Monday, 16 December 2019

Mountain River Brewery

A quick post today on Mountain River, a brewery and kind of taproom in Kugayama on the Inokashira Line. The reason I say kind of taproom will become clear further down. There have been a spate of new brewery openings in the last few years. Unfortunately, that has coincided with a bit of a slack time as far as this blog is concerned so many haven’t yet been visited or covered. Hopefully this post is the first step towards rectifying this situation. Here’s what you need to know.

- Interesting place, slightly reminiscent of some of the London railway arch brewery taprooms. Things are on a bit of a smaller scale here though, but it’s still pretty fun to visit. The brewery is on the ground floor of a building, the main purpose of which seems to be a wood warehouse (though there wasn’t much wood there when we visited). The taproom drinking area consists of a table to stand and drink at and four seats. It’s quite low key, but as I said, it’s quite fun too. Could be cold in the winter though.
- Beers are available on tap and in bottles. When we visited there were two taps available and a further six bottles. Tap beers are served in two sizes, M and S, which were a little tricky to judge as they were served in plastic cups, but I’m guessing they were around the usual pint and half sizes served in Tokyo bars. The M was ¥900 and the S ¥500. The bottles were ¥600-¥650 and were available to drink on site or takeaway.
- There’s really not much else to say to be honest. Beware of the very limited opening hours (check them below). And there's no cover charge. I guess that’s it!

So maybe not somewhere that you’re going to go every week, but it’s always nice to visit a brewery and directly give them your support. You don’t really see their beers around that much either, so this is the place to get them, I guess.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Mountain River

Opening Hours:

Saturday 14:00-18:00 only!
久我山3-17-18, Suginami-ku, Tokyo





Sunday, 15 December 2019

Sapporo interlude

I’m not sure if starting these new kind of posts is a good idea to be honest, but I’m going to try one anyway. My normal remit for places on this blog is that they need to be at least reasonably easy to get to from Tokyo on a train. Of course Hokkaido doesn’t fit into this category. The reason I initially put this limitation in place was that a bit over two hours away from Tokyo by Shinkansen there is the huge Kyoto/Osaka area which is so full of bars that I’d never be able to do the area justice or even cover it even half adequately. However, it does seem stupid to not at least put some places I’ve been to and enjoyed on the map, just in case you might be in the same city and are curious. These posts are by no means intended to be comprehensive guides to the cities they mention. I’ve been to more places in each city, but I’m not going to mention everywhere as I can’t be bothered and some aren't really worth recommending to be honest. Perhaps Kansai Beer Drinker or Kyushu beer drinker, or Tohoku Beer Drinker can cover them (or you could check Kansai Beer Lovers who is kind of doing that kind of thing for Kansai I guess). I’m also not going to guarantee that the places I have been to and are featuring are the ‘best’ places, as perhaps my taste is different to yours. These are just some places I’ve visited that were quite nice with a couple of sentences to give you an idea and a Facebook or website link for you to check the details if your interest is piqued. If I return to a city at a later date and find somewhere new, I’ll add it to the appropriate city post rather than writing a new one. So, here we go with some Sapporo places. And here's a link to put you in broadly the right place on the TBD map.

Beer Bar North Island
The recently moved taproom for perhaps the most famous of the Hokkaido craft breweries. The new location is closer to the city centre, on the 10th floor with nice city views and a bit more up market than the previous place. Good place to drink North Island (obviously), and they have some guest beers too.

Beer Cellar Sapporo
Two branches in the city as far as I know, both of which function as a bar and bottle shop. The one in the department store next to the station is unsurprisingly smaller and the one which isn’t is by this logic bigger. I believe they are both run by an importer who imports mainly Oregon beers, so you know what to expect.
Facebook (main branch)
Facebook (Daimaru department store branch)

Moya Moya Base
Bar that has opened in the same spot where the old North Island Bar was, perhaps 10 minutes walk East of the city centre. Around six taps (I think), and a decent selection of breweries. Quite enjoyed the pub snacks too.

The Craft
Sapporo’s Craft Beer Market/iBrew type place, I guess. Similar amount of taps and pricing anyway. There is a small cover charge and the place is smoking (as quite a few locations seemed to be), but it was infinitely superior to the place we tried before we came here, which we sat down in, checked the menu and then decided to walk out. It shall remain nameless… Not the most exciting selection of beers perhaps, but there are a lot of local breweries represented. The food was nice too and the smoking was surprisingly unobtrusive.

Tsuki To Taiyo / Moon Sun Brewing
Fairly new brewpub (a few years new if that makes any sense), with a nice wooden cosy interior, some of their own beers and some guests, which if I remember rightly were split between Japanese and import stuff. Pretty popular place. I think we’ve been turned away twice when we’ve tried to go without booking so bear that in mind.

Friday, 6 December 2019


A brief post today on somewhere that has been open for a while but I have only recently got round to visiting. Sadly this is the same old story for me recently. The backlog is now huge again. My inclination to visit new places has collapsed and has coincided with me now being unemployed. (My boss was a nightmare and it was doing me no good working there. But losing the salary isn't exactly encouraging me to start visiting new places. If anyone wants to offer me an extremely well paid part time job, please send me an email. And please send me lots of donations, eh?). My only hope for getting this backlog under control is if we suddenly have a load of new places close down, immediately clearing them off my 'to visit' list. That's not really in the spirit of things though, so I won't wish for that. And who knows, maybe another gem will crop up soon? Uetomi is not the next wonder find, but it is a pretty nice place with plenty of interest for people who like to drink craft beer. Here's what you need to know.

- Quite small with seats for around six at tables and for the same again at the two counters. This place is an izakaya with craft beer, so food is a focus here. It feels a lot brighter than a normal izakaya is though and the decor is quite modern, but with some bikini posters around which drags the mood back to the 70's or 80's if that's your thing.
- The beers are in bottles and cans and are in the fridges to the right as you enter. The place is cash on delivery, so you just grab your beer from the fridge, along with a glass and take it to the counter to pay. They are mainly imports and mainly stuff from the US, but there were some interesting breweries and a mix of styles. There were some European imports too, I spotted Magic Rock (although seeing as they were taken over by a macro, perhaps I shouldn't mention them). They also had Brimmer bottles for those of you who are looking to keep things Japanese.
- The place is no smoking and there's no cover charge. I didn't check if there's wifi. Sorry! One slightly surprising thing is that it's open during the day, every day and that it closes fairly early. So maybe my izakaya description doesn't really fit that well.

I quite enjoyed my time here but was caught out by the early closing. Otherwise I think I would have stayed a lot longer. The beer prices were reasonable and the little bit of food I had was nice. It's definitely a place with a different feel from lots of the other establishments on here, and I'll be back visiting again some time soon. It is emblematic of a recent welcome change in that there now seems to be places opening that aren't craft beer focused places, but which have nice beer. Long may that continue!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Brimmer (but bottles only)

Opening Hours:

11:30-22:00 daily
上原1-1-21 1F, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo




Sunday, 1 December 2019

Interesting Beer at J League football stadiums

This is a bit of a weird blog post but I thought it could be of some use to some people. It also nicely links this blog and another blog I write called Frontale Rabbit about my favourite Japanese football team who I've been supporting home and away for quite a few years now. Of course the places mentioned here are not beer bars and most are just stalls outside a football stadium, so naturally they won't be going on the map. But, in the hugely unlikely case that you're considering going to a game and are not really bothered about which team you see, but are instead basing your decision on pre-game refreshment, this might be of some help. I'll update this as more options appear and as I visit more stadiums. I'll also add some names of bars or breweries that are particularly worth a visit in the vicinity. If a team is not on here, that probably means that there's nothing to recommend it about it or I haven't been there yet. Somewhat amusingly I have lumped together teams that play fairly close to each other or in the same stadium and are almost certainly bitter rivals. Seemed like a fun thing to do. One final thing worth bearing in mind is the fact that most grounds allow you to take beer into the ground if you empty it into a paper cup before entering. So if you want to take your own beer, your selection is vast, as long as you don't mind drinking that whale from a plastic or paper cup. 

Grounds that actually have craft beer/Ji-biru at the stadium -

Giravanz Kitakyushu - serves Mojiko retro at the ground! Bravo!
And it's only a few stations away from the brewery in Mojiko too!

Matsumoto Yamaga - Aiwa beer available in the stadium in the main stand.
In the city centre there are two breweries, Matsumoto Brewing and Bacca along with some more bars that I haven't visited yet.

Montedio Yamagata - serves Gassan pils in the food court part outside the ground. Went back a few times before the game and at half time.

Sagan Tosu - lots of booze options here. They serve DHC beer from bottles in the stadium in the fan area in the stand behind the goal at the home end with quite a few varieties available. There is also loads of shochu and nihonshu and Saga 'champagne' if they're more your thing. I tend to always end up not being able to remember much about the game here.

Shonan Bellmare - Sankt Gallen have a stand outside the ground in the fan area with about five options I think.
Also, back in Hiratsuka there is the Yggdrasil brewery and taproom which is very welcoming for both home and away fans.

Teams and stadiums with good beer nearby

Akita Blaublitz - never visited the ground.
The Aqula brewery has a couple of locations in the city centre which are well worth a visit.

Albirex Niigata - macro only at the ground.
Lots of drinking options in the city centre though including a couple of breweries taprooms. Check out some of those options here. There is also a Niigata beer map available I think.

Fagiano Okayama - never been to the ground. Sorry.
Doppo has a taproom in the Aeon Mall near the main station.

FC Gifu - macro at the ground.
Y Market has a bar called Yell! Ale! Gifu! fairly near the station.

Kashima Antlers - macro only at the ground
There is a brewpub called Paradise Beer Factory near Kashima Jingu. Not the closest, but close enough considering nothing seems to be close or convenient in Kashima

Kawasaki Frontale - macro only at the ground (Suntory Premium Malts Kaoru Ale)
As this is my team and I also really like the brewery, I'll mention that there is TKBrewing a few stations away near Kawasaki station. It's great. There are also a few other bars in the area too. Check them here.

Kyoto Sanga - New stadium will be opened next year so no idea about the beer.
Mentioned here though as one of my favourite Japanese breweries, Kyoto Brewing has a taproom that might be open around game time, although you'll probably have to go there beforehand, (unless it's an early kick off), as they close quite early.

Mito Hollyhock - macro only at the stadium as far as I can remember
Not particularly close to the ground, but at Mito station they have a Hitachino Nest taproom.

Nagoya Grampus Eight - macro only at the ground
If you're at the Toyota stadium you're miles from anywhere, but at the Mizuho stadium you're a few stops away from the Y Market brewpub.

Oita Trinita - macro only at the ground
As the ground is miles from the city, you'll almost certainly end up getting the bus back to the city centre where there are a couple of breweries. The strangely named Yell & Ale/Abe Bond is a brewpub and bar and Oita Funai/Monkey Mountain which can sell you beers to take away, or I think you can drink them out of a plastic cup by the front door of the brewery.

Omiya Ardija - can't remember what is served at the ground.
There is a brewpub called Hikawa en route to the stadium from the station. Bizarrely it was closed when we tried to visit it before a game last time, but maybe you'll have more luck.

SC Sagamihara - never visited the ground...
But Ebina beer has their brewery and taproom just a few stations away on the Sagami line.

Shimizu S Pulse - macro only at the ground.
If you head back to Shizuoka city which is one of the shuttle bus options there are quite a few places there including plenty of Aoi beer outlets and one really good Peruvian restaurant that serves great Japanese German-style beer. Bit of a mash up.

Urawa Reds - mostly macro at the ground but they do have some 'crafty' beers at one outlet in the away fan section. Have had Yona Yona and Brooklyn Lager there on various occasions, so basically stuff from breweries that have been taken over by Kirin.

Vegalta Sendai - macro at the ground.
But the city is a great place to drink with a few budget craft beer options (Craft Beer Market, Craftsman) and some other fun places too. There is a Sendai beer map available so it might be worth tracking one of them down.

Ventforet Kofu - macro at the ground.
But there are a few locations run by Outsider Brewing including their brewery and taproom called Hops & Herbs. It was a real bummer them being relegated to J2 as I enjoyed that away game a lot.

Vissel Kobe - macro only at the ground and beware, it's a cashless stadium too.
In the city centre there are a few outlets run by the Rokko brewery and an interestingly named brewery called In Tha Door.

Yokohama FC / YSCC Yokohama / Yokohama F Marinos - macro only at Nissan stadium
(Presumably lumping these three teams together will annoy three sets of fans at once). The city centre is fairly near to both the Nissan stadium and Mitsuzawa. In the city there are loads of beer places and quite a few brew pubs. Check out some of them here. Also, a few stops along the Yokohama line in the opposite direction there is the brewery and taproom for TDM 1874.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Loose ends/various places Part 5

This is part five of what will be constantly updated posts with brief descriptions of places that possibly deserve to be on here but which I have either no time or inclination to visit. Part one is here, part two here, three is here, four is here or you can view all of them by clicking the digest tag, or just clicking here. I have tried various ways of keeping up to date with the crazy amount of places that are opening and have been struggling with deciding which places warrant including and which don't. This seems to be a reasonable way of dealing with them. They will remain on the map with a question mark as I can't vouch for any of these. The map will link to this post where places will be listed in alphabetical order with a short description and link which should give you some idea of what to expect and whether it's worth going to. There will be no tags, as that will just confuse matters I think. If I end up going to any of these places and they are worthy of a full write up, I'll remove them from here and make them a post of their own. Not everything on the backlog will be on here. This is mainly intended for what I imagine to be a bit less interesting but still worth mentioning places.

Abbot's Choice - Machida
I’ve been meaning to check out, and perhaps add, some places in Machida for a long time but have never quite been tempted enough. This place is part of a chain of Irish style pubs but seems to have quite a few taps or interesting stuff. I wonder if they all do? Apparently has good pub food too. Daytime AND super late opening. Interesting…

All(w)right - Sakeplace - Asakusa
As you can guess from the name, this is a sake place. They are apparently making / going to make their own sake too which is interesting. They do have three taps of craft beer though. Selection seems decent but perhaps prices are a little at the higher end of normal. Daytime opening.

Ant ’n Bee Ryudocho - Roppongi
20 taps of imported craft. No idea about prices but I’d imagine they are similar to the other branch so check that here. Looks small from the Facebook photos.

Awajicho Mugishuya - Kanda
Seems reasonably priced with seven taps which are a mix between imported and domestic craft. Daytime opening helps it stand out a little in a area crowded with drinking options.

Beer Bar Moon Beams - Yokohama
Doesn’t seem to have many taps, but the beer selection looks pretty interesting. No idea on prices.

Beer Stand Stoop - Unoki

Looks like a mini bar with five taps of reasonably interesting beer from over Japan. The name would suggest it’s a standing bar, but I’ve been to enough Japanese beer places to know that you can’t always presume that the name reflects the place. Nothing much else in this area so must be a welcome addition!


Butcher Republic - various locations
Seems to be connected to the Delirium chain of Belgian pubs and seems to have the same beer list. I guess the the idea being that not everyone wants to eat Belgian food, but everyone will drink Belgian beer. The Delirium pubs are alright I think, but I don’t go very often. Which means I probably won’t go here very soon. It’s becoming a huge chain, but the experience looks like it could be decent. All the branch details are on the website linked below. Maybe I missed some on the map as there are so many.


Cafe Club Key (Caghiya brewery) - Kawasaki

Brew pub of the Caghiya brewery. Have only seen these beers at a Kawasaki beer fest so if you want to try them this is the place to go. Have no idea what kind of place this is apart from looking at a few photos on Facebook which make it look like a British pub. But smaller. Of course.

Carvaan Tokyo - Shibuya
The fact that this place has opened on the 12th floor or a new building in central Shibuya should give you an idea that they’re not messing around. The brewery was a fancy kind of place and I expect this is too. Definitely a much easier option for Tokyo people than trekking to Hanno if they want to try their beers. I guess that, like the brewery restaurant, this place is mainly focused on its food.

Craft Bar Kokopelli - Yokohama
Pretty small place just a little of the beaten track. Looks like it has only three taps of Japanese craft but the prices seem good (but without knowing exact sizes it’s hard to tell).

Craft Beer House Border - Kugayama
Four taps of reasonably priced Japanese craft including one from the local brewery Mountain River. Looks like a nice, small, local place.

Craft Beer Server Land - Akasaka

The new sister bar of the original Craft Beer Server Land in Iidabashi. Seems to be the same kind of set up with lots of taps from lots of Japanese breweries at a decent price (although I think they might have gone up a little since I last visited the original branch which was admittedly a long time ago. Cover charge of ¥380 as you’d expect in these many-tap/low-price bars.

Craft Beer Sloth House - Yokohama
7 taps of Japanese craft, with some local Yokohama stuff and some more unusual selections. Seems nice looking and quite cosy and has a focus on food. No idea about prices. 

Devil Craft - Jiyugaoka
New branch of the Devil Craft chain, this time in fancy Jiyugaoka. 16 taps, half of which are their own beers and the rest a mix of imports and Japanese craft. Haven’t been here, but I guess the rest of the vibe is pretty much like the other Devil Craft branches.

Full Monty British Pub & Cider House - Yokohama
British pub and cider house with British food too. Beer doesn’t seem so exciting, but maybe it’s just not my kind of beers. Cider is perhaps their speciality and that's what they import, I think. Quite popular with the gaijin population I’ve heard.

iBrew Ebisu - Ebisu
Surely only a matter of time before this gets a (probably) well deserved full post as iBrew bars are always winners. Seems to have lots of seats and almost as many taps. Check the other iBrew posts here if you don’t know what you should expect.

Kompal - Osaki
Unbelievably, this is another public bath with craft beer, the first being the more simply named BathHaus. I never imagined that I would have one of the them on here, let alone two. Perhaps this is a new trendy concept. Beer mentions are few and far between on their Facebook but someone must have recommended it as I don’t really ever check out public baths. Nothing much near this station though, so it makes it on for now.


Matsudo Beer And Taproom - Matsudo
The new location and name for Eitai Brewing who have moved quite a long way from their previous city centre location. Generally seem to have five taps of their own beer on. No sign of prices on the facebook but check the old post here and it might give you an idea of what to expect. Or not.

Mugi No Oto - Shinjuku
Music and craft beer in a semi dodgy neighbourhood. Have heard it’s expensive and smoky. Posts almost nothing about beer on Facebook which could be a warning maybe. Six taps of Japanese craft. Tax added at the end and a table charge later on in the evening.

New School - Waseda
Mainly added as there don’t seem to be many places for beer in Waseda aside from the new brewery which I have yet to go to that serves weird exotic meats, (Craft Beer Gran Zoo / Kanpai Brewing). Looks pretty laid back, but make some Facebook posts about beer which is encouraging. No idea about prices or number of beers but they had Shiga bottles in the window and they have some craft taps I believe. Food is a big thing it seems too.

Nihonbashi Brewery T.S.
 - Yaesu
Still not sure if the brewery is actually brewing but they’ve opened a new super central taproom and seem to be serving beer in a sake style with the cedar box and pouring till it overflows. The check ins on untapped are mainly guests. Check the original listing here for some ideas of what to expect I guess.
 This is just a bar as far as I know. The 'brewery' is in the original location.

Number 6 - Nihonbashi
Six taps of Japanese Craft with some different selections (may or may not be a good thing...). Seems to have some promotion on dates ending in six or multiples of six but I’m not sure what that means. Looks kind of stylish and quite Japanese. Prices look ok, and they do flights. Not so many places in the neighbourhood so good luck to them.

Ochiratoya - Daimon
Think this used to be On The Table and is still run by the Good Beer Faucets chain. Seems to have refocused itself and now the Izakaya type food seems to be the main draw. Some mention of beer occasionally on their Facebook, but it’s a bit of a mystery to me.

Ottotto Brewery - Shibuya
Ever expanding chain of craft brewery taprooms that seem to have a lot of money behind them. The brewery was mentioned on digest post 3 so check that for slightly more details than there are here.

Pitmans - Kiyosumishirakawa
I somewhat unfairly discarded this place as I thought it was just another August beer place, but this time with loads of meat. As you can guess from the name, there’s a lot of BBQ going on here. There also happens to be a brewery too. Not sure quite how many of their on site beers make it on to the taps, but I guess I need to visit now, given that they’re making their own stuff. I think the seasonal always is a beer they’ve made themselves. Prices are at the top end of normal. Not sure how many taps. To be honest, you’d probably be going here for the food anyway with the beer as a bonus, right?

P2B Haus - Kichijoji
Recently opened place, 12 taps of mainly Japanese craft. Looks quite nice with a counter and some table seats. Beer served in three sizes and prices look pretty reasonable.

Tachinomi Bar Fukuro - Kamata
Not much in this neighbourhood and the places that open here seem to close down quickly so good luck to Fukuro. Some interesting beers mentioned on their Facebook but haven’t got a clue about this place really. Name suggests it’s a standing bar and seems to stay open very late. Party!!!

TBE Brewing - Ebisu
Some connection with iBrew I think, although you wouldn’t notice that in the pricing which is pretty standard. Perhaps this is the iBrew version of CBM's Kichijoji Beer Boy, which is much pricier than the rest of the chain. 10 taps, mostly Japanese but with some imports. I guess you’re mainly paying for the location. In spite of the name, this is not a brewery as far as I know. Their beer menu is usually on their Facebook.

Uchida Biyori - Yokohama
Bit of a mystery. The Facebook page occasionally has hints of beer and they have some check-ins on Untappd, but they don’t really seem to be pushing it as a beer venue. Nonetheless, it made it on to my list which probably means someone recommended it or suggested it so it will stay on this post till I know better. Completely useless lack of actual details from me here.

World Beer & Dining Mihamabase - Mihama, Chiba
10 taps but maybe only six or seven are craft and they all seem to be imports, mostly from the US. They have a happy hour and even though they don’t mention their normal prices this has to be a good thing. Seems to be open pretty late.

Yell! Ale!! - Gifu
Y Market’s place in Gifu with quite a few guest taps alongside the obligatory few Y Market beers. Quite big but was pretty popular when we visited and seemed like somewhere people went to eat and drink rather than just booze it up. From memory there were about 15 taps I think. I really should have posted about this at the time. Damn. Will do a proper post when I go back.