Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Kaeru Cafe

Today, a place that once again has something fairly unique to offer. I have no problem at all with there being lots of new and fairly similar bars around now. The more choice the better. But Kaeru Cafe is a bit different and because of this, I feel it's worthy of a mention on here. This may not be the place for everyone, but we certainly liked it and will definitely be coming back.
To begin with, I should say that Kaeru Cafe is not solely a beer place, they also specialise in tea from all over Japan. The company that runs the place is a film production company and whilst they traveled round Japan making films, they encountered a lot of local breweries and (I guess) tea places. Hence, they have a large selection of bottles from small breweries all over Japan. In fact, beer wise, they only have bottles. Many of these breweries I had never heard of, but there were some more familiar names mixed in with the very local ones. The selection varies as the stock is always changing, but if you are a ticker, I'm pretty sure you'll always find something new here. Larger breweries that were present included Daisen, Beer Herun, Minamishinshu, Swan Lake and Nasu Kogen. Given that some of these are not large at all, you can see how obscure some of the other ones are. When we visited there were over 30 different bottles from 14 different breweries. Prices varied from ¥700-¥1000. The prices seem ok to me, given how much you can pay for small breweries beers in shops in Tokyo. It's difficult to compare them to other bars, as most places don't stock Japanese Craft beer in bottles. It is definitely offering something that other places don't. They have a beer list on their website and although I'm not sure how often this is updated, it's a good guide for you to see what kind of things they offer
The place itself is split over a couple of levels. The ground floor section is pretty small, and you could mistake it for the entrance. Upstairs there is a bit more space. All in all, there's probably seating for around 15. It's difficult to say though as they had an event on when we visited. I'll update when we go back. It's definitely a nice spot to drink a few beers though. The staff were very friendly, as were the other customers sitting near us. I guess it is a place that has regulars. One slight problem for non Japanese speakers is that the menu is all in Japanese, so beware unless you want to point at the pictures on the map they have painted on the wall. Also, they don't actually serve food here. This is a cafe purely for drinking beer and tea.
We really liked Kaeru Cafe. The atmosphere was good, they had beers that I had never seen or even was aware of. Don't come here expecting to find multiple taps, food or all the usual names you would expect in a Ji-Biru bar. Do come here if you want something a little different, have an interest in films or just want to drink somewhere with a really nice atmosphere. Think that just about sums it up!

Japanese breweries' bottles available when I visited:
Daisen

Minamishinshu
Beer Herun
Swan Lake
Nasu Kogen
(and many other less well know ones)

Opening Hours:
Monday-Saturday, 17:00-22:00
Closed Sunday


Location/map:
2-15-
15 神宮前, Shibuya-ku, Toyko

Directions:
From Kitasando station, leave via exit 2. Turn left and when the road splits after about 50m take the left fork. Follow this road for around 300m until you meet a main road. Turn left here, and then right at the next set of traffic lights. Go straight down this road and Kaeru Cafe is on the right hand side, just after the 3rd street on the right. Bit confusing, so please check the map.


 

Telephone:
03-5771-5866
 

Links:
Website
Ratebeer

Monday, 16 June 2014

Nakano Beer Kobo

A relatively short post today, as there is not much to be said about this place that has not been mentioned in previous posts. Nakano Beer Kobo is the latest in what is now becoming a big chain of Chuo line brewpubs. First we had Koenji, then heading West, Asagaya, then Ogikubo (all mentioned so I can link to the other posts for your information), but they now have turned back the other way, extending their empire towards Shinjuku, to Nakano. For a general idea on these places, please check the information in the other posts. In this post I'll concentrate on what is different.
Firstly, Nakano is definitely the smallest of the four places. It's a small and quite narrow bar, tucked away in the streets behind Nakano Broadway. There is seating for about 10 people and standing room at three small counters. In addition there are a few places to sit up near the ceiling on a raised platform that you get to by climbing a ladder. I imagine it would be quite fun to sit up here, but would be a pain for going to the bar or the toilet, and as they are for sitting on the floor Japanese style, it might not suit all tastes.
The only other difference I can think of, is that all beers are priced the same here, ¥500 for a decent sized mug. They have 5 taps of their own stuff at the moment, which is brewed in an area at the back of the bar that is visible through a big glass window, so if looking at idle brew equipment is your thing, you're in for a treat (I don't think they brew when they are open). Talking of the beers, I should mention that this is the first time I have seen an IPA in one of their bars. It was pretty boozy though at 7.8%, so could almost be heading towards DIPA territory. Aside from the IPA, they had the usual suspects of Cream, Pale, White and Light Brown.  All beers have their brew date (or date they were put on, not sure which) displayed so you can easily see which is the freshest if that's your thing. I don't remember seeing this at the other branches. They serve food too, which is impressive in the tight space. Everything is cash on delivery, so you pay as you go.
I guess that's it. If you have been to one of these places, you'll know what to expect. If you haven't, it's definitely worth popping in to at least one of them. I think I still like Koenji best, but maybe that's because that's the area where I find myself most often. I always enjoy the atmosphere in their bars and the prices are good so you can encourage non-craft beer people there without them being shocked. I have probably said this before, but if anyone fancies doing this on the Odakyu line, I would really appreciate it, and would be a regular customer.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Nakano Beer Kobo

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 18.00-23.00
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays, 15.00-21:00

Location/map:
5-53-
4 中野, Nakano-ku, Toyko

Directions:
Maybe not the quickest route as there will be lots of people shopping in the way, but definitely the simplest to explain. From Nakano JR station leave via the North exit, cross the little square and go into Nakano Broadway shopping arcade. Follow this right up till where it goes into the shopping centre and do a right here. Carry on till the end of this street and turn left and then first right and then left again. The bar is down a little alley on the left hand side about 20m from this last turn. It's probably easiest to check the location on the map and find your own way!




Telephone:
03-3385-3301

Links:

Website
Ratebeer listing

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Hiranoya

(This post was originally three beer shops in one day so to fully appreciate what's going on, check the other two posts on Deguchiya and Night Owl)


Another beer shop, and another one that allows drinking on the premises. This is another place well worth visiting. Hiranoya's focus is very much Belgian beer. During the day it is a bottle shop, but after 17:30 you are able to drink on the premises. The prices on the fridge are for consumption on the premises so if you are taking away it will be a bit cheaper. They also have one tap for draught beer and this normally seems to be something from Dupont, which for me is a big plus point. When I visited it was the Blanche de Hainaut Biologique and a decent sized serving in the proper glassware was ¥780, so not bad at all. Alongside the Belgians there is a smattering of US, German and British beers, but I will stick to the Belgians as it's my preference. There was a good mix of stuff available with some things you don't see around so often (Fantome, unusual Dupont stuff). The owner told me he is looking into getting some Japanese craft in too. The place itself is quite small with seating for around five or six and standing room for about the same amount. There is a small selection of snacks to go with the beer but it's nice to see that for once Belgian beer isn't so inextricably linked to full-on dining as it seems to be in many places in Tokyo. Very pleased to have found this place within walking distance of my flat. I hope to become a regular!

Opening Hours:
Monday-Saturday, 12:00-23:00

Closed Sunday, and bar closed on the third Saturday of the month, but shop open till 20:00

Location/map:
11-10
神泉町, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Directions: 

From Shinsen station, leave via the South exit. Turn right and then take the second left. Follow the road till the next junction, turn right and Hiranoya is on the left hand side shortly after the side street on the left. It's also easily walkable from Shibuya.



Telephone:
03-3461-1368

Links:
Facebook
Website
Twitter
Ratebeer listing

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Deguchiya

(This post was originally three beer shops in one day so to fully appreciate what's going on, check the other two posts on Night Owl and Hiranoya)


Onwards to Nakameguro and a little way north of the station along Yamatedori. Deguchiya is much bigger premises than Night Owl and has a huge stock of all kinds of alcohol. But once again, let's talk about the beer. They have a couple of fridges full of good stuff. Apparently there is a decent rotation of stock too, so if you go in every week, there will usually be something new for you. They have a good representation of some of the bigger Japanese craft breweries and I was particularly pleased to see 8 different Shiga Kogen beers with a good amount of seasonals (and also the big Tamamura Honten Saisons, some barrel aged!). Along with Shiga Kogen they had four from Minoh and nine from Baird (including seasonals again). Prices range from ¥400 to around ¥550, so pretty standard. Along with these Japanese beers they have a good selection of quality imports (mainly US stuff). I was particularly pleased to see a whole lot of Stillwater here.
Deguchiya's slightly less unique selling point (but still a good one) is that they offer on the premises boozing. They have a small area at the back of the shop where you can drink beers with just a small amount added to the shelf price. If they didn't have much stuff worth drinking this wouldn't be so exciting, but given that they have good beers at good prices, I think it's worth mentioning. It's certainly cheaper to drink here than buy the bottles in most bars. I thought that the drink on premises option was only available in the evening, but I have been told otherwise. Probably best not to rock up at opening expecting to have an all day session though.

Japanese breweries available when I visited: 
Shiga Kogen
Minoh

Baird

Opening Hours:
Monday-Saturday, 11:00-22:00 (except Thursday, 14:00-22:00)

Holidays, 15:00-21:00

Closed Sunday

Location/map:
2-3-3
東山, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

Directions: 

From Nakameguro station, leave via the main exit and turn left up Yamatedori for just under 1km. Deguchiya is just after Don Quixote on the opposite side of the road (the left).



Telephone:
03-3713-2279

Links:
Facebook
Website
Twitter
Ratebeer listing

Night Owl

(This post was originally three beer shops in one day so to fully appreciate what's going on, check the other two posts on Deguchiya and Hiranoya)


I was under the impression that this was a bar and beer shop, but after talking to the owner, it seems that the idea is more that you try before you buy (and then take away) rather than spend a few hours there. Night Owl offers many kinds of alcohol including a terrifying (for me at least) selection of absinthes. But as this isn't Tokyo Absinthe Drinker I'll concentrate on the beer.
This brings me to the unique selling point of Night Owl. The beer they sell here is not bottled. It is the first place I am aware of in Tokyo whose aim is to sell draught beer for consumption off the premises. In other words, they do growler fills. There are four taps and their taplist is published daily on their facebook page, complete with prices for 750ml servings (the size of their own growler that they sell for ¥500) or by the 100ml if you are bringing your own different sized growler. The Night Owl growler is a 750ml bottle with a good sealed screw top, so good for taking out and straight home, but probably not so good if you are planning to scoop and trade. But then again, if you are that kind of person you probably have your own growling equipment. When I visited, the four taps were a mix of Japanese, German and American craft. I have seen Belgian beers on there too, but rather than just pop in on the off chance, maybe it's best to keep an eye on the facebook page and strike when they have something you are after. Small tasters are available to purchase for ¥500 if you do turn up and are undecided.

Opening Hours:
Weekdays, 13:00-21:00

Saturday, Sunday & holidays , 11:00-20:00

Location/map:
1-8-3-103 恵比寿, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Directions: 
Good luck! This was a bit tricky to find. Leave Ebisu JR station by the west exit, and basically go round the block. In other words, turn left, right at the main road and then the first right again. Look out for a bus stop about halfway along the block. The entrance is right by this bus stop and you should be able to see their name on the list of what's inside the building. Although the entrance to the shop itself is a bit further in towards the middle of the building.

 

Telephone:
03-6277-3743

Links:
Facebook
Website
Twitter
Ratebeer listing