Thursday, 24 July 2014

Beach Muffin/Tap Room Michi Kusa (Yorocco Beer)

Today, a place a bit out of Tokyo and not open so often. So far, so inconvenient (for me anyway). However, Beach Muffin could be my dream come true in a few ways. I had been meaning to go here for a while but hadn't quite managed it. Beach Muffin is the tap room for Yorocco beer, and I have enjoyed the beers I have had from them, but it also serves vegetarian friendly food. The offer of veggie tacos and Yorocco beer during a long bank holiday weekend was too much to resist for me, so I finally made it there.
Firstly, I should point out that even if Beach Muffin is open, it doesn't necessarily mean that the tap room will be. The cafe is open daily (except for Mondays and Tuesdays) but the tap room is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for limited times (although outside of these times they do have one tap available). These are also only the summer opening times, so if you are going at another time of year, best check their website. The building itself is lovely, the inside looking like an old Japanese house spread over a couple of levels with lots of nooks and crannies with chairs, tables and sofas in. It's difficult to accurately estimate the capacity, but I reckon there are seats for around 30 at a variety of table sizes. They don't take reservations, so if you are heading there from a long way away, it might be worth turning up earlier rather than later. The decor is homely and comfortable, the furniture is recycled from a variety of sources by the looks of it. There is plenty of greenery spread around and I can't emphasize enough how nice it felt.
Onto the beer. On Fridays and weekends they have all five taps going. They are also quickly replaced as they run out. Consequently, as we were there for a few hours, we got to sample six of their beers even though they have only five taps. All beers are ¥800 and served in a Belgian style tulip glass in servings of around 300-350ml (I estimate, possibly badly). There were a variety of styles on offer (a smoked fruit beer, saison, Pale, couple of IPAs) but nothing dark when we visited. However, I believe they sometimes have their porter on, and I have had a stout by them in the past, so they do make these kind of beers if that's your thing. Along with this they serve a selection of snacks and you can always order from the cafe menu if you need something more substantial.
I really liked this place, although I may have just been lucky to visit on the perfect day for me (vegetarian Mexican food!). I suspect though that it's always a nice place to drink. I like Yorocco beers and you don't often get the chance to try them outside of Zushi. It only takes about an hour from Tokyo to get to Zushi and then it's around a 15 minute walk. There's no cover charge and it really is a pleasant place to drink. I will be interested to see what they do when it isn't summer as I am sure that less people go to Zushi when it's not beach season. When I find out, I'll update on here. Hopefully I'll be able to make it down there again before the summer is finished, and if you need to break up the journey back to Tokyo, you could always stop off in Yokohama!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Yorocco

Opening Hours:
Summer 2014 (will try to update this as we go, but if not, check the Yorocco website)
Friday, 17.00 - 22:00
Saturday, 12:00 - 22:00
Sunday, 12:00 - 19:00
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 12:00 - 18:00 (one tap only)
Closed Monday and Tuesday
Autumn 2014 (hours cut back a bit)
Friday, 17:00-22:00
Saturday, 17:00-22:00
Sunday, 12:00-18:00

Location/map
桜山 8-3-22, Zushi, Kanagawa

Directions:
Firstly get to Zushi or Shinzushi stations. Then check the map below. The directions are a bit too long and possibly confusing to type. Sorry! As you can see, the route from Zushi station is a little further, but goes right past Shinzushi station, hence, just the one map.


View Tokyo Beer Drinker Map in a larger map


Telephone:
0468-72-5204

Links:
Beach Muffin website

Yorocco Beer website 
Beach Muffin Facebook
Yorocco Facebook
Ratebeer listing

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Miyata Beer

Today, Miyata Beer, a fairly new brewpub based in Oshiage. It's good to see that we are getting new breweries and brewpubs rather than just new pubs as there were so many new places opening that I was worrying that we were going to run out of beer.
Miyata Beer seems to be very much a one-man operation. On the night we visited the brewer was manning the bar. To be honest, it's a small place, so there probably wouldn't be much room for anyone else. The premises is a medium sized room, but most of this is divided off into the brewing area. The bar area that takes up the rest of the space is L-shaped and has seating for around ten and a little standing room for a few more. It seems that it is very much a locals place. Many of the customers seemed to know the brewer, so I guess this shows that places in this vein can prosper. I know if there was somewhere like this near where I lived I would pop in for a drink pretty regularly. They don't serve food, apart from a snack selection (nuts and pretzels etc., ¥500). So this is focused on beer I guess.
They had five taps, but on the evening we went they only had three in operation. As I always say, I think this is sensible. Better to keep the beer fresh and expand when the demand arises. The three beers they had on were Pale, Golden and IPA. Judging by the previous beers they have had on, it seems that they are concentrating mainly on these kind of styles at the moment. Was nice though to see that they have done some dry-hopped pale ales before. The beers are served in two sizes, M and L (I guess the usual 300ml and US pint approximately, or at least as well as I could judge). Prices for the M ranged from ¥600-¥700 and the L, ¥800-¥900. All the beers had the date they were brewed by the taps, so if you are a freshness sucker, you'll know which one to go for.
So, another brewpub in Tokyo. Definitely a good trend. It is still very much early days for Miyata Beer, but I was pleased to be able to visit them and give them my support. Along with Campion, just over the river in Asakusa, the East of Tokyo is becoming a bit of a beer destination. I'm sure that as time passes and they tweak their recipes this place will become more popular. Although it seemed to be already doing fine enough with its locals when we went. At the moment they are only open at the weekend, but maybe as demand increases these hours will also be extended.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Miyata

Opening Hours:
Friday, 17.00 - around 23:00
Saturday, Sunday and holidays 15:00 - around 23:00
Closed Monday-Thursday

Location/map
横川 3-9-7, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Directions:
From Oshiage station, leave via exit B2 and turn right. Take the sixth right turn (the fourth set of traffic lights) and Miyata is on the right hand side just after the first side street. 

Telephone:
03-3626-2239

Links:
Website 
Ratebeer listing
Twitter

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Nomono

Another station beer shop. Once again, inside the barriers, this time at Akihabara. I will keep this reasonably brief as there's not a great deal to say! Thanks to Phil for the tip. Check out his blog Kansai Beer Lovers. Seems like there is also one of these at Ueno, but I haven't been there yet, and I guess it is pretty much the same.
Nomono is reminiscent of a smaller Le Collier, smaller in the size of the shop and also in its selection. However, it's still worth popping in if you are passing through Akihabara station. I guess one advantage of it being inside the ticket barriers is that if you are only going through the station on the Yamanote, it doesn't cost you anything to get off and have a look. This is helpful as I don't often find myself going to Akihabara.
There were around 60 bottles and cans of Japanese craft beer from around 15-20 breweries, some not worth mentioning below, but there was plenty of good stuff there to be of interest. Prices ranged from ¥300 to around ¥500, so as you would expect. In addition to the usual suspects, I noticed some seasonals from Baeren, Fujizakura and Sankt Gallen which might give you a reason to pop in if you don't like drinking the same thing more than once.

Japanese breweries bottles/cans available when I visited:
Baeren
Tazawako
Fukushima
Zumona
Fujizakura
Yo-Ho
Iwatekura
Oh La Ho
Hitachino Nest
Sankt Gallen

Opening Hours:
Daily, 11.00 - 21:00

Directions
Nice and easy. It's inside the barriers at Akihabara station, right by the central gate. That's all you need to know. So, no map this time. Also, not much point putting the address, but if you want to see roughly where it is, here's a link to the location.

Links:
Website

Facebook 
Ratebeer listing

Monday, 21 July 2014

Biere Cave Jan Bar (Now closed)


THIS BAR HAS NOW CLOSED

(Finally have managed to put a photo on this post, but unfortunately, it's a photo of the place whilst closed. Probably good enough to get the idea though!)
Back to Yokohama for this brief post, once again vaguely close to Kannai and with that a few bars I have mentioned already on this blog. Biere Cave Jan Bar is a friendly place near the Yokohama baseball stadium that I've been meaning to go back to for a while now. It is dominated by a long counter which can seat around 12 and there is one other table for four at the front by the window. So, not the biggest place around, but size doesn't matter, does it? The staff were very friendly when I visited and the it seemed that the owner spoke very good English (to another customer. She was nice enough to put up with my appalling Japanese and respond in the same language).
On to the beer. They have nine taps, but three of these are taken up with Japanese macro lagers. On the night I visited there were six taps of Japanese craft from a variety of breweries. All craft beers are priced at ¥1100 for the large and ¥850 for the regular. I would guess that these sizes are around US pint and about 300ml, but I'm rubbish at estimating sizes. In addition to the taps, they have a selection of world beers in their bottle fridge.
So, it doesn't have the biggest selection in the area, it isn't the cheapest place, but it does have a very good feeling about it. I think atmosphere is becoming increasingly important for me and I am sure it is for people who don't constantly chase new beers like I do. There's no cover charge and this is a big plus for me. They seem to publish their tap list on their twitter, so you can keep an eye on what they have on. I liked this place a lot, mainly due to the friendliness of the staff and the relaxed atmosphere. If you're planning a Yokohama pub crawl, it's well worth popping in. But don't do this on a Sunday, as it's closed.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Baird
Ise Kadoya
Sankt Gallen
Yokohama
Shiga Kogen

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 17.00 - 24:00
Saturday, 13:00 - 23:00
Closed Sunday (best check opening hours around holidays as they seem to vary)

Location/map
相生パークビル1F, 相生町1-18-1, Naka-ku, Yokohama

Directions:
From Nihonodori station on the Minatomirai line, leave via exit 1. Cross the street directly in front of you as you leave the station and carry on over three side streets on the left. At this stage you should definitely be able to see the baseball stadium and park. Immediately after crossing the third street on the left, cross the main road, and you should see it in front of you as you use the crossing. Look out for the circular yellow sign on the wall (check their website for the logo).

 

Telephone:
045-228-8943

Links:
Website 
Facebook
Ratebeer listing
Twitter

Saturday, 5 July 2014

The Cat & Cask Tavern

Firstly, apologies again for the terrible photo. Once again, I did it in a bit of a hurry on the way out. Today, another English themed pub, although once again, like Campion, the theme is only part of the whole, rather than being the reason for the place's existence. It's a bit out of the way, deep in a residential area in Kanamecho, but in reality, it's still only one stop from Ikebukuro and is certainly worth the trip to get there.
The interior, once again like Campion, gave me a longing for British pubs (the good ones I mean). The interiors of many Craft beer bars in both Japan and also in the UK are a bit slick sometimes. This is a real pub, in that it feels comfy and welcoming. Have a look at the pictures on their website and you could easily believe it is in England. There's a small bar area with seats for four where it seems the regulars congregate. In addition to this, there is seating for around 10 at a selection of tables. But it's not as tiny as I am making it sound. Sure, the room isn't very big, but there's plenty of space for it not to feel cramped. The place is run by an Englishman and his Japanese wife, so if you can't speak Japanese, you'll have no problem communicating here.
On to the beers. They have four taps and two handpumps, although when I visited they only had three of the kegs on. This makes sense though, as it is a small place and it's better to keep the beer turning over rather than having stuff stay on tap for a long time. All the taps were Japanese craft beer and well chosen ones at that, with none of the usual filler that you get in places with more taps. Beers are served in four sizes, UK half, glass (300ml), US pint and UK pint, so you can drink exactly as much as you want. The prices are the same for all beers and are ¥600, ¥650, ¥950 and ¥1100 respectively. Their taplist is posted on their facebook page and their blog, so you can have a look. In addition to the beer, they have a small food menu with some great stuff on it (quite a few snacks and also some bigger stuff including a pie, and a pizza). I definitely want the cheddar and pickle next time I am back there.
I have to say I really liked this place. It has the two most important qualities a pub should have, nice beer and a good atmosphere. It might not have the most taps, but I have been thinking recently that I really should stop jumping around drinking different beers in the smallest measures available in order to try as many different beers as possible and sometimes just concentrate on repeatedly enjoying a beer I like. This is exactly the kind of place I would kill for near my house. I will definitely be going back here. I would highly recommend you go too!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Iwatekura
Ise Kadoya
Kisoji
Minoh
Shiga Kogen

Opening Hours:
Monday, 18.00 - 23:30
Wednesday - Saturday, 18.00 - 23:30
Sunday and public holidays, 18:00 - 23:00
Closed Tuesday, and the first and third Sundays of the month

Location/map
要町 1-32-10, Toshima, Tokyo, 155-0031

Directions:
The Cat & Cask is in a residential area, so best follow the map below, but here goes anyway. From Kanamecho station leave via exit 1 and cross the side street that merges into the main road. Immediately cross the next side street, carry on and take the 4th right turn. Continue down this road and take the 5th right. The Cat & Cask is on the right hand side shortly after you turn the corner. Counting side streets is tough though as some of them are very small and easy to miss. Please check the map!



Telephone:
03-3530-6180

Links:
Website 
Facebook
Ratebeer listing
Blog

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Ushi Tora 1 (now moved)


[This place has now moved. Please click here for the listing of the new location. The standing bar, Ushi Tora 2 is still in the original location though.]

It's taken me almost two years to get back here, which is pretty bad considering that it is fairly close to where I live. Finally, I am able to add the other Ushi Tora to this blog. Thank you for your patience!
Ushi Tora 1 is the larger of the two bars, and the one that has seats, although not a great deal of them. There is space for about 10 at the long counter and probably just under 20 at a few tables. It's a lot less bright than the other smaller bar and feels like somewhere you could settle in for a few hours. The hours are a bit different to the other bar though, so make sure you check. They serve some very nice Japanese food at pretty good prices, including quite a few things that were good for me as a vegetarian, which makes a nice change. Although I guess you are more interested in the beer.
So, beer. They have 20 taps and 3 handpumps. The selection had a lot more US stuff than I remember there being before, probably 1/3 of the taps were imports but the rest is Japanese craft. There didn't seem to be many dark beers on (in fact only one when we were there) but there was a decent mix of styles. Apart from the dark styles of course! Not sure how representative of their normal line up this is. They post their taplist (for both branches) on their blog though so you can check before you go. It's nice that they have different stuff in the two bars. Beers are generally served in two sizes, 270ml and 470ml with the usual variation for stronger beers. The prices vary from ¥680-¥880 for the smaller size and ¥950-¥1300 for the larger. The prices for imports are at the top end of this range and a little higher in some cases. This is probably the big drawback of the place. It's expensive compared to other places around. Although, there isn't much competition for them that close, which might explain it. The food is much more reasonably priced though, which seems to be the opposite of some of the places that offer cheaper beer.
Ushi Tora is something of an institution in the Tokyo beer scene. It's been around for quite a while and a lot of people really like it. There's also a few people who really don't like it too, so it seems to be quite divisive! Personally, I have only had one bad experience there, in the second bar when I entered but was told they were closed even though it was after their opening time. I have to say the guy was pretty rude to me, but I won't hold it against them as on every other occasion I have been there, the staff have been very nice. Guess I got the wrong person at the wrong time.
I have mixed feelings about this place. The food was really good and the atmosphere is nice. The beers tasted good, but the prices weren't so pleasant. When we arrived I was shocked as I didn't remember it being so pricy. Some of the Japanese beers seemed definitely overpriced. But after a couple of beers and some really good food I definitely warmed to the place. There's no cover charge which softens the blow of the prices slightly. I have heard that they often get pretty special stuff in, which would be another good reason to visit, and it certainly has no shortage of admirers, as the place is always pretty busy. I will be going back (and this time I won't leave it a year and a half between visits), and if you have never been, I would say it's certainly worth you going to try it and see what you think.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Kure
Hideji
Noboribetsu
Oh La Ho
Coedo
Fujizakura
Yo-ho
Iwatekura
Ise Kadoya
Swan Lake
Kinshachi

Opening Hours:
Daily, 17.00 - 02:00

Location/map
三久ビル2F, 北沢 2-9-3 Setagaya, Tokyo, 155-0031

Directions:
Firstly, you need to get to Shimo Kitazawa station. You can either take the Odakyu line that runs from Shinjuku, or the Keio Inokashira Line from Shibuya. On both lines, local and express trains stop at Shimo Kitazawa. From the station, exit via the South gate. Turn left immediately out of the gate, , and follow the road round. You'll soon see a supermarket ahead of you, and a level crossing on the left hand side. Turn right here and then the first left. Carry on to the next right turning, but do not turn the corner. If you look ahead of yourself now you should be able to see the view of the bar that is in the picture above. Both Ushi Tora bars are on the second floor of the white building immediately ahead of you. The stairs are on the right hand side and Ushi Tora 1 is along the walkway past Ushi Tora 2 on the second floor.

Telephone:
03-3485-9090

Links:
Website 
Facebook
Twitter
Ratebeer listing