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

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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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