Reviews & info on some beers, bars & pubs in Japan (mainly Tokyo/Yokohama area) - with an extra large serving of nonsensical jibbbbah jabbah thrown in:

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Blendmeister Beer Pub (Yokohama beer pub)

There's a new bar in town. It's lean, mean and has Steve McQueen
(well, perhaps if he was in the area and he wanted a beer).
It's called Blend Meister.
Seems like a weird name for a beer bar that serves up to 30 world premium beers draught and plans on having around 200 beers in bottles. Perhaps the blend is in the styles of beer available?
Of course, as the name suggests, it's Japanese managed.
This is a country where there is no shame in drinking blended coffee (it's even a branded name). Everything is blend this, blend that. Never mind that a blend incorporates several different vaireties and therefore is not 100% pure. This, in a homogonous society is simply intruiging. "Go crazy, try something blended! This way, you can be different! Just like everybody else."
p.s. I'm not knocking the idea of a blend as being inferior, just that often blended coffee means mixing the good stuff up with some nasty crap to make more money.
The very idea of blending beers, well, not a nice thought.
"Unless it's in mah belleh!!!!"

Anyway, back to the BlendMeister.
I heard a rumour about this place and decided to check it out. I've been there twice. Once in December, 2007 and once more in Janurary, 2008.

It has connections with Yokohama Beer. Yokohama Beer beer restaurant, Sol Ponte, is very close by, just 3 or 4 blocks away. Yokohama beer has one of the best weissens in Japan and produces over 6 varieties of pretty good booze. They also have by far the best value all-you-can-drink that I know of. 1800yen for 90 minutes of over 6 craftbrewed quality beers. Awesome. (HERE is a link to one of my old adventures with an old friend in both senses of the word - I meant 'old', not 'friend', as perhaps implying a sexual connection - of which there is none that I am aware of.)

Once more, back to reality and the point of the blog entry.
Perhaps the bar is called 'BLENDMEISTER', as the owner has skillfully managed to blend together some of the best international beers you will find in this country and a few others perhaps you won't (he has connections with a certain importer).

For example, here's one of the beer menus:Not bad, eh?
I was told by the barman a few days ago that they had 30 beers on tap. Impressive.
I meant the selection of beers, not the barman.
They change some beers every now and then. They also change beers from slected brewers (e.g. changing the styles of Hobgoblin beer or perhaps introducing a new variety of British ale or bitter.)
The happy new suprise I recieved upon my second visit was this beauty:
Pilsner Urquell. The original pilsner and perhaps the best. I love this baby. so much so that I made an effort of visiting the brewery in Pilsn, Czech Republic, twice and taking the brewery tour and sampling the real thing, from a wooden barrel, un filtered, unpasturised, unchilled and unbloodybelievable!The bar itself is not too difficult to find, as it's in the ground floor of the Heiwa Plaza Hotel.
Here's a map I made using Google Earth:The closest station is Bashamichi, on the Minato Mirai Line. This is an expensive line and a cheaper option would be from Sakuragicho station. a little further but still an easy walk.

Once you get to the Heiwa Plaza Hotel, you will see the bar on the ground floor.
It's a bit of a let down to see the cars parked right outside the bar. You'd think they would have parked them elsewhere (can't do much for business), but then this is a functioning hotel.

Once you go in, you may find the place resembles an American style bar. A rectangular bar full of taps of various styles of beer greet you, along with the TGIF badge madness cladded barstaff (WTF?). The bar has high chair seating for around a dozen drunks.Before the bar, there is tabled seating for around 20. Overall, they did quite a nice job in the interior. The only thing I don't really care for is the overabundance of fake darts games. I hate those things. That's just not darts, in my humble opinionated opinion.
There is a small kitchen to the right, just before the toilets.
Check out the cool mirror in the gents (I didn't check the ladies - mainly because there weren't any)!There is a small back room at the far end of the bar, on the left side. I was so excited to find out what this would hold. A pool table? A VIP room?
No, fake darts. Three of the flippin machines. Why?
I hate those bloody things. What a shame. Just a perfect place for a pool table.
Back in the bar, near the door to the room of fake darts, you can see the coolers containing the bottled beers.
I read that they hope to stock a LOT more bottled beer soon. At the moment, their selection is still quite decent. Just watch out for the two headed woman. She'll get ya.The second time I was here, I met this guy:Great guy and the brewer of Yokohama beer! He knew a lot about beer and I wasn't suprised when he immediately ordered a pint of Urquell, as soon as he sat down. He agrees that it is a lovely pint. It was really great, chatting to this guy, using my broken Japanese and his knowledge of English and our shared passion for all things sudsy
(I can also say that Yokohama's upcoming new beers should be very, very interesting - keep an eye out for them!).

I had another urquell, then followed it up with a favourite of mine from back home, Marston's Pedigree. Cask aged ale. Just 4.5% alcohol but nice and malty, mellow tasting. Just give her 10 minutes to rise above the insanely freezing serving temperature first.

If, like me, you'd prefer your beer not chilled to the point of freezing in the frozen glass, then ask teh barstafff not to use a chilled glass or not to dip your urquell mug into iced water, to make the already overchilled beer even colder. I think this is perhaps Japanese style (the manager told me it was stiill Yokohama style to drink ice cold beer) and it does indeed suit the Japanese lagers, but not for British ales or fine lagers.
I really believe the beer not only smells but tastes different, as the temperature changes. Perhaps the Budweiser or Miller would be better iced (or preferably switched for a glass of urquell or pedigree).

Something else that confuses me is how everything is almost the same price. A pint of Pedigree is 1000yen, as is a Guinness, as is the Budweiser and Miller! I hope I don't come across as a snob ( as opposed to come across a snob - unless I simultaneously sneeze and orgasm at the same time) but they are a whole different class of booze and the Budweiser has got to be the least value pint.
I just can't justify 'wasting' 1000yen on Bud if I can have a comparably superior pint for the same price. Whatever the drink, 1,000yen isn't chicken feed, anyway.

The beers are good, but too cold. I had a few beers in the time I was there:(the entrance is behind me, on the left)

Pilsner Urquell: Lovely, dry and malty Bohemian pilsner. One of the beers. Served very dry tasting and a little undercarbonated, perhaps. Seemd to go flat fast. If you like your beer at a normal temperature, ask the barstaff not to dip your glass into the iced water. It's up to you.Tasted ok but not perfect. Still, very good. Good enough for a second. But not cheap. 1200yen a pint. However, I doubt if you will find this anywhere else in Japan right now. I only had it once at the Belgian bar in Shibuya and that was only from one barrel. If you like this beer, drinki it now, while it's stil there.

Marston's Pedigree:Very nice. But again, too bloody cold! Gets better as it warms. Poured perfectly with a nice head. Not a perfect taste, but I've had this a 4 other places in Japan and all with the exception of Cheers (when they still had it on tap!) did a terrible job of serving it. This place is ok.
Nice, malty, smooth and so easy to drink. Brings back memories.

Enough talk about world beers. How about local ones?
More to the point, Yokohama beers. Seeing as this is a yokohama beer venture, it would be good to try their nice brews.
Also, the Yokohama beer offers better value at 900yen for a pint.
I highly recommend their weissen and also this fruity little baby.

Tsunashima peach ale:Ooh! Lovely! Made with peaches from Tsunashima (the next station to mine).
You can really taste them, too. In a good way.
Very nice and fruity peach ale.
One for the ladies, and the fruity guys.
I had another peach ale in Popeye's bar a few days later and I was dissapointed, as it lacked oomph, compared to this wondrous cacophony of flavor.

Shonan beer Russian Imperial Stout:Another nice beer. Stronger and darker (duh!). In the 18th Century, the British brewed this style of beer, under request of the Russian Imperial court. Chocolate malts, hops, dark dark roasting and 7% alcohol give this baby something else. Not bad. another Russian Imperial Stout you may see in shops here is the Rasputin (you can find it at Sugaya beer shop, near-ish to Kajigaya Station), by the American NorthCoast Brewing company. This beer was nice but not so easy to drink.

Yokohama beer's Toddy:
I think this was an experimental beer, brewed by the Yokohama beer guys. All I can say is I feel it was a nice change. This is a spiced Christmas ale. And for me at least, it really did taste of Christmas! Very nice. The spices reminded me of the Christmas puddings we'd gorge ourselves on after Christmas dinner. The flavors, the spices, the nuts in my mouth...oh, so many repressed memories.
Very nice and brought on memory lane with every sip.

Franziskaner Hefeweissen:This is a very good weissbeer. From Munich, that nirvana of weissbiers. I love wheat beers and I kow this beer very well. However, something was off with this one. Maybe it was the first one (there are still not many customers in this place - it's still very new) from teh tap or the gas was wrong but it defintely tasted a little od. Not enough to warrant a complaint, but something wasn't right. Still, it was nice. Normally I would give a 7.5 for this beauty but this one merited a lower score, as it tasted off, for unkown reasons.

Bass Pale Ale:Just to complete the nostalgia, I decided to have a Bass, to compare with the Pedigree. No comparison. This Bass too, was a little off. Tasted strange. But not so bad.
I have no idea why all the beers I treid that I knew from experience actually didn't quite taste how I imagined them to. The Urquell too. Still, only the Franziskaner and Bass were off by an easily perceptable margin. The other beers tasted ok. Also, they were poured very well and with the utmost care. Service is very important in this country and I usually have zero complaints, regards to quality in that regard.

When they get their al night liscence, this place should be an interesting place to while away the wee hours wiht a few freinds or jsut by your lonesome.
Although keep in mind the sneaky small print on the menu. There is a 500yen cover charge, per person, after midnight!Grrrr!!!!

Overall impression:
Amazing variety, so should have something for everyone. Hopefully it will get a bit busier as more people become aware of it and hope-upon-hopefully they will decide to have a happy hour(s)!!!

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