Monday, 21 April 2014

Bay Brewing

Back to Yokohama today, and to Bay Brewing. This is somewhere I have been a couple of times before and is an important part of the Yokohama drinking scene. It's a pretty small brewpub that (obviously) serves their own beers alongside some other Japanese craft stuff. The brewer and main man of Bay Brewing used to work for the Yokohama Brewery and is a significant mover in the Yokohama scene. He organises the Japan Brewers Cup festival, which I very much enjoyed (possibly a little too much...) earlier this year and judging by the back of his Bay Brewing t-shirt, is very keen to establish Yokohama as the important beer city in Japan. I think he's already more than helped them move towards that aim.
The place is located near Kannai station, a pretty good area for beer as you can easily walk between quite a few places (check the Tokyo Beer Drinker map for details), and is a small one room pub with an even smaller brewery in the room next to the bar. There isn't a great deal of seating, maybe 10 seats at a couple of counters and 8 seats at tables, so this is a fairly intimate setting, but unlike maybe iBrew, where the room is small but the customers are crammed in, the relatively low number of seats in relation to the size of the room mean that even when full it doesn't feel too crowded. If it is too busy, I think they do take away beers, so you can always get one and walk on to your next destination. I would put the decor as somewhere between iBrew and Craft Beer Market. There's lots of wood, but it doesn't feel as worn in as iBrew or as slick and polished as CBM. So comfy, I guess.
They have 10 taps, but when I visited there were only six on. I think it's sensible to carry less and not have your beer get old and I also believe judging from their taplists online that they usually have seven on. All taps are Japanese Craft beer. When I visited there was a healthy Yokohama representation on these taps, with one by Bay Brewing and two from Yokohama Brewery. The other three were one from Shiga Kogen (can't go wrong with that!) and a couple from a brewery I have never seen around before called Oirase. Serving sizes are US pint and half and all beers are priced the same, ¥900 for the pint and ¥600 for the half. So, as you can see, compared to Tokyo prices, this is a good value place to drink. Also, if you want to drink Bay Brewing beers, this is naturally your best opportunity. I have only seen their beers a couple of times outside of their own taproom, but I don't have much experience of drinking in Yokohama, so not sure if they appear more often elsewhere in the city.
In conclusion, another good place to go and definitely worth stopping if your on a crawl in the local area. It's always nice to drink beer at the source and the good atmosphere and good prices here give you even more reason to stop by. There's no cover charge, free wifi and they are actually open on Sunday afternoons, unlike a couple of places that according to my research would be, but actually weren't. Pop in and have a few beers.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Bay Brewing
Yokohama
Shiga Kogen
Oirase

Opening Hours:
Monday-Wednesday & Friday, 17:00-23:30

Saturday, Sunday & holidays , 13:00-23:30
Closed Thursday

Location/map:
2-15 福富町東通, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa

Directions: 
Similar to Antenna America. From Kannai JR station, leave via the North exit. After you come through the ticket barriers turn left and then left again out of the station. When you get to the main road, cross it and turn left again and walk under the railway tracks. As you come out from under the tracks cross the even bigger road and at the other side, turn right. Carry on up this road and take the fourth left turn and then the second right. Bay Brewing is on the left hand side. 



Telephone:
045-341-0450

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Monday, 7 April 2014

Swanlake Pub Edo @ Cafe de Tete

So, here it is. A momentous day. I have been complaining on this blog for a long time that there were no good beer places in Uehara, and now Swan Lake have opened their second Pub Edo pretty close to the station (you can read what I thought of the initial Pub Edo near Tokyo station here). I wonder if this will be the first and only Ji-Biru incursion into Uehara or if it will be the trailblazer and soon it will become be a beer paradise here. Time will tell I guess.
It seems that before Swan Lake took over the place Cafe de Tete was already open and already serving Swan Lake beers at this location. This might go some way to explaining the slightly unwieldy name of the place! However, the takeover/merger/collaboration/whatever it was has intensified the beer focus. They have potential for quite a few beers, as they have 18 taps. However, when we visited they only had 11 on (fair enough, as the place is new and finding its feet). These 11 included seven Swan Lake beers and four guests, so even if you're not a fan of Swan Lake beers there is something here for you. The guests were, in my opinion, well chosen as well. The Swan Lake beers were the usual offerings, but I will keep and eye out to see if they start including seasonals in their line-up. When I visited, the guests were from Shiga Kogen, North Island, Fujizakura Kogen and Minoh, so a decent selection.
Beers are served mainly in two sizes, 250ml and 500ml. For the Swan Lake beers, these come in at ¥550 and ¥950 respectively. The four guests were a little more expensive, ranging from ¥750-¥800 for the 250ml and ¥1250-¥1350 for the 500ml. Stronger beers were served in 150ml glasses and prices ranged from ¥750-¥950. (Update: see below for new prices) So, the initial impression is that the prices are a little on the high side, but given the lack of competition in the area, I guess this is to be expected. Also, 500ml is a bit more than some places give when they serve a large, so you have to take this in to account too. Some of the beers were served in big wine glasses, which was really good for getting a decent sniff in. I think the lager was in a shaker glass though. I was very impressed with these big glasses. It definitely improved the drinking experience for me.
The place itself is pretty nice. It feels kind of classy, and I imagine that they are looking to attract the dining and drinking crowd more than people like me who just want to drink. The food looked good though and was reasonably priced. The decor is modern but also comfortable. They must have spent a fortune on importing the variety of interesting chairs they have. There is seating at tables for around 14, a couple of counters (one at the bar and one by the window) which can take about eight, and a couple of tables outside which looked very inviting. Staff were very friendly and the service was good. There is a cover charge of ¥300, but this does not apply before 18:00, so before then it's perfectly acceptable to pop in for just one beer. And this leads me on to what is one of the most exciting aspects of the place, especially given that I live about 10 minutes walk away. It is open all day, every day. This is very much a rarity in Tokyo, and is possibly due to them being a Cafe that has a good beer selection rather than solely a beer bar. In any case, the prospect of being able to have an afternoon beer is very welcome. Not sure how they would react to you turning up just after opening at 9am and asking for a Barley Wine though. And this is not something I'm going to do anyway.
To sum up, I would say that Cafe de Tete is a very welcome addition to the area, as this was a bit of a beer wasteland before its arrival. The prices are a little higher than I might have hoped but given that it is one of a kind in the area, I think it can get away with it, at least for the moment. Daytime opening is great for me, especially with no cover charge, and I hope to often get the chance to take advantage of it. In fact, I am kind of tempted to head down there now but should probably eat some lunch first. It would be nice if they put their tap line-up (or at least the new beers) on their facebook page as they update every day, but only really with the opening hours. I think it would encourage people to pop in if they saw something special that they fancied drinking. I'm not sure it's worth people traveling across Tokyo just to drink here given that there are bigger selections elsewhere and you'd probably have to pass the other Pub Edo, but if you are in the area for whatever reason, it's very much worth popping in for a beer and to enjoy the nice atmosphere.

Update: 9/4/14 Went in today for the first time since the tax increase here in Japan. It seems that the prices have changed to reflect this. Swan Lake beers are now ¥650 and ¥980, and guests ranged from ¥830-¥880 for small and ¥1350-¥1400 for large. I have to say, it has changed my feelings about the place quite considerably. For the small Swan Lake beers that's over a 15% increase even though the tax increase was only 3%. And when you consider these were already quite high prices for their own beers it feels worse! And the guest prices now look prohibitively high. I can't imagine feeling ok with paying these prices and a cover charge if I went in the evening time. It's unfortunate as I had a nice time there sitting outside this afternoon, and the House IPA was great. But these prices are not intended for people like me, so I would imagine I won't be here much anymore and I don't think I can really recommend it unless you have very deep pockets and no concerns about value for money.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Swan Lake
Shiga Kogen
Minoh
Fujizakura Kogen
North Island

New Opening Hours from July 2015:
Monday, 13:00-23:00
Tuesday-Friday, 09:00-23:00
Saturday, Sunday & holidays, 09:00-22:30

Location/map:
大山町 46-9, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Directions: 
From Yoyogi Uehara station, head through the barriers, down the first escalator, turn left and down the next escalator to street level. Carry straight on along the street, not going under the tracks and cross the first side street. Follow the road a little up the hill and Cafe de Tete is on the right hand side just before the main road.



Telephone:
03-5738-7347


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Saturday, 5 April 2014

Craft Beer Market Mitsukoshimae

Another week, another new Craft Beer Market. An exaggeration of course, but it does seem like they are expanding fast. This time the location is slightly different; the fancy new shopping centre Coredo 3 in Mitsukoshimae. This post will be pretty short, as the concept is the same in all of the CBM bars. I will focus on what's different and please refer back to the first CBM post on Jimbocho for the fine details.
The big difference this time is that they are open 7 days a week and also during the daytime (at weekends). This is very exciting for me as I am a big fan of daytime drinking. However, the daytime opening hours do throw up some strangeness. Monday to Friday it is open from 11:00-14:00 for lunch and then from 17:00 to 23:30 for dinner. At the weekend, lunch is extended by an hour till 15:00, 15:00-17:00 is 'Cafe Time' and dinner is the same as during the week. My first attempted visit was a failure. I turned up during 'Cafe Time' when they were seats available, but couldn't go in as they had called last orders for 'Cafe Time'. It seems that they won't serve after 16:00, but you do seem able to stay there drinking if you have already ordered. I did explain that I only wanted one beer so would be out before the fully booked dinner time slot, but it didn't seem to help. Perhaps this policy will change as the place settles in a little bit.
The location is very different from the other branches but this doesn't seem to have affected the clientele too much. Although there were a few department store shoppers there, it is still very much a beacon for salarymen, and who can blame them. The prices are still very good and although it could be said that the supply of good, or at least higher profile beers is being stretched a little with their multiple branches, this gives less well known breweries a chance. On a recent visit to Jimbocho, I saw Nihonkai Club beers in a CBM for the first time, and they were one of the highlights of the evening. Whether this is due to them having to hunt harder to get enough beer, I'm not sure, but I welcome it. The food speciality seems to be fish this time. Not great for me as a vegetarian, but I chose to live in Japan, so I can't complain.
To gloss over what you already know from the other branches, and to fill in a few blanks, there is seating for around 40, almost half and half, tables and counter, with just a few more table seats. There are 30 taps, (27 good ones) which includes two hand pumps. Beer sizes are 250ml and 473ml and they cost ¥480 and ¥780 respectively.
So, another CBM. I like these places, and whilst some people have complaints about the service, I apparently am not so fussy or discerning to mind/notice depending on your view point. I think these are great 'gateway bars' for getting people into Ji-biru, although these new recruits might be getting initially spoiled by the good prices. There is also something for those of us who are a bit snobbier in our selections. Long may they keep expanding, and hopefully a little further into different parts of town too. Jimbocho is probably still my favourite, and then Awajicho, and these are the ones I would personally travel to go to, but if I am in the area, or fancy a daytime weekend beer, (but not after 4pm of course!), I will be coming back to Mitsukoshimae too.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Coedo
Yokohama
Sankt Gallen
Iwatekura
Baird
Nihonkai Club
Minamishinshu
Shiga Kogen
Minoh
Brimmer
Niigata
Johana
Kure
Daisen G

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 11:00-14:00 (lunch), 17:00-23:30 (dinner)

Saturday & Sunday, 11:00-15:00 (lunch), 15:00-17:00 (cafe time), 17:00-23:30

Location/map:
COREDO室町3 1F, 1-5-5 日本橋室町 , Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Directions: 
From Mitsukoshimae metro station, turn right out of exit A4 and take the first right. Take the first right again and the bar will be just round the corner on the right. 



Telephone:
03-6262-3145


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