Saturday, 16 March 2013

Sugaya

Today, another beer shop, but one which is not like the others that have been already mentioned on here. Sugaya has something of a split personality. I am not sure if it is a food shop with an excellent selection of beer, or if it is a beer shop that sells groceries. The space in the shop is probably divided about 50/50 between the two, and I guess if you are drinking beer you will probably need something to eat, so you can drink some more beer, so it does all make sense.
Sugaya is not in Tokyo, but in Kanagawa, but given that it only took me 15 minutes to get there on the Odakyu line I guess it isn't really that far from home. However, it was a 35 minute walk from the station, but still definitely worth seeking out. I should also add that the station I walked from was by no means the nearest one, but was the most convenient for me, so it doesn't have to be so difficult. In any case, Sugaya is the kind of shop you wished you had within walking distance of your house. Or maybe that would be a bit dangerous.
Sugaya's selection is heavily weighted towards Belgian beers, but Belgium probably is my favourite beer country so I am not complaining. They also have quite a few US imports, some other Europeans (quite a few German beers, a few Mikkeller, Nogne, Haandbryggeriet and some others). Best check the website, as they do mail order and what is on there seems to be a good reflection of what is in the shop. There was not so much Japanese Craft on my visit, but from what other people have said, they normally have a decent selection. There was the full range of Brimmer beers plus their current seasonal, and the excellent Tamamura Honten Saison One and Saison Noir, (both oak aged versions) and a few others. I went for the Belgian stuff though, and was pretty pleased with what they had.
It's a little difficult to explain what is so special about this place. It will take you a while to work out exactly what they have as there is beer pretty much all over the place in the shop. In addition to the beer there is a big range of glassware too, and of course groceries. Prices are probably about normal for Tokyo area bottle shops but the customer service is great. Bottles are carefully individually wrapped, so no danger of breakages. There was some seriously rare beer here too. Unfortunately out of my price range though. I will head back in a taxi when I win the lottery. Should also say that they gave me a lift back to the station, which was amazing! Thank you very much if you are reading this! Well worth a visit if you are in the area, but if you are not, still worth making the effort.

Japanese breweries available when I visited:
Tamamura Honten
Brimmer
Niigata

Opening Hours:
10.00 - 21.00 daily, closed Thursdays

Location/map
神木本町 5-2-16, Miyamae-ku, Kawasaki, 216-0031

Directions:
Difficult as you could come from so many different directions. Sorry to be vague again, but best choose your station and let googlemaps do the work for you. The pin on the Tokyo Beer Drinker map is in exactly the right spot, and the address above works when put into google. Musashinomizunokuchi station seems to be pretty close and on a couple of different lines so you could try that station, but like I said, it really depends on where you are coming from. Sorry!

Telephone:
044-856-6726

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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Baird Nakameguro Taproom

March is Lucky 7 Stout month at Baird taprooms. Given that I am a sucker for a stamp rally I thought it was time to revisit the Nakameguro Baird and start getting my stamps. Details on Lucky 7 Stout month can be found here. If you get cracking straight away you might be able to still get the first three stouts, eventually complete your stamp card and get a Baird t-shirt. But better be quick as they are staggering the releases of the stouts over the course of the month, so the first few could be in short supply.
Anyway, back to the Nakameguro taproom, which is situated pretty close to Nakameguro station in a kind of weird shopping/office/possibly residential building. Once you have negotiated the absolutely massive wooden door handle and got in, you will see the a fairly big room with a decent amount of low tables and some counter areas. This place is definitely more spacious than Harajuku. The basic beers on offer are the same at all of the taprooms (Wheat King, Single-Take Session Ale, Rising Sun, Numazu Lager, Red Rose, Teikoku IPA, Suruga Bay, Angry Boy, Kurofune Porter and Shimaguni Stout) and there is the obligatory house beer on handpump (here it is Nakameguro Bitter). In addition to this there are a further 16 taps and one hand pump for seasonals and guest beers (unlike Harajuku, where it is all Baird). On my last visit the guests were all European, with Mikkeller, Brewdog and Thornbridge represented, but as far as I can remember, US imports normally feature. Prices and sizes are the same as Harajuku (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, extra special, or a guest, but in the same sort of area).
Food is a bit different from Harajuku. Whereas Harajuku leans more towards Izakaya style food, Nakameguro's speciality is pizza, and New Haven pizza at that (I have to admit I haven't tried it yet, so can't comment but if you want to know what New Haven style is, you can read about it on the Baird website). Pizzas come in two sizes, 24cm and 34cm, and prices range from ¥1100 - ¥1800 for the smaller one and ¥1700 - ¥2200 for the large). They also offer a create your own pizza option, which I can't remember seeing in Japan, and which I guess is pretty useful for vegetarians like myself.
Guess there is not so much else to say, as it has all been mentioned in the Harajuku post. But to recap, non-smoking, no cover-charge, afternoon opening on weekends, great Baird beers at good prices. Oh, and lots of wooden decor. Bit more open and bright than Harajuku so consequently a slightly different atmosphere. Harajuku is closer to where I live, so I go there more often, but that is purely because of the location. Baird taprooms are ultra-dependable, so always make for a good night out.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Baird

Opening Hours:
16.00 - 24.00, Monday to Friday, 12.00 - 24.00 Saturday and Sunday

Location/map
中目黒GTプラザ C棟2F, 上目黒 2-1-3, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0051

Directions:
From Nakameguro station, leave via the main exit and turn right. Carry on past a couple of shops and you will see a kind of taxi rank/bus stop in front of a big building. Walk through the middle of this building underneath the weird looking cocoon things and straight ahead you should see a Kaldi Coffee Farm and 7-11. If you look above these on the second floor you should be able to see the taproom. If you should need it, the building is called GT Plaza and the taproom is in C block on the second floor. To get up to the second floor, take the stairs just to the right of the Kaldi. It looks a bit like you are going into a apartment block or office building but climb on up to the second floor and you will see the taproom just in front of you. 



Telephone:
03-5768-3025

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Friday, 8 March 2013

Swan Lake Pub Edo

This time, the Tokyo station area brewery tap for the Swan Lake brewery. Pub Edo is a pretty small place located in Yaesu, just East of Tokyo station. We went here for opening night a little under a year ago and it was unsurprisingly packed that day. 10 months later, it still seems to be pretty busy. There are seats for maybe about 30 people which is something of a miracle as the place is very small. Consequently it does feel a little cramped but I guess you only really notice this when you have to squeeze through the other tables on arriving, leaving or toilet visits.
Given that it is the official Swan Lake pub, there are unsurprisingly quite a few Swan Lake beers on tap. 10 in fact. In addition to this there are a further 20 or so taps. The double sided beer menu has Swan Lake on one side and Japanese micro guests on the other. There were around 15 guests and they are quite well chosen. Some nice stuff from interesting breweries. Also there was a selection of beers from the Masaji Beer project available which was pretty exciting as I had been wanting to try them. Along with the beer there is a food menu made up of the kind of items you might expect, although the prices weren't that cheap.
Beers come in servings of 250ml and 500ml for regular stuff and smaller 150ml servings of the stronger beers. For the Swan Lake beers, the prices were ¥550 for the smaller glass and ¥950 for the large. The stronger beers were a lot more expensive though, 150ml for ¥950 - ¥1200, which to be honest, puts them at the very top end of Tokyo prices. The guest beers were similarly expensive; ¥650 - ¥800 for small and ¥1150 - ¥1350 for large. These are prices you would normally expect for rare imports rather than Japanese beers, and consequently, I don't think it is worth drinking guests here. Also there is a ¥300 cover charge per person for which you get a small bowl of mixed nuts. The cover charge is a bit of a rarity in Ji-biru bars I have found so always leaves a slightly unpleasant taste in the mouth, unless like at Craft Beer Market, where the prices are so low that you make your cover charge back after a couple of drinks.
Overall, I like this place, and it is a good place to go for Swan Lake beers. They open a little bit earlier than some of the other places around, and also at lunchtime. The reason to go here would be the regular Swan Lake beers, which are a decent deal. However, the prices of the stronger ones and of the guests, along with the cover charge does make it feel a little bit like they are squeezing money out of you. The stronger Swan Lake beers and the guests can definitely be got in other bars cheaper than they are here. But, then again, I did come back here knowing this and we had a good time. And the place always seems to be packed, so I guess other people can't be that upset about the prices. Worth a visit once in a while.

Japanese breweries on tap when I first visited:
Swan Lake
Baird
Echigo
North Island
Nasu Kogen
Yo-Ho
Shiga Kogen
Ise Kadoya
Shonan
Tazawako
Sankt Gallen
Fujizakura Kogen
Minoh
Outsider

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 13.00-23.30
Saturday, 13.00-23.00
Sunday closed

Location/map
八重洲五の五ビル1F, 重洲2-6-5, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Directions:
Pub Edo is very close to Tokyo JR station, but given how difficult it sometimes is to find your way around that area it is probably easier to approach from one of the many surrounding stations. Although if you do come from Tokyo station the best thing to do is leave by Yaesu South gate, cross the main road and head down the side street between Lawson and the Yaesu Book Centre. As you can see from the map, it is not far from the main road on the right hand side. Easier directions are from Kyobashi metro station. Exit 7 puts you on the correct street so you just have to go right out of the exit, cross the junction with Family Mart on the corner and it is on the left hand side shortly afterwards. In addition to these two routes, it is only a short walk from Yurakucho, Ginza Itchome, Takaracho, Nihonbashi and Nijubashimae, so plenty of options. 



Telephone:
03-5202-8660

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Thursday, 7 March 2013

Liquors Hasegawa

Shop 1

Today, another beer shop. Or in fact, actually two booze shops in the Tokyo station area. Liquors Hasegawa has two branches in the maze of shops that spread out underground from Tokyo station. Both have pretty much the same selection of beers, so as long as you can find one of them, you should be ok.
As you can probably tell from the name, Liquors Hasegawa is not exactly a specialist beer shop. They do, however, have a pretty good selection of Japanese craft beer and also some European and US imports. And if we are talking solely about Japanese beers, their selection is probably as large as Tanakaya. They have a good selection of decent Japanese breweries here, lots of Shiga Kogen and Sankt Gallen, and helpfully for those who are hunting specific breweries, a bit of a different selection from Tanakaya. Also counting in its favour over Tanakaya is the fact that the Tokyo station area is a bit more central than Mejiro. Both are very good places for Ji-Biru lovers though, so best check out both.
Prices are pretty much standard for Tokyo take away beer places. At the lower end, they have Yo-Ho cans (Aooni, Tokyo Black Porter, Yona Yona, Suiyoubi No Neko) for less than ¥300. Prices go up to around ¥600 for 330ml bottles. The imports naturally tend to be a bit more expensive, but occasionally you can find some bargains. I got a De Molen Tsarina Esra for ¥680. I don't think I could have got this cheaper in London, and it has had to travel considerably further! Other import breweries featured include Mikkeller, Thornbridge, SKA, Alaskan, Coronado, Firestone Walker and a few more I have forgotten. Definitely some interesting stuff though.

Shop 2

Of the two shops, one seems to be easier to find if you are coming from the street and the other if you are coming from Tokyo Station. I will say though, the shopping centre layout remains a mystery to me after several visits, so if you are having no luck finding it, best find a map of the shopping centre layout and ask someone. Sorry that is not very helpful, but I will do my best with some directions below. For the purpose of distinguishing the two shops I will call the one more easily accessible from the street, shop 1, and the one easier from the station, shop 2. But like I said, both have fairly similar beer stocks, so if you only make it to one, don't worry too much.

Japanese breweries available when I visited:
Harvest Moon
Nagisa
North Island
Baeren
Kinshachi
Sankt Gallen
Baird
Yo-Ho
Hitachino Nest
Kisoji
Swan Lake
Shiga Kogen
Hanyu

Opening Hours:
Daily, 10.00 - 20.00

Location/map
Approximate locations for both shops at the link above, but better to follow the directions below.

Directions:
For shop 1, best approach from the street. The link under location/map above has a pin marked shop 1 at the entrance that is best to find it. If you go in this entrance (number 23), when you get to the basement you will be on a corner of the shopping arcade, and Hasegawa should be visible on this corner. Shop 2's directions are a bit more vague. The pin on the map is in pretty much the right place, but your best bet is to attempt to find it from the JR station. Exit from either the Yaesu North or Yaesu Central gates and find the Daimaru department store. If you can't find this people will definitely know where it is. On the basement level there is a path that goes through the middle of Daimaru. Walk through here away from the JR station and the food section should be on your left. Carry on a further 50m or so and just as it looks like the shops are finishing you will see shop 2 on the left. Horribly vague directions I know, but this shopping centre is very confusing. Probably better to go for shop 1 and approach from street level.
Here is a map of the shopping centre that shop 1 is in, which should hopefully be of some use. If you look at the very top left of the map you should be able to see exit 23. Liquors Hasegawa is the olive green shop on the corner next to the defibrillator mark. If you can't read Japanese, this is what the shop name looks like - リカーズハセガワ本店.

Telephone:
03-3271-8747

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