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

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

While you're waiting, here's a young boy dancing

I' m working on a few posts, updating the bozelist, fixing my bike, etc...
Meanwhile, here's a young boy, pulling off some pretty cool moves:

Friday, 4 September 2009

Day 2 at Towers eventually became my ruination

First tonight, I went to The Aldgate in Shibuya, to try the wonderful Ozenoyukidoke IPA back to back with the Ballast Point Big EYE IPA.
Some British guy had just drank the last Ozeno IPA.
What made it worse was that he apparently ordered it at random, from the guest beer list.

Damn, if the Chuwy curse hadn't struck again!Well, at least I had one of the last Ballast Point IPAs, in a nice quiet, almost empty Aldgate:

A few friends commented that it seemed more sour than usual.
Well, this pint was from the bottom of the barrel and yes, it was a tad on the sour/sweet side.
Strange, that.

Usually Big Eye is gorgeously fruity and hoppy and not too sour. Perhaps this barrel was a sour one. I had an awesome Big Eye at Thrash zone. It was a while back, probably from a previous shipment from the States. That one was dry hopped and boy, was she good! Best beer of the night for everyone.
Ballast Point Big Eye IPA- 6.5/10 (usually 8)
On bottles, Big Eye is possibly my favourite West Coast IPA, along with West Coast IPA (go figure), Stone IPA and Pliny the Elder. Big Eye is just so full of flavour and life. Lovely.
This one wasn't bad, and at 1200yen, was a reasonable if not good price for a Tokyo bar for this premium imported product. I just wish I had Ozenoyukidoke to compare it to.
Here's the list of guest beers (don't forget they always have some seriously good beers on tap - Harly porter, Aldgate ale, etc) that were still on last night:
Next up was a new one for me, a smoked imperial porter from Isekadoya, in Mie prefecture.
At about 7% , this imperial porter was actually lower in alcohol than the Big Eye IPA (something I often forget is the overall strength of the beers Andrew Balmouth brings over from the States, via his Nagano Trading company).
First thing I noticed was the wonderful smoked aroma. Prefect. Not too strong but definitely there. Bordering towards comfortably medium smoked, from delicate. Just right.
The taste - well, a tad on the sweet, malty side. Probably from the malt level used to bump up the alc (?). I got some lovely chocolate malts shining through. Great chocolatey flavours prevaded, along with the background sweetness (just a touch too sweet) and the smoked flavor blended expertly in the background flavours. Quite a good beer, this one.
Something for after the session, perhaps as a dessert beer with apple pie?
It is however a tad on the sweet side.
Not as chocolatey, I think and deliciously sweet as Young's Double Chocolate stout, though. Now THAT is a great dessert/choc tasting beer!
Still, quite an interesting drink.

Isekadoya smoked imperial porter 6/10

As I was finishing my porter, I called my frend Mark who was drinking in Towers.
I checked what they had on tap and how the quality was, seeing as Towers was day 4 into their 5 day 5th anniversary event. Mark told me the Ozenoyukidoke IPA (yes!) that was now on hand pump was not the same barrel as the CO2 one from yesterday. Cool. He also said it was better than yesterdays.
I told him I'd be there ASAP.

I got there to discover that Ruination was wating to go on tap!
They just needed someone to drink the last pint of Red Rocket first.
That was something, curiously, no one seemed willing to do.
I'd had one the day before and though it was in good quality, it wasn't really my cup of tea. Not a huge fan of caramel malts.
So we waited...
In the mean time, I had an Ozenoyukidoke IPA from handpump.
Talking about 'in the meantime', here's the song, from Spacehog:

The ozeno, she was nice. A tad different from the night before. First thing was that the glass was warmer, the eber too. Not being chilled through the CO2 pump and chiller, it was almost room temperature and perhaps a bit too warm. The head was perfect. The taste very, very nice. It just needed a tad more oomph to it.

Ozenoyukidoke IPA handpump 6.5-7/10 - just too warm to be 7 or8.

It was about then that a Japanese fellow, after listening to our Ruination predicament took pity on us and ordered the last pint of Red Rocket.
Then we spied the master grabbing another barrel of something that looked like...Wahey!!!!

Ruination is going on!

Everyone was grateful to the Red Rocket, for making way for the Ruination:
Hang on. That picture above isn't right. That's not Red Rocket! It's an imposter!
This is the red rocket. Apologies.
The first lucky person to order a ruination was a ghandi, hari krishna style character, who praised and made blessings to his god upon revieving the first ruination.

Weird guy.

Here's my ruination:

Stone Ruination DIPA - 7-8/10

In the back, you can see the sound system.
My friends rather unwisely asked him to change it from the Rolling Stones channel.
He did - to the teeny -bop teenager love rock ballads boy band channel from hell.
Jeez, that was hard to listen to.
Then we got him to change it again - to the hip hop channel.
None of this music suited the bar.
FINALLY, he went back to the Rolling Stones channel and our sanity was saved. The ironic thing was tha the guy who asked him to change channels in the first place actually liked the Rolling Stones channel when it was brought back.

Meanwhile, the ruination was being a tad difficult.
Here you can see how hard it was for the master to pour a good pint. He did a good job.
1200yen for ruination for a US pint is not a bad price for tokyo. The otherwise good bar Bulldog up the road would have charged 1400 or 1500 for the same beer.
Bear in mind the 5th pint is free and you can theoretically drink Ruination for 960yen a pint. Not bad.

Day 2 was good. I left early at 10:30 but intend to go back today.
ruination is on the menu, along wiht a special oak casked Hakusekikan Super vintage.

Stay classy.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Towers 5th anniversary - free beer!

From 1st September until Sat, 5th, Towers standing bar is celebrating it's 5th anniversary.
Wow, 5 years already!

To celebrate, they are putting on some good beer and have a special week long stamp card system. If you buy any 4 pints, your 5th pint is free! I think that's a great idea (as I can easily get thru 5 pints).Not only that, but if you can't manage the 5 pints in one sitting, you can keep on using the card for the whole week! This means that, say on Tuesday, you buy 2 pints. You go back on say, Thursday and buy another 2 pints - that means you've reached 4 pints on your stamp card- the next one's free! Nice.

I started things off wiht the Towers specially dry hopped Ozenoyukidoke IPA. This i probably my favourite IPA in Japan. Gorgeous, she is! This time, the IPA was dry hopped with cascade hops. Towers was pretty busy (usually fits about a dozen in there, all standing close together), but not as busy as it was on the Tuesday. Then, the people were spilling out in the street.

I went ont the Wednesday. I met quite a few freinds and people connected with the craft beer community.

Here is the manager, barman, chef & friend from the Harajuku Taproom:One of the Yokohama beer brewers also came in for a few drinks and to say congratulations on Towers being 5 years old. Good times.

My second beer was another Ozenoyukidoke IPA. Lovely!

Ozenoyukidoke IPA Towers Special 7.5/10

For my third beer, I thought about a Sankt Gallen Shonan Gold, but it ran out (the Chuwy curse?). So instead, the manager put on some special Sankt Gallen XPA which had been dry hopped, so it was extra hoppy. I decided to get me sum of that.
The XPA is on the left, my nextbeer which was an Ozenoyukidoke IPA is on the right.
The XPA was very hoppy and very dry tasting. Not too much malt base or swetness in there. A tad on the thin side, mouthfeel wise. Good and hoppy. So hoppy that I should have had this first, ebfore the wonderful hoppy fruitniness of the Ozeno. It took me a while to get used to the dry hoppiness of this beer. Towards the end, it started to be a pleasure to drink.

Sankt Gallen dry hopped XPA 6/10

I decided against another of these dry beasts and went back to my favourite Ozenoyukidoe IPa. And very good she was, yet again!

Now I had drank 4 beers, so my next one was free.
I had these to choose from:
Minoh DIPA (handpump) 1000yen
Minmi Shinshu dunkle weissen
Bear Republic Red Rocket ale 1000yen
Yokohama hanabi ale
Baird Teikoku IPA

Normally, I may have gone for the handpump DIPA but this year, Minoh has dissapointed me, DIPA wise. It used to tbe their best beer. Now it's just malt and littl e hop flavor. too sweet.
I decided to try the Minami Shinshu (from Nagano) dunkle weissen. I'd heard good things about it and seeing as it was 'free' I gave it a shot.

The Chuwy curse struck again.
Barely a quarter of a pint was served and it ran out. Typical. At elast I got this little bit of beer for free. And it was horrid. Really, really bad. Burnt malts or wheat. Tasted really bad. I'm glad I didnt get a pint of this. I've had the dunkle weissen before, a few years aback and it was in n way this bad, so I figure this was something to do with coming from teh bottom of the barrel. Either too much sediment got mixed in there or something was very wrong.

I thought about the Yokohama Hanabi ale, but I looked at a friend's hanabi ale and it just looked too weak. It was a pale ale. I asked him how it tasted and he replied 'nomi yasui' - easy to drink.
Okay, maybe not what I was after.
Anyway, I ended up going with a Red Rocket Ale instead:
It's not my favourite Bear Republic but I hadn't tried it for a while and it would normally cost 1000 a US pint, so I took advantage of the free beer situation. Not bad. Not my favourite style but not bad. 6/10.
Just then my good friend Rei came in. She had an Ozeno IPA too.
We chatted and then moved on to the Bulldog bar, hopefully for some Ruination DIPA.
I should have known.
The Chuwy curse struck for a third time that night.
The Ruination had just finished.
Instead, I had a bourbon barrel aged Ballast Point porter, in respect for the National Bourbon Heritage Month which was going on in the States (there you go, DH).
She was a bit wild coming out of the tap, but the manager did a great job of keping my head small (not meant to sound dirty). The beer was quite sfot and easy to drink. The bourbon flavor was very, very gentle.
Quite nice and not the bourbon flavor attack I was dreading.

Then I got the last train home, after chatting to a German and an Irishman.

The end...

If you have the chance, check out Towers. There will be more interesting beer on tap soon, including Hakusekikan Super Vintage and another barrel of Ozenoyukidoke IPA!

And don't forget that Bulldog is just a short stroll away, too.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Beer wars and the beer war with my internal organs

I've just watched Beer Wars.
I sat down with some nice beer and nice food to watch the film.

Beer Wars is a movie suposedly about the beer industry in the US but is perhaps a call to awareness to the average drinker, a call to arms, if you will, against the monopolies of big beer (we ALL know about these bad boys of big business who'se only goal is money and more of it), I favour of those who still retain their core values of qualtiy of product, quality of life over quality of profit.
What better song is there to think about the plight and turdid times of the craft brewer in America (plus the rest of the world) than this timeless classic?

Surely you are all brothers and sisters in arms, against the cruel relentless tyranny of multinational corporate beer/tasteless shite?

Here is the trailer to the movie:

Well, I kinda liked the movie (being drunk the whole time kinda helped). It left me with the feeling of sympathy and identity with the common craft brewer, who, let's face it, isn't that far off the homebrewer level. They are just homebrewers who have realised or are desperately trying to realise their dreams of making their own beer and making a living out of it.

However, the movie isn't a classic and is one woman's representation of a changing industry. Big beer is getting bigger, craft beer is attracting more customers but still can't hold a candle to big beer in terms of customers base or distribution or marketing power.
She seems to portray an ongoing battle or war between the little guy and the big guys.
Is that really the case?

I thought an interesting write up of the movie was made by the BeerBabe, here.

Still, watching this movie has affected me.
It also makes me want to buy and drink more Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA. Man, that is good beer. I may even try a Sam Adams or two.
I STILL can't find a pint of Samuel Jackson, though.

To enjoy the movie further, I had me some food and some beer:Shown above is New Zealand lamb cooked with rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.
Some Japanese gourd/cucumber like vegetable.
Cherry tomatoes.
Chicken breast, fried with negi (Welsh onion- like a long, thin leek), thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper.
Bread, fried in the fat of the chicken and lamb.
Black pepper flavoured crisps.

And to drinkypoos:
Weltenberger pils - quite nice. Malty but a tad dry and not so heavy tasting. Goes down easy. A sessionable beer it is.

Weltenberger hefe weiss bier hell. one of the better German hefe weissens. Good unfiltered weissen. Medium to heavy mouthfeel. Goes down a treat.

Baird Rising sun pale ale. A nice fruity American pale ale with a tad more hops than you'd except.
Possibly the Japanese company's trademark brew.

Baird teikoku IPA. A well made English style IPA with a slight American does of hops in there. Borders on fruity hoppy taste but maintains the lovely dry bittereness which finishes on the mmouth. Good drinking and possibly my favourite Baird beer.

Yaho National Trust porter.
Very nice beer. My favourite yaho beer and one with which to slow down and relax. Actually gets better as it warms. Silky smooth, ever so slightly sweet but not cloyingly so. Good heavy roasted malt backbone. Medium to heavy mouthfeel, bordering more on heavy. Chocolate (kind of more dark than milk), cream (but not overly creamy), lovely. Good solid beer.

Lovely, all.
Good beers, there.
A clear favourite is difficult, as they are all different style and equally delicious in their own right.
If I had to choose, maybe tonight it was Baird Teikoku IPA or the National Trust porter by Yaho Karuizawa Kogen brewing.
Broody marverrous!

I leave you with another Dire straits classic (yes, my father used to listen to these guys and I'm nto ashamed to say so did I!) and one of the finest live performances, I think, that
I have ever seen (on u tube). Amazing guitar skills and vocal talents from Mark Knopfler:

Brewdog Tokyo/Tokyo* - a fistful of love?

Many people may know about Brewdog, the Scottish brewery that seems to be taking the beer world by storm (get it? Storm, the brewdog beer? Ah, never mind).
Some love it, some hate it.
Some also love Brewdog the brewery, others don't care for them.
Martin dickie and James Watt - founders of Brewdog

This Tokyo beer has perhaps caused the biggest uproar, concerning it's high alcohol content.

Personally, I don't care for their apparent marketing strategy.
I also don't like that it appears to work.
People are buying into the hype.
It's a shame that they don't seem to sell beer just on the premise that it's really, really good.

In that sense, I kinda selfishly hope it's all crap.
Alas, it isn't true.
They make some sh*t beer. I've tried one or two myself and certainly was put off trying any more for a long while (it wasn't just the huge price tag but the horrible, weird taste).
Well, I now know from experience that they do make some very fine beer.

I was fortunate to be part of a special, pre-import tasting session, in Tokyo, featuring both Tokyos, the 12% Tokyo and it's stronger brother, the hefty 18% Tokyo* (strongest beer in Britain and the cause of consternation among many as to potential abuse by binge drinkers).

Well, I certainly wouldn't have paid for these beers, but seeing as they were free, I decided to give them a go.

With more than a little trepidation, I handed over my glass to be filled.
First was the Tokyo.
My goodness. Lovely fruity aromas. The cranberries shone in the nose and the flavor, as well as cardomom (a friend pointed that out and I defintiely agreed). A little too fruity dry sour for me ot be perfect, but this was not a bad beer at all. The alcohol seemed to be kept hidden quite well.
bitter dark chocolate flavors to go with the fruit. Not bad at all.
However, I don't think I will pay a premium price for this when there are other cheaper options available.

Next was the Tokyo*.
Wowza. This is probably now my favourite Brewdog 'beer'.
A whopping 18% but quite drinkable.This beer actually impressed me. I liked the overall complexity of flavor and sweetness which jsut seemd to grow on the tongue. Sweet, yes, not too sweet. Nicely made. The nice full aroma which wasn't overly fruity like the Tokyo. I preferred this one to its lower alc brother. At 18% alcohol, this beer should age nicely.
Pity I can't afford to buy half a dozen and put them in my 'cellar'.
A beer perhaps, to sit back by the fireside with, whilst enjoying a nice cigar, reminiscing about the good old colonnial days, with fellow members of the gentlemen's club.

My advice: If you like strong, flavorful complex beers, then I highly recommend trying these two. If you like simple single style beers like pilsners, amber lagers, light ales, then maybe this isn't for you. Still, I bet you're curious to try one, aren't you?

Well, despite BrewDog's aggressive marketing strategy, these beers, although strong in flavor and alcohol and threatening to punch out my taste buds instead left me with a fistful of love.

p.s. Tokyo/Tokyo* may well be coming to Tokyo in October.