Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Taiyo Sakaba

Today a new bar that offers something a bit different for a few reasons. Firstly, it has a real Izakaya feel to it and that's something that you don't get with many of the recently opened bars. Also it's in an area where there's not much in the way of craft beer places at the moment. And unusually for an Izakaya, it's no smoking! It's the creation of a former employee of Baird and Wiz, so that should tell you that it's going to be a place that knows what it's doing.

- Most immediately noticeable is the Izakaya feel. But unlike most Izakayas, this one has no cover charge and has good beer. The main focus is the counter for around 15, and then there are also a few tables for around the same number. As well as the beer they offer a selection of interesting sakes too. Will comment on the food next time I go, as I was only popping in for a few before the football.
- Eight taps, seven of which were Japanese craft beer. Decent selection available when I went, but I have heard that some of the breweries who will have their beers here are pretty exciting, so expect to be drinking some good stuff.
- Beer served in two sizes, pint and half. Pretty sure that's US pint but there weren't any size markings in ml so can't be sure. Prices are ¥1000 and ¥600 across the board. There's no cover charge, but tax is added on at the end.

I liked this place a lot. The staff were friendly, the concept is good and it was a fun place to have a few drinks on a Sunday afternoon. It's very close to Nishikoyama station on the Meguro line. Just two or three minutes walk, so it's very easy to hop off the train and pop in for one if you are passing. The lack of cover charge is a big help with that too. I think I've said before that in this time of a massive amount of new bar openings it's becoming more difficult to stand out, but this place definitely does.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Baird
Baeren
Shiga Kogen
Shonan
Ushi Tora
Daisen G

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Saturday, 16:00-23:30
Sunday, 12:00-21:00
Closed Monday

Location/Map:
小山 5-23-16, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo



Telephone:
03-6886-4533

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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Oerbier Man

Today, part three of my loose Belgian trilogy and it's another Delirium related place. I think I mentioned in the Brasserie Muh post that I hadn't yet been here, so given that I was kind of close, I thought I'd pop in and get it done. I was expecting great things as De Dolle is one of my favourite Belgian breweries. Was I disappointed...?

- First impressions were that this is a pretty fancy place. Typical Delirium decor, but with a lovely big terrace out front with seating for around 50 I reckon. The inside is less spacious, but there is still seating for around 30 I reckon. Toilets are outside in the office building the bar is attached to. Enjoyed sitting with my De Dolle glass looking at the big De Dolle signage. One thing I did notice though is that they seem to have changed the nose a bit on the big De Dolle logos on the front of the bar, which is a little strange. Found this slightly perturbing.
- 10 taps of Belgian beer, pretty much the same selection as the other Delirium places, except thankfully they had one De Dolle beer, Oerbier on tap, which I would say is pretty much essential if you are relying on the De Dolle branding so much to distinguish the cafe. I hope they always have at least one De Dolle on, but I'm not sure if this is the case. Beers were served pretty cold so if this upsets you, order a couple at a time and let one warm up as you drink the other. I recently discovered that all the Delirium places' taplists are online here. Although at the moment this does not include Oerbier Man unfortunately. If it does in the future, it would definitely affect how often I might go here.
- Generally speaking, beers are served in 250ml glasses ranging from ¥590 to ¥790. So far, so normal for Delirium places. The De Dolle beer was significantly more expensive. ¥1100, but it was 330ml. Given that you don't see this on tap so often, I think it's a reasonable price. Think the same beer in bottle was a little more expensive. No cover charge before 17:00, but after that time it's ¥300. Tax is added on at the end.
- Daytime opening!! But in the middle of the afternoon I was the only person drinking beer. Seems like it's a popular spot for people to relax and have a coffee or soft drink. Guess it becomes more beery and foody in the evening.

So, mixed feelings. It's a nice place and if they always have a De Dolle on, I'll be here fairly often in the afternoon. But I think they might be overselling the De Dolle thing. The St. Bernardus cafe does a good job of having St. Bernardus stuff on offer but in my opinion with Oerbier Man, one tap does not justify the hype. (And the logo has got the nose wrong. I have a theory why they might have done this). If you ignore the branding and treat it as another Delirium branch, it's pretty much what you would expect, a Belgian bar with some great beers and some nasty ones at not too bad prices, but not really cheap enough to be a regular stop. Let's see how things are looking in a year or so.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
None

Opening Hours:
Sunday-Tuesday, 11:00-23:00
Wednesday-Saturday, 11:00-00:00

Location/map:
外神田 4-14-1, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo



Telephone:
03-3526-2321

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Monday, 23 May 2016

Brasserie MUH


A brief post on another arm of the Delirium chain of Belgian bars/restaurants, this one being notable for being the first decent beer place in the rapidly up and coming Musashi Kosugi area. It will seem pretty familiar to you if you have visited any of the other bars in the chain. If I had to compare it to one, I'd probably say the St. Bernardus bar. Still have to go to Oerbier Man. And also put all of the others on here too I guess.

- The ubiquitous 'lots of wood', this time paired with Belgian themed decor, a combination familiar to previous customers of the chain. Seating for around 24 at low tables, 20 at high tables, a counter for six and some standing tables for about 10. It always seems to be pretty busy, so booking might be recommended. You can do this via the website and it seems to be possible in English too.
- 10 taps of mainly Belgian beer and with one tap reserved for a guest, which was a Yokohama beer when we were there. The nine Belgian selections will also be familiar to people who frequent the other bars but to summarise, think De La Senne, De Ranke and a few crappy syrupy or boring ones. Fridge of bottles with some cracking stuff in there. Not sure of the prices though.
- Draft beer is served in 250ml glasses and ranges from ¥590-¥790. However they do a nice deal where you can drink any beer for ¥500 at one of the standing tables. But... there is a cover charge. ¥300 I believe, so you'd better have a few to work off the charge.

So, as you can see, it's pretty much the regular Delirium chain fare, but significantly it's in a new area, very close to Musashi Kosugi Toyoko and Nambu line stations. The key is to head south along the tracks from the Toyoko line area. If you don't live or find yourself in the area, you are probably better off at one of the other bars in Tokyo, but it's worth mentioning just for the novelty of the location.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Yokohama

Opening Hours:
Monday & Tuesday, 17:00-23:30
Wednesday & Thursday, 17:00-02:00
Friday, 17:00-04:00
Saturday, 15:00-00:00
Sunday, 15:00-23:00

Location/map:
小杉町 3-446-4, Nakahara-ku, Kawasaki, Kanagawa



Telephone:
044-711-1051

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Friday, 20 May 2016

Spring Valley Brewery Tokyo (Kirin)


Please note that this is Kirin's Craft Beer brewery, so if you are offended by macro beers, this is not the place for you. 

Post by James

As soon as you see this place you are struck by its size and beauty.  It seems much too big to be only a few minutes walk from Daikanyama or Ebisu and there is wood everywhere, more like a beer museum than a working brewery and restaurant. It would be impossible for a place of this scale to be run by an individual or even a small team and it should come as no surprise, (although I was actually unaware when I went), that Spring Valley is owned by Kirin (there is another branch in Yokohama). 
Despite there being 215 seats (didn't count them, it's on the website), we had to wait about 10 minutes to be seated when we went on a sunny Golden Week afternoon. We were lucky to get seats on the outdoor terrace (this area seats 29). The terrace is basically two very big tables, so you will be sharing with other couples or groups.  There is a smoking area near one of the outdoor tables but the tables themselves and the entire inside space are non-smoking.
There are six "Core Beers" and several other beers on offer (all their own). We chose to stick with the core series and ordered a taster set. These are basically an IPA, lager/IPA, a dark beer, two wit beers and a fruit beer. These all cost ¥780 for a 360ml glass. The taster set is ¥1000 and this gives you about 100ml of each of the six beers. Other beers cost between ¥980 and ¥1180 for 360ml. There is no charge, so considering the location, the prices aren't so bad.
We were given a lengthy, and I have to say impressive, explanation about each beer when they arrived and there was the usual information you might expect with craft beers; IBU, colour and even the name of the person who made the beer. That said, all the beers were very delicate (light if you want me to be more direct) and probably wouldn't overly impress a lot of readers of this blog. I didn't try any of the non-core beers, but some certainly seemed a bit more promising.
The food at Spring Valley is of a very high standard and they really pay attention to beer and food pairings. Everything on the lunch menu comes with advice on which beer it would be best with and there is even a pairing set of the six core beers with a small dish to match each beer.
Overall this is an excellent place to go on a date and would be good with friends too. I found the beers to be lighter and a lot less hoppy than I normally like, but my wife rated them highly and they certainly are subtle. It would be easy for me to knock Kirin for not hopping-up the beers more, but I think they deserve praise for moving into the craft beer market and I am sure they have chosen the niche of lighter beers and good food quite deliberately. There was a constant queue to get in the whole time we were there and this shows that they have probably done their research well.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Spring Valley (Kirin)

Opening Hours:
Monday-Saturday, 08:00-00:00
Sunday, 08:00-22:00

Location/map:
ログロード代官山内, 代官山町 13-1, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo



Telephone:
03-6416-4960

Links:
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Thursday, 19 May 2016

Baird Takadanobaba Taproom


A new Baird taproom! That kind of came out of the blue. And it's in Takadanobaba, an interesting area where some beery stuff seems to be starting to happen. As usual, for the full details, I'd recommend checking one of the other Baird taproom posts (Harajuku or Nakameguro. Bashamichi to be done soon, I hope). Here are the significant bits.

- Nice feel to the place. Darker than their taprooms usually are. Has a bit of a Japanese restaurant mixed with a British pub feel to it, if that makes any sense at all. Seven seats at the counter and tables for 30-40 others.  Also they have a nice looking patio, although I have only seen it in pictures so far. Looks like it will be very nice in the warm weather.
- 12 regular beers and seven seasonals, so a decent line up. All Baird beers when I was there. The two house beers unique to this branch were the Baba Oatmeal Smoke Porter on handpump and Organic Hop Pale Ale. Usual prices and sizes it seemed (500ml and 250ml for the regulars, and 400ml and 200ml for the seasonals; prices are ¥1000 for large and ¥600 for small, and very occasionally a little bit extra if the beer is extra high alcohol or extra special somehow, but in the same sort of area). I hope this is right as I had consumed a few beers by this stage and didn't check very carefully.

It had been a while since I had visited a Baird taproom and had forgotten that they are lots of fun. The beers are always decent and the atmosphere is good. I should definitely go back to these places more often, especially when the patio is available to sit on. It's pretty close to the station so should be fairly easy to get to. Beware though. You can easily spot the Baird logo from the main street, but the entrance is on the side towards the back of the building and not the first one you come to. Check the photo above for the right door to go in.

Japanese breweries recently seen on tap:
Baird

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 17:00-00:00
Saturday, Sunday & Holidays, 12:00-00:00

Location/map:
高田馬場 3-2-14, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo



Telephone:
03-5332-7795

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