Thursday, 17 September 2015

Beer++/Jujo Suiken

Today, a brewpub in Kita-ku, about 10 minutes from Shinjuku on the Saikyo line. It's nice to see that we have brewpubs opening as well as bars, as I imagine it is much more of an effort to set up a brewery than a bar. Also, given that many new places are offering similar concepts and similar beer lists these days, it's nice to see someone doing something different.
My first impression was something along the lines of 'What is it with Tokyo brewpubs and the lots of wood interior thing?', clearly approaching the place with the Chuo line Beer Kobo pubs in mind. Whilst it's true that there are a few similarities between those places and Beer++, I think Beer++ has its own thing going on, and they can only be compared on a basic level. So, yes, it is a wood filled Tokyo brewpub, appealing to a mixed local crowd and with an emphasis on eating and drinking. But its beers are a little different (a couple of the seasonals seemed to be single hop US style IPAs). And to be honest, the beers are the most important thing, aren't they?
They have five taps, four of which were their own beers and one of which was a US import cider. But I think that usually all five taps are their beers. The three regular beers seem to be the Pale, Amber and Citra. Unfortunately the Citra wasn't on when we visited. Aside from these they have a blackboard showing their seasonals/one-offs. All beers are served in two sizes, 500ml and 250ml, priced from ¥800-¥950 for the large and ¥450-¥550 for the small. So it's clear that the prices are good and there is no ambiguity about the serving size which is nice. The food was pretty cheap too, although the portion sizes are a little small, so maybe treat it as a Tapas kind of place. I must go back some time to try the Citra as it seems to be the one that people liked the best.
The place itself is split over two levels. The ground floor which houses the counter and the brewery is pretty small with a couple of small two-seater tables and a counter for maybe three or four. Upstairs is a bit more open. There are around 30 seats at various sized tables. It is table service, so once you are settled upstairs you'll only need to go back down for the loo, or to leave. The staff were friendly and helpful and it was a very pleasant experience. There is also no cover charge!
All in all it's a really nice place and surprisingly quick and easy to get to from central Tokyo. It's great that they have opened in an area where I don't think there is much going on beer-wise. And it's also great that they are doing their own thing rather than taking the easy option. The fact that they want to make their own beer suggests that they have opened for the right reasons. It seems that recently there are a lot of new places opened purely to make money surfing on the wave of the craft beer trend. A place with its own vision is far more likely to succeed and I think they should be given all the support that we can give them. Good luck!

Japanese breweries seen on tap here:
Jujo Suiken

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Friday, 17:00-23:00
Saturday & Holidays, 15:00-22:00
Closed Sunday & Monday

Location/map:
上十条 2-7-13, Kita-ku, Tokyo

Directions:
From Jujo JR station, leave via the North Exit and turn left out of the station. When you get to the road, cross it and head left towards the level crossing. At the level crossing turn right down the alleyway next to the train tracks and you'll see the brewpub.



Telephone:
03-5948-5657

Links:
Facebook page
Website
Twitter
Ratebeer listing

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Shujitsu One

A tiny post on this new place in Yoyogi Uehara, mentioned mainly because it's near where I live and in spite of a large increase of places locally recently, I'd happily have more. Shujitsu One, (not sure exactly how to call it) is basically three taps of craft beer and food in the back of a coffee shop. It's a nice place to sit though. Two of the taps seem to be reserved for Minoh and the other is a US import. Admittedly, not the most exciting tap list, but it's nice to have it as an option, and it seems that they post their taplist on twitter. The sizes are 16oz and 8oz (473ml and 236ml for those like me who can't help feel that ounces are for measuring weight). The Minoh is ¥1100 and ¥550 respectively and the US import was ¥1200 and ¥600. [Update, half pint prices have increased a fair bit. The Minoh pint is still ¥1100 but the half is now ¥700. The guest half wass also ¥700, but the pint was ¥1300. Yikes!] There is counter seating for around eight and tables for maybe the same amount. There's also a small upstairs space for probably the same number again. In spite of being in a coffee shop, it seems that the bar and food is not available in the daytime apart from at weekends. They're also closed on Wednesday.

Japanese breweries seen on tap here:
Minoh

Opening Hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday, 17:00-24:00
Saturday & Sunday, 12:00-24:00
Closed Wednesday

Location/map:
上原 3-44-11, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo



Links:
Website
Twitter

Friday, 11 September 2015

Wiz Craft Beer & Food

The last of my three stops on Sunday, the possibly amusingly named Wiz is another pretty new place. Looks like the rush of openings is still going strong. Perhaps it was the location, but before I went I felt like it had a Craft Beer Market feel to it. In other words, lots of taps, slanted towards dining and drinking, similar decor, busy... After visiting on a Sunday afternoon, I came away with a slightly altered impression, but a very positive one nonetheless.
My first impressions were very good. It's a very nice looking place and it does have a bit of a Craft Beer Market feel, but it is actually a lot more spacious. Probably there are about the same amount of seats here (seating for 30-40, counter for 10) but there is not the crammed in feel that some Craft Beer Markets have. The food menu had some very nice looking stuff on it and I can confirm that the fries were indeed very nice. Food is priced pretty reasonably too. On a Sunday afternoon it wasn't so busy, and this was very welcome. Equally or perhaps more welcome was the fact that it was open in the afternoon. And to find out that it's open all day all week, well that just about made my day, but then again I seem to have a thing about afternoon opening.
Moving on to the beers, we probably start to divert from my Craft Beer Market comparisons. I had heard before visiting that they put a lot of care into their beers and this was evident. They have 31 taps and they are a well chosen mix of Japanese craft and imports. Serving condition is individually adjusted for each beer. They really seem to know what they are doing in this respect. Prices are a little higher than other places, although it's a little difficult to judge the volume. My IPA was served in a Teku glass, which was nice, and other interesting and appropriate glassware was used for different styles. It says a lot about their selection that I only intended popping in for one to tick this place off, but there were three beers that I felt I needed to have. Beers are served in one size only. I would guess that it's around 300-350ml, but a little difficult to judge. Certain beers are served in smaller pours which is noted on the menu (on Sunday, it was Mikkeller's Juicebag Grand Marnier). Prices for the Japanese craft stuff ranged from ¥700-¥900. The imports were naturally a little more ¥1000-¥1150. About a third of the 31 taps were imports, which I think is about the right balance for me. They have a daily happy hour (apart from Friday). Monday to Thursday, it's from 17:00-19:00 and it goes from 14:00 to 19:00 on Saturday and Sunday. During happy hour you can choose from 10 of their beers and get it for ¥600 which is pretty good I think. These 10 included their two house beers made for them by Baird and Brimmer. A couple more things regarding pricing. There is no cover charge, even though they gave me a little plate of popcorn when I sat down, which is great. However, tax is not included in the menu prices, so expect to have that added on when you pay.
[Update October 2016: They now also offer a small serving size of 240ml. Generally speaking, this is about 2/3 of the price of the large size. Still not sure how many ml the large is, but I think this is a good move on their part]
I really liked this place. The beer selection was good, it had a nice atmosphere and friendly staff and everything seemed to be done to a high standard. Of course, this comes at a cost and it's clear that the prices for the beers are a little higher than elsewhere. I would like to go back in the evening to see how busy it gets, and what kind of people it attracts. I know that Craft Beer Markets are very popular with the salaryman crowd. I wonder if it's the same with this place. Now that there are a huge amount of places in Tokyo it is becoming more and more difficult to stand out. I think Wiz manages to do this though. Whilst they don't do anything particularly differently, I feel that they do things to a pretty high standard. The daytime opening is a big plus too (Now they are closing mid-afternoon during the week. I really don't get why they would, but I have never run or worked in a bar so what do I know? Consequently the following few sentences don't make so much sense anymore, but I've left them in). I hope this is the start of a new trend. I have never really understood why places open for lunch and then close in the afternoon. I imagine many of these places have staff on site preparing for the evening, so it would make sense to me for them to have some kind of afternoon service. I know the drinking culture here is different from in the UK and other countries, but in a city like Tokyo, people's working hours are not so uniform that there is no demand for beer in the afternoon. Anyway, enough of my theorising, let me conclude by saying that this is a very good new place that is well worth visiting at least once. I know I will be going back.

Japanese breweries seen on tap here:
Baird
Brimmer
Daisen G
Baeren
Ushi Tora
Shonan
Zakko
Shiga Kogen
Swan Lake
Y Market

Opening Hours:
Monday - Friday, 11:30-15:00, 17:00-23:00
Saturday, 11:30-23:00
Sunday & Holidays, 11:30-22:00

Location/map:
神田淡路町2丁目-105, ワテラスアネックス108, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Directions:
I think the simplest way is probably to exit Ochanomizu JR station through the Hijiribashi exit, turn left, cross the road and then go straight on down the road next to the train tracks. At the next junction turn right, cross the first side street and then follow round the side of the building till you get to the courtyard where Wiz is. Plenty of other transport options though in this area, so check the map and choose your favourite.



Telephone:
03-6206-8805

Links:
Facebook page
Website
Ratebeer listing

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Yanaka Beer Hall

Quick post on my first stop last Sunday. Yanaka Beer Hall is a fairly new place (I believe) and is a pretty unusual location for a craft beer place. I suspect it might be particularly exciting for visitors to Japan, but I still enjoyed it a lot too. The big selling point is probably not the beer but the building, but let's be honest, we probably wouldn't be going here if they didn't also have the beer.

- Great building. Seems to share space with a bakery and it was a little difficult to work out where one finished and the other started, but all you need to now is that it's not really a hall at all, and it consists of a couple of rooms in a traditional style Japanese house and some seats outside in various areas. There's seating for probably around 20 and a couple of standing areas, so it's not exactly huge. It was certainly a fairly unique experience drinking nice beer in what must have been someone's front room a few years ago. Given the location and the lack of seats, it does seem that it can get quite busy, so if you don't want to hang around waiting and are not happy standing at one of the standing counters, I would get there as close to opening time as possible.
- Five taps of August beer. I'm not sure how close the connection is, but it's August all the way here. They have one special that you can only get here which is their Yanaka Beer Hall Original Lager. The other taps were the Snow Blanche (called White here), Original, IPA and the special was the Maduro. If you're not a fan of August, I guess this is maybe not the place for you. Served in three sizes, small (around 300ml), medium (around 400ml) and large (big, maybe 500 or 600ml). Quite difficult to judge the sizes as I'm not good at that kind of thing and the glasses are a slightly different shape. Prices are ¥600, ¥900 and ¥1200 respectively. Depending on whether I have guessed the sizes properly, not bad value. They also have a four beer flight for ¥1200. Order at the bar and pay as you go. No cover charge!

So, it's a really nice building and drinking there is an a pretty unique experience. The opening hours are a little strange in that it only seems to be open during the daytime, but as you know, I'm all in favour of that kind of thing. It's probably more designed for people to pop in for a beer or two when they are in the area rather than heading across town and having a heavy session. Definitely a nice place to take people visiting though. I must admit, I have a bit of a soft spot for August beer. I really liked their Snow Blanche a few years ago when I last had it, so I should probably revisit it again soon. It's also nice to have somewhere to drink August that is not in Roppongi as I have a bit of an aversion to that area.

Japanese breweries seen on tap here:
August

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Sunday, 12:00-20:30

Location/map:
上野桜木2-15-6, 上野桜木あたり1-1F, Taito-ku, Tokyo



Links:
Facebook page
Twitter

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Towa

In order to somehow attempt to save myself from my ever-increasing backlog of places to visit I set out on Sunday afternoon to try a few new spots. Towa was one of these spots. I don't often find myself in the Ueno area, but looking at the tokyobeerdrinker map it seems that this is an area that doesn't have many, if any entries, so I thought it would be a good place to get on here. Towa is a craft beer and Soba place (once again, someone comes up with a combination that I don't think has been done before. Congratulations!) Sorry about the blurry photo, I took it whilst crossing the road as it seemed to be the only opportunity to get a clear (if a little blurry) shot.

- Sleek looking place, with maybe more of a restaurant feel than a bar. Lots of wood and a surprising amount of seats for the small size of the place (eight at the counter and probably about 20-30 elsewhere). There is a smoking section upstairs and to be honest I wouldn't have noticed it unless I had read about it, which has to be a good thing. Quite like the under the train tracks location for some reason.
- 15 taps, all of Japanese craft beer. Couple of hand pumps. Decent mix of breweries and styles on the day I was there. They have lots of branded glassware, which is a bit unusual for Japan. Big selection of Japanese brewery pint glasses above the bar and anything that they don't have a glass for comes in their own Towa glasses. Quite nice. Beers served in three sizes with all beers at the same prices. No sizes mentioned but I am guessing they are in the region of around 200ml, 300ml and US Pint. Prices are ¥770, ¥880 and ¥1150 respectively, so it's not a cheap place considering that all of these beers are domestic. They put their taplist on their facebook page, so you can check before you go.
- Big pluses are that there is no cover charge (hooray!) and also that it is open during the daytime (hooray again!), the latter being quite a rarity and perhaps explained by its proximity to Ueno station. Definitely worth popping in if you have some time to kill waiting for a train.
- Run by the same people as the World End, an Irish pub on the same street that seems to have some craft beer too (seven taps according to the business card). They display their guest beer list outside so you don't have to go in to check, which was nice as there wasn't anything I fancied and I really needed to get a move on to the next place. I'm not putting it on here as the beer seemed to be slightly uninspiring US imports when I had a look, but if that's your thing (...), turn right coming out of Towa and it's on the right hand side a little after you come out from under the bridge.

So, a fairly new place in a location that doesn't have a great deal of places in it, so it's definitely worth putting on here. Not sure how often I will be back as I am rarely in the area. Like the fact that it dedicates itself to Japanese craft, but it probably is a little too pricey for me to make the trip across Tokyo to.

Japanese breweries seen on tap here:
Bay Brewing
Coedo
Hitachino Nest
Noboribetsu
Fujizakura Kogen
Shonan
Hansharo
Kyoto
Loco
Nagisa
Swan Lake
Brimmer
Yo-Ho

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday 11:30-23:30
Saturdays, Sundays & Holidays 11:00-23:30

Location/map:
上野 6-11-12, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Directions:
This one is pretty easy. Leave Ueno JR station by the Shinobazu exit. Cross the road. You're there. 



Telephone:
03-3831-0878

Links:
Facebook page
Ratebeer listing
Twitter

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Drunk Bat

After a few people mentioned it, I thought it was about time to tick this one off the list. Drunk Bat is an excellently named bar not far from Mitaka station. I think this is my first time in Mitaka, and as I was in the general area I popped in quite early on a Friday evening, fortunately walking straight into happy hour! Here's the important information.

- Fairly small neighbourhood bar, with a small open area at the front with a table for six (but probably with space for more if required) and a bar and counter at the back seating six more. The contrast between the two areas is quite enjoyable!
- Six taps, two thirds of which were Japanese craft, the other two being Mikkeller (seems that's a bit of a thing in Tokyo right now...). Beers are served in three sizes, small (250ml for ¥750), regular (400ml for ¥950) and large (568ml, ¥1350). The imports were a bit more expensive, ranging from ¥900-¥1500, small to large). Few bottles available too. Taplist is on their facebook page.
- Happy Hour from 17:00 to 19:00 where small is ¥50 off and regular and large are ¥100 off. Pretty good deal! I inadvertently got a 400ml glass of Shiga Kogen IPA for ¥850. Bargain!
- Food looked good too, although I didn't sample it, as I was on a flying visit.

All in all, I can see why people were recommending it. The bar has a really nice feel and the staff were friendly and helpful. And the happy hour makes their prices pretty damn good! If this was in my neighbourhood I would definitely be in here a lot and if I am back in Mitaka I will be sure to pop in as well.

Japanese breweries seen on tap here:
Hanyu
Shiga Kogen
Yo Ho
Baird

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday 17:00-23:45
Saturday & Sunday 15:00-23:00

Location/map:
井上ビル, 1F, 下連雀 3-23-5, Mitaka, Tokyo



Telephone:
090-8560-4565

Links:
Facebook page
Twitter
Ratebeer listing 

Friday, 4 September 2015

Keyaki Hiroba Autumn Beer Festival 2015

It's almost Keyaki time again and this time it's a bumper six day stint, thanks to Silver Week (something I was unaware of until fairly recently, but now I am ready to accept with open arms). As it's Autumn we are back inside the Saitama Super Arena. There seems to be quite a few new breweries there this year as well which should be interesting. Here is what you need to know if you are a Keyaki first timer or a seasoned veteran.
Keyaki has no entry fee, you pay for what you drink and eat. This works pretty well for me to be honest. It means that you don't have to rush your way through a nomihodai desperately trying to get the best value for money (I'm sure it's not just me who does that). Beer prices and serving sizes vary, but in general you will be paying from ¥300-¥600 for 200-570ml (my best guess). Plenty of the breweries offer tasting sets where you get four small cups for ¥1000. It's a great place to try new stuff.
The festival runs from Friday 18th September through to Wednesday 23rd. This time round, the opening hours are generally 11:00-21:30, with shorter hours on the first and last days (16:00-22:00 on the first Friday, and 11:00-19:00 on the final Wednesday). I always try to pop up there a couple of times during each festival. There really is too much to enjoy to be able to do it all in one day. If you need any further details and you can read Japanese or use an online translator without it driving you crazy you can check their website. There is also a tentative beer list available here (plenty of other stuff will probably also be available though).
So, that's about it. I really can't recommend this festival enough. Even though it leaves me feeling pretty bad the next day (or more accurately the same night in those tough hours between 21:00 and midnight when I am trying to fight off the advancing hangover). Just a short walk from Saitamashintoshin station. Enjoy!



Festival website
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