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