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, 20 December 2009

Here's to my birthday and the end of the world!

Happy New Year!

Yes, I said 'Happy New Year'.
Well, today is Winter Solstice, after all.
The darkest day of the year. When darkness ruled the earth and a crazy, barely human, mostly beastly being came into this world - me!

From now, winter is in retreat and the spring is coming.
This is really the end of the year/start of the next.
The day which was meant for Christmas, to coincide/take over from the pagan festival at that time.
Also, just 3 years left, until the end of the world!

What more reasons do you need, to reach for a brew?
Me, I'm helping myself to a nice birthday Sculpin IPA and celebrating in all it's wonderfully hoppy madness!Cheers!

"We're all gonna die!"

'tis the season to pimp your IPA: A Yuzu challenge

Today is the 21st December, Winter Solstice, Darkest Day of the year, Chuwy's Birthday. It's also the time of the year that Japanese put a yuzu in their bathwater.
Yuzu is kind of a strange Japanese citrus fruit that's very lemony, grapefruity, zesty, zingy and looks like this:Well, I do like yuzu and remember drinking a yuzu ale, made by Harvest Moon and finding it very nice.
Another time, whilst I was drinking (and being very drunk) Suruga Bay DIPA in the Numazu Taproom, I happened upon some strange fruit. It was a little like yuzu, so I squeezed some into my beer. Wow! It really gave the beer a fresh zing.

I thought why not try dry hopping beer with yuzu?

People do dry hop with fruit, so I decided to do a small, simple, controlled experiment, using my balls.

I had 3 glasses. I used my IPintheA as a control beer.Glass 1 had nothing in it, so was just the beer.
The next glass help a mesh filter that had the yuzu flesh and some squeezed juice in the glass.
The third glass held one of my little balls, with yuzu peel cut up very small, inside.
I tried not to get any white pith in there, as the pith is bitter.

I then poured equal amounts into the 3 glasses.
The results may not be surprising.

The first glass tasted normal (as 'normal' as Chuwy's beer can taste).
The second glass with the flesh and juice was very aromatic but overwhelmingly bitter and sour tasting, from the juice and pith and flesh. This may be why Japanese mostly use the zest, for cooking and flavouring.
The third glass was nicely aromatic and just a tad to bitter.
I was hoping for a fresh zingy taste but just got bitterness, primarily.
One thing I did try next was to take my ball and dip it gently and briefly into my IPintheA.
The aroma was subtle but present.
The flavour bitter but not overly so.
The zest was still smelling fantastic and zingy fresh, hours later after being taken out of the beer.
I think the best thing to do would be to dry hop a beer using just the zest and with as little white pith as possible. Then leave that gently soak for a few days, for the zesty zing to soak into the beer.
I didn't have a few days, so this experiment was quite limited.
Hey, you never know until you try, right?

Has anyone out there tried this, in one of their home brews?
I may try it out soon, seeing as this is the season for it.

It's the season of renewal, it's the season for yuzu.
Why not try it yourself?
I'm sure YULE like it!

Thursday, 17 December 2009


This was how I was greeted, one time last year, as soon as I walked into Maltan bar in Kanda, Tokyo.
A largish group of Japanese beer lovers were gathered at the bar with the owner and saw me and suddenly got into a group huddle, then they all turned in unison and shouted at me

In Japanese, this means something like "You f*cking idiot!" or "Motherf*cker!".
Bakayaro! Itsumo, itsumo osoku made nondeiru. kesa, moo juuji sugita, okinakatta kara shigoto de kubi wo kiru hazu ja nai ka?

Dumb butt! Always, ALWAYS you are drinking until it's late. Then this morning it's already past ten o'clock and because you didn't get up, shouldn't they fire you at work.
Well, I didn't know quite how to react.
WTF have I done, now?
I must have met them before and done something terrible, whilst drunk - not again!
I almost pleaded with them "I'm sorry, I swear your sisters/daughters told me they were 18 and I never knew the other woman was your wife and I'm sure with a little effort, those stains will come out of those curtains & ok, I'll buy you another flat scren TV!", but it was then that I realised - they think I'm Chris Poel.

I've been confused with another person before.
A certain bar owner had for a long time been more than little cold with me and I found out later from a similar looking 'friend' that it was he who in fact had walked in on said bar owner's wife, whilst she was in full flow, in an unlocked toilet. That helps to explain why said bar owner insists that I 'scared' his wife.

Well, my name is Chris.
Chris Poel's name is... ...Chris.

Chris Poel is famous for being a home brewing champion and for making some excellent beer and being an all round great guy to get to know.
I am notorious for being the weird guy who sits by himself, taking pictures of his beers and drinking like a thirsty camel with a hole in its stomach.
Well, two plus two equalled twelfty and they assumed I was he, the Bakayaro creator himself.
Bakayaro is the creation of Chris Pole and he made his 'ode to he Stone Arrogant Bastard, American strong ale' at Baird Beer.
It was that very beer that had just won the Japanese Beer award for best beer (I think Bryan Baird came in second, interestingly enough!), so it wasn't too difficult to work out why they shouted out what they did.

In hindsight, I should have just winged it and grabbed a few congratualatory free pints then mention that there was a problem batch with Baird beer and I am there to recall all the barrels and then proceed to do that at every bar in Tokyo.
Damn you, hindsight!!!

Well, Bakayaro (IBU's: 90, Alcohol Percentage: 8% OG 1.080, double dry-hopped with Centennial) is being released to day, starting at the Harajuku Taproom, from 5pm.
Chris Pole himself will be tapping the first keg and will be in the Harajuku Taprom until around 8:30pm or so.

Here's a good interview of Chris, from the Good Beer Country Boys, after he won best beer at the Real Ale Festival.

Later on, he'll be at the Naka Meguro Taproom, along with Bryan Baird and Sayuri Baird, to send off Yokota-chan, who is the current manager and will be moving back to his native Shizuoka to start his own business.

I'll be the in in the Harajuku Taproom around 5, with an eyepatch and a cork on his thumb - just in case (long story, that has tended to repeat itself).
I'll also be looking weird, sitting by myself and be taking pictures of my beer.

Please don't hesitate to shout out "Bakayaro!"

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Hop Rod Rye: So far, 3 out of 4 off.

Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye.
Off (just a tad - or is it?).

What's going on?
Won a 4 pack at a beer event and 3 of them are off.
not badly, but not as good as I KNOW they can be.
There is a chance that I am assuming this is off.
At least I didn't pay for them.
These beers must have been laying around in the summer sun or something.
They are all off in the same weird way( the hop rod being the least affected and best of the bunch, though).
Tart and sour tasting and sharp.

I've had hop rod rye on tap and in bottles before and I like it.
Just check out the ratebeer rating.
This does smell quite like it and tastes ok (better than the prohibition and the calico did) but still, something is wrong with this movie.


I've got a fair bit of sediment floating around in my hop rod.
more than the way I carefully poured it warranted.
however, upon reading reviews of this beer, I find others get this tot and it is from the yeast and the unfiltered nature of the beer in the bottle, so maybe nothing is amiss there.
It is the hop rod and it does taste good but something tastes, well, off.
Just a tad off but it's that which is annoying.
It's so subtly off that many people would assume this is the way the beer tastes.
I know it's better than this.
I thought to save this for last but I'm glad I didn't.
I opened it as I didn't appreciate the taste from my calico and wanted something I knew I would like.

It's not far off, though but I do detect a teeny tiny amount of skunk.
Hop Rod Rye - 6/10
To be fair, as I finished the pint, the beer got better but the grapefruit taste - which is normal for this beer, along with the peppery spicy rye still held a tartness to it which matched the previous 2.

Please, don't let my ranting put you off thee otherwise fine brews.
I KNOW them to be good ad well made beers.
Just click on the ratebeer links to see what beer enthusiasts make of them.
Great beers.
Outstanding beers.
Just not the 3 bottles I opened today and yesterday.

Where are the good bottles?
Must I undertake a quest, to seek out the good beer, from the bad?
The good booze shops from the bad?
The ones who look after their beers and the ones (like mylocal - grrr!) who put the Super Dry in the refridgerators and leave the Unibrue, Stone and SChlenkerla in the summer sun or under the boiling hot winter AC?

Well, I shall accept this challenge and undertake this quest.
I shall out the bad and praise the good!
Starting as soon as I can get out of these tights...

Calico amber ale - I guess I'm just not an amber kind of man

Looks lovely, doesn't she?

If you read my previous post, you'll know I'm not an amber kind of man.
Never did care much for the style.
Some may say it's because I haven't had the right amber ales. I usually ask them "Which ones should I have? - then I answer that I've tried most of them and haven't been impressed.
I must stress I'm not finding fault with the beers. It's just that I don't really care for the style.
Don't really like the sweet, tart caramel malt flavours. For me it's re@pellant and disgusting.
I'm weird like that.
The only 'amber ale' I can drink and will and indeed do pay for is the Greenflash Hop Head Red, but that is kind of a special beer. Similar to the calico in that it's a kind of amber/red ale hybrid.
I do prefer the hop head red.
Well, Calico is a well made amber ale.
In peak condition, I can drink this.
This calico,however, rather like the prohibition amber I had last night, tastes too tart and little off?
Don't particularly care for it and my first impression was 'urgh'.
Now, I find the glass is almost gone!
I drank it so fast.
Still, the end is so tart.
I have to think this isn't in perfect condition. On-line, I occasionally read references to a tartness.
Maybe it is meant to be there?
If so, I don't care for it. Almost sour, in smell and flavour. Not overwhelmingly but it's there.
I won 4 bottles at a beer event and I dread to open the other 2.
At least I didn't have to pay for them.

Calico Amber Ale 5.5/10.
Maybe this bottle was off, too. I swear the first time I had this, it was 7.5/10.
I think it's better than the prohibition but I wouldn't pay for one unless there was little other option at the bar. In defence of the Calico though, I had a lovely glass of it at one of Andrew Balmouth's functions and Real good. It's what persuaded me to buy a bottle.
The 1st bottle I ever had was really good.
The 2nd was nice.
The 3rd was nasty, really nasty.
A friend also had a bad bottle of this and another friend had a bad pint in a bar but that may well have been to the bar not cleaning their pipes correctly.
I have to assume that the occasional bottle of this goes bad, so be careful when you buy it in bottles.
Check whether the shop keeps them refrigerated.

I think I come across as an anti amber ale kind of guy.
Yes, I don't particularly care for Amber ales but I have nothing against them, personally.

I'm no beer racist, I'm just a simple kind of man.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Can't get this song out of my head: Kids.

The video is interesting, too.

The same thing happens to me, when I go out drinking.
Just remember, not everything is what you think it is.
You all have a good day.

Speakeasy Prohibition amber ale - but I don't like ambers

Speakeasy Prohibition amber ale is imported by a good friend of mine, Andrew Balmuth, of Nagano Trading. They also bring in a load of other high quality American craft beers, including Stone, southern Tier, Greenflash, Great Divide, Maui and many more.

I must admit, I'm no fan of amber ales.
The reason I have it is because I managed to win a prize of 4 assorted beers from a raffle draw on the recent Nagano Trading December to Remember beer party.
I find it nicely made but again it's an amber ale and I don't care for the style.
It has a fair bit of life in it but I just don't like the caramelly taste and flavour. Its not my cup of tea.
I'm liking it less as I drink it but that is not the beer's fault - it's mine.
I can tell this is a good beer. A lot of carbonation and a fair bit of caramel in the flavour.
It's a lively, hoppy beer. A tad bit sour in the taste (yeast at work?). Astringently lemony grapefruit hop zested flavour on the tongue.
I prefer the Big Daddy IPA to this, but then again that is because I don't really like - yes, you've guessed it - amber ales.
Well, I tried it, as it was free.
I also have another amber ale in the assorted 4 pack (sigh).
The Ballast Point Callico Amber ale.
I'll give that one a go tomorrow, perhaps.
Right now, I've had enough amber ales for one night.

Prohibition Amber Ale - 5/10
A bit too sour and I don't care for the style but not a badly made beer.
Hey, if you like ambers and aren't as 'beer racist' as I seem to be, you may well enjoy this!
A gassy, spritzy, zesty, light bodied, full of life amber ale.

Nagano Sake Village - where the h*ll is it?

It's not in Nagano, that's for sure.
Although if you drink there and get REAL drunk, you may think for a second that you are.

It's actually at Shimbashi, Tokyo and quite close to the station.

View Craft Beer Bars in Tokyo & Yokohama in a larger map
Take the Shiodome Exit.
You should see a large square with a pedestrian overpass and underpass.
You'll also see the Shimbashi Eki No Mae Building, at the other side of the square:Exit from the Shiodome exit and go across the square, to the Shimbashi Eki no Mae building. It's just across the street.

It's in there, first floor.Just keep walking around until you find it.
It's a small place.
This is what it looks like:The place is a standing bar/shop that sells Nagano products (mainly alcohol and some snacks from small jars). The place will accomodate about 15 or so people.
2 men staff the place and they've always given me great service. They don't really speak English, so have patience.
This is the view of the are inside the main window (bear in mind that this equals about half the entire place!):
As you can see, there are no tables and chairs (not any more!) but there are small standing tables that will accomodate a few bottles, glasses or small dishes:
As you can see, they stock Shiga Kogen beer.
They also have Yaho beer (yona yaon, ooni, etc), Minami Shinshu beer, Shinshu beer and Oh!La!Ho! beer, as well as LOADS of sake!

The prices match retail prices! That's fantastic.
If you are there, I highly recommend getting one or more of their small appetizer dishes.
They get them from the various jars, on display in the store.
They cost from around 150yen so are very reasonably priced. My favourite is the ninniku gyouza (garlic segments prepared in a special way and are delicious!)
Also try the sake selection. The staff can assist you in choosing the sake best suited for you.
You can do what I did and ask for a variety.
This is one place where 'hush hush' you can get dogoroko, or the locally made 'illegal' strong sake.
Watch out, though, a friend had some of this and soon after took out some of the furniture in splendid fashion!
When you are there, you may meet up with one or more of the salary men who frequent the place.
You may even be treated to a drunen song! This is aplce for slarymen and also to meet and make friends with interesting Japanese. I've always had good experiences here. Just be courteous to others and they will do the same to you.
I highly recommend trying the sake, as well as the great craft beer.
A great experience and chance to learn and experience something really Japanese!
Here is a strange angle, looking to the back end of the store. Shiga Kogen porter is delicious and bargain at 380yen!

Nagano Sake Village museum and Store: 7-8/10
Just magic, every time.

Closed Sundays, National Holidays, 2nd 3rd Saturdays.

p.s. Watch out for the racoon with the big testicles:That one's for you, HopJuice!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Monday, 7 December 2009

Maltan 3rd and WTF happened that night?

Maltan's 3rd anniversary was last Sunday.
Man, that was something.
I'm STILL recovering!
Itt ook me just 40 minutes to get to Maltan but 20 hours to get back!
More on that, later.

If you checked my post about last years Maltan Anniversary, then you may realise that I was expecting a bit of a wild time.
This year, although not as busy as the last, was... ...well, you check out some of the pics I took (as well as a couple from other people):

I arrived on time, this year. A couple of friendly Good Beer guys were already there and we were all patiently waiting for the orgy of beer to begin...
And then we were off and running!
The good beer couple (you may see them at most other beer events - great people) were among the first to go behind the bar and pour themselves a pint.
There were quite a few beers on offer, inlcuding Hakusekikan's super Vintage (around 14%) & Hurricane (15%), as well as Southern Tier Unearthly DIPA (around 10%) and many, many others.
These included a special cask conditioned yona yona pale ale.
Well, it wasn't long before the crowds began to develop and the place was packed.
The deal was, you pay 3,600yen to get in and it was serve yourself, as much as you could handle.
You could bring your own food and you were only given a plastic glass but you were allowed to bring your own glass.
I was ready.
I had my big Duvel glass for high alcohol numbers and my Ruination 'ode to the hops' pint glass for 'normal' beers.
Here they are.It's Hakusekikan Super Vintage (good but needs to warm up to release all the flavour) and Southern Tier unearthly DIPA (was in very good condition) to start me off.
2 pints of double figure alcohol Winter warmness!

Here's Tim M, raising a celebratory glass to a good evening.Here's a very ghostly looking punter. Scary stuff. Phantom of the Beer House?
Luckily, he didn't break out into song - or did he?

Poor Capa, he's merely smelled the beer and he's already off his scary baby face!
Pouring his first beer, before passing out, delirious on the floor, a huge Joker like smile on his cheeks.

Well, the booze was flowing and people were loosening up and having a good time.
Haven't seen these guys for ages.

These guys make a lovely couple.

Although I do suspect that she's got him by the balls (especially when you look at this photo):

This was about the point where I lost my memory.It's probably about 5pm.

A kitty kat, a cute wabbit, one cop and a zombie:
Arest me, officer, becasue I'm thinking it's wabbit hunting season!
At some point in the evening, Rei chan turned up!
Here she is, with just two of her boyfreinds (Sunday and Monday).

" vewy, vewy quiet...I'm hunting wabbits..."

These three were celebrating their birthdays:
Unfortunately, the tradition of being granted a birthday kiss didn't go down so well amongst one of the trio:
"Argh! Get off!!!!"

Things seemed to be going well - I don't remember.

Well, this picture says it all:
This one says bit too much:

Some people just can't last the pace.

Others - they just keep on going (even if their brain has by now stopped functioning and stopped recording memories):

"Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!"

Man, I wish I was in my right mind when half of this was going on.

Hello, ladies. Here's an idea, I wonder if you would...

...yes, you would! Why can't I remember any of this?!!!!

It seems everyone was enoying the show.
It was even done to music.
I wish I'd remembered this too. Rei was playing the violin!
And guitar! This isn't Rei, it's another friend. Great guy. I reckon he must have rocked the place. Unfortunately, I don't rememeber.

"I'll give you 100 million smackaroonies, for one night with your husband."

Well, the night ended too early, as always. This photo perhaps sums the evening up.
A lot happened and some of us as always, ended up doing things we would later regret:
At least one person had a great time.
Chuck, the king among men.

For me, the night had only just began.
As you may realise, I have no memory of any of this, but from witness reports, for some stupid reason I was trying to argue/fight big Tim, then was all happy and I was carrying him around the bar (also carried Capa and Rei around the bar - this is with a broken back), then they all lost me, near the station.

All I know is that I woke up around 1:30am, still on a stationary train and well, Dorothy wasn't in Kansas any more.
I did some stumbling around and found a 7-11 and through my drunken rantings, managed to understand that there was no manga cafe in the area and the only option in the cold lonely night was a business hotel.
I somehow managed to check myself in and woke up in the morning in what I assumed had to be Chiba.
At about 3pm, I eventually got back home from GUNMA and collapsed, into bed.
I had gone to the border of Gunma and Saitama in my drunken sleep. Then I had to go all the way into Gunma to pick up my bag, which I'd left on the train.
I washed as much vomit off my clothes and bag (it apparently had been a very eventful evening) and with a terrible hangover, pretended to sleep on the 3 hour train ride back to Tokyo and Yokohama.
I also had what I suspected was a broken forearm and cut up hand, although the pain was not too intense. The swelling was not so good though.
Here is a simple google map, retracing my drunken steps, that fateful Sunday evening:

View Results of Maltan 2nd anniversary drunkenness in a larger map

Man, that was a wild night.
I'm still feeling it (my back is certainly feeling it - like I'm still being crushed).
See you at Andy's event today!