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!

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Grau Craft Beer Bar


Post by James

Grau Craft Beer Bar has just opened about 9 minutes from Fujimino station. For anyone who’s never heard of Fujimino, it is about 30 minutes from Ikebukuro on the Tobu Tojo line. A bit of a trek for most people.

The bar looks good both inside and out. The street in front of Grau is quite busy and sees a fair amount of traffic but if you go out the back door there is a quiet Sando (temple street). It’s an interesting contrast and I liked the atmosphere it creates.

The interior is clean and modern. There is an L-shaped counter that seats about 7 and a fair bit of floor space that will probably have some tables later.

There are 5 taps and all were domestic when I was in. Cranc Brewing, Distant Shores, Black Tide, Vertere and Two Rabbits Brewing. Pints ranged from ¥1,200 to ¥1,500. Definitely not cheap but, apart from the chains, there are few places to enjoy cheap craft beers and bars in the suburbs often have to be a bit more expensive as they don’t get as many customers. There were also a few bottles of imported craft beers.

There is a small but nice food menu but this is mostly (he gets help some days) a one man operation so the food has to be easy to prepare. The friendly owner lives only a few minutes away on foot so this bar really has a local feel to it. I must say I rather liked Grau and really hope it does well. If you live in the area, you should definitely check Grau out. That said, If you don’t live on the Tobu line you’d probably have to have a reason to trek this far out. A train pub crawl that took you to Beer Glass Hopper in Mizuhodai and then onto Half Yard and Shiki Beer in Shiki on your way back to Ikebukuro would be a nice night out.

There was no cover charge and no WiFi. Anyway, a nice bar that will mostly appeal to those who live locally.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Distant Shores
Black Tide
Two Rabbits

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

But please check their website or social media. Due to COVID, hours are all over the place right now

苗間372-9, Fujimino-shi, Saitama-ken




Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Craftbeer Gau's

Today, the last post from my Shibuya Beer Party 2021 expeditions and it’s somewhere that I have walked past on numerous occasions but never considered going into. Gau’s is quite near Cidernaut and slightly hidden away on the 2nd floor. But as there's plenty of bright signage it’s probably hard to miss it. In the past I probably have said negative things about their pricing but once again this place was a pleasant surprise. Perhaps I was in a very good mood on the day I went to all these places or maybe I should teach myself a lesson about not judging places without trying them. Anyway, here’s what you need to know:

- Kind of traditional bar feel and layout to it. Long counter with a few tables along the side of the bar and the front window, which provides a nice people watching spot. As well as beer they serve food including their speciality, Poutine, a food that sounds ready made for me if it weren’t for the fact that vegetarians can never probably be too sure about the gravy. I should investigate further though as I've heard one of them here is ok for veggies.
- Usually six taps of beer but only four were on during the weird pre-state of emergency time that we visited. They were all imports, a couple from the US, one from Canada and one from the Netherlands. Prices are not the cheapest but I understand that these are all imported beers and they probably have an expensive location. Beers are served in three sizes S, (200ml, ¥715), M (300ml, ¥1045) and L (480ml, ¥1485). They also have a beer flight of three XS beers for ¥1650. It doesn’t say how what XS means, but I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s smaller than S. They also have a selection of imported bottles and cans.
- There’s no cover charge, and they have WIFI and absurdly late opening hours in normal times. I’ve read conflicting things about smoking being allowed, but I think that info might be out of date as I don’t think it’s allowed anymore in Tokyo, except under very specific circumstances.

So, again, a pleasant surprise. I’m not particularly a night owl but now I feel like I want to go here at 2am when we are allowed to do that kind of thing again. Blanket pricing for all beers means that if you’re canny you can find the best value and given that the beers are all imports here and given the location, the prices are in some way understandable. I can’t imagine it will be a regular stop for me, but it does offer something interesting so will be back when I am able to and have the late night party energy (fingers crossed).

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Sunday, 18:00-04:00
Closed Mondays and for 'irregular holidays' (guess that means check before you go)

But please check their website or social media. Due to COVID, hours are all over the place right now

神山町16-4ヴィラメトロポリス2A, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo


Tuesday, 27 April 2021


Today another place visited in pursuit of the Shibuya Beer Party 2021 stamp rally prize. And to be honest it’s a place I had never really thought about visiting before. It was a really pleasant surprise though! Near Kita-sando station in between Shibuya and Shinjuku is a bit of a dry area on this blog but Fam333 more than makes up for any lack of choice. Here’s what you need to know:

- It seems I’m always saying places are small on this blog but Fam333 is really small. There’s a counter for five which backs onto two high tables for two and a lower table which could seat maybe five or six. All of this is crammed into the space the size of which other bars might use for their toilets. So it’s quite intimate! It’s also hidden away downstairs near some old fashioned looking bars so you could easily miss it if you weren’t paying attention. The photo above is of the street level entrance and it’s pretty bad, but I’m sure you’ve come to expect that in this blog.
- Five taps of Japanese craft beer plus one of Heartland. (Perhaps there are a couple more in non COVID times). Beers are served in two sizes, regular (295ml) and pint (480ml). The craft beers were all priced at ¥900 and ¥1100 respectively, which to be honest is a pretty good price I think for a small place like this. Certainly it was one of the cheapest on the Shibuya Beer Party circuit. Perhaps there were a few too many hazy beers for my liking but I realise that at the moment I am very much in the minority in this respect.
- No cover charge, daytime opening and no smoking. The staff were very friendly too. There was a surprisingly large number of them considering the size of the place. The food looked pretty good too, but as we were on a mission to get stamps on a stamp card we only stayed briefly. Their opening is split into morning time (breakfast basically), coffee time (errmmm, coffee, and lunch I guess) and beer time. But we were told that it’s OK to drink beer during coffee time. That rule doesn’t apply to all situations in life, but is great news in this case.

A very pleasant surprise. The fact that the beer lineup wasn’t quite for me but I still really liked this place should give you an idea of how nice it is. It had a personal feel that you don’t always get in beer bars and I definitely would go back here again. I convinced myself that the stamp rally was worth doing for the glass and to be able to tick off some new places that I probably never would have gone to, but it has actually unearthed some hidden gems. Lovely!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Ushi Tora
Distant Shores

Opening Hours:
Daily, 17:00-02:00

But please check their website or social media. Due to COVID, hours are all over the place right now

千駄ヶ谷 3-3-3, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo


Sunday, 25 April 2021

Tap & Crowler

Tap and Crowler is the sister shop of Shimokitazawa’s Tap and Growler. Can you guess what the difference is? It is tucked away in the side streets near Tokyu Hands in Shibuya but this didn’t seem to prevent plenty of people being there when we visited. We went as part of the Shibuya Beer Party 2021 stamp rally but I got the impression that most people there were regulars, with a high percentage of non-Japanese customers. Anyway, here’s what you need to know.

- Quite small and very busy when we visited. Seems quite a lively place. Counter for maybe 6 and another counter at the back of the shop. Most people were standing when we went.
- 20 taps of predominantly Japanese craft with a couple of imports. Interesting range of breweries with some pretty good ones in there, which is great. What is not so great is the prices. I think I said the same about the Shimokita branch in that post here. The weird non-rounded numbers made me think that the prices included tax but they didn’t. But even before the tax is added these prices are pretty high. Beer is served in 1/2 and 3/4 pint measures. (3/4 pint is actually a pretty good size for me drinking wise I think). Half pints ranged from ¥766 to ¥1257. 3/4 pints were from ¥1062 to ¥1760. And don’t forget, tax is added to this too. There is also a fridge of cans available if you want something they are not serving on tap. Not sure about the prices of those though.
- In addition to the drink on site, they also offer crowler and growler fills to take away. For reference, the same size serving of the most expensive beer on sale would cost ¥1200 for a 3/4 pint to take away, so quite a bit cheaper. But still not so cheap. Don’t forget tax is getting added at the till. I should stress though that this price is for the most expensive beer which was a West Coast brewing beer, a brewery which does tend to be a bit expensive. For balance, the cheapest beer on the menu works out at ¥792 for a 3/4 pint takeaway. I’m not sure if you have to pay extra if you want a crowler. I wouldn’t imagine it’s free and if I find out about any cost I’ll update this post. But to be safe, maybe turn up with your own growler and then it won’t matter. They also do beer delivery too but I'm not too sure how that works.
- Free WiFi, no smoking, daytime opening and no cover charge. The staff were really friendly too. Oh, and you are able to bring your own food to give you some sustenance whilst you're boozing.

A bit of a confusing one for me. The selection is good but the prices are very high. But they are offering something different and I understand that Shibuya is not the cheapest place to open a bar, particularly when you don’t have a food menu to make some easy money on. The atmosphere on a Saturday night was pretty party-like and full of youthful exuberance. As a notorious grump this obviously doesn’t appeal to me but I’m sure it will be to the liking of plenty of others. For me, this will be a place I occasionally visit for a daytime growler fill i think. As I said, the selection is good, and visiting at a quieter time will probably suit me better. They have their tap list on Untappd and on their website complete with prices so it’s very easy to check what they have on before you visit which makes a deadly efficient growler fill visit even more effective.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Craft Rock Brewing
Be Easy
Two Rabbits
Grow Brew House
Riot Beer
Kyoto Beer Lab
Ise Kadoya
2nd Story
West Coast
Y Market

Opening Hours:
Daily, 15:00-00:00

But please check their website or social media. Due to COVID hours are all over the place right now

宇田川町 6-20, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 


Friday, 23 April 2021

Rise and Win Brewing Kamikatz Taproom

Post by James

This is the very chic Tokyo taproom (a stone’s throw from Tokyo Tower) of Rise and Win Brewing. Rise and Win Brewing are based in Kamikatsu in Shikoku. This town is famous for its aim of becoming a zero waste town. It claims to have a recycling rate of 80% already.

Rise and Win, as you would expect, is also an eco brewer. For example, the grain from the brewing process is used to make granola. The taproom uses a lot of recycled goods and even staff uniforms are made of old recycled cloth.

There is a bar counter which seats 6 (made from a single tree trunk from Kamikatsu) and table seating for about 20. There are 8 taps (each with a deer antler attached). All were their own beers today. Unusually, there was no IPA. They were 2 lagers, a pale ale, a New England IPA, a fruited sour, a hard seltzer, a wheat beer and a Porter. None of the beers had an IBU above 30 so it isn’t really a place for very hoppy beers.

All beers were the same price; ¥850 for a small, ¥1,030 for a medium and ¥1,430 for a large. The large size was an American pint. Considering the fact that these are their own beers and they aren’t very high alcohol, this isn’t a cheap place to drink but there was no tax added on when I paid the bill. I tried the New England IPA which contains Yuko (a local citrus fruit) and the Porter. Both were light but nice.
The food included wagyu hamburger, venison sausages and salads. As you would expect, this is a no smoking establishment but I didn’t see any WiFi.

To be honest, the atmosphere seemed like a Shikoku / Eco friendly theme pub. It felt like a designer rather than a brewer put the place together. That said, this is definitely a trendy place that is worth a visit.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Rise & Win

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 12:00-15:00, 18:00-23:00
Closed Saturday, Sunday & holidays

東麻布1丁目4-2 THE WORKERS & CO 1F, Minato-ku, Tokyo


Sunday, 4 April 2021

Shiokaze BrewStand Soga

Shiokaze BrewStand Soga is the brewery tap of Shiokaze beer out in Soga, Chiba. I guess you probably could have guessed pretty much all of that from the name. I believe the brewery is still a gypsy brewery at the moment so this is as close as you’re going to come to drinking Shiokaze beers at the source for the time being. Here's what you need to know:

- Really nice feel to the place. Bar counter for four or five. Another counter along the front window for about the same and high tables for maybe 8 more. There are also a couple of small tables out the front too. Nice food at reasonable prices with some slightly unusual dishes (at least as far as I was concerned).

- 15 taps available in half and pint sizes. 10 of their own beers were on and they cost ¥500 and ¥900 for half and pint. They had five guests, some Japanese and some imported. The more luxurious of these were ¥100 more for both sizes. So basically, pretty great prices. Along with the taps, they also have a fridge full of bottles and cans, this time mostly US imported stuff. These are for drinking on site I believe. They offered takeaway for a limited time but this was something to do with Corona virus / state of emergency temporary law changes I think and it has now finished so not sure why I'm even mentioning it.

- No cover charge, daytime opening every day (and there were actually quite a few people taking advantage of it for once!), Wifi (I think). Something to bear in mind is that unlike most places on this blog, here you pay as you go and order at the counter. So don’t sit at your seat trying to catch someone’s eye.

This was a really fun place to spend an afternoon. If you’re worried about Soga not being in Tokyo, it’s really not that far on the train and the bar is very close to the station. Maybe it’s just the places I go to, but I haven’t seen Shiokaze beers on very often so clearly this is the place to go if you want to try them. I don’t know when they plan to open their own brewery and whether this will change what is going on in this location, but even if they do open a brewery taproom this place will still be well worth a visit.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 15:00-22:00
Saturday, Sunday & holidays, 12:00-22:00

南町 2-6-10, #101 初芝ビル , Chuo-ku, Chiba-shi, Chiba-ken