Saturday, 14 December 2013

Hachi

After a bit of a break when I was frantically busy doing other things, I am back with a post on a bar I actually visited a few weeks ago. Hachi is in Hatchobori, a little bit east of Tokyo station. It is somewhere I had been meaning to go for a little while, but as usual, time conspired against me. That along with the fact that I don't often find myself in Hatchobori. In any case, I did manage to visit on weekday lunchtime, so possibly not so representative, but I was able to pick up the basic feel of the place.
Hachi could be put in the same bracket as a few of the new 'lower prices with a cover charge' places like the Craft Beer Markets and Craft Beer Server Land. There's actually another new bar which seems to be in the same vein which I will have to check out soon. Doesn't look like the flow of new places is going to stop any time soon! The interior looks pretty different to the CBMs though. It is a bit of a warren, with little booths and areas. This actually makes it very difficult to judge how much seating is there. According to Craft Beer Tokyo, there is seating for 57 with 12 at the counter. I guess they went round and counted them. Thanks! Compared to the CBMs' concrete and metal surfaces, Hachi seems to be aimed at a bit more of a classier crowd. There is lots of dark brickwork and wood around. Perhaps this is what someone would come up with if they were asked to make a classy modern version of a traditional British pub interior without ever actually having visited one. Not to say it isn't nice. In fact, I thought it was a pretty decent looking place. There is a mixture of high seating at the counter and a few high tables and also some lower tables. As I said, I visited at lunchtime and the place was ticking over, with quite a few customers in for their lunch deals. They were fine with me not eating and asking for the beer menu though.
So, the beers. They have a total of 26 taps, but not all of these are craft beer. On my visit, around 20 were, and there was a decent range of breweries and styles represented. Most of the 20 were Japanese beers, but there were two pricier imports (on my visit, Brewdog and Left Hand). All beers are served in two sizes, 490ml and 270ml and these are ¥840 and ¥480 respectively (apart from the Barley Wine which was ¥580 for 150ml). The imports were available in the same sizes, but cost ¥1140 and ¥680. One nice touch was the different glassware for different beer styles. I was surprised when I was given my first drink in one of those fancy IPA glasses and the range of glass shapes was a constant source of entertainment. It's a nice touch. Also, they vary serving temperatures for different styles and this information is listed on the menu.
I was not charged a cover charge on my visit, possibly because it was lunchtime, possibly because I was not eating, who knows, but in any case if you do go, bear in mind that there is supposed to be a ¥300 charge. Also, it seems that the listed prices didn't include tax, which at the moment is 5%, but I believe is due to double in the new year. This is a bit unusual, as the cheaper places usually either just charge a cover (CBMs, CBSL) or don't include the tax in their listed prices (iBrews, and it seems that they do have it in the small print, legal fans). If you are having a few drinks you can make back the cover charge pretty quickly. There are too many variables for me to be able to easily work out exactly where these places are at compared to each other price-wise, but Hachi is still most definitely at the more affordable end of the scale, even taking tax and cover charge (spread over a few beers) into account.
In addition to the taps, they have quite a few bottles available from Denmark, the UK, Belgium and the US. As is the case in most Japanese beer bars, these are not exactly cheap, and I think I would stick to the taps unless there was something I was wild about having available only in bottle. There were quite a few things that I fancied, but compared to the taps, it just wasn't so appealing.
I went here with the intention of ticking it off my list of places I wanted to try and getting it on the blog, probably not expecting to visit too often, given that it is not so close to where I live. However, it was a pretty good experience and I want to go back soon. The staff were very nice and wanted to talk. The beer choice was good and you can't complain about the pricing (especially without the cover charge!). They do seem to care about beer here, which some might presume is a prerequisite for a bar, but an equal number would probably say is not so common amongst Tokyo places. I will have to try it out in the evening some time and update my thoughts. So, all in all, another place worth visiting. The list just keeps growing. And still nowhere in Yoyogi Hachiman/Uehara...

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
August
Coedo
Yo-Ho
Swan Lake
Minoh
Baird
Romantic Village
Shonan
Ise Kadoya
Kaze No Tani
Aqula

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, Lunch 11.30-14.00, Evening 17.00-23.30
Saturdays, 17.00-23.30
Sundays and public holidays, closed

Location/map
互明ビルB1, 八丁堀1-11-6, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 

Directions:
Easy! Leave Hatchobori metro station by exit A5. Carry on at the top of the stairs and cross the main road ahead of you. After crossing the road Hachi is on the left-hand side in the basement immediately after the first small side street. There is a big sign, so it's tough to miss. 



Telephone:
03-5541-1333

Links:

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Saturday, 23 November 2013

Craft Beer In Japan Book Launch

Just a short post to mention the upcoming Tokyo release party for this excellent new Japanese beer book. The release party will be held at the Baird Nakameguro Taproom on December 6th from 7pm and there will be a selection of special guest beers on to mark the occasion. And more importantly you will be able to buy signed copies of the book at a discount price and talk to the author.
For more info on the book, and how to purchase it if you can't make this event, visit the Japan Beer Times website here.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Oyster Bal Bono

[Please not that this used to be iBrew Shinbashi. It has recently relaunched as Oyster Bal Bono. Beer prices have gone up a little and there is now a ¥300 cover charge. Different beers seem to be served in different sizes at different prices and you need to add tax afterwards too. Bit confusing. Given the oyster focus and the fact that I'm a vegetarian, and the increase in prices and decrease in good beer selection, there's not so much point me going here anymore, but some of you might still be interested, so I have added this to this entry to reflect what I now know. So, they still have beer, but personally, I'm not really so interested in it much anymore.]

I may have commented on this previously, so apologies if I am repeating myself, but it seems we have moved into a new stage of the craft beer boom in Tokyo. Recently we have seen a proliferation of new branches of places, and iBrew Shinbashi is the latest of these. So, it seems that things are still going well, or at least that's what business owners think. Maybe it is notable that the places that are opening lots of branches are the ones that are at the lower end of the price scale. There clearly is still  a big market for cheap Ji Biru.
So, anyway, enough of my amateur theorising and on with the point of today's entry. iBrew has expanded, albeit into an even tinier premises in Shinbashi. I have to admit, I quite like the atmosphere of the original iBrew. It may not have the most exciting selection of beers, but the prices can't really be argued with and there is normally some good stuff on. It will come as no surprise to find that they have not tinkered with the format much for the new place. It has the same kind of feel, quite Japanese and pleasantly rough and ready and serves the same kind of beers at the same prices. It is even smaller than the Ginza branch with 6 seats and limited standing area for around 10. It was not the season for outside drinking, so I am not sure if they allow that. It will become clearer I'm sure when it is a bit warmer.
A quick note about the beer. Not so much to say that hasn't already been mentioned on the previous iBrew post here, but nevertheless here are the basics. They do two sizes, 410ml and 230ml, at ¥690 and ¥390 respectively. Remember that this does not include 5% tax, so that will be added on when you pay. When I visited they were having an AQ Bevolution event, so five of the ten taps were taken over by AQ Bevolution US imports. I presume this will lead to them having some imports on in the future too which if they are priced the same will make them very cheap indeed. However, there does seem to be a feeling around that if a beer is an import it is somehow going to be better than a Japanese Ji Biru and I am not convinced by this. It seems most places currently have US imports on tap, no doubt due to the number of import companies that are now around, and whilst some of these beers are great, there is also a fair amount of chaff amongst the wheat. Certainly, the best beer I had when I visited this iBrew was the Oh La Ho Pale and I had two imports and two Japanese beers.
So, probably not much else to say. If you have been to the other branch you'll know what to expect. iBrew's are good places for cheap drinking of decent beers. If you are searching out rare stuff, this is probably not the place for you. They have a facebook page where you can view their taplist, so you can check what they have before visiting if you want. At the moment it is closed on Sundays, but this is set to change in December. You can often get some really good stuff at very good prices and I always have a good time at these places, so I am sure I will be popping in again at some stage soon.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Oh La Ho
Hitachino Nest
Brewmaster
Swan Lake
Hideji

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 17:00-23:30
Saturday and Sunday, 12:00-22:00

Location/map:
新橋 4-6-6, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0004

Directions:
From Shinbashi metro station, leave via exit 8. Turn left out the exit and then immediately left again. Carry on down this road for about 300m. You will cross two junctions. iBrew is on the right-hand side on a corner, next to a Doutor coffee shop. 



Telephone:
03-3434-5330

Links:
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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Beer Horn (NOW CLOSED)

THIS BAR IS NOW CLOSED. I HAVE LEFT THE POST HERE FOR REFERENCE PURPOSES, BUT DON'T TRY TO GO THERE! IT'S SHUT. 

Today, one of the first craft beer places I went to in Tokyo after I arrived here, but somewhere I haven't managed to get back to since then. A couple of weeks after I moved here I went to one of Beer Horn's nomihodai beer launch events with a kind fellow Ratebeerer and have been meaning to come back since, but I guess Akasaka is not somewhere I find myself too often.
Beer Horn is the Tokyo outpost/taproom of Hokkaido's Otaru brewery, situated right in the heart of Akasaka's business area. The bar itself is in the basement on a main shopping and nightlife street, and if it wasn't for the signs, could probably be easily missed if you were not looking for it. But it is well worth looking out for. Otaru's beers are predominately in the German/European style; their three regular beers are 'The Horn' (Otaru Pilsner), 'Dark Horn' (Otaru Dunkel) and 'White Horn' (Otaru Weiss). Along with this, they have one special seasonal beer which changes throughout the year and is in a variety of styles ranging from a Belgian style fruit beer to a hefty Eisbock. Along with these four taps, they also offer a range of lower alcohol options, including a dark and light alcohol free beers and a couple of 'beer plus soft drink' options. All beers come in two sizes, 400ml and a massive 700ml and are served in horn shaped glasses. If you are feeling a bit more viking-like there are also real animal horns to drink out of, but to be honest, this really doesn't appeal to me. Beer prices are a bargain ¥580 for the regular size and ¥1200 for the large across the board apart from the seasonal which is ¥680 and ¥1400 respectively. One other thing I should mention is that they have a number of party plans, where you can get various set menus and add a nomihodai on to it. So if you are planning on eating and drinking, this is the way to go. The various options can be seen here, but only in Japanese, I'm afraid.
The place itself is fairly large for a Japanese beer bar. There is a counter area with seating for around 6 and plenty of tables, maybe seating for around 60. The first night I was there for the beer launch the place was rammed and there were a lot of people standing. However, when I recently returned on a Saturday night, it was much quieter with only a handful of people there. I suspect that a regular weeknight falls somewhere between the two. Given that this is mainly a business district, it is not so surprising that it is quieter at the weekend, so if a more relaxed experience is what you are after, this is the best time to come. If you want a rowdier beer party atmosphere, try the beer launch nights. Along with the beer they have a decently priced food menu with some nice stuff on there. One slight drawback for me is that it seems that you can smoke here. Possibly there is a non-smoking area, but this doesn't really make a lot of difference when there is no real division between the two areas. On a quiet weekend night this wasn't a problem, but I can imagine that if it's packed it could get a bit unpleasant.
So, all in all, another really good place to drink in Tokyo. Although the Akasaka area might not appeal to some (on a weekday, myself included) it was nice and quiet at the weekend, so an option for you whatever your atmosphere preference. Otaru beers are good and tasty, the prices are pretty hard to beat, and there are enough different beers on to satisfy the physical and mental thirst of most drinkers. I'm not sure why it took me so long to get back here. The next time will definitely be not so long!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Otaru


Opening Hours:
Daily, 17.00-23.30


Location/map:
土橋ビルB1階, 3-17-8 赤坂, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Directions:

Beer Horn is pretty easy to get to from either Akasaka or Akasakamitsuke metro stations. I have picked Akasaka, as it is on my line and the directions are much simpler. Leave via exit 1 and just carry on along the street. If you want to count side streets, it is just past the 6th one on the right. Otherwise, you can look out for a 7/11 on the right-hand side. Beer Horn is in the basement just before you get to the 7/11. There's quite a lot of signage outside so it should be difficult to miss if you are looking for it. 



Telephone:
03-3568-4690

Links:

Website

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Party Plans

Monday, 28 October 2013

Beer Pub Bamboo

Today Bamboo, in a rarely visited (at least for me) area of Shinjuku. Bamboo has been on my list of places to go for a while, but I have only just managed to get there. Bamboo doesn't have the biggest selection in Tokyo, but what it lacks in variety, it more than makes up for in atmosphere.
To get down to the basics, there are four craft beer taps at Bamboo, all priced at ¥700 for a half and ¥1100 for a US pint. When we visited there were three Japanese taps (Oze No Yukidoke, Oh La Ho and Baird) and one import (Rogue). There is also a selection of bottles and cans available, mainly US imports, but with a few Japanese offerings too. The place itself is on the small side, but in a way seems fairly spacious, as the seating is limited. There are around 6 counter seats and a couple of tables for three or four. The place felt quite Belgian to me, and being a Belgium obsessive, that is a great compliment. It was relaxed and comfortable, not overly bright and with subdued music; the type of place I would love to have in Yoyogi Uehara (I realise I say this kind of thing quite often, and at the moment, I would settle for anything in this area, but seriously, this kind of place would be great). The barman was friendly, helpful and very accommodating, adjusting some of the food items so that they were suitable for vegetarians. He was also helpful with descriptions of unknown beers. There was no hard-sell, just a desire to make sure that his customers had a good time, and this definitely contributed to the good experience.
I have no idea how busy this place gets during the week, but shortly after opening on a Sunday evening it was easy enough to get a seat. If you anticipate going at a busier time, it may be worth phoning to check. To be honest, I have no idea what this area is like during the week, so I am drawing a blank. I can't really explain why I liked this place so much, but it just had a really good feeling about it. There are clearly places around that are cheaper and that have bigger selections, but Bamboo had something special, and it is something that is not so easy to put my finger on. There is also no cover charge, and people who want to smoke have to go outside, both of which suit me. Possibly it was just right up my street, and naturally I wouldn't hesitate in recommending it as a really nice place to go. It seems that they regularly post their taplist on their facebook page, so if you are flexible, wait till they have something on that you want to drink a few of, and head there and make a night of it. I'll definitely be going back!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Oh La Ho

Baird
Oze No Yukidoke
(Bottles from Minoh, Oni Densetsu/Noboribetsu)

Opening Hours:
Daily, 17.00-24.00 (but worth phoning to check, as their website says 'almost daily', so I guess it is occasionally closed. Also some places list it as being open till 02.00, but I wouldn't depend on this).

Location/map:

ダイアパレス新宿1丁目B-104, 1-31-3 新宿, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Directions:

We initially had a bit of trouble finding the place due to an incorrect location on a map we were looking at, and as it is a bit confusing here's an extra photo of where you need to go down from street level.
Bamboo is a little way from the main part of Shinjuku, but it is still walkable from there in around 15 minutes. The closest station is Shinjukugyoenmae on the Marunouchi line but Shinjukusanchome is only a little bit further. From Shinjukugyoenmae station, leave via exit 2 and turn left out of the exit. Take the first left and then the fourth side street on the left. Just after you turn look for the sandwich board advertising bamboo. There was also a Thai flag flying as there is a Thai restaurant in the same centre, so look out for this too. The bar is located in the basement so go down the stairs by the sign and you should see it on the first corner.  



Telephone:
03-3352-5356

Links:

Website

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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Bruxellensis Cafe (NOW CLOSED)


THIS BAR IS NOW CLOSED. I HAVE LEFT THE POST HERE FOR REFERENCE PURPOSES, BUT DON'T TRY TO GO THERE! IT'S SHUT.

This was supposed to be the first of a new set of posts, intended for places that don't have a massive beer selection, or don't really have so many Japanese beers, but are still worth mentioning. This has been something I have been intending to do for a while as there are a lot of these places around Tokyo that are good to know about, but somehow I don't think merit an in-depth post on here. Unfortunately, after visiting last night, I think that maybe Bruxellensis is worth more than a mini post, so instead of starting my new mini posting series, I am instead creating a new category somewhere between a full post and these mini-posts. I now realise that this lengthy introduction means that perhaps this mid-length post is swelling into a full post, so will cut it short from here on.
So, the Bruxellensis Cafe. This is the latest outlet of the Delirium Tokyo group, and the first under this name (previously the places have either carried the Delirium name, or BelgAube). Bruxellensis is different in the respect that this is the first time I have seen Japanese beers on tap (apart from the Rio Brewing ones which are collaborations with Belgian brewers). They had two taps from Iwatekura and two from the Yokohama brewery. Also there were a couple of US imports, and as would be expected, 6 or so Belgian beers with some interesting stuff in there too. There is a total of 15 taps (not all in operation when I visited, but it is still early days for the bar) and these seemed to be split pretty evenly between Belgian and others. All beers were ¥680, so there are definitely some bargains here. There was a cover charge (¥380, I think), but I was asked if I wanted the otoshi or not, as I said I was not eating, and I was not charged so possibly it is optional. There is seating for around 8 at the bar and a selection of small tables, probably for around 30. A pretty nice place and very convenient for a quick one if you are getting the Fukutoshin line as it is situated in the Echika shopping centre which is right next to the Fukutoshin exits.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Iwatekura
Yokohama

Opening Hours:
Daily, 11.00-23.00

Location/map
Echika, 西池袋 3-28-14, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

Directions:
Best to arrive on the Fukutoshin line if you can. If not, follow the signs for Echika. The exits that the bar is closest to are C1, C2, C3 or C4 so look for signs for these. The bar is on the main thoroughfare in the 'Espace Pause' section. All throughout Echika there are maps of the centre, so pick one of these up if you are lost. As it is in the station, a directions map is not much use here, so I haven't bothered with one.

Telephone:
03-3988-1101


Links:

Website
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Thursday, 17 October 2013

Craft Beer Server Land

Today, the interestingly named Craft Beer Server Land. I have passed through Iidabashi quite a few times but have never got off here, so I was in uncharted territory. From looking at the review on Craft Beer Tokyo there was one thing that immediately jumped out at me. The prices and sizes are exactly the same as Craft Beer Market. I wondered if they were connected in some way, but I suspect after visiting, that CBM was their inspiration rather than Craft Beer Server Land being a new CBM spin-off.
The place is located on what seems to be the main shopping street in Iidabashi, in the basement below a big sign for the Big Echo karaoke chain. Probably best to look out for the Big Echo sign, as their own branding is more subtle. Descending into the basement you can see that the place is very new and modern. It was bigger than I had expected, (I am now getting used to small bars here), with seating for around 30 at high tables in twos. These can easily be combined for larger groups. There is also a couple of counter areas with further seating for about 15. In the tradition of most Japanese beer bars, this is an establishment concerned with beer and food, so there is a menu of varied food items at decent prices. I should also point out that there is a ¥380 cover charge, but this is compensated by the low beer prices.
On to the beer. There were 13 craft selections on offer when I visited, although I counted 25 taps so they have room for expansion. The breweries on offer were among the more common ones you see around but there were a few surprises. The Tazawako Pilsner was something I haven't noticed around before and was really nice. And I don't think I have seen Rokko much outside of Kobe before. Beers come in two sizes, glass (250ml, ¥480) and pint (473ml, ¥780) and are served in the bars own branded glasses. (Edit: Due to the increase in consumption tax these are now ¥500 and ¥840). There was a decent variety of styles available and no danger of not being able to find something I wanted to drink. In fact there were five that I 'had to have' (although maybe I am just telling myself that...).
So, it's not a mindblowingly different experience, and they don't specialise in hard to find breweries, but Craft Beer Server land is a pretty nice place. There does definitely seem to be a trend recently for craft beer places with lower prices. iBrew has just opened their second branch, Craft Beer Market have opened their third, so there is a market for places that offer cheaper beers (even if they do come with a cover charge). This is clearly a nice place, and late afternoon on a bank holiday there were a few people in here. It was getting busier as I left too, so it looks like they have opened in a good location. One thing I really liked was that they gave me vinegar with my chips. You don't get that in many places, and perhaps naively, it left me with a good feeling about the place. It's new and you can see that, but they seem to be up and running pretty quickly and pretty efficiently. Another gap filled in my Tokyo Beer Drinker map.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Minoh
Rokko
Tazawako
Outsider
Shiga Kogen
Preston
Johana
Kinshachi
Hitachino Nest
Baird

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 17.00-23.30
Saturday, Sunday and national holidays, 12.00-22.30

Location/map
川ビルB1F, 神楽坂2-9, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Directions:
Aaahh, easy directions to write for once! Leave Iidabashi metro station by exit B3. Turn right out of the exit and go up the hill. Craft Beer Server land is on the left hand side after about 75m, underneath a Big Echo sign. 



Telephone:
03-6228-1891


Links:

Facebook
Ratebeer listing
Craft Beer Tokyo listing (in Japanese)
Tabelog listing (in Japanese)

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Devil Craft Hamamatsucho

Another post, and another new branch of a famous Tokyo beer name. This time it is Devil Craft that have expanded by opening a new site in Hamamatsucho. This is an area I haven't been to much before. In fact, I think only once to go to the sake PR centre to give myself a big old hangover (not sure that was the exact intention, but it definitely was the outcome). So I thought the new Devil Craft was an excellent opportunity for me to head down that way again.
Firstly, I should say that the area the bar is in seemed quite strange. Possibly this was due to it being the middle of a bank holiday afternoon, and the fact that most of the surrounding places were closed. Initially I approached from the opposite direction to the station, so it really did seem like a bit of a wilderness, tucked just in front of the motorway and next to the train tracks. It did make a bit more sense when I went to the station on the way back and there were some other signs of life. But it was strangely disconcerting when I arrived. People who have been to the original Devil Craft will know what to expect here. The decor is modern and there is an emphasis on US imports and pizza. I believe that eventually the long talked about Devil Craft brewery will be on this site too, and it certainly makes more sense, as the place doesn't have the same slightly cramped feel that the Kanda branch does. There is seating for about 13 at the counter and then tables for around 30 more. Unlike Kanda, everything is on the ground floor.
More on the beers. There are 20 taps here, 8 of which had Japanese beers on when I visited (the website says 22 though, so maybe a couple were in between beers). Beers are served in two sizes, 473ml and 260ml and prices vary. In general the Japanese stuff ranges from ¥1000-¥1100 for the large and ¥650-¥750 for the small. Naturally the US imports are usually a little more expensive, ¥1100-¥1300 for large, and ¥750-¥950 for the small. There is a 'happy hour' weekdays from 17.00-18.00 and at weekends and holidays from 15.00-17.00 when they give you ¥100 off all drinks and appetizers. This can make drinking halves a pretty reasonably priced business. I had three Japanese beers and the total only came to ¥1650, which you can't really complain about. Amongst the Japanese beers there were some of the usual suspects, but also a couple of things that you don't really see around very often. It seems that we are getting more and more craft beer bars in Tokyo, but that most of them seem to be stocking the same beers, so any variations are welcome.
So, probably not so much more to say. Whilst the place is definitely US focused there is still something for people who want to stick with Japanese breweries, and in some cases these beers are different from what is on offer in most other places. The happy hour makes drinking here very affordable, so worth popping in around that time if you are on a budget. No smoking and no cover charge are also two aspects that I always find quite pleasing. If you are in the area, it is definitely worth stopping in, and keep an eye on their online tap list which is regularly updated. On bank holiday afternoon, the place was bubbling along quite nicely, so if you are heading here in a larger group it is definitely worth booking. Staff speak English, so it's not a problem if you don't know any Japanese. So, to summarise in a few words, quite like Kanda, but less cramped. A good place to have some nice drinks.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Shiroyama
Coedo
Brimmer
Shiga Kogen
Kisoji
Minamishinshu
Swan Lake

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 17.00-23.00
Saturday, 15.00-23.00
Sunday and national holidays, 15.00-22.00

Location/map
ライズウェルビル1F, 浜松町2-13-12, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Directions:
From Hamamatsucho, leave via the South exit and go down the stairs on to your right (this exit is called Kanasugibashi 金杉橋口). At the bottom of the stairs turn left and follow the road alongside the tracks. At the corner, follow the road round and Devil Craft is on the left about 20m after the turn. Keep a careful look out for it though as it is set back from the street slightly, and I missed it the first time, due to a parked truck in front of it! 



Telephone:
03-6435-8428

Links:
Website

Twitter
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Ratebeer listing

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Craft Beer Market Awajicho

Today, what should be a relatively short post. On Thursday, Craft Beer Market opened their third branch, not too far from the Jimbocho one, in Awajicho. I will gloss over the basics as these are fundamentally the same as with the other two branches, so you can check them here if you want. The twist with the Awajicho branch is that this time they are offering Craft Beer and 'Craft Pizza'.
So, the decor is as expected, lots of wood, high tables etc. There are six seats at a counter, eight tables for two which could easily be pushed together for larger groups and this time a standing area at the bar. Something slightly different is that they appear to be serving pizza and beer for takeaway as well, and although I am not sure how this works in practice, there is a takeaway window which opens onto the street.
With regards to the beers, the pricing and serving sizes are the same as the other branches. Also there are the same number of taps (27 good ones, 3 macro). If it ain't broke, don't fix it. They did have a few breweries that I haven't seen on at other CBMs before, but I suspect this is just due to them being new to the chain. I can't imagine each branch has a different ordering policy. On the night of my visit there were four imports, mostly from Brewdog as far as I can remember. The pizza was pretty nice and was reasonably priced. My large Margherita was ¥1300 and about 12 inches. The smaller one was ¥800. Good to have something to soak up the beer.
So, not much else to say. As usual the service is good, the selection of beers varies, but there is always something good on. Don't forget that there is a ¥300 service charge. Not sure if this is waived if you are in the standing area, but would probably make sense if it was. These places always seem to be busy, so best arrive right on time, or book ahead. Or in the case of this branch, take your chance and either stand, or get a beer to take away and wander round the back streets of Kanda with. It's normally at this stage that I say how I would like to have something like this near where I live, so... I would like to have something like this near Yoyogi Uehara (which is still crying out for even a halfway decent beer place). I got exactly what I expected from this place; good beer, good food and good prices.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Outsider
Coedo
Baeren
Iwatekura
Yo-Ho
Shiga Kogen
Swan Lake
Sankt Gallen
Minamishinshu
Gotemba Kogen
Hideji
Minoh
Brimmer
Baird
Kuninicho

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

Location/map
第1高田ビル1F, 神田司町2-9-1, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Directions:
A few stations you can head for this time, as Shin-Ochanomizu, Ogawamachi and Awajicho stations are all linked, so if you arrive at one of these, head for the Marunouchi line part and this should get you to Awajicho station. From Awajicho station, leave via exit A4, turn back on yourself and turn right at the large junction. Craft Beer Market is on the 4th corner on the right, about 200m down the road. It's also not too far from Kanda. 



Telephone:
03-5577-3046

Links:
Website

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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Chateau Kamiya

Another trip out of Tokyo today, and probably a badly timed blog post for reasons I will explain below. Chateau Kamiya in Ushiku, about 50 minutes from Ueno into Ibaraki is a brewery, winery, fake chateau and gardens complex that produces some very easy drinking beers and sells them at great prices. I have been out there quite a few times since I came to Japan and it is always a fun trip. Don't be put off by the train journey to get there. From a time point of view, it's not that long, and they even provide toilets on the trains (particularly useful on the journey back). From a money point of view, you only need to have 3 or so drinks before you start saving money compared to drinking in Tokyo.
In the interests of brevity, I will largely ignore all of the complex apart from the restaurant as this is after all a blog about beer. Although I should mention that the shop sells bottles to take away, so might be worth having a look in there before you get to the restaurant. The restaurant itself is a pretty large place. It's difficult to judge how many seats there are, but it's quite a lot, well over 50 I would imagine. Whilst it is a large place, it is probably still worth booking, as you wouldn't want to travel out of Tokyo and find they were full that night. However in general, I would imagine you would be ok just turning up, particularly if you go during the day or at least before the evening. In the summer it can be a bit busier, probably due to their crazily generous nomihodai (all you can drink), which lasts 4 hours and costs ¥1500. Probably best to order some food too though, in order to not appear a beer savage. However, this has just finished for the year (hence this post is badly timed). It normally runs from June/July to the middle of September but maybe best to check the website.
So, onto the specifics about the beer. They have eight taps, and three of these are their regular beers, Helles, Dunkel and Pilsner. The other five are taken up by seasonals, and these seasonals do usually have some kind of relevance for the time of year. When we visited during cherry blossom time they had a couple of Sakura beers and on my last visit they had their Autumn/Oktoberfest style beer. The three regulars are always good solid beers and the seasonals are more variable, but often great. When it is nomihodai they give you a glass and then you just go to the bar and get your beers. For the rest of the time, there is table service, and beers are served in three sizes. The glass is kind of a fluted shape, probably round about 300ml, and costs ¥450. Then there is a jokki, about 500ml I reckon, which costs ¥680. Finally if you are in a group, or are very thirsty, they serve pitchers for ¥2100. Pretty good prices. The food is decently priced too and is good regular pub food stuff, pizzas, pasta, cheese, chips etc. Very useful for soaking up some beer.
Chateau Kamiya is a place that I have never failed to have a good time at. Maybe the regular beers won't tempt those drinkers who seek out extreme styles, but they are always well made and tasty. A little while ago you used to see their beers outside of the brewery, but I have heard that recently they have been doing this less often, so if you want to drink Chateau Kamiya beers you should probably go here. It's not so difficult to get to from Tokyo, Joban line from Ueno or Kita Senju and around 50 minutes. In addition to the restaurant they have gardens to walk round and when they reopen the main building (damaged during the earthquake) there will be a bit more to look at. Probably not somewhere you would go on a whim, as it closes at 9, but well worth planing a day out and paying a visit.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Chateau Kamiya


Opening Hours:
Daily, 11.30-21.00


Location/map:
3-20-1 中央, Ushiku, Ibaraki

Directions:
From Ushiku station leave via the East exit. Go down the stairs and you will come to a kind of drop off/bus stop area. As you look at it from the bottom of the stairs, you need to head to the top left hand corner of this area. Here you should be able to see a footbridge that crosses the main road. Take this bridge and follow it down to street level. Turn right here and carry on along this road round the bend for about 200m. You will see Chateau Kamiya on the left hand side just after the corner. 



Telephone:
029-873-3151

Links:
Ratebeer listing
Website

Friday, 27 September 2013

Craft Beer Bar

The last of my brief flurry of Yokohama places (there are more to do, but that will require another trip). Today, it's the right to the point named Craft Beer Bar. This is another place in easy walking distance of Kannai station. This seems to be a really good area to have a drink or two. Before I go any further I should point out that outside this place there is a sign stating that no English is spoken here. I am pretty sure that this is for information rather than discrimination purposes, as I have always found it a very welcoming place with a friendly master, but it is not worth you going here if you can't speak any Japanese.
I appreciate that I always say this, but Craft Beer Bar is really the type of place I would love near my house. It's fairly typically sized for a Japanese bar with counter seating for around 10 and about the same at tables. The atmosphere is very calm and cosy, with quiet jazz music playing and subdued lighting. Every time I have been here there have been a few people here spread along the counter, so I guess they are doing something right. There is a big wall of bottles of whisky as this is another house speciality along with the beer and some grilled food (not suitable for vegetarians, so I didn't pay much attention, sorry).
On to the beer. There are 11 taps of Japanese craft beer, pretty much dominated by Shiga Kogen, which can't be a bad thing. Six of the eleven were Shiga Kogen, and I was happy to see the House IPA among the selection. The other five were a mix of decent breweries and good beers. Unlike some other places there didn't seem to be any fillers on the list. Perhaps it is better to have 11 well chosen taps than 20 where 5 are not very nice. In any case, I have never had any problem finding something to drink here. Beers are served in two sizes, 500ml and 320ml and are all priced the same (¥1000 and ¥700 respectively). The glasses used are particularly thin, apparently this is for taste reasons but I suspect they break a few whilst washing up. I would like to do a glass taste test some time, as I always find this kind of thing interesting. There was a decent range of beer styles on offer too.
So, a place I really like. It also has the advantage of opening a little bit before other places in the area, so is a good location for an early drink. I have always visited fairly early and have never had any problems getting a seat. If you can speak a bit of Japanese or at least enough to order a beer and pay for it, I would definitely recommend Craft Beer Bar. I can't exactly put my finger on why I like it so much, but it just feels right to me. It will never be a raucous party venue, and if you are looking for somewhere a bit more noisy, there are definitely places like that with good beer in the area. But if you are looking for a nice beer at a decent price in a relaxing place, I can't think of many better places to go.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Shiga Kogen

Minoh
Baeren
Swan Lake
North Island
Outsider  

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Friday, 16.00-23.30

Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, 12.00-22.00
Closed Monday

Location/map:
コーポサンライフ太田町 102, 2-31-3 太田町, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 

Directions:
For the sake of simplicity, let's go from Kannai JR station again, and from the same North exit. This time turn left out of the barriers and then right on to the street. Take the first left and then continue along this road for about 300m. If you want to count the side streets, you will be taking the 11th right. Seems that the pattern is one small side street and then a larger road repeated all along this road, but in reality, some of the larger roads are not so big. The thing to look out for is the pedestrian crossings as the side streets don't have them. So basically, five pedestrian crossings and then the next right. The 11th right is a small side street and Craft Beer Bar is on the left hand side after about 15m. 



Telephone:
045-651-0440

Links:
Ratebeer listing
Website

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Keyaki Hiroba Autumn Beer Festival

Just a quick post today to mention the upcoming Keyaki Autumn beer festival (hope they don't mind me using their picture above). The Spring version was my first Keyaki and since then I have been excitedly awaiting this edition. The Spring festival was great with loads of great breweries and beers and a really nice atmosphere with people just spreading themselves all over the plaza type area around the festival. This time they are moving indoors to the Saitama Super Arena. I suspect this has something to do with it being less at the mercy of the weather and perhaps also to do with toilet provision, which could have been my only complaint about the Spring event (the queue was pretty long so you had to end up predicting when the need would arise, and given that lots of beer was being consumed, this became quite often). I guess it might not feel the same indoors, but I am sure it will still be a lot of fun!
This edition of the festival is held from the 2nd to the 6th of October, each day opening at 11.00 and closing at 21.00 (apart from Saturday, which closes at 22.00 and Sunday, at 19.00 though, so be prepared). There are hundreds of beers to try, the vast majority of which are from Japanese Craft Breweries. You can check a list of some of the beers available here. There are some imports too as you might expect (mainly Belgian and US stuff from some of the regular importers). A lot of breweries do tasting sets so you can try a selection of their beers without having to drink a regular sized glass. And there is also a large range of food available. I guess exactly what you might expect from a beer festival. 
The event should be pretty easy to find. Just get to either Saitamashintoshin or Kitayono station and head for the Saitama Super Arena. There's no entry fee or buy a glass stuff, you just pay for the beers you want to drink which makes a nice change. I can't think of a good reason not to go, and consequently will hopefully be making it to two days this edition. See you there!

Festival website


View Tokyo Beer Drinker Map in a larger map

Monday, 23 September 2013

El Nubichinom

Yokohama again today, and a place that might now get overlooked because of all the places opening with lots of taps. El Nubichinom is tiny. Standing only with not really much room for more than 7 or 8 people at a push. Situated next to a canal, which sounds very picturesque, but it's in a bit of a shady area, so might not be the idyll you are imagining. This place is on this blog mainly for its atmosphere, although I have never been in the evening, as it's a pretty nice place to have a drink in the afternoon and has the bonus that it is open relatively early.
The area of town that El Nubichinom is in is one that is heavy on massage parlour type places and hostess bars, so a bit dodgy, although in the afternoon this just amounts to a lot of closed shopfronts, so not really scary. I have heard that there is not a big crossover of customers between this place and the other local businesses, partly due to the difference in opening hours. El Nubichinom is open from 15.00 to 21.30 daily (apart from Tuesdays), so is a good option for an afternoon drink. Saying this, it does seem to close for various reasons from time to time which makes it a bit more difficult to get in. My first two attempts were unsuccessful. The first time this was due to the place being booked for a private party (although the master was kind enough to sell us beer to take away), and the second time, closed for a holiday. The third time I thought I was going to fail again when I tried the door, and it wouldn't open. Thankfully, due to me lingering and cursing my luck, the barman demonstrated the sliding door, which naturally did not respond to me pushing or pulling it. Whilst I was drinking the same thing happened with another customer, making me feel not quite so stupid. And even if you do find it closed, there are quite a few places in the area, so probably worth popping here first and checking, rather than depending on it being open to round off a lengthy pub crawl.
So, on to the beer. When I visited, there were five taps on. I believe that sometimes there might be six, but you won't get more than that. The choice was not amazing, with a couple of beers on that I was not interested in, but there was still a few good options. On the day of my first unsuccessful visit involving the takeaway beers, the choice was a lot better, so I am not going to be too hard on it. In spite of it being so small, it also serves food as well as beer. When I arrived I was given a small piece of cheese which I presumed was going to be because of a cover charge, but it seemed to be just a taster, and it was delicious. If I was hanging round much longer I would have ordered some, so it kind of worked but maybe not exactly to the extent that they might have hoped. The beers are served in two sizes and the prices are the same for all beers (choose carefully!). The small is 200ml and the large 420ml. The strange opening hours and local colour have lead to an interesting pricing policy. The menu lists the two sizes as costing ¥700 and ¥1400, which for the larger size in particular is very expensive, even for Japan. However, there is a 'happy hour' which runs from opening to 21.00, so effectively the whole opening hours apart from the last 30 minutes. I have to admit I quite enjoyed the idea of this. I guess they don't want people hanging around after nine. Certainly came as a relief as I had ordered a large without first checking the price list and when I saw the ¥1400, I swallowed something hard and jagged.
Not really much else to say about this place. I had heard good things about it, and especially about how unique it was, and on that level it certainly did not disappoint. Whilst the choice was a little underwhelming when I was there, given that there is no cover charge, there is really nothing to stop you leaving after having what you want and moving on to one of the other good places in the area. The barman on the day of my visit was standing in for the owner who was at the Yokohama beer festival, but was still very friendly and helpful. I would definitely have stayed and chatted if I hadn't been on a tight schedule. I will definitely pop back here for another one again as the place just feels nice and I would imagine it is a good place to go for a different kind of Japanese bar experience.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Yokohama

Shimono Loco
Fujizakura Kogen
Johana
Harvestmoon

Opening Hours:
Daily, 15.00-21.30

Closed Tuesdays

Location/map:
都橋商店街 117, 1-1
宮川町, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 

Directions:
Once again, out of my directions comfort zone as I am not a Yokohama resident. I can't say this is the best route, but it is the one that I take and you will go just past Antenna America (so the first bit of the directions is the same). From Kannai JR station, leave via the North exit. After you come through the ticket barriers turn left and then left again out of the station. When you get to the main road, cross it and turn left again and walk under the railway tracks. As you come out from under the tracks cross the even bigger road and at the other side, turn right. Carry on up this road until you cross the river. Turn left at the small police station on the corner down the side street and follow it down. El Nubichinom is on the left hand side a little way down. Best check the picture of the outside above. 



Telephone:
045-231-3626

Links:
Ratebeer listing