Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Your thoughts please...

Just a quick post today to ask for some of your thoughts on the Tokyo bar scene, specifically, which bars you like the best. I asked this question on Twitter and Facebook to very little response (thanks to the two of you who did answer!), so thought I would try to get some more responses by posting it on here instead.
What am I thinking of doing is having some kind of people's favourites chart of the most popular places, so I am looking for your top five places to drink in the Tokyo area. You can rank them in order of preference or all equally. Whichever you prefer, but please let me know which way you do it. If you want to express your opinion I would be delighted to have your input. If you don't want to do it in public, please feel free to email me at tokyobeerdrinker@gmail.com. I'm not really sure what the point is of doing this, but it seems kind of interesting to me. If you have any comments, please also let me know, whether it be places you think should be on the blog, or places that are here and deserve a bit more recognition or anything really.


darren-s said...

I don't live in Tokyo but I am a frequent visitor. So far I haven't checked out the craft beer scene much. I really liked Craft Beer Market in Koenji and I thought Ushitora in Shimokitazawa was a little overpriced. Expensive craft beer is the norm in Tokyo, I guess. My favourite non-craft beer spot is Bar Kitazawa.
I'm going back to Tokyo in October and I'm really looking forward to trying some of the places you've recommended here on your blog.

Cole Pennington said...

I do some beer writing in Southeast Asia and I was up in Tokyo last week to check out the beer scene. A week is not enough time to draw any solid conclusions, but from the snapshots of the scene that I experienced, I noticed a few things:

1) Localism is strong. Here in Bangkok, SG, KL, etc. it's all about the trending imported stuff. There's a formula, for sure: import the tried and true stalwarts from the West and a few experimental brews here and there. There is a budding "local" scene, and by that I mean locally produced beer, in most SEA cities, but what I liked about Japan is that it's much like the US in that it's totally focused on regions, and brews coming out of small towns, to that end.

2) It's hard to have beer without food in Tokyo. I liked that every bar focusing on craft beer had a decent menu to go with it. The no-drinking-without-snacks mentality is truly Asian, but in Tokyo it seems like they've really fine tuned the bar food to go with the brew. Hitachino's brewing lab is a example of this, they menu works well with the beer and certainly isn't an afterthought.

3) Sales channels for *good* brew have gone beyond niche bottle shops. Again, like the US, good beer can be found in supermarkets, even in the subway stations of Tokyo. At Night Owl I found a pretty rare bottle of barrel aged Barley-wine from 2012, and then a minute away at the Ebisu station I picked up loads of cans from the usual suspects. I like how accessible it is.

Al said...

For prices, can't go past the Beer Market chain. Their food is good too. Two Dogs in Roppongi is a favourite for its western bar atmosphere. Pizza is nice there and beer prices are reasonable during happy hour. For a quiet one or two, I like Ant 'n' Bee in Roppongi or Bar Drunkbat in Mitaka. Occassionaly I'll visit the Baird taprooms. If I lived in Yokohama, I'd be at Antenna America on a daily basis!

Tokyo Beer Drinker said...

Thank you everyone for your comments! Out of the places mentioned that I haven't been to yet for the blog, Drunk Bat is on the list of places to go. This list currently stands at 48 items. Not all will make it on, but I will try to go to all of them but it's going to take a while.
It's interesting what Cole said about localism. I think there definitely is a feeling that people like to drink things from different regions of Japan and that many people are proud of Japanese beers or beers from places they have a connection too. However, I would also say that there are many people who are of the point of view that if something is imported it must be good (particularly when it comes to US beers). I think we get some great imports here, but also a load of crappy ones.
Anyway, the scene seems to be constantly growing, so that has to be good for anyone wanting to drink nice beer in Japan.

Remy Le Beau said...

Great website, keep up God's work ;)
I echo Al, Two Dogs is a nice place and pleasant staff. Prices are reasonable, and selection is good. I also love the iBrew experience towards Ginza. I would recommend any of the Craft Beer markets and also Ushitora however I am a little price sensitive. Based on the price sensitivity I would avoid BrewDogs bar and Swan Lake bars.
Well off the beaten path, but worth the trek is Beer Cafe Camiya http://craftbeer-tokyo.info/w/beer-cafe-camiya/
my hidden recommendation.
Also, if you find yourself thirsty in Omotesando: Barchetta http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1303/A130301/13182653/

Alex V said...

@Remy Le Beau

Beer Cafe Camiya is OK---I live really close and drop by there for one or two regularly---but I find your comment concerning price at BrewDog chuckle-inducing. Camiya is far from cheap---if anything, it is more expensive than BrewDog. The food at Camiya is reasonable priced--but portions are pretty scant. The food at BrewDog is much better. And as for the beer prices---Japanese UK pint prices average about 1350-1400, with most imports (they only have 2 taps out of 8 for imports) at 1500-1600. Pretty expensive! BrewDog's regular lineup less than that---and I think the Punk is only 1150. And, Camiya's medium size is 400ml, at around 1050 for Japanese beers, so again, expensive for what isn't even a US pint.

That said, I like Camiya and go there often---but if someone heads there from a bit away, they may be a bit disappointed. Sometimes the tap line-up isn't too interesting, and as I mentioned, it's not cheap.

My usual go to place is the Hangover. Good food and usually some good, well priced beers on tap.

Tokyo Beer Drinker said...

Thanks again for the comments. A few things for me to respond to!
Firstly, it's a shame to hear that Camiya is expensive. It's on my list of places to go. I am planning a blitz of all the Kichijoji places soon, so I'll drop in and see for myself. With regards to the pricing vs Brewdog etc., I feel I can justify a little higher prices for smaller places. What I don't like so much is being ripped off, and the Brewdog bar feels like that for me. I know it's not run by Brewdog, but this still doesn't justify their beers being more expensive there than other places. I can't get to grips with that. Sure they have an expensive location, but they didn't have to open in Roppongi (not at all my favourite place, so maybe I'm biased). Guess the same applies to the Swan Lake places. Their own beer can be found cheaper elsewhere and that stings me a little. But I do visit Cafe de Tete sometimes as it is near where I live.
Something else brought up by this is probably the question of beer sizes. I wish everywhere would make it clear what sizes they serve in. It would be much easier to compare prices if they did. Perhaps this is why some places don't!
Thanks Remy for the tip on Barchetta. I had never heard of this place. Looks like Gar Eden but on the other side of Omotesando. I'll give it a go.
I don't go to the Hangover anymore due to personal reasons. I won't go into it here as it's not the place, but I did used to enjoy it. And also, Two Dogs probably won't appear on this blog for a different reason. But once again, I don't want to badmouth so I'll keep it to myself.

Monique Bayer said...

Your blog is really comprehensive, but I'd love a top 3 places to visit for visitors to Tokyo. Maybe some beers that are particularly Japanese. I'll be there on Wednesday (July 15) for just 4 days.

Alex V said...

@Tokyo Beer Drinker

I understand your feelings about the Hangover, and I've heard the rumors, but to be honest, I don't know what really happened, or know either guy well enough to have a sense of loyalty one way or the other. So, it's still a good pit stop on the way home as the beers remain good and the food is better, if anything. The music was much better before though.

Also, not at all fan of Two Dogs.

As for Camiya, as I mentioned, it's definitely worth a look, but I wonder how they'll fare now that Craft Beer Market Kichijoji is set to open tomorrow. They have pretty similar beer lineups, and since CBM is so much cheaper and so conveniently located next to the station, I hope it doesn't kill their business.

I heard rumors that Brimmer was scouting locations in Kichijoji, but nothing more than that.

Tokyo Beer Drinker said...

Thanks again for the comments everyone. I quite understand your feelings on the Hangover. If you don't have a personal involvement, there's no reason to not go there as it's a nice place. That's why I haven't taken it off the blog or anything like that. But just personally I won't be going.
The CBM thing must be a factor for a lot of places. I imagine the other bars in Koenji are finding it tough now. We'll see about Camiya. I'll be visiting it soon.

Bee En Juan said...

Thanks for all your work on the blog, I've discovered a lot of good places thanks to it.

Most of the places I go are along the chuo line, mostly out of convenience. I generally go to the bakushu bars, especially the ogikubo one, the CBM in Koenji and probably Kichijoji soon, stone in Asagaya, and drunk bat in Mitaka is a nice small place for a few drinks.

Outside of the chuo area, I like the aldgate in Shibuya, partly for the atmosphere I suppose. Watering hole in Shinjuku out of a lack of alternatives around there but it's a nice enough place. I also think brewdog is overpriced but they do have some nz craft beers on tap/bottle which is rare so occasionally I will head there resigned to an expensive nights drinks. I go to ushitora sometimes, also expensive, but never had issues with grumpy staff that you described here, and I like some of their own beers they've been making recently.

Tokyo Beer Drinker said...

Thanks for the comment. Another mention of Drunk Bat. It's on my list but maybe I should prioritise it as it seems pretty popular. Or maybe everyone who reads this blog lives along the Chuo line. Think I've probably almost got enough responses to make a chart. Thanks to everyone who answered.

Steve said...

I had a good time at the Watering Hole near Shinjuku as well.
Back in 2012, I was nearly published in "The Mash Tun", a journal from the people behind Lumpen magazine. My article was cut at the last moment. But, I had already composed the map of my favorite beer bars in Tokyo & Yokohama.

Hamish Forrester said...

This is the best beer blog in Tokyo (in either English or Japanese). Thanks for writing it as I have found many places through it. The kind of places I like the best are ones that have a "real bar" atmosphere but also have good beer. The places I like best that are covered in your blog are:

Hangover, Gremlin (particular thanks for covering the Gremlin as I wouldn't have found it otherwise).

I also go to The Watering Hole from time to time. I have been to lots of other places on your blog, but these are the ones I go to the most.

One place I like (but which is rather Smokey) is Highlander Inn, which is in Nakano Sakae. It is really friendly and has 4 or 5 constantly changing crafts and a great selection of whisky. It doesn't advertise but it's usually busy.

Tokyo Beer Drinker said...

Thanks Hamish, that's very nice of you to say so. Gremlin is great I think. I'm sure I've said that many times on here already. I'll try to check out the Highlander Inn. It's now on my ever expanding list. Must make a concerted effort to get that a little more under control soon. It's now up to over 50 places that I need to check out.

Alex V said...

Second on the Highlander Inn. Great place, friendly, and for the price-conscious, maybe the best value place in town. Always a few good taps on, and at 1200 for a UK pint, you'd be hard pressed to find cheaper. And, as mentioned, a great whiskey selection. If you tell them what you like, they'll drag out the off-menu gems, of which there are a lot---and they do half-pours, so you can try a few without destroying the wallet.

Tokyo Beer Drinker said...

Guess that's somewhere I definitely have to go to then. Another one for the list. I thought I was starting to get it under control but it's now increased to 53 places!