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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Ratebeer listing
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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
Ratebeer listing

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
Facebook
Twitter
Ratebeer listing

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!