Friday, 13 March 2020

Le Shirakawa Yofune

Today a post about a place I stumbled on completely by accident on a recent trip to Nishiogikubo. I’m not sure if this place is at all well known. I can’t recall ever hearing about it but maybe that’s just me being out of touch. It’s funny, as before I went there I was lamenting the lack of craft beer places in Nishiogikubo. The Beer Kobo pub closed down and I was wondering why the other place I went to was no longer on my map. When I walked past and found it seems to now be a junk shop I guess I got my answer. Now there are so many beer places opening and closing that even the sad act of removing one from my map when it closes has become so commonplace that it is easily forgotten. I wonder perhaps if the current Coronavirus problems are going to give some more bars problems as people try to stay home. Obviously, if you are self-isolating, you’re not going to be going here soon, but you could at a later date. If you are still free and roaming, I’m sure there are a lot of places that could do with your custom right now. Anyway, here’s what you need to know.

- Medium sized pub/izakaya, tucked away a little off the street below a Mexican restaurant very near Nishiogikubo station. Funnily enough it was the Mexican restaurant that caught my eye and then I noticed I was standing next to the beer menu for this place. Inside behind the classy entrance blue curtain thingy, there are tables for maybe 20 and a counter for six. It felt like a place that is quite food focused but it was fine for me to just drink. There is a cover charge/otoshi of ¥300, but I was asked if I wanted it or not (perhaps as I had asked on entering if drinking only was ok). The master prepared something vegetarian for me and it was very nice! Their logo says craft beer and craft wine but I get the feeling that the food is also a big thing here. Sadly, I didn’t check the menu. Yeah, i know, I'm stupid. I was just thinking about the beer…
- 10 taps, but there were only seven taps of craft on when I was there. One was Malts and I guess the other two were not on. There was an interesting selection of Japanese breweries represented, with there being a few from Tohoku (and I did pick up a bit of a Tohoku theme going on) and one made just down the road by Oga (don’t think I’ve seen Oga on tap before but maybe I’m not going to the right places to find it). Generally speaking beers were served in two sizes, S (250ml) and L (450ml) priced at ¥700 for the S and ¥1100 for the L. The one exception was a Kyoto Brewing strong beer that was ¥800 for a ‘wine glass’. Bear in mind that tax is added at the end and you might have that otoshi too. In any case, the pricing is pretty reasonable I think. They had an Uchu bottle on the menu too if that's your kind of thing. Not sure if that was the only bottle available, but I didn’t spot any others mentioned anywhere else.
- No smoking, some daytime opening (for lunch, but closes mid afternoon).

I quite liked this place, and ended up staying longer than I had intended as I was supposed to be just popping in for a quick beer. The otoshi was really nice and I was very pleased I had it. Sometimes it’s a relief if I can actually eat the otoshi, so to have one that I actually enjoyed a lot was a very pleasant surprise. I thought the beer selection was pretty interesting too. It seems that they sometimes put their tap list on their Facebook page, but I’d say that you can probably rely on them having something good and interesting on, judging by my limited experience of one visit and a quick look at posted tap lists. I’d say I’ll be back there soon, but Nishiogikubo is a rarely visited area for me. But if you use the train, it’s not that far from Kichijoji and is very close to the station, so could easily be incorporated into some kind of Chuo line crawl if you're not bother by the otoshi. I used to talk about this pub crawl all the time and it used to pretty much mostly be Beer Kobo brewpubs, but I think now you could do it without visiting any of those, as there are interesting places near every station from Shinjuku to Kichijoji (and probably further if you did a bit of investigation). Regarding this place, it probably makes more sense to stay for a few though if you're paying for an otoshi. As I said, I don't know anything about the food, and as a vegetarian, it's almost certainly not good for me, but the considerate and helpful service makes me think that I would pop back if I were in the area. Cheers!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:   
Y Market
Be Easy

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Sunday, 11:30-15:00, 17:30-00:00
Closed Monday

西荻南 3-15-13 高梨ビル1F, Suginami-ku, Tokyo



Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Brewery links

I thought it made more sense to have all the brewery links on one post rather than clogging up the side bar. So here you are, links to all the breweries mentioned on here. Click on the name to be taken to what I reckon is their most useful online presence.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Cranc Beer

Today a little post on a brewery that I managed to go to on the second time of asking. Cranc is out in Itabashi, not too far away from Tokyo Aleworks. They are quite different places though in most aspects. As I probably said in the Tokyo Aleworks post on here, Itabashi is really not as far as I imagined it to be. Slightly unfortunately for an easy pub crawl, Cranc is the opposite direction from the station to TAW, but it’s only a little over a ten minute walk and it’s good to burn a few calories before and after a beer or two, isn’t it? Anyway, here’s what you need to know.

- Pretty small place. No seats, all standing at a couple of tables and a couple of counters. It’s pretty small, but what did you expect from a Tokyo microbrewery?
- Six taps, half of which were their own beers and the others a mix of Japanese craft and US imports. Beers are served in two sizes and ml were listed (half 250ml, pint 473ml). A half of their own beer was ¥600 and a pint ¥1000. The guests were ¥700 a half and ¥1200-¥1300 for a pint. Pleasingly, tax is included in the price so there are no unpleasant surprises. If it’s busy you are asked to order at the bar.
- No cover charge, no smoking (I think) and wifi. There’s a bit of daytime opening at the weekend. I wouldn’t recommend arriving right at opening time though, as the two times I’ve been there, they haven’t been open right on the dot, so I'd give them a bit of leeway in that respect.

This was a nice place. Pretty relaxed, reasonably priced and it’s always good to support a smaller brewery. The guest beers looked interesting, but we stuck to the Cranc ones. The fact that it was reasonably busy from opening on a Saturday, along with the fact that they had a few items of brewery merchandise available for purchase suggests that it has a decent local following. I’ve never seen their beer in any other bars or even at festivals, so if you’re interested in trying it, you’ve got to come here. My favourite was the hoppy saison in case you were interested. You probably weren’t though…

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:   
And Beer

Opening Hours:
Wednesday-Friday, 17:00-23:00
Saturday, 15:00-23:00
Sunday, 15:00-21:00
Closed Monday & Tuesday

板橋 3-40-16, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo



Monday, 2 March 2020

Revo Brewing

Today, a place I was slightly conflicted about visiting. Actually slightly is an understatement. Revo is a new brewery at the bottom of what I think is a big new APA hotel in Yokohama. If you don’t know about APA hotels, well… maybe it’s best that you should do your own research and make up your own mind about them rather than have a beer blog tell you what they think about it. Needless to say, I didn’t have the ‘I am THE president’ beer that they make with the special glass for my own political reasons. But undermining my own political objections, I did visit, have a beer and then a flight. Bear in mind I did this all for you reader, so therefore it’s neither of our faults, but I do deserve some kind of compensation for selling out my politics so cheaply. Or maybe some kind of punishment. But I’d obviously rather get the compensation (Paypal donation button on the right…). Here’s what you need to know (with no more mention of anything political till the end).

- Big place in the bottom of an APA hotel. So big that I couldn’t see all of it from my bench seat quite close to the front door. Doesn’t really feel like a hotel bar though. In my limited experience, I’d say it reminds me more of a US brewpub judging by the size and layout and I think perhaps that’s what they were aiming for, given that there’s lots of US craft beer paraphernalia around and a few US craft beers on tap. Going by the Tabelog entry, there’s room for 220 here. Massive! 70 in the bar area on a mixture of high communal tables and a dockside window counter. The ‘dining’ seats… who knows. I didn’t see them, but it’s fair to say that I was quite shocked when I read 150 dining as I had no idea so much could be hidden round the corner.
- Pretty big tap list and slightly unusually, they are a new brewery who is actually brewing! Guess their financial clout helps when it comes to applying for the license. They had 10 of their own beers on tap in a variety of styles (if by variety you mean different kinds of hazy beers). That’s probably beer gripe number one for me as I’m not really a big fan of hazy beers. If you are though, and many people are, you’ll be well served here. Even the table beer was hazy, which was a bit of a shame. But they were alright though, so I’m not moaning too much about that. Along with their own beers there were nine guests which were split roughly 2 to 1 between US imports and Yokohama breweries. Gripe number two is the pricing. On the surface it seems not too bad, but on closer inspection it begins to look pretty expensive. There are a variety of sizes with different beers being served in different sizes, but not necessarily in the way that you might normally imagine. For the simplicity’s sake, I’ll just mention the pint and half prices. Halves (US halves, 236ml) ranged from ¥650-¥900. US pints were between ¥1000 and ¥1200. So yes, for one beer at the top end of that range you were getting half as much for 3/4 of the price. Guests ranged from ¥680 to ¥800 for a half and ¥1150-¥1350 for a pint.  Although they did appear to have a sale going on with up to ¥300 being cut from the guest pint price for some beers. All a bit random really, especially considering they were selling their own beers at a higher cost than some of the US imports. They also have a beer flight available featuring 4 x 100ml of their own beers (which they select, not you), for ¥1300. There are also some cans and bottles available to take away. I guess perhaps these prices don’t seem so outlandish to some people but…
- Cover charge of ¥300 after 17:00 daily. For you ¥300 you get absolutely nothing. Not even nuts. You’re just paying to sit down. Although presumably you still pay even if you stand. Bit of a rip off to be honest. But at least they state it fairly clearly on the menu. Also stated on the menu is the fact that they add tax at the end. Admittedly it’s the most expensive scenario, but if you went in for a quick US pint of one of their hazy IPAs you’d end up paying ¥1650 at the till, which is pretty outrageous really. They have wifi and they have daytime opening (but shut mid afternoon during the week according to their hot pepper page, but not according to their Facebook. Hours below are from Facebook). The music was quite fun in a rock/punk way. There are smoking areas, but I think they are behind glass and closed doors so were really not noticeable.

This was quite a nice place and I enjoyed some of the beers. I can’t really recommend it that much though as the pricing was pretty horrible. If money is no object, go ahead. But there are lots of other places that charge a lot less. The view from the bar across the dock was nice, but I’d rather drink in a windowless basement and not feel ripped off if I’m being honest. Add to this the dubious politics of the APA hotel owner and figurehead and you’ve got a recipe for a bad taste in the mouth. Although I should stress that the beers probably won’t leave that, it’s just the other things. If I'm wrong with my presumption and there’s no connection between the companies, I’ll take half of that back, but I’d be pretty surprised if they weren’t linked in some way, given the size of the brewery and its location. As my friends in the previous pub had treated me to a couple of beers (thank you!), I saw this as a kind of financial free hit, so perhaps was not as upset by the prices as I am now, but I did still approach with some apprehension because of the politics. I guess I’m a hypocrite going here, but perhaps it was worth it to spread the word and give you a true picture before you visit. Of course, for some people neither the cost or the politics will matter, but unfortunately for me it did. And now, as I’ve just checked the owner's wikipedia page to try to give these gripes some context, I feel pretty disgusted with myself for going here at all. I won’t go back and would urge you to read about the ‘controversy' before you consider going yourself. Or if you want, put it all out of your mind and go ahead if what I've described sounds appealing to you.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:   

Opening Hours:
Monday-Saturday, 11:30-23:00
Sunday, 11:30-22:00

海岸通5-25-3, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa-ken




Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Folkways Brewing

Today, a relatively new brewery out in east Tokyo that was surprisingly popular when we visited shortly after opening on a Saturday afternoon. Folkways Brewing is out in Koto-ku near Kiyosumishirakawa station in a pretty unassuming building next to what looks like a parking area for buses. I know next to nothing about it, so let's just finish the intro here and get on to what you need to know.

- Interior is surprisingly different from the exterior. Look for the keg on a stool next to the road and approach. Inside is modern and wooden with the brewery near the entrance, a counter for eight and a small table for four or five. There is some limited standing room too near the entrance. As I mentioned above, it was surprisingly busy early at the weekend, so bear that in mind.
- Eight taps, four of which were their own and three were US guests (the other tap had nothing on, in case you are questioning my maths). Their own beers were ¥800-¥900 for a tulip style glass of around 350ml and ¥1000-¥1100 for a US pint. The guests were more expensive naturally. ¥1100 and ¥1400 for the same sizes and an imperial stout was served in smaller sizes at ¥900 (200ml) and ¥1200 (300ml). I'd say that the guests, (Oxbow and Fair State), were in my completely biased opinion, a little bit classier than other places regular US guests.
- No cover charge, no smoking, daytime opening at the weekend, but no sign of wifi. There were snack items available and they looked pretty classy. I guess I keep saying classy about this place.

A very interesting visit and quite unexpected. I had no idea it would be so popular so perhaps they have been getting some buzz recently. I'm am very out of touch and enjoying being that way. It was interesting that in addition to the IPA and Hazy IPA they had made, they also had a fruited sour on. I quite enjoyed the beers but my enthusiasm was perhaps slightly tempered by the fact that I had overdone it numerous times in the preceding days so wasn't quite on top form. The prices seem reasonable for a small independent place and I'll be interested to see how they develop. Will definitely go back some time soon.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:   

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

平野 3-6-3, Koto-ku, Tokyo