Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Bankan

Back again to Koenji, and this time to Bankan, a small bar on the other side of the train tracks to Bakushu Kobo. Bankan is a nice little bar/restaurant with seating for around 20, a few more seats at the bar and a few seats outside, which unsurprisingly were not that popular in February given the temperature. Would definitely like to sit outside when it warms up a bit though.
Bankan has 14 taps, 13 of which are rotating Ji-Biru and one is Edel Pils. Beers are served in Bankan's own branded glassware which is pretty nice. There were definitely some interesting selections on here. On my first visit they had Chateau Kamiya beers, which I haven't yet come across much outside of the brewery, so there is likely to be something of interest. Beers generally come in servings of 270ml and 450ml. Prices range from ¥630-¥800 for the smaller size and ¥930-¥1200 for the larger one, putting their prices about normal for Tokyo. If you want to find out what they have on tap you can check on their facebook which seems to be updated pretty regularly.

One big drawback for me is the fact that Bankan is a smoking bar. Given the relatively small size of the place, you only need a couple of smokers in before it gets pretty stinky. Maybe I am a bit more picky about this than others, but it does seem that most of the good beer places in Tokyo have a no smoking policy, which makes sense when you are selling good beer that you want people to taste. Saying this, I do want to come back again. I just hope that I can sit outside next time. So, Bankan is a decent place to have a beer or two, and given its proximity to Bakushu Kobo, this really makes Koenji a good beer destination.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Chateau Kamiya
Minoh
Iwatekura
Swan Lake
Shiga Kogen
Fujizakura Kogen
Kisoji
Ise Kadoya
Oh La Ho
Baeren
Aqula

Opening Hours:
(New hours from September 2014)
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, 15:00-01:00
Saturday & Sunday, 11:45-01:00
Closed Tuesday

Location/map
高円寺南 3-47-8 Suginami, Tokyo, 166-0003 

Directions:
From Koenji station, take the South exit and turn right. You will see a covered shopping arcade on your left hand side leading away from the train tracks after about 20m. Go down here and carry on until you see the first side street on the right hand side. Take this and then the first left. Bankan is on the right hand side shortly after you cross the first side street. 



Telephone:
03-3314-5008

Links:
Website 
Facebook
Twitter
Ratebeer listing

Friday, 15 February 2013

August Beer Club (NOW CLOSED)


NOW CLOSED

Now I don't normally venture into Roppongi but August Beer Club is one good reason to go there. In an area that is famous for its Irish pubs and sports bars you might assume that it is something of a Ji-Biru desert. However, there is Ant & Bee, to be covered in a later post, and today's venue of choice, August Beer Club.
Located in the shadow of the Mori Tower and the Roppongi Hills complex, August Beer Club is a pizza and beer restaurant/bar. Don't be put off if you just want to drink though, as they are fine with this. Be warned though, that on more popular nights it can be quite busy. The two times I have been (on a weekday afternoon, and a Wednesday evening) there has been plenty of space. The decor is quite modern and there is plenty of seating. The food is maybe a bit pricy, but then again, we are in Roppongi, and there are some pizzas with very interesting ingredients (white bean paste, and it was very nice).
Onto the beers. As the taphouse of the August brewery, they have all of the regular production August beers on tap; Pale Lager, Maduro Dark Lager, Extra Pils, Snow Blanche and Toshi's IPA. If you haven't had the last two, these are worth going for by themselves. The first two are pretty good too, if not quite as exciting. Still haven't tried the Extra Pils, as the others always look more inviting. Servings come in three sizes, small (270ml), regular (330-400ml) and large (473-568ml). Prices are decent enough, small is ¥550-¥600, regular ¥650-¥780, and large ¥900-¥1100. The difference in serving sizes and prices generally depends on the strength of the beer which I guess is fair enough, or at least par for the course. There are also a couple of 750ml bottles of two of their 2011 Barley Wines which look tempting but are priced at ¥4500, so immediately lose some of their allure.
All in all, a good place. The real selling point has to be the constant availability of the very nice Toshi's IPA and the really strange (and in my opinion, really nice) Snow Blanche. I know we all from time to time find ourselves having to go to Roppongi, and if you are there it's well worth popping in. To be honest, if you did August and Ant & Bee in a mini-crawl, you would have a reason by itself to go to Roppongi. Also well worth remembering that August Beer Club is one of the few places in Tokyo that is open all day during the week, so if you do find yourself craving an early afternoon beer but have missed lunchtime, this is one of the few places you can get a good one.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
August

Opening Hours:
12.00 - 23.00 every day.

Location/map
西麻布3-2-21, Minato, Tokyo 106-0031

Directions:
From Roppongi metro station, leave via exit 3. Turn left and carry on along the road. After about 400m you will see the Roppongi Hills complex. Cross the main road and then take the first left down a little curvy street just before Roppongi Cross Point. This will bring you out onto a slightly larger road. Turn left here by the booze shop and carry on down this road past the Hyatt hotel. August is on the right hand side about 200m down the road opposite a Family Mart.



Telephone:
03-6804-1655

Links:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Ratebeer listing

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Asagaya Bakushu Dojo


This branch has now moved from the old location. I've left the old post below, crossed out in case you are interested in any way. Here's what you need to know about the new place.

- First floor houses the brewery and kitchen. Upstairs is the seating area with seats for around 30 I would guess. Seems that you order and pay on the first floor and then are escorted upstairs by a staff member carrying your beers. Not sure what happens if you need to order again. Probably the same thing. You pay as you go, so you don't run up a tab.
- 6 taps of their own beer. All priced at ¥500 for a Jokki, so probably around 350ml. The beer styles seemed a little more adventurous than other branches but to be honest I haven't visited any of them  recently so can't say for sure. They had a Black IPA and a Hibiscus Ale alongside the usual Cream and Blonde type offerings. Also, they have a nomihodai where you can drink all you want for ¥3000 for 90 minutes, but I guess you have to go some to get your money's worth.

The place is a fair bit smaller than the previous location, but is much more convenient for the station, being no more than literally a stone's throw away. I think these places are quite fun and good value for a night out. If you're looking for extreme or rare beers, these are probably not the places for you though.


Building on the success and popularity of Koenji Bakushu Kobo, this is a fairly recently opened Brewpub run by the brother of the Koenji brewer. I believe the first place was a collaboration between the two brothers, but now Asagaya gives both brothers a chance to shine in the their own light.
Bakushu Dojo is a bigger place than Koenji, split over two floors and a roof terrace. The ground floor is a bar area currently with 5 of their beers on offer. The 2nd floor is more of a dining area. They do an excellent buffet deal for ¥1490, which goes down to ¥990 if you have 3 or more beers. There is also some more seating more suited to just drinking. The roof terrace will be lovely in the summer, but was not so appealing in February. In addition to their own beers, they also have few macro offerings, but let's be honest, we don't want to drink them.
So, onto the beers. On my first visit, they only had one beer on, but in February this had increased to 5 house brews, Blonde, Cream, Black, White and Wheat. The beers are not just identified by the name but also by a month and number, showing which batch they are from. I think it is all a work in progress, and the beers will develop as time passes. They had a small jug to sample an early version of February's Cream beer available on the counter too. It is clear that they care about making and developing their beers here. It was nice to see the Black too, a 10% imperial stout which is very different from the others. Prices ranged from ¥390 (the Blonde) to ¥590 (White) for decent Joki/mug sized servings. The Black was ¥490 and served in a smaller teacup size. Probably sensible given the strength. When you arrive you are given a neckband with a ticket on it. Each time you buy a beer they stamp the ticket so they can work out how much you owe when you settle up at the end.
Apparently, there will be more brewpubs, probably along the Chuo line again which has to be a good thing. If you are looking for extreme beer styles with controversial ingredients, maybe this is not the place to go. However, they do have a series of well made easy drinking beers. The Blonde and Black were particularly good. Also, given the evolutionary way the beers progress, repeat visits will give new and improved versions of things you have already tried. It is well worth the short trip out of Shinjuku and the short walk from the JR station. Come for the dinner buffet and stuff yourself or just pop in for just a couple of beers. Another one for this Chuo line pub crawl!

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

Opening Hours:
17.00 - 23.00 Monday-Friday
15.00 - 21.00 Saturday and Sunday and holidays

Location/map:
阿佐ヶ谷北 2-1-8, Suginami, Tokyo



Telephone:
03-3336-0606

Links:
Website
Blog
Ratebeer listing