Friday, 19 May 2023

New inclusion and posting criteria

This is a quick post to go some way towards explaining my reasons for including or excluding places on here. This post should hopefully remain at the top so if it's posts about bars you're after, scroll down. Going forward, the following will get full write ups as soon as I get round to visiting them:

- Breweries
- Bars and beer shops that are either great, good, ok or in some way unique or interesting.

Bars that are not so exciting or that I have a problem with (and I’m happy to acknowledge that the problem is mine), will probably feature on one of the digest posts. Usually these are to collect places that I haven’t visited yet, but now I’ll also put places I’ve been to that aren’t very good on there too. On the map, unvisited places will be marked with a question mark so you take your chances by going to one of these. All visited places will now have the appropriate coloured pin and be linked to the appropriate post, so if you see a pin and it goes to a digest post, it’s not really a recommendation. I'd always encourage you, if you're finding places on here through the map to actually check out the post linked to the pin in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Favourites will still be marked with a star and also feature in the top group of places in the map notes. Inevitably, there are some places that probably aren’t worthy of a full post in here that already have full posts. I’m not going to remove these posts and put them on the digest post as I can’t be bothered to! The content of the post should give you an idea anyway. Hope all this helps!

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Fukushima round up

There's not much to mention in this round up. It's quite hard to find bars in Fukushima prefecture or Fukushima city that sell anything more than the odd craft beer. But there are a few breweries in the prefectural capital city so if you're in the area there are at least some places to visit. Perhaps I'll be able to add more if I travel a bit further afield but for now they'll just be two places kind of in the city plus a brief mention here of Yellow Beer Works which was unfortunately closed on the day we were in town. Will be added properly as and when.

Fukushima city

Handa Ginzan / Solder Craft / Uwamachi Cheers

Not sure how to list this as the brewery has a different name from what seems to be the beer brand and then the taproom/restaurant has another different name. They are mentioned in the same order above. To get here you need to take a very local and quite irregular train a few stops from Fukushima station. It's a short walk from Koori station. Not officially in Fukushima city, but I've put it here as that's the Shinkansen stop you'd get off at to get here. Nice development which seems to be the only eating or drinking place around if you judge that only from the walk from the station. The set lunches are big and delicious and they were very accommodating with my always annoying vegetarianism. New building with maybe 30-40 seats in the main and little side rooms. There's a patio too, but it was tipping it down when we were there. There are probably nice views from the patio but as you might guess from what I mentioned in the last sentence, we couldn't see anything apart from rain clouds. They had seven beers on tap and the prices were pretty reasonable. Regular, which I reckon was about 300ml was ¥500-¥600 and large, (no idea, didn't see the glass), was ¥650-¥750. Lots of fruit beers which I guess is because of the local areas' produce. They were surprisingly subtle and not sweet at all, as you might expect from fruit beers from small breweries. Couple of Pale Ales and an IPA too. Fun place! Limited opening times at the moment so
best check ahead.
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Michinoku Fukushima Beer 

If you thought that last place was a bit tricky to get too this one really isn't going to appeal. To get here you need to get a local bus for 30 minutes from Fukushima station and then walk 10 minutes along some country roads. The brewery is located in one of those perhaps uniquely Japanese middle-of-nowhere-mini-themed villages with various shops, restaurants and activities. I haven't explained that very well, mainly because it's quite difficult to explain. This place is called St Anna's Garden and you can maybe get a better idea of what is going on here. The brewery is quite big but the taproom called Prost is very small. There are a few stools and six taps (four on when we were there, which is no surprise given the circumstances, day of the week, weather and season. Well actually, it was a pleasant surprise as it could well have been less). Regular size beers were ¥500. Large were ¥900 I think, but I can't remember... They also have a fridge full of bottled beers with plenty that weren't available on tap and a couple that I'd never seen before and were very nice). There's a little patio too, but as I've mentioned numerous times already. It was raining. Situated at the bottom of the Azuma mountains (apparently, we couldn't see them, or much at all to be honest), I think this would be a really nice place to visit in good weather, especially if someone was driving you there and back. Limited opening times, so check in advance as it would be a real bummer to get there and find it closed. Have just noticed I forgot to take a photo...
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Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Miyazaki Round Up

Miyazaki was something of a surprise when we went there as I didn't really consider it much of a beer destination. However, there are actually quite a few breweries in the prefecture and quite a few even in the centre of Miyazaki city. I've visited all of these places so you'll get some details if I can remember then correctly. There are a few more breweries but I don't know if they have taprooms so I'll just mention their names here. I had a Nichinan Bakushu beer and it was really nice. There's also Awakihara, Kirishima and Unkai. So actually it's something of a beery prefecture. Here we go with Miyazaki!


Miyazaki-shi

Aozora

Aozora is a microbrewery/brewpub kind of in the old Japanese style. Basically, I mean that it looks like a more traditional kind of bar rather than a bare concrete, light coloured wood and exposed metalwork kind of place you might expect now. They have six taps of their own beer available in a variety of sizes and some bottles too. They also do beer flights. We had some classic Japanese style pub food here, (pickles, cheese kind of thing), and they had a kitchen so I guess they do bigger dishes too. They had a NE IPA on, which for most people would be a good thing but was an immediate swerve for me. I mention it to tell you that it's not all Weizen and Brown Ales here. Nice local feel to it.
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Beer Market Base

In contrast to Aozora, Beer Market Base, (the taproom of the BMB Brewery), feels much younger and more modern. I guess you can tell from their skull biting a hop logo that they are a bit more edgy. If Aozora is your classic brewery who also give some modern styles a go sometimes, BMB has the 'wild' anything goes, particularly if it's edgy, kind of young brewing punks feel. Their taproom is a long counter and it's open very late. They have about 20 taps with a decent number of their beers included (maybe a third) with the rest being mainly imports with some Japanese craft guests too. Whilst some of their beers were a bit too 'wild' for me, it was still a fun experience and the staff were nice.
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Miyazaki Phoenix Brewing

Another place with very friendly staff. I guess people will shout at me saying that staff are nice everywhere apart from Tokyo. This is another brewery taproom and the tiniest of the three mentioned with maybe four seats inside and the same outside. But it's on a quiet road so I think at busy times there could be the possibility of standing outside. Think they had eight taps, half beer and half cider. Only one of the beers was made there, but most of the ciders were, so I think that is more their focus. I liked the ciders a lot actually. They also do hot dogs and have mini art exhibitions inside. I should stress that it is very 'mini'
though.
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Nobeoka

Beergura Hideji

Nobeoka is the home of the Hideji brewery that you can find all over Japan. The brewery itself is up in the mountains and is reachable by public transport I think once a day in either direction. Therefore, if you want to drink Hideji as close to the source as possible the best place to go is their Izakaya in Nobeoka city. It is very much an Izakaya, so expect all Japanese food, shoes off at the entrance, sliding Shoji doors and everything else that comes with the experience. As traditional Izakayas aren't great for vegetarians, we did have to double up on a few dishes as there wasn't much choice for us. But the food we could eat was great. And they had six taps of Hideji at very good prices including some I have never seen before. There didn't seem to be much going on in Nobeoka to be honest, but I have to admit that we only really went
from the station to the hotel to the bar and the weather was quite bad. Pleased we went though!
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Sunday, 29 August 2021

Oita Round Up

Until recently Oita was a bit of a craft beer desert. Abe Bond seemed to be the only craft beer bar and other than that there was only maybe Monkey Mountain which was basically a counter where you can buy bottles to takeaway. But there are a few new places now. Well one is new and one is new to me and maybe newly beery. Not sure. Think it's probably only Oita city where there is anything to visit. Anyway, here's what they have now.

Oita-shi


Abe Bond

The interestingly named taproom of the Yell&Ale brewery. Pretty small place fairly close to the station. It's been a while since I've been there but I think they had around 10 taps which were about 60% their own beers and the others Japanese craft guests. Their beers have a distinctive element to them which might not be to everyone's taste. If you like your beers bitter, maybe this is the place for you.
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Daily Beer Gold Pond


New kid on the block. A tiny standing bar / bottle shop very close to the station. Specialises in popular styles and imported beers. Expect plenty of IPAs, many of them hazy and lots of beers from the US. Also had imports from lots of other countries too and some from the more high end Japanese craft breweries. They had one tap on when we visited too. Nice staff member who was happy to chat about a variety of things. Will definitely visit again when we go back to Oita.
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Monkey Mountain

Has been a while since we went here too. Very small brewery with a counter and fridge at the front where you can buy beers to take away. When we visited a few years ago I don't think there was any option to
drink on site. But it's a local brewery so you should give them a go in your hotel room I guess.
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Tasaki Liquor Store

Slightly old fashioned booze shop but now with lots of craft beer including some stuff from Kyushu. Whereas Daily Beer Gold Pond focuses more on the imports, Tasaki covers the domestic stuff. There are some imports too though. Drinking there is ok too, either in the shop at a couple of tables or outside on the pavement at some tables. Daytime opening unlike some other places in Oita. Can't find any online presence for them so you'll have to trust me.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Akita Round Up

Today we visit Akita on my mission to cover loads of places all over Japan in a slapdash manner. To be fair though, I've been to Akita a couple of time so I at least have the experience of a repeat visit. If you think of Akita city, Aqula is probably the first beer thing that comes to mind. However, there are quite a few other breweries in the prefecture and it's a fun place to drink beer. (But then again, most places serving beer are fun places to drink beer I suppose). It might be a surprise that Tazawako beer is not on here, but at the moment the taproom/restaurant isn't open, so it seemed like it probably wouldn't be a good idea to add it. Will add it if it reopens.

Akita-shi

Aqula

The big name of the city and maybe even the prefecture. I don't think you see Aqula around as much recently in Tokyo (maybe that's just me being out of touch...), but I always enjoy drinking their beers. They have two places to drink in Akita city which are conveniently right next to each other. There is a big beer hall and restaurant and a small low key bar. Have only been to the bar. It's quite cosy and they had about 6 beers on tap and pub food if I remember rightly. Very nice place to work your way through the tap
list. Know nothing about the beer hall but I believe it is more like a restaurant.
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Beer Flight

Kind of classic modern craft beer bar. Think they have around 8 taps which if I recall correctly were split about half and half between Japanese and imports. They also have a lot of cans and bottles too and do food. They operate as a bottle shop too apparently. Seemed popular both times we've been there. People love those imports!
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Brewccoly

When we last went to Akita Brewccoly was a new addition to the local scene. And a very welcome one it was too! I really liked their beers. At that time they had a limited hours taproom and then a kind of guest taproom at a local restaurant bar. We only went to the latter so have limited knowledge. I believe that they have opened a new bar since them which is called To-Mart. Will be somewhere I definitely want to spend some time when I next visit.
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Summit

This place has been on our list both times but we still haven't made it there as it's a little away from the
other places which are more central. 'Belgian Frites, Craft Beer and Wine' is the slogan. The beer is mainly Japanese it seems. Looks pretty good I think.
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Tazawako

Beer Restaurant ORAE

This is the taproom and brewery for Kohan No Mori. You have to get a bus from Tazawako Shinkansen station so it's not exactly the most accessible but you do get nice views out across the lake, about 5 taps and some more bottles, some decent beer pub food and a little souvenir/local produce shop. The place is surprisingly big but I guess it's a popular place to stop when tourism is properly up and running. This Tazawako brewery might not have the honour of being people's favourite Tazakwako brewery (out of the two that there are), but if you're in the area, it's a nice place to stop and have some food and drink with the nice views.
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Friday, 27 August 2021

Miyagi Round Up

Today we're moving on to Miyagi. There is a slight problem though in that I have already done posts for places in Sendai which is in Miyagi. Rather than delete and repost or move stuff around, I'm just going to list those places on here with links to the other blog posts. Hope that's not too annoying. Compared to the loads of places I've been in Iwate, this post is going to be pretty short I think. But like I said, new places will be added as and when I visit them or hear about them.

Kesennuma

Black Tide Brewing

It takes quite a long time to get to Kesennuma. Well, about an hour from Ichinoseki on a not so regular train. If you're a Black Tide fan it might be worth a trip though. The tap room is pretty small and is basically at the end of one of those kind of tourist food shop things if you know what I mean. So it's more like a mini food court feel with a counter with a few tables that are probably shared with the other food and drink outlets. They had six taps on when we went but it wasn't exactly tourist season and they had probably the same amount off. There is also a fridge of cans with different selections to what is on tap (which was a blessing as there were a lot of hazy IPAs on when we went. If you're in the town, I recommend the Kesennuma City Memorial Museum. It is obviously pretty heavy going though.
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Sendai

Amber Rondo

Legendary!
See separate post here

Butcher Republic Sendai Chicago Pizza & Beer

Used to be a Delirium Cafe. As far as I can tell only the name and the food have changed so the old post should still be reasonably accurate. Guess Belgium isn't cool anymore...
See separate post here


Craft Beer Market Sendai

It's a Craft Beer Market! But it's in Sendai!
See separate post here


Craftsman Sendai

It's a Craftsman! But it's in Sendai!
See separate post here

Sunday, 22 August 2021

Iwate Round Up


Given that there's not a great deal of opportunity to go to new bars at the moment with our ever extending and increasingly ineffective state of emergency (29 weeks out of 33 so far this year, fact fans), I thought that I might do some round up posts of places out of Tokyo that are worth a mention. I'm going to concentrate on places I've been to but perhaps occasionally somewhere that I haven't been to might get added if it sounds like it should be. I will note this in the write up though. And I always say, this isn't particularly supposed to be comprehensive. There are some places that you might love but I don't fancy going to. Sorry for my laziness but I can't be bother to add places that I am probably not interested in going to. They might get a brief name check and then you can have a look yourself and see what you think.

I'm going to do this by prefecture, unless a city is crying out for an round up post of its own. And I'll do them in the style of the Shizuoka one I did a while ago. The intention will be that if a new place opens it will be added to the post, so possibly some posts might look a bit bare to begin with. I'm still firmly steering away from the big Kansai cities. There's too much to do there and I'm sure someone else must be writing about those cities. Hopefully... Anyway, here we go with Iwate, which to be honest is one of my favourite places to drink.

Ichinoseki  

 
Seki no Ichi
 
Ichinoseki is the home of the Iwate Kura brewery, so that's the place to go to here probably. This place is a restaurant where you can drink around five taps of Iwate Kura beer (four regulars plus a seasonal when we visited) and the beer tastes significantly better here than it does in some places you might have drunk it in Toyko. Not sure if they're OK with you just turning up to drink, as it really is a restaurant, but it's worth having some of the very nice Japanese food they have. Think the speciality is mochi. I had a mochi fondu. Perhaps that doesn't count as 100% japanese food but it's halfway there at least. 
There is also Cafe Tokura on the same site which perhaps might be a bit better for just drinking but I haven't been there I'm afraid so I don't know.
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Morioka

 
Morioka is Baeren city so most of the places I mention here are Baeren connected. There is an imported beer bar called Aeron Standard if that's more your thing, but to be honest if you're visiting Morioka for imported beer I think you're doing things the wrong way. A brief mention of some other places before we get down to listing the established good'uns. There is another brewery tap room for the Sakura brewery but in two trips to Morioka we have yet to be there at a time that it is open unfortunately (now added below). And there's another Baeren bar and the Baeren brewery (now added below) that we also haven't been to yet.
 
Beer Bar Baeren Nakanohashi
 
This is the place to go! The most taps of all the Baeren bars (think there are about 16, roughly 2/3 Baeren), a great pub atmosphere and really nice pub food. Prices are amazing too. Lots of sizes available from a normal glass to a massive 1 litre maß. They also do a great nomihodai deal, although to be honest, the prices are so good that we have always opted for just going at our own pace and keeping things relaxed. Costs a little bit more maybe, but the evening doesn't end quite so quickly! Honestly, this is probably one of the places in Japan I dream about drinking at the most when I am craving beer. Everything about it is great.
Saien Micro Brewery

The microbrewery of Baeren where they try out their new ideas and make some different kinds of beers.  We first had their Italian pilsner there last year before they released it in cans so this is the testing ground for what you might see at a later date in bottles and cans. Along with the four or so beers made on site they also stock the regular Baeren line up with some seasonals. Once again the food is great. And they have an additional serving size which is a earthenware cup which for some reason makes everything taste creamy. Not sure if that's a good thing or not but I always give it a go when I visit, because you know, why not?
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Beer Base Baeren Morioka Ekimae
 
The last of the three Baeren places I'll mention. The beer line up is kind of the same again, as you might expect, but the two big selling points here are the fact that this place is in front of the station so could easily be done whilst on a brief stop to change trains at Morioka and that they had a selection of five different types of Tabasco in a little holder that we got when when ordered pizza. If there's one thing I love as much as beer and pizza, it's Tabasco. Perhaps feels the most modern of the bars, (unsurprisingly, because it is...) but definitely a great first or last stop. Or a middle stop.
 
Baeren Brewery
 
A little bit out of town and with the smallest selection of the Baeren places. You can visit the brewery for a tour if you book in advance. They also always have at least one tap of Classic on and if you visit on a Sunday Beer Garden day you can do a very cheap nomihodai with three or four taps. And there's a shop with bottles, cans and souvenirs to buy. If you're in Morioka for the first time and are just interested in boozing, I'd stick with the restaurants but this was a fun place to visit and I'm sure it would have been a lot more fun if the weather had been a bit better when we visited as they have a little patio outside.

Brew Beast Morioka
 
Fun and youthful place in a little group of restaurants and shops next to the river between the station and the city centre. Brew Beast Morioka is the taproom of the Brew Beast brewery who are based in relatively nearby Hanamaki (if my memory serves me correctly). The place has a focus on hamburgers so it's not great for me from a food point of view but they also serve around eight taps of their own beer. Beer flights are available so you can pop in and tick off the taplist quite easily. Has a semi fancy (to me anyway) iPad ordering system which meant that while we weren't intending to eat both times we've visited we actually ended up ordering some chips as they looked nice (and were, when we got them). Fun feel and the riverside location means that it would be a nice place to sit on the terrace of a summer evening. Perhaps less so in winter... The beer is much more 'craft beer' than Baeren so expect IPAs, hazy stuff, pale ales and the like. I think I'd like it more if it wasn't always the first stop on the way to a Baeren burn out, which is maybe a bit unfair on them but I just like Baeren too much I guess.
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Sakura Brewing Morioka
 
The actual Sakura brewery is in Kitakami but they have a taproom in Morioka. When we visited they had only four taps on, but I think this was due at least in part to COVID hangover stuff. A little bit more expensive than Baeren but that's not surprising I guess. From a beer point of view it's probably somewhere between Baeren and Brew Beast, in that they straddle the line between more traditional styles and modern stuff. Lots of pub grub at decent prices and quite a few things that were really nice (for me as a vegetarian who likes cheese and fried stuff).
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Rikuzentakata 

 
Rikuzentakata Microbrewery
 

Interesting arrangement with the brewery situated in a fermentation speciality mini shopping centre and food court called Camocy. Basically the brewery along with a few other food and drink outlets has a little counter where you order from and then you take your drinks (and maybe food) to one of the seats in the middle. It's a really nice building with lots of wood and a nice mix of inside and patio seating, and a nice location, but obviously given recent history one with a large dose of horror and tragedy. If you can put aside the reason from the wide green expanse of not much outside the window it's a lovely view with the mountains and looking towards the ocean. They have six taps of their own beer available which is made in the micro brewery which is visible behind the counter they serve from. Given the food court thing, it's open all through the day but not that late, so somewhere to pop in and have a few beers with lunch as there's plenty of good food on offer here, even for vegetarians.

Tono

 
Tono Brewing 
 

The Tono Brewing taproom is something of an outlier in the city of Tono in that it was a place that was actually open! Perhaps we visited the city at the wrong time but it was a very nice but very sleepy place with a bit of a bohemian feel. The Tono Brewing taproom is a medium sized bar with about eight taps of their own beer available, most of which were really nice. They have food too and it was really good, and felt pretty classy. There is the ubiquitous view through to the brewery window at the back of the bar and it is a nice comfortable place. Felt quite young and hip but don't take that as a criticism. It was really nice to see something like this happening outside a large city. Tono is not the best connected place so if you're not staying in the city you will either have to leave before closing time to run for the mini train that seems to be the main transport link or visit at the weekend during the daytime.