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
Swan Lake

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

新橋 4-6-6, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0004

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. 


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