Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Beer Boy Kichijoji

I have been meaning to try this place for a while as it seemed like an interesting twist on the usual Craft Beer Market concept. The twist is that there are less taps and it’s more like an Izakaya than a CBM. Going to a concert in Kichijoji gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. Even though I said I was interested in the twist, it’s probably not completely up my street, as for vegetarians, Izakaya food is often just chips and edamame. This comment has made me realize that I probably should have had a look at the food menu, but sadly I didn’t. Instead I will just presume, and by doing so make a ‘pre’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’. Hmmm, that one doesn’t work so well. In any case, here’s what you need to know:

- Craft Beer Market but an Izakaya. You can take this thought and use it to work out the decor (Izakaya like but with beer paraphernalia spread around and felt a bit slicker and less weathered than some Izakaya’s do, probably due to it not having been open so long and being no smoking), and the feel (boozing and eating in a pretty relaxed place) and what’s up for grabs (Izakaya food and craft beer). Long counter for maybe 15 and three big tables for eight each. I guess these tables are for sharing.
- 10 taps, but one of them is Kirin Heartland so they are missing out on the 10 Taps tag on here. Pricing and beer selection seems to be pretty different to the usual CBMs. In those places the pricing is pretty universal for good and bad stuff, the cheapness of the good beers being offset by the over-pricing of the not so good stuff. Here there seems to be a focus on ‘rare’ or different beers. It’s very US import heavy, with only two taps of Japanese stuff when I visited. Pricing is significantly higher than CBMs and to be honest, seems a little higher than many other bars. 250ml halves range from ¥480-¥980 with the lower end being a TY Harbor beer. Their house beer made for them by Outsider came in at ¥780 a half which seemed pretty pricy to me. Pints (473ml) range from ¥780 (the TY Harbor again) to ¥1580. The list featured plenty of American fruit sours, Hazy/Brut/Milkshake IPAs and some stronger stuff. Clearly they are riding the wave of current beer trends. Whether that’s a good thing for you, depends on your taste I guess. The are some bottles and cans in the fridge too, in similar styles and similarly priced.
- Unusually for a CBM and very welcome given the higher prices, they seemed to not have a cover charge. As mentioned above they are no smoking. They have WIFI and there’s some weekend daytime opening. Which I guess is quite a few of my boxes ticked.

I’m a bit torn about this place. I think it’s just me though. For people who want to drink the latest styles in a kind of relaxed place, but one which I actually found a bit ‘cooler than thou’, this is a great place I guess. I wasn’t that excited by the tap list but once again, that’s probably just me. You can check it on their website or facebook and decide for yourself. The pricing was a bit of a shock as I hadn’t checked it beforehand and I imagined it to be in line with CBMs. I think the big selling point of CBMs is the prices. I’m always aware when I drink there that not everything is going to be delicious and in a way, trying some beers from breweries that sound like they could be a bit sketchy at a low price is half the fun. Here I found myself underwhelmed by beers that I’d paid quite a lot for. But again, that’s maybe just me. Perhaps I were a bit younger, a bit cooler and a bit more interested in Milkshake IPAs this would be the place for me. So maybe if you fit with one of those it might be the place for you.


Japanese breweries seen on tap: 
Outsider
TY Harbor

Opening Hours: 
Monday, Wednesday-Friday, 17:00-01:00
Saturday, Sunday & holidays, 14:30-01:00
Closed Tuesday

Location/Map:

吉祥寺南町 2-8-8, Musashino-shi, Tokyo



Telephone:  
0422-29-9112

Links:
Facebook
Website

Monday, 22 April 2019

Loose ends/various places Part 4

This is part four 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, five 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.

Aglio - Shimotakaido
Interesting name for a Belgian bar! Very little info about this place again, but I’m a sucker for Belgian beer. (Although I don’t really go to Belgian bars in Tokyo much). Some interesting beers pictured on their Facebook but Stella was also mentioned so let’s not get too carried away. Guess this is one for you if you are in the area and need Belgian refreshment and are unwilling to go into central Tokyo. Perhaps I’m damning this place with faint praise without even ever visiting. If you’ve been, tell me about the place please!
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Aoi Beer Stand - Shizuoka
Pretty small place, which contrary to the name is mainly some seats at the counter. I think there was a small standing area too though. Six taps of their own beer on tap. Think they have quite a few places in town, but this seemed like the easiest to just pop in to in the daytime.
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Apart - Sangenjaya
The new ‘Craftheads’, opened by the same people after the closure of the Shibuya branch. Seems to be the same kind of tap list and pricing too, so I guess you’ll probably feel the same about this place as you did about Craftheads.
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Baird Beer Kichijoji Taproom - Kichijoji
Another Baird taproom, in what use to be the Swan Lake Kichihjoji branch, which closed before I even managed to add it to this list. Just down the road from Beer Boy and looks a bit smaller than the usual Baird taprooms. Food is ‘American South West soul food’. Beers and pricing are the same as the other places, I’m guessing.
Website

Bar Sal's - Saginuma
Sister bar of Craftheads (which was in Shibuya and is now in Sangenjaya as Apart (see above)). Perhaps due to the location, this place seems quite off the radar for most people. From the Facebook it seems that they have similar beers to Craftheads ie. some good and some rotten Japanese stuff along with exotic US imports. If you’ve ever been to Craftheads you probably have your own opinions about that place, and I guess this place would probably give you the same feelings. Bonus opinion from someone who's actually been there 'Sal's is much more chill than Craftheads.'
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B & W - Yokohama

B & W means beer and wine so I guess you know what you’re getting here. Looks like a nice cosy place with three taps of craft beer. No idea about prices though.
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Beer & Wine Hula - Shiki
Seems to mainly have Japanese craft or varying qualities. Not much online presence and probably not much excitement here, but there’s nothing else in the area so it makes it on to here.
Website

Belgian Beer Bar Gibbon - Nishiikebukuro
Another interestingly named Belgian beer bar. Not the biggest selection but includes some good stuff, and their website lists their beer menu and prices which is satisfyingly straightforward.
Website

Biru No Yokota - Shizuoka
Visited here recently. Big place with big reasonably priced taplist, (15 taps, mostly Baird, mostly around ¥1000 a US pint). Seems to have a strong Baird connection as a few places in Shizuoka do. Order at the bar and pay as you go. If you are a fan of Baird beer, they have a special house beer made by them here for you to try.
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Brewpub Truth - Gotanda
Another brewpub that has yet to start brewing. Seems to be a metal music connection. At the moment, looks like it usually has five beers on, all US imports. Prices seem about what you’d expect but I’m guessing that the size is US pint so If it isn’t, the prices are not what you’d expect. Will visit and write it up when they are brewing.
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Carvaan Craft Beer & Grill - Hanno

The closer to the station taproom for Carvaan. But if you’re making the effort to go all the way up to Hanno from Tokyo, you might prefer to visit the brewery. Perhaps this place is intended to keep drinkers away from the fancy restaurant space.
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Citraba - Koenji
The new incarnation of the old Koenji CBM, run I believe by the former manager who is going it alone now. ‘Craft Beer, Lemon Sour & Chicken’ is the slogan so that should give you an idea of what to expect. 20 taps which are mainly US imports with some not great Japanese selections and a few macros. Pricing is a touch higher than CBMs, (¥580, ¥980) but guess that’s due to the predominance of imports and the bars new found independence. I’m going to guess there’s a cover charge too.
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Craft Beer Diner Takiey - Toritsudaigaku
Meat and mainly US imported craft beer apparently. Seem to post on facebook when they get something new on tap. Bottle and can selection too.
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Craft Beer Gran Zoo / Kanpai Brewing - Waseda
Another new brewery in an area that’s pretty empty on my map until now.  Seems like a nice riverside location and building, but no idea about beer or prices so this entry is near to useless. Sorry…

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Craft Beer Station - Shizuoka
Visited here recently as it had some beers from Octagon, a Shizuoka brewery you don't see around very often. Pretty expensive place with six taps, mostly Japanese. Prices went up to ¥1500 for a US pint! Bottles and cans in the fridge too. Quite small. Perhaps in the past I would have done a full post for this place, but to be honest, it probably doesn't really deserve one.
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Cube Bar - Kawasaki
Another Kawasaki bar, brought to my attention by the fact that they collaborated on TK Brewing’s Kawsaki Union Red along with some other Kawasaki craft beer places. Looks like four taps of craft with some interesting selections. No idea about prices, but I can see myself popping down here soon so will update when I go.

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Folkways Brewing - Kiyosumishirakawa
Pretty new brewpub that is SHOCK HORROR! actually brewing. Although it looks like at the time of writing they’ve only made one beer. The rest of their eight taps are filled with US imports. Up and coming trendy area so could be interesting. No idea about prices, but it’s near the contemporary art museum, so I’ll check it next time I’m going there.
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Food Hall Blast! / Draft Pub Bevvy - Shinjuku
A combination of restaurants and bars in one building with a food court kind of vibe, but perhaps trying quite hard to be urban, fresh and 'hip'. In a convenient location, very near the station but was pretty lacking in excitement when it came to the beer. The food was quite nice though. Beer prices seemed reasonable for the location, but if I go back it will most likely not be to drink. So that's not really a huge recommendation.
Website

Four Hearts - Kofu
Another option for boozing in Kofu along with the ones I’ve already got here. Seems to have a nice selection of Japanese craft along with some other kinds of drinks. Will check it out next time I’m there.
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Gather @ Eating House - Yokohama
Very big place in the World Porters shopping centre. Beer selection looks boring, so not sure why I am even adding it to this digest post but I guess maybe shopping centre bars are some people’s thing. Prices look ok but the sizes are smaller than you’d expect, so take that into account. They don’t include tax either. Honestly, there are much better places to drink I reckon, so approach with caution.
Website

Harvestmoon Brewery - Maihama
Going to Disney and want to drink beer? This is the place for you. Harvestmoon beer is so common in bars in Tokyo though that I’ve never personally considered going here to be honest. But thought it deserved an entry anyway. And they do have a beer festival there too, I think.

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J’s Beer - Tsujido
Bottle shop that seems like a place that loves its US beer, with loads of Antenna America stuff. Also seems to have a few taps of US stuff so I suppose you can drink on site if you want. Guess there’s not much point for people who live closer to Yokohama to go here, but it’s a nice option if you’re in the area.
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Loco Beer - Sakura, Chiba
BEWARE! Nowhere to drink on site, but if you’re looking to buy Loco Beer bottles you can come here. Or possibly alternatively go somewhere more convenient and buy them.
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Mackendy - Tsujido
Irish pub that will hopefully soon start brewing. Until then, and possibly even after then, they have 10 taps of reasonably priced and reasonably interesting Japanese craft beer.
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Mugiya (King Pelican Beer Stand) - Yokohama/Nagamugi
Four taps of Japanese craft which look interesting. Prices look decent. Have never been to this area so it’s all a bit of a mystery to me.
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North Village Bar & Grill - Shiki
Bit of a mystery but it’s been recommended to me. 12 taps of Japanese and imported craft. Food too, I guess from the name. The link below seems to be the Facebook but judging by the map on that page, the place is in Hokkaido, so you’re on your own really.

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Octagon Brewing - Hamamatsu
Brewery with some guest taps. 10 taps in total, roughly half their own and the guests are mainly US imports. No ideas about prices and when I tried their beer in Shizuoka city, it wasn’t the best experience, but will give them another go next time I’m in Hamamatsu.

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O’val Craft Beer & Bistro Dining - Todakoen
Belgian bar/cafe with an enjoyably punny name. Six taps of beer including some from local brewery Shiki and some imports, one British and one Belgian. Looks nice.
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Roto Brewery - Kamioka
Another Yokohama brewery that’s a bit out of town but still in the city limits. Seems to be brewing, but their Facebook is very food focused so no idea about the beer or pricing or anything really.
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Sidewalk Stand - Yutenji 
Coffee shop with five taps of Japanese craft with some interesting stuff there. No online presence which is a bit weird, but I seem to remember the Inokashira Koen place was the same in that respect.
Nothing here

Smoke Beer Factory - Otsuka, Kanamecho, Higashinagasaki
These places really passed me by for some reason. Had no idea about them till a friend mentioned them. Seems that the brewpub is in Otsuka and the other two branches serve the beer, but I could be very wrong about this. Don’t think all the beers are smoked, but there are some interesting ones mentioned on their facebook page which are. I guess I have to go here soon and find out. No idea about prices or amount of taps. Sorry.

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Takadanobaba Beer Shokudo - Takadanobaba
10 taps split between imports and domestic craft. Bit pricy it seems. Cover charge too. Limited appeal to me, to be honest, but if you’re in the area, maybe it might work for you.

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Vector Beer - Toranomon
Another Vector bar. Still haven’t been to any of them actually. Put off by the smoking which I guess would be an issue here too. Have heard that these places are relatively cheap and have some of their own beers, but there’s a lot of competition in this area and I think I might prefer to go to some of those places, but should probably check this out sometime. Ten taps it seems, which also seems perhaps a little underwhelming compared to some of its local rivals.
Website

Y.Y.G. Factory - Chiba
Seems to be a second brewery for YYG and taproom. Perhaps the original space is too small for them now, but you don’t see their beer around outside of the taproom, so seems strange. No idea if they are still brewing at the old place. I haven’t been there for a while as every time I visited I seemed to like the beer less.

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Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Tokyo Aleworks Taproom


The first thing I should say is sorry for another terrible photo. The second thing I should say is that Itabashi is really close to Ikebukuro and is consequently nowhere near as far a journey as I thought it would be, the train taking only 10 minutes from Shinjuku. I feel stupid, as I’ve fancied going here for a while, but I thought the location was a drawback. It really isn’t though, and the brewery is actually pretty close to the station too. My new found surprise about the location contributed to my enjoyment of this place, but there’s more to it than it just being located more conveniently than I thought. This is a really nice place as I hope I am about to convince you. Here’s what you need to know:

- Pretty spacious bar for once! Plenty of seating, big counter area and an all round pretty big complex. Seating for about 50 altogether. The brewery is out the back and there’s a beer shop and a whisky shop too. The bar area has a US feel to it, but I may have just been influenced by the sofa with a big Stars and Stripes on it. There's also a patio area, but this is apparently only for use in the daytime and very early evening because of the neighbours.
- A massive 22 taps of beer, divided into two menus, one of which was for beers made on site, some of which were collaborations and the other was for guest beers, (a mix of imports from Italy, Germany and the US, along with a couple from Devil Craft). The beer menu was also displayed on video screens so you can’t say you don’t know what’s on. Beers are served in pint and half sizes (US measures). For the beer made on site, the prices range from ¥700-¥750 for the half and ¥1100-¥1200 for the pint. The guest beers come in at slightly more, ranging from ¥700-¥900 for the half and ¥1100-¥1400 for the pint. There are also beer flights available. Chose any four house beers for ¥1500 or any four guest beers for ¥1600 with the measures being 100ml. One really nice thing was to see so many different beer styles available on one tap list as this is something you don’t always find. Apparently you can also drink the bottles they sell in the bottle shop with a small corkage fee (thanks to James' comment below for that information).
- No cover charge, no smoking, wifi and some daytime opening (although they close between lunchtime and the evening on weekdays so beware. The staff were very friendly and helpful and the place had a nice atmosphere. It also seemed they could speak English as they were chatting with a few foreign customers. I’ll definitely be back there soon. The food menu looked nice too, but I didn’t eat anything on this visit, so for now we’ll just have to go on how nice it looked in the descriptions.

I have to say, I feel a bit ashamed that I didn’t make it here earlier and consequently now am doing my best to tell everyone I know about it. This was a fun place to drink, the selection was really good and the beers I had were very nice. I know this post sounds ridiculously positive for me. It was such a nice surprise to go somewhere new that was actually nice and offering something a little different from usual. Guess we all had better go there soon and often.


Japanese breweries seen on tap: 
Tokyo Aleworks
Devil Craft

Opening Hours: 
Tuesday-Friday, 11:30-14:30, 17:30-23:00
Saturday, 11:30-23:00
Sunday, 11:30-22:00
Closed Monday

Location/Map:

板橋1-8-4, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo



Telephone:  
03-3961-1196

Links:
Facebook
Twitter
Website

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Bacca Brewing


Our second and final stop in Matsumoto was another brewery, Bacca Brewing. The Matsumoto Brewery Taproom was small but this one was even smaller, being located in a former barbershop. There are a few other beer places in town that I hope to check out if Matsumoto stay in J1 next year or we get an away draw there in the cup, but given that this was our first visit, we thought we’d start with the breweries. Here’s what you need to know:

- Interesting looking place as some elements of the previous barbershop have been retained. Counter seating for six, a table for four near the front window and then three kind of half tables by the barbershop mirrors. I quite liked these mini tables, but if you order food, and you should because it was really nice, the mini table does unsurprisingly get a bit crowded.
- Six taps of their own beer, made out back in the brewery. Beer served in three sizes. Unhelpfully, I only know that they are small, medium and large. The medium was around 300ml I’d say. The pint looked like US and the small size was served in the same glassware but not filled up fully, so no idea about that one. The small size was ¥350, the medium ¥550-¥600 and the large ¥800-¥850. There’s no cover charge and tax was included. Once again this place was pay as you go. Do they have some kind of problem with people doing runners in Matsumoto? Or maybe it’s just the local tradition. (To pay as you go I mean, not to do a runner). Take away beer in a PET bottle is also available for ¥100 extra.
- No smoking, no cover charge, no idea about WiFi. Closes early on a Sunday so beware of that. And once again, the food was really nice and surprisingly veggie friendly!

Had a nice time here. The staff were really friendly and welcoming even though we’d just beaten their local football team. To be honest, everyone in Matsumoto seemed to be very nice. Occasionally their beers make it down to Shinshu Sake Mura, but to be honest, it’s always more fun to have it at the source, isn’t it?

Japanese breweries seen on tap: 
Bacca

Opening Hours: 
Thursday & Friday, 17:00-23:00
Saturday, 12:00-23:00
Sunday, 12:00-20:00
Closed Monday-Wednesday

Location/Map:

巾上 4-33, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano-ken



Telephone: 
0263-30-8230

Links:
Facebook

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Matsumoto Brewery Taproom

A new team in J1 means a new away fixture for me and therefore an opportunity to visit some new bars in a new town. I guess I’m pushing things a bit with this post and the next one, as it takes quite a while to get to Matsumoto from Tokyo. However, given that these two places are taprooms, I thought it was worth adding them. First up, the Matsumoto Brewery Taproom. Here’s what you need to know:

- Pretty small place with a small bar as you enter which looks a bit like a British pub. Room for maybe four or five at the counter, which is standing (I think. Can’t remember exactly...) and a small standing table for maybe a couple more. Upstairs there are three tables for four each, but it’s not as spacious as that makes it sound. And as there’s no music up there conversation could become a bit awkward as you’re pretty much sitting on top of strangers, albeit on separate tables.
- Five taps of their beer available plus a fridge of bottles featuring some different stuff to what’s on tap. Think you can take these away if you want. Draught beers are served in two sizes, half and pint (looked like US pint and UK half, but who knows really), and they are priced at ¥900 and ¥600 respectively. This price includes tax and there is no cover charge. It’s cash on delivery, so pay as you go. We were sitting upstairs and after we’d paid, they told us we could go back to our seats and they’d bring the beers up for us.
- Has quite limited opening hours, but they are in the daytime, so that's a bonus if you’re on a day trip. They have another taproom in a shopping centre a little bit closer to the station which is open later. The place is no smoking and as I said above there’s no cover charge. Couldn’t find WiFi though.

So that’s about it. We chose to go here rather than the other branch as it’s always better to go to a bar when the alternative is sitting in a food court. I always enjoy visiting a brewery's own premises as unsurprisingly, the beer tends to taste the best there. If you want a Matsumoto beer outside of the limited opening hours this place has, check the other branch out on their website (link below) or alternatively you can find their beer at quite a few bars around Matsumoto.

Japanese breweries seen on tap: 
Matsumoto

Opening Hours: 
Wednesday-Monday, 13:00-19:00
Closed Tuesday

Location/Map:

中央3-4-21, Matsumoto-shi, Nagano-ken



Telephone: 
0263-31-0081

Links:
Website