:
03-6380-6115

Links:
Website
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Sunday, 2 September 2012

Welcome!


When I first considered starting this blog, it was intended to be an English language guide to all the information that someone would need to have nice beers in Tokyo in nice places. Due to my dithering there are now a multitude of sources of this information, but I am going to plough on anyway.
I intend there to be all the information that you could possibly want about bars such as opening hours, an idea on prices, if they have a cover charge, beer selection, how to get there if you can't read Japanese etc. There will also be links to lots of other interesting sites about beer and bars, so hopefully you will find something of interest here. Updates will probably be sporadic and probably random.
Anyway, thanks for reading this far, and any comments, corrections or suggestions please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment. Thanks!