Thursday, 15 December 2016

Beer Ma


This is the new bar from the people who were running World Beer Market on the other side of Kita Senju station. That shop has now closed and they have opened Beer Ma, a bar and bottle shop on the west side of the station and also Beer Ma Base, their warehouse which also functions as a bottle shop, one station away. I was planning to go to both but thought there probably wasn’t much point as I figured that whatever they’d have in their warehouse would also be in their shop. Perhaps I wasn’t quite right about this, so maybe I’ll have to visit and add Beer Ma Base another time. But for the time being this will have to do.

- Interesting looking place. Shop front has a bit of a pre-packaged distressed ‘artiness’ about it with lots of bits of colored sheet metal on it. Interior is concrete heavy in a Brewdog bar kind of way, or at least that’s what it reminded me of. Front part of the shop is the standing bar, with a bar counter and another counter along the other wall. The back part is the bottle shop. When we visited on a Sunday afternoon it was pretty busy and the turnover of customers was quite high. I guess the idea is that you stay for a couple and then move on, hence there being no seats. Perhaps the temperature in the shop also was intended to have this effect as it was pretty warm in there! Guess they might be overdoing it due to the big sliding door which lets in a lot of cold air every time someone arrives or leaves. To be honest I think the standing place by the door might be the best place to stand at the moment as the cold breeze was quite a pleasant relief from the heat at times. By the way, be careful with the door. I saw a couple of people get their hand nipped by it. Constant stream of light smooth jazz and Bossa Nova music. Maybe this is also supposed to contribute to the fast turnover of customers!
- Ten taps of craft beer, mainly imported with what seems to be an emphasis on Brewdog, Stone and the like. Seems that the tap selections veer towards the more mainstream. However, since they opened I have also seen them have some much more interesting stuff on too, so maybe I was just unlucky when I went. Prices ranged from ¥850-¥1200 but the size of the glasses varied and there were no sizes mentioned. I have a suspicion that the glasses were also not as big as they looked, a 650ml bomber pretty much filled two ‘pint’ glasses with not much head. Either my maths is not very good or the ‘pints’ are a bit smaller than what the name would suggest. For the taps, you can order at the counter or at the till. You pay as you go. [PRICE UPDATE: Regular (400ml), ¥1100-¥2000(!), Small (265ml), ¥800-¥1700(!)]
- Huge bottle selection, as you would expect from a beer shop. Whilst the choice is a little smaller than it was in the previous location there were still a large number of bottled beers from many different countries available. I felt that the Japanese selection had shrunk quite a bit, with some of the more unusual Japanese breweries they used to stock not being present. However the US selection is big and there is quite a lot of Belgian stuff too. I wonder if the selection at Beer Ma Base is the same, or if Beer Ma represents what they consider to be the highlights of their whole range. The price on the fridge is the beer price without tax, which is added at the till. To drink in, they charge you a ¥100 corkage fee, plus a charge of ¥100 per glass. [The Kanda branch's corkage fees are ¥200, so I suspect it's not the same here. Will update if I get confirmation]. I didn’t really work out whether they are happy with you reusing the same glass or you are supposed to get a new glass with every beer. [Got some clarification and you are supposed to get new glasses with each beer] Our group kind of did a bit of both. Even with these fees, the bottle prices are pretty good. Much better than the taps I think.
- Some food available. Think there was a lasagne and a few other small dishes. The other quick bits of info you need are that there is no cover charge and no wifi. They are open during the day for beer sales, but I believe you need to wait till the evening to drink on site.

All in all, I think this is a pretty interesting place to have as an option. I have always thought good things about their beer selection and although this has dropped a little, (at least in this location rather than at Beer Ma Base which might have more), it’s still one of the best in Tokyo. I’m not really sure the taps will be the thing that gets me to visit, although as they publish their taplist on their Facebook, if I spot something I want, I’ll pop in. The drink on site bottle shop is a great thing though. I think the corkage fee is perfectly reasonable and the prices good. The atmosphere is a little strange, but I think most people will either not notice it or maybe even enjoy it. It was pretty busy when we visited and I imagine that this will also be the case in the future. Will update this post when I manage to get to Beer Ma Base and clarify a few details, but this is clearly a place that will be of interest to quite a few beer lovers.

Japanese breweries seen on tap:
None when I was there, but think they occasionally have some

Opening Hours: 

Monday-Wednesday, Friday & Saturday, 12:00-22:00
Sunday & holidays, 12:00-21:00
Closed Thursday
Monday-Wednesday & Friday, 16:00-24:00
Saturday, 14:00-24:00
Sunday & holidays, 14:00-21:00
Closed Thursday


千住 2-62, Adachi-ku, Tokyo



Ratebeer listing

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Hitachino Brewing Lab Tokyo Station

So, Hitachino Nest/Kiuchi have opened another Tokyo bar. I am a bit of a fan of their first location in Ochanomizu/Akihabara. It's pleasant to sit outside there next to the river and enjoy a daytime beer. The new place is a bit smaller, but the idea is the same, so it might be worth checking the post on the other location to get an idea. In any case, here are the details.

- Pretty small place in Granroof, stuck on top of the front of the east/Yaesu side of Tokyo station, looking down over the bus station. Big central table for maybe 15 at a push and a couple of other small seating areas. Not sure if they will expand outside in warmer times, but there definitely seems to be space and it would be quite a nice place to sit.
- 8 kegs and 2 handpumps of their beer. As with the other brewing lab there seems to be some rotation of beers. Unlike the other place they have handpumps and big bottles of their barrel-aged stuff. All taps are priced at ¥680. The big bottles were almost ¥3000! Tasting set of three beers for ¥980 but you can't choose which ones. Not sure of the sizes. No cover charge and tax is included. Pay as you go at the bar.
- Same small dishes served in jars as at the other brew lab (is Japas an actual thing? That's what I call it anyway) and looks like they do lunch sets too.

So, nothing very new, but it's another nice place to have a beer. I think I prefer the other branch as it's a lot less cramped, but if they have a patio here too, then I might change my mind. The location is good (well, I mean it's convenient if you are traveling or meeting someone) but I feel it's probably intended as somewhere you'd pop in to for one or two rather than a destination to spend a whole night out at. Daytime opening is a big bonus for me. That's probably half of the reason I like the other branch. The keg and cask beers are reasonably priced, but I think the bottles could be a bit of a hard sell. I'd like to try them, but not for ¥3000. But yeah, another decent place.

Japanese breweries seen on tap:
Hitachino Nest

Opening Hours:
Daily, 11:00-23:00


丸の内 1-9-1, グランルーフ2F, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

I don't think I can really give you a map for this one. You just have to leave the station via the Yaesu exit, find the bus station and then turn round and look up. The pin is in broadly the right place on the map, so if you are having trouble, check the map.



Ratebeer listing

Thursday, 1 December 2016

New tags - an explanation

I am pleased to say that I have almost completed the overhaul of the tags on here. The intention is to make the information people want about places much easier to access. As a result, I've removed the tags of breweries available at each place as I think it turned out to be kind of pointless anyway given how quickly taplists turn over. The listing of breweries on tap will remain in the post but the tags are gone.
Here's a list of the new tags and a quick explanation of their meaning, which I hope is fairly self explanatory, but just in case it isn't, here you are.

10+ Taps - Ten or more taps of craft beer available
20+ Taps - Twenty or more taps of craft beer available (both of these are judged on what they actually serve rather than their potential capacity. Plenty of places have loads of empty taps it seems)
Belgian - Belgian beer available (and I'm not talking about just one tap of Hoegaarden...)
US - US Craft beer available
No Smoking/Smoking - added if a place is completely non-smoking or known as being smoky. With some places this is a little bit of a grey area. They have a smoking cupboard or whatever they call it. If it's borderline, I have left both tags off. Thebars marked with these tags will show you a strong tendency for either smokiness or no smokiness.
Patio - outdoor seating area that is more than a couple of kegs to sit on or a place to stand if there's no seats inside
Favourite - a favourite place of mine, 100% my own opinion, but you can take this as my recommendation of somewhere good to go. There are plenty of great places on here that aren't tagged with this that are still worth a visit, but these are the standout ones... in my opinion.
Reservation - reserving a table is recommended, you might be lucky just turning up,  but if you really want to go here, you should try to give them a call first as they tend to be busy.
English Menu - a beer menu that is in English, or at least the beer names are
WiFi - WiFi available. This tag is one that I really don't know about for many places. Please let me know if you know the availability of WiFi at any places I haven't tagged. I don't really use it so don't notice, but I know this is important for lots of people so any information you have would be much appreciated.
Budget - cheap beer (beware though that this often comes with a service/cover charge and or tax added on at the end). Check the write up for any hidden charges. Cheap doesn't always mean good I guess, but it does at least mean cheap.
Happy hour - a happy hour with discounted beers or during which something is given away with the beer. In Japan, this often lasts longer than an hour.
Bottles - a decent bottle selection that is a worthy selling point of the bar
Imports - imported beers which could fall in to the categories of Belgian or US but might just as likely be from elsewhere
Flight - a beer flight or tasting set available (sometimes only at selected times or on selected days)

I've still got to add for these for some posts. In the interest of accurate tagging, I have decided to split up all the posts where I have combined places by region. This will be a bit of a pain but I think it will make things more accurate in the long run. I'll do this gradually as I have time and will try to keep posts on the same area together, if I can. Guess I'd better get on with it.