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:

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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:

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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
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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

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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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