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

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).

Patrasche -Belgian bar in Kawasaki

I found this Belgian bar which was relatively new, in the centre of Kawasaki, near the station.
It's called Patrasche.

It's on the 4th floor (see it?).
It's not cheap (hey, it's a Belgian bar, in Japan).
Here's the entrance, a little closer:
And inside:
Example of beer prices: Leffe, Orval 1,100yen. Duvel 1,300yen. Stella 900yen. Ouch.

Spring Valley revisited

Seeing as I was in the area, I thought I would revisit the Kirin Beer Villlage at Nama Mugi. Here's a shot of the seasonal beer at the Beer Villlage at Kirin's Nama mugi beer plant:

Looks good. Great head. Nice smell, but metallic taste.
The service was terrible.
They had at least 4 people working there.
I ordered my beer within 2 seconds of seeing the choice and waited more than 5 minutes for the waiter to bring me my beer.The barman was not busy. Ridiculous. Plus, I'm pretty sure he started pouring my drink then stopped and maybe changed a barrel then a long time later just topped the glass up. That's not the way to pour a beer. I had to order a second beer to take away the nasty tinny taste from the first one.
I watched the barman. He did the same again! WTF?
I tried to tell the waiter but he had no idea what I was on about.
I thought I used Japanese and English simple enough for a 2 year old but I forget that 2 year olds have open minds whereas adults do not. I gave up and sent him back to the smiling barman and manager. Idiots. I couldn't finish my weissen, because it was so metallic. They are lucky my Japanese is atrocious, o rI would have given them a piece of my mind and explained to them how to pour a beer. Idiots. Plus its always too damn cold. Rant,rant, rant.
It took me an hour to eventually find the place so I expected nice beer. Phooey! So there.

The Grafton- Irish bar(?) in Gotanda

After getting lost many times in Kawasaki, I came home at about 11pm. Had a shower and got changed and I headed back out to check out an Irish bar called The Grafton, in Gotanda.

I got to the bar at about 11:40pm.
I went to the basement bar and discovered it to be completely full. No problem, as I don't have any friends.
I found a small area standing around an upturned barrel near the centre of the bar and joined three Sony engineers for a drink.
They were nice guys and didn't mind me taking a shot of my pint:

They even took one themselves (but the guy is using a Canon camera! - I used my Sony!).
The beer selection here is not bad.
I had a Swan Lake porter. It was nicely poured, but, as with most bars in Japan, it was just too damn cold. I had to drink slowly and try to warm the beer with my hands.
It got better eventually.
They had the standard Guinness and Kilkenny plus Tokoy black and the other Yonayona pale ale, lowenbrau and leffe on tap. They also had a nice selection of bottles. Not a bad place. Cosy.
Here's another shot of the inside:

The Thrash Zone - nice micro brewery beer bar in Yokohama

The other week, I happened across a new bar called The Thrash Zone.
Idf you check out their WEBSITE, you will see they have a propensity for slayer and other heavy metal.
They also serve some quality Japanese craft beer.
Both of these points were good reasons for me to make my way out there!
It wasn't so easy to find, but once you located the yakiniku restaurant, it was easy.
In case you can't find it on the website, you can open the map in a new window by clicking HERE.

Also, on the webiste, it shows a big, bright, airy room. The first thing I noticed upon entering was that the picture in the website wasn't of The Thrash Zone. Weird.
Here is a photo from inside, on the side opposite the entrance way (seen at the end of the room):

You can see the barman/owner and a few of the regular customers, who come from as far away as Ryogoku! Some of you who know about beer may realise that Ryogoku is actually the station where you can find Popeyes (perhaps the biggest range of craft beer in Japan and of Japanese craft beer in the world). So it says something for this bar that this gentleman journeys all the way down to have a drink or five at this place.
These guys were great and welcomed me into their fold, instantly. Everyone was so friendly.

I happened to venture in on Van Halen night. The manager was showing his DVD of Van Halen's greatest hits.

When I saw this, I jumped for joy. I told the barman "Right now, I feel unchained! You really got me with this great music. This is what dreams are made of! I mean being here, just us humans being together, drinking, relaxing... ...why can't this be love? Now, I have to go to the toilet, because I've got a fire in the hole and I need to go before there's an eruption. There's a poundcake or two, breaking through the seventh seal. No sir, I won't get fooled again. I can dance the night away with beautiful girls later. Dancing in the street. I'll be like a man on a mission and when the dream is over and Jamie's cryin, I'll be up for breakfast. Don't tell me I can't drink more. I say to this beer 'you're the one I want, because without you, I'm black and blue. So, is this love? I know I can't stop loving you. Once is not enough.
You're the one I want. Why don't you finish what you started and make me totally cabo wabo! Wow, this place is better than smoking in Panama... ...or Amsterdam!' Oh, this beer is gooooood! You can't get this stuff no more. I feel on top of the world!"

Well, I didn't actually say this to the barman, but if I did, it would have been really cool.
Another example of how my reality doesn't quite match up to the fantasy. Such is my life.

Okay, so they had loads of heavy metal records on display, high up on the wall and they had about 6 or so craft beers, including one real ale on pump (Minoh Stout), plus a few bottled beers.

Here's the beer list:

Here's another photo of the bar:

It really is a nice, cosy, freindly place.
I can see why most of the people I met that night were regular customers.
A good, knowledgable barman and a nice, smokefree atmosphere makes a recommended place to stop by, if you're ever in the Yokohama area.

In the above photo, you can see a 'gaijin' - a foreigner.
It's my friend, David. He also popped by to check out the bar.

Okay, time to talk about the beers.
I think they change them every month or so, but they have one or two constants, such as the Minoh Stout (not bad) and the Nagahama ale (very, very bitter and yeasty - and popular with the locals, suprisingly).

This time, the beers on tap were:
(click on the beer name to go to their website)

First up for me was the weissen:

I didn't want to mix this flavor up with the ales and the stout, so I ordered it first.

It was not quite what I hoped for.

Taste had a hint of grapefruit (but not as strong as the Hidatakayama weissen, which I do not really care for).
Tasted a little off and not so flavorsome.

Aroma was not bad. Tasted a little watery. But had a reasonable creamy head. Retained the head for a while.

Carbonation was okay.

In the 2nd photo you can see the yeast at the bottom of the glass.

Verdict: 5/10.

Next up was the regular beer, the Nagahama ale:

Boy, did this baby taste bitter!!! Also very yeasty.
If I had poured it from a bottle at home, I would have thought it had gone bad and thrown it away, such was the 'distinctive' taste.
However, I stuck with it and about 3/4 of the way through it, it began to be drinkable.

Still, I can't say I like it that much.

Definite like it or hate it beer.

For me, I'd have to pass on this one.

Verdict: 4/10.
(Note: I've since had a few more Nagahama ales and I'm getting ot like it/appreciate it, so the new score is 5.5-6/10)

My next and final beer was the Minoh Stout:

This baby was hand pumped by the barman.

This guy can pour a good pint (as could the guy who used to pour at Cheers - but sadly, I haven't seen him aorund for a while and I must say, the standard has fallen there because of that. Note: since writing this, there are new barstaff at Cheers and the standard of the pint has gone back up again. Cheers!).

Still, I was happy to wait for what I hoped would be a nice, creamy stout.

I wasn't dissappopinted.

A nice pint.
The best of the night, for me.
Creamy and smooth and nicely rich so it needed slow drinking. Just the thing to end the evenig with.

Verdict: 7/10.

All in all, a nice evening.

Here are a few more pics of the evening and some drunken rantings from yours truly (what, more?):

The Thrash Zone.
Verdict: 7.5/10.