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

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Thrash Zone 2nd anniversary

I headed out, despite my hangover, to the Thrash Zone's 2nd anniversary event.
The bar was open from 1pm and by the time I got there(after 3), it was completely packed. There must have been 30 people in there. Not a bad effort, considering the place usually has seating for about 10.

When I got there, I paid my 2,000 yen fee and for that I got a bottle of Speakeasy. Hang on...the poster and the internet page said a free pint? What's going on? There's a diffrence between a 330ml bottle and a pint. Not such a good start, there. Also, no choice over the beer. I was given an opened bottle of Speakeasy IPA. Nice beer, but considering I've paid 2,000yen, I would have appreciated being able to at least choose my beer. Oh well, I stood agains tthe wall and drank my beer and chatted with the lovely ladies.
The food was basic fried potatoes, french fries, fried chicken fare with a mixed vegetable dish thrown in. The owner brought out some pickles alter on. I'm pretty sure they were home made and they weren't bad. I think Japanese pickles go well with beer. The food was nothing like the 1,000yen all you can eat all day extraveganza that was on offer at Numazu taproom, last week. Still, this was included in the entrance charge so I ate loads.
The music was slamming and the beer was flowing. All of this did wonders for my hangover, of course.

I was showing signs of the booze affecting me.
Plus, I felt like I was being watched...I left after about an hour or two, as I really needed some air. It wasn't the bar, it was my stomach. A week of constant abuse finally catches up on a man. An old, tired, lonely, alcoholic, sad, sad man.
I popped out to Seijuishi again and picked up another interesting brew. Moretti Doppio Malto:I'd had this baby in Rome, also with some premium Italian ham and cheese and bread and it was very nice. I decided to give it another try. Not bad but the 7% alc was perhaps a little too much for my weakened state. The ham was nice, too (I later foolishly put it in the rubbish of a convenience store garbage box, by mistake, wasting 70% of the stuff - boohoo!). I walked from Yokohama to the Pivovar Yokohama bar, where I enjoyed the company of and drank a Nihonkai Bohemian pilsner and a yokohama Hefeweiss.I grabbed myself a Gambrinus for the journey back to Thrash zone.The gambrinus wasnt bad. But I felt like nothing could 'hit the spot', as my condition wouldn't allow it.
Back at the Thrash Zone, the party was going full swing. some Americans and an Australian had joined the throng. I seem to remember one of the guys did a pretty good job (or bad, depending on if you were one of the boyfriends) of securing most of the ladies' phone numbers.
The party ended not so long after I arrived and the guys and I moved on to have a pint at the Green Sheep. This was where Josh bought Chuwy a pint!Thanks, dude! That makes it THREE people so far who have bought Chuwy a pint. Makes that blog all worth it, knowing somebody cares.

Well, stumbled home around 1am. Now it's 9am and I'm still not feeling so hot but somehow I have to battle through this oppressive heat and try to get through the day.
Who am I kidding? I don't have it so bad
I've decided. Today, I'm on the wagon.
At least for this morning...

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Pivovar Yokohama - Czech beer bar

A new bar opened up in Yokohama yesterday.
(Here is a Japanese blog entry giving some good information about the bar - I'm in one of the photos, too!)

I headed down to Sakuragicho to check it out.
Here is a pic looking towards the famous Minato Mirai skyline (Landmark Tower on the left - Japan's tallest building) and the many boats/floating bars that go out on the water. Possible choice for another evenings drinking?

This is where I was headed:
As you can see, it's quite close to Sakuragicho station.

This new bar is the inspiration of the new young brewer at Yokohama beer. He spent 3 weeks or so at a brewery in the Czech Republic and he brought that knowledge and love of beer back to Yokohama - lucky for us!
The bar makes use of what was a small counter/cafe, in the ground floor of Yokohama beer brewery restaurant, Sul Ponte Umaya no Syokutaku (phew!).

There is seating for around 15 with the possibility of more outside.
A small place with a friendly feel. Just ask these lovely ladies:
I enjoyed the pleasure of their company for a while. They'd already downed 4 or 5 before I got there, so they were in a happy mood.

I quite liked this little set up, with the beer pictures:

Here was the menu:They offered 3 Yokohama beers (IPA, Bohemian pilsner & Kita Kamakura no Megumi) as well as one guest beer on tap (later they added the new Weissen to the list). At the opening, this was Pilsner Urquell. A gorgeous Czech pislner and reputedly the first of it's kind. He had one 30 litre barrel on tap. As soon as that's gone, then he may change to another Czech beer, probably Gambrinus premium. They also have Gambrinus, Urquell, Kozel, Kozel dark and Radegast in bottles.
As you can see, they offered a small discount for the opening day. I took full advantage of that.

Right, the beer!
My first pint was the guest beer: Pilsner Urquell.
World famous as the original Czech pilsner, this baby is nice. Dry, hoppy and easy to drink in large quantities!
It was perhaps served a little cold. The air in the brewery area (we sit down in front of the brewery) was already cool/cold. The eber was served in a chilled glass and was very, very cold. I'm not so sure this style of beer fully benefits from such a cold serving temperature. But then I'm from the UK. We drink our ale at cellar temperatures. I let my beer warm up slightly and the aroma and flavors really did develop more. Very nice. 7/10.

It was half way through my pint when I noticed the view from between my legs:
She's a temptress!

I took her suggestion and ordered another beer, while my urquell was warming up.
Next, I had the Yokohama IPA. English style and dry hopped with fuggles hops. Okay but again served too cold. When it warmed up, it got a bit better.Still, a little bland. I'm starting to get used to the American west coast IPAs that are hopped throuugh the roof but it was a nice suprise to find this brew. I think I will go back another time and give it another chance.

The food menu is very basic but they do take an effort with the presentation. I decided to try the pickles and saurkraut. They were discounted to 100yen so I was interested to see what I would get.This was the pickles.
I think it was served in an espresso saucer? It loooks nice but it was very difficult to eat from this 'plate'. I dropped a pickle on more than one occasion. Not very functional, really.

I needed another beer or five, to steady my hand.

I then had a Gambrinus premium.
This stuf was my favourite when I was in the Czech Republic. Nice and malty. A good beer. 1200 here is cheaper than the 1500yen that bars in Shibuya charge.

Next was the Yokohama beer Bohemian pilsner.
Not a bad attempt. Quite nice but just tasted a little too 'soft'. Maybe the water is soft? I'm not sure. However, it is a nice beer.

Say hello to the Kozels.
I like the premium. The dark (cerny) isnt bad but the light colored one is best. I like the Kozel.
Bruddy marverrous!

The last one I tried turned out to be the least delicious. Radegast.
It was okay but a bit weak tasting, after the others.

I was joined by my friend, Tim and we continued to drink.
I had another draught Urquell then headed off with Tim to hit the Thrash Zone.

Here's a Nagahama ale:
Very unique taste. p.s. Thrash had their 2nd anniversary party on Sunday.

Pivovar Yokohama 6/10
Not a great choice here but it's about the Czech beer and you get that so I like it. Interestng to try the other guest beers when they are on tap and great to have another good bar to drink at in Yokohama. Not everything needs to be in Tokyo! Nice effort from the young brewer. Děkuji ti!

Apologies: This was a very quick write up, as I had to rush to try and catch a rugby game.

p.s. since then, I went back there and it turns out the Urquell 30litre barrel lasted only one day. They now have on 20l of a special beer from Ishikawa prefecture, made by a Czech brewer. It's the Nihonkai club Bohemian pilsner:
Not bad, but I think I prefer Yokohama beer's Bohemian pilsner. They both taste, well, a little soft.

Also, Yokohama Beer's new hefeweissen is on tap!It smelled glorious and had a good heavy mouthfeel and lots of body to it, but it was just too sweet. Almost sickly so. Wasn't easy to finish. A bit less sweet and it could be a nice little beer. But too sweet for me.
Hmmm... ...I think I need to give it another go!

The schedule for the next beers goes something like this:
  • Nihonkai bohemian pilsner 20l
  • Kozel 30l
  • Nihonkai dark lager (cerny) 20l
  • Gambrinus 30l
  • Kozel cerny (dark lager) 30l
  • ??? Who knows what's next???
I expect Kozel may be on tap in a few days.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Warrior Celt, Ueno Park, BarBar, Bachus and Towers

Yesterday (Wednesday), I popped out to Tokyo to check out some interesting bars.

But first, some hats:I found this awesome army surplus store and couldn't resist trying some hats on!
Not to sound like Angeleina jolie, but this baby was Chinese and only 1200yen. Bargain.

First on my list was The Warrior Celt, in Ueno.(click on their logo to go to their site)
The pub is up on the 3rd floor. Can you see the sign?Wasn't so easy to find. Here's the map from their website:
They have a great happy hour offer:Yep. 600yen a pint.

What's on offer?
When I was there, it included Spitfire, 1698, Guinness, Heineken and Old Rosie (cider).
I only had one hour of happy hour left so I decided to make the most of it.
Unfortunately, as I was concentrating on drinking, I forgot to take a photo of the bar.
Here's one taken from the Warrior Celt fan blog:
Click on their picture to go to the site.

I started with a Shepherd Neame 1698.
For more info on this beer, click here.
I thought this beer was the best of the bunch. However, the guys at the pub somehow forgot to order in extra gas and, as the gas ran out towards the end of my pint, there was no more for the next one. So, the first one was the best. However, it wasn't so bad, as my second gasless 1698 probably tasted more like it would have, back in 1698.
1698 Celebration Ale: 7/10.

Next up was a Bishop's Finger. A suitable ambiguosly saucy title for a spicy, saucy pint.
I had this from the bottle:
Also a nice pint. Not quit as much kick as the last Bishop's finger I had, a couple of weeks back, but still not bad. I remember having at least two Bishops' fingers in me, at the Aldgate in Shibuya. They seemed to feel different, somehow. The temperature, consistency and color of this Bishop's finger seemed to be similar to the other two. Indeed, once the Bishop's finger was inside me, I was reminded of the last two Bishops' fingers. You can't worry too much about this stuff. You just gotta relax, open up and let that Bishop's finger gloriously slide its way in.
Bishop's finger - nun's delight.
Next up was a whole lotta Rosie!
Old Rosie, scrumpy cider:
Hmm... ...try saying 'golden delicious', without saying 'golden' and 'delicious'!
This brought back memories. Senior high school, first year. We sneaked in a 6 pack of scrumpy cider during English class. Drunk them under the desk. That was a good lesson, as I recall.
This stuff was kept in the refridgereator, as the bar was too warm for the cider to keep. It was served at a nice cool temperature and tasted crisp, clear and cool. Not so strong tasting. Just the right amount of sweetness and tartness. Very nice. A little flat though. However, the real old ciders were more ro less gasless. I've been drinking too much of the 'artificial' stuff. Strongbow and Woodpecker etc have CO2 added to them. Thanks for that reminder, Andy!

Old Rosie - 7/10.

After that, I ordered some food:
Chips & Chili Beans. At 600yen, this price matched the drinks.
It wasn't so bad, but how this took over 20 minutes to cook, I have no idea. I think some work has gone into preparing this, but it didn't taste all that fantastic. Not really spicy at all. but it had chips, chilli beans and cheese. So it went down easy and was appreciated (even though perhaps it doesn't sound like it).

I had jsut enough time for one more pint, so I risked a flat 1698.
As i mentioned previous, my logic was that at least if it was flat, then it would seem an authentic beer from 1698.
If so, then I'm glad I'm in the 21st Century.

2nd pint of 1698 - 3.5-4/10.

p.s. a small warning: You can order snakebite here! This stuff is more or less illegal back home, as people get very, very drunk on it and very very fast.
Another drink which was lethal was the snakebite and black. This used blackcurrant cordial and was even sweeter tasting. Danger!
So, if you're with that extra hot date or you want to persuade your boss to give you that well deserved raise, then get them on this stuff!

I liked the Warrior Clet and every time I go there, it's a little different.
Warrior Celt 6/10
p.s. their happy hour now doesn't include bottles but it's still pretty good if that includes beers like 1698 and old Rosie.
Well worth a visit if you're in the Ueno area. May even be worht swining by from somewhere else, especially if you go during happy hour.
p.p.s their live music is pretty good, too.

Next up was a huge burger from Mosburger
...and then a stroll thorough Ueno park to see the cherry blossoms and all the salarymen and women partying away under the lamplit blossoms.Toilets were busy. At least they were using them.Seemed like some people had been here all day.This guy was on his own in the centre of a big blue plastic area. But some other people were trying to fold up the plastic. It was funny watching it. Perhaps he's still in there...Right, time to leave.

Off I went to Tokyo station, in search of BarBar.
No, not a big talking Elephant.
A beer bar, deep in the bowels of Tokyo Station.
Again, it took me a while to find it (I'm useless with directions - perhasp it's the beer).
Once inside, I find it's small wiht a crazy 's' shaped table dominating the cetnre. If you don't mind a stinky breathed smoking salaryman inches from your beer and your face, then I guess this is the place for you. I got a glass of the hous Augus(t) pilsner, from Fukushima.This tasted more like a helles? Malty, creamy and not so good. Couldn't get much info on this beer from the staff.
Augus pils -4/10

After some salarymen started blowing smoke over me and my drink, I drank up and left. Now I know why I didn't drink in there the last time I checked the place out, a long time ago.
On a side note, the nearby ShoChu Authority alchohol shop now only sells shochu and awamori. They used to have a small but really interesting selection of Japanese craft beers. Not any more.
BarBar - 4/10.

Next up was the Beer Bar Bachus.
Just a few blocks away, to the North East of Tokyo station, it must have taken me over a bloody hour to find the place!Even the Asian "massaji? massaaaaji!" ladies didn't kow where teh bar was (and this was when I was barely 20m away from the place!).
I almost ran past it:Easy to walk past. It's only been open about 5 months. The owner used to work in an 'Irish' bar out near Nippori, if I've got my info correct.

The bar is in the basement. When you go down you'll find a nice cosy bar with space for around 15 or so. The main bar is at the end of the square shaped room. A nice bar it is too. Comfy stools and half a dozen or so taps. 2 hand pumps. I like this place.

The menu for the day:I ordered a half pint of Hakkeisan weissen.I've drank this before from the bottle and it wasn't too bad. Hakkeisan is also a sake brewer from Niigata. I used to drink their sake a bit when I first came to Japan. Liked it.
The weissen is a little weak and watery tasting. But not too bad.
Hakkeisan weissen - 5.5/10.

Next up was the cask ale. This was a Sangkt Gallen Golden Ale. Did I spell that right?Not bad. bit weird tasting. Kinda changed as I drank it, rather like the golden ale I had at Aldgate (Was it Miyabi ale?). Little bitter and tinge of apples? Never been a big fan of Sankt Gallen. This isnt too bad. Still, not my favourite but I was glad I tried it.
Sankt Gallen Golden Ale- 5/10.

Bachus is a nice littel place. If you're in Tokyo and even if you're at the enarby Towers, I reccoment paying this place a visit.
Something I really like about this place is the fact that the owner displays the price for a US pint or a UK pint glass. Most people don't bother to do that. It DOES make a difference.
Beer Bar Bachus - 6.5/10.


Next up, with simple, easy to follow directions from the Bachus owner, I made my way (sprinted, more like it, as it was 10 mins to closing time!) to Towers.
A very nice, small standing bar. The owner used to be a teacher and now runs this bar. Great guy. Loves his beer and only serves the good stuff. He was also kind enough to allow me to enter after he put up the closed sign. I only had 10minutes to closing time, so I concentrated on drinking, rather than taking photos.
I should've taken one or two from outside, but I'll do that another time. For a nice shot of the outside, why not check out the excellent Brews News page. They cover almost all bars in Tokyo and the surrounding areas and include reviews and directions, etc. A handy, great website.

Here's a photo I did take of the inside:Everyone was really friendly. A great little bar.
Right, the booze.
First up was half an Ozenoyukidoke barley wine.And very nice she was, too.
Ozenoyukidoke barleywine -6/10.

Next was a Baird red rose amber ale (I think?):Nice. 5.5/10.

Great bar. Ok owner. Great people. Great beer.

Towers Standing Bar -7/10.

Then, I rushed to the station and just made my last train home!
Can't type much more now. My knuckle is hurting so much (broke the thing, punching a bar stool, 2 weeks ago when Wales won the rugby grand slam).