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

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Well, is he or isn't he?

It's hard to know what to believe.  I've read so many conflicting 'news reports'.

Everybody knows who I'm talking about, so I won't say his name.
 Love him or hate him, is he really gone? 

How can we be sure?

The world seems to be monitoring all and every broadcast in North Korea, hoping they will somehow provide us with answers.

Here are a few snapshots possibly taken from the North Korean media, although it's hard to know if it's all just some kind of crazy propoganda story, meant to scare the West:

 The announcement went out early yesterday, on National TV:

People in the street seemed shocked at the news:

 Thousands immediately made their way to National Monuments, to mourn the passing of this inspirational, highly influential character.

A huge rally has been held, seemingly to 'celebrate his greatness'.

Make of this what you will. I've heard conflicting reports on all this. 
It's not easy to make sense of it all.

I must say, I'm still very much confused.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Good Beer Faucets' opening night.

Note: this is not a review, merely a report on last night.
Expect a more in depth review/verdict later on - they've only just opened!

Last night (18th December, 2011) was the grand opening night for Good Beer Faucets, the latest craft beer bar to hit Tokyo.
This was the one many people have been talking about for over a month, since they announced the opening night.
With a lot of hype and taking into account who's bar it was (the incredible engineering skills of Hori san and the latest rock star fantastic beer/food/manager virtuoso Dede - formerly with Yokohama Cheers and Roppongi Roti's), expectations were high. Everyone was excited.
It seemed that everyone and their friends turned up all at the same time!
Man, it was packed in there.

Good Beer Faucets is a few minutes walk from Shibuya station, just past the Bunkamura building.
Outside Good Beer Faucets
Yes, there's a Family Mart directly downstairs. I wonder how many tight arsed Welshme-I mean people will be popping down there for a quick and cheap bento, between pints?

Walking in, the first thing you notice is the cool looking interior, dominated by the 'U shaped' bar and counter. 
Good, long, U shaped bar.
Then you can't help but notice those incredibly shiny, brand spanking new stainless steel taps, or faucets (hence the name). Man, it looks good.
Love those shiny new stainles steel handpumps!
There are stools to provide seating at (what reminded me of a sushi restaurant) the main bar.
Everything is very angular and square looking but clean and immaculate. Just the right height too, for most of us.
Shiny, new, happy.
Being opening night, the place was PACKED. Seriously. This proved to test the system to the max, as many endured waiting times of 40-50minutes for their beers or even longer just to place an order, as nobody seemed to know the system (at times, it seemed that included the staff!). not the best first impression, I have to say.
As expected, it was PACKED, opening night.

Just gotta love this floor diagram.

Luckily, I was at the main bar and I knew Dede, who was working literally flat out, doing what seemed to be everything and fixing things on the fly, talking to customers, pulling pints, answering questions, guiding staff... was amazing to watch the man in action. All the time staying cool, calm and professional. I'd equate what he did last night to juggling 4 chainsaws and a pair of kittens and no, no animals were harmed during the entire performance.

The man helped us out on several occasions and took orders, poured and served beer expertly.
Pity we couldn't say the same for everyone else. 
Many weren't happy that they had to wait extended times, waiting for the staff who were walking around with iPads and iPhones, using a computerised ordering system that was new to everyone. 
A hint at their new system, using data from the iphone/pad entries.  Interesting.
To be fair, you mix a brand new system for ordering and payment with a super busy FIRST night (for staff, as well as customers, let's not forget) and there is going to be a little confusion and kinks will appear that need ironing out.
Luckily Hori san and Dede were on task, each time.
Engineering genius Hori san, doing his stuff.
 The staff handled things okay, considering some of them seemed a bit lost. Working in a bar that also get's insanely busy, I felt for them at times. Still, it did take a LONG time to get served, then to wait for the beer to arrive. Even longer than the wait at Popeyes (oooh! Heresy!!!! How DARE you!).

Again, thank goodness Dede was near by. Otherwise I might have collapsed, due to thirst. Of course the adjustment that needed to be done, taking into account the extra waiting time was to double fist, which myself and my friend did. That helped, but still we were left waiting, between double fistings.
While I had about a cm of beer left, a staff member came to take my not quite empty glass. I grabbed it back, politely saying I hadn't finished (there was still beer in the glass! - I wasn't fast enough though to prevent a female member of staff nicking the unfinished pint just before that! - cheeky!). He asked me if I was ready to order. I again politely informed him that I had ordered more than 20 minutes ago and will probably have to wait another 20mins for my beer, if the evening was anything to go by, which was why I was stretching my pint out as long as I could. We both laughed over it. What else can you do?
Opening night blues.

My biggest concern of the night was not the 400ml 'pints' (At least they advertised the volume in the menus and weren't trying to be sneaky like certain other bars- fair enough), neither the long waiting times. We have to remember it's only the first night and it was PACKED.
No, it was the inconsistency in the pours.
Dede poured beers very well (just the one time I had to ask for less head and he never forgot after that, fair play) but some of the pints I saw put out for delivery were, quite frankly, shocking.
'Slight' inconsistencies on opening night. Some  beers were sent out like this.
Here, in the photo above,  you can see there is a hell of a difference between those two pints. I know which one I'd rather have!!!! Hard to believe anyone would accept a 'pint' like that. I sent one pint back as soon as I saw it was at least 45% head. I would assume that this is certainly not Beer Faucets' policy, just the naivety of the new staff, who at times seem to need a little instruction - again, first night for them, as well as us. I'd expect things to change, even as soon as tonight. I know in Japan, bars often serve beer with large head but at times last night it was verging on ridiculous. Again, I'm sure the staff weren't aware there was a problem. As more and more people mentioned it though, things did appear to get better. I'm sure things have changed now. Dede was aware by the end of the evening and I'm 100% positive things will have improved by now.
'Slight' inconsistencies again. These beers are ready to go out.
A classic example is pictured below. My friend, Emily, had this beer in her hands and I asked her how it was. She replied that she hadn't actually had any yet - this was how it arrived.
"Dude, where's my beer?"
Acceptable? Certainly not.
I advise everyone to mention whilst ordering that you do not require 40% head (or a glass with 40% of your beer missing). Seriously though, ask for less head and there is a good chance you'll get that - if that's what you want. I would be VERY SURPRISED if I went back tonight and things were the same. Part of a new place's first night is work out the kinks and fix them. There were certainly a few kinks but I think the positives outweighed any negatives. The biggest positives, for me are Dede and Hori san.
Both men know their stuff. I'm sure if they had more time to prepare better, they would have. At least they opened on target.
Nothing wrong with this pint (apart from the size - 400ml).

Then there's the really cool bar, the location, the beer selection, the beer quality and I'm sure the food (if Dede's history & reputation is anything to go by.
All pints poured or finished by Dede - lovely. 
All in all, first night niggles/difficulties aside, I feel this is going to be/is a great bar. As long as the staff get used to the system fast and learn to pour beer with consistency, I don't see many problems.
Price wise, it's average for Shibuya. Seemingly pricier than Aldgate but not as pricy as Cataratas.
Volume wise, their pints aren't US or UK pint sizes, but they do show the volume in ml in the menu.
I had no opportunity to try or see the food but I'm confident it will be very, very good.
Dede was the man, all night. He stayed calm and professional and did his job and then some.
I'm looking forward to what this new bar can bring to the Craft Beer community.
Brand spanking new. Good beer, good food.
Verdict is still out on this bar as it's too soon to tell but it certainly has potential. With the ineviatable kinks that happen on a packed opening night sorted out (they should be), this could be a good one.

Dede was non stop - like a man posessed. He da man!
p.s. Some friends and I soon retired to the always reliable Aldgate (get served in less than a minute) and were not so surprised to meet quite a few there who also left Beer Faucets, not exactly over enamoured with their first impressions.
Ironically, this is where more than a few of us ended up - Good old Aldgate. 
Hey, it's early doors yet.
Pluses and minuses on opening night. They will only get better. Just wait and see.

Check it out, if you can.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

See you guys soon at the Good Beer Faucet's grand opening from 5!

From 5pm today Good Beer Faucets will be Tokyo's newest craft beer bar. Opening in Shibuya from 5pm.

Shit! I'd better get going!!!! 
Late again!

Look out for the weird annoying Welshman with the camera and double fisting his way to hell.

Here's the location:

View Good beer faucets in a larger map
See you there!

The Royal Scotsman - Iidabashi

I knew the old Chuwy curse would striek sooner or later. Well, the 6 minute train ride from Devilcraft in Kanda to The Royal Scotsman in Iidabashi turned into 30mins plus, as I got on the wrong damn train. Should have realised things weren't as they should be when I noticed the lady sleeping opposite.
I was on the Goldilocks limited express..

Someone's been sleeping in MY train.
 Bugger. I luckily realised soon enoughand got off at Shinjuku then made my way back to

No, not the train.

The bar.

Here are a few pics of the outside:

As you probably guess, this is themed after a Scottish style pub. Minus the locals, of course.

The main dude responsible for this place is Tomo,  the infamous Japanese green mohican bagpipe player and his wife Anji, along with Yuji Shimada:
 You might have seen him play in one of Aoki san's Beer Festivals or in the St Patrick's parade in Tokyo. He said he always wanted to open a bar with Brewdog beer and now he & Yuji have done it.

My good friend Yuji let me know they were opening soon and invited me to come on by. I'm glad I did., I brought my drinking centurion friend, Tim Maloney with me. Turns out this might just be the best bar of the evening. Proof you don't need 70 beers (or even 40!) on tap to have a good bar. Far from it, that's possibly too many beers (what? Am I INSANE?). Here,they had just the 4 taps and that was it.
Well, four craft taps plus Kirin heartland.
Okay, more like 4 craft taps, plus Kirin heartland, plus 4 whiskies on cask.
Sounds better, yes?

They'll be stocking Brewdog beers and last night they had Punk IPA on tap. Not bad. They also had Preston pale ale which was in decent form, not as sweet as usual.
They plan to alternate the other two taps with various (I assume Japanese craft) beers.
Here's my friend Yuji Shimada at work behind the really nice bar:
More staff photos!
The place will probably hold about 30 and it nicely laid out in wood and a nice long green leather bench running the far side of the bar plus various tables both seating and standing. The main highlight for me is the bar  it's lovely. really adds a homely local British pub feel to it and I'm sure sitting there in the evening, relaxing with a wee dram will be a nice experience, especially in this cold weather.

Here are a few pics of the inside:

Beer wise, I tried the Punk IPA and it was not bad at all. I'm not Brewdog's biggest fan. They are capable of making some great beers but at the same time, they can make some absolutely shite beers. However, when they make good beers, they are really good.  I'm also no big fan of their marketing style. 
All hype and hot air, mostly.
Well, here is the Punk IPA:
Not bad. I'd say a UK styled IPA but perhaps fashioned with American IPAs in mind. more hops than usual UK IPAs but maltier and earthier than most American IPAs. Kind of a hybrid.
Definitely suits the bar feel, this beer. 
Well chosen. 

This bar is not just about the beer, though.  
I give you exhibit A:
I decided to try all of them (of course).
How were they? 
Well, I'd say the Islay was my favourite. 
They also had another cask of whisky, set up to the right side of the bar. Sadly, we arrived more or less as they were closing and there was no time to drink more. Sob...

Never mind, I'll be back.

There was not enough time to review the place fully. No time for food and the pub is not offically open yet. It opens on Monday. Usual hours are Tues to Sunday, closed Mondays. Short walk from Iidabashi station.

View The Royal Scotsman in a larger map

I recommend this place. Nice, friendly, good staff. I assume the food menu will be good too.
Opening party on Monday!

After this, I hit The Aldgate in Shibuya for more booze. 
It never ends!!!!

Maui Brewing event at Devilcraft

Last night, I popped by the excellent Devilcraft  bar in Kanda. They were having their very special Maui Brewing event
Maui Brewing of course hails from the Island of Maui, in gorgeous Hawaii. For last night (Saturday) and tongiht only, they are offering about 12 very special craft beers from Maui Brewing. Most, if not all of these have never been in Japan before, so this quite an opportunity to taste the best Hawaii has to offer.

Today (Sunday)'s beer list:

01.Maui Island Hopped Red
02.NEW!Maui Big Swell IPA
03.Maui Black Rock Ale
04.Maui CoCoNut PorteR
05.Maui Imperial CoCoNut PorTeR
06.Maui Shipwreck'd Stout
07.Maui Smoked Hemp
08.Maui Old Chinwig 
09.Maui Ginger Sason
10.Maui Wheat Wine
11.Maui Mana Wheat
12.Maui Bikini Blonde
After  a short 2 minute walk from Kanda Station (south exit, JR), I arrived and noticed a few friendly faces already at the bar. 
Some of you who regularly hit the craft bars in Tokyo and Yokohama might already recognize 'Irish' Neil on the right and that's Jesse next to him, a very good homebrewer and cool dude - he surfs and brews, so those are two most excellent qualifications!

They are ALSO holding a special offer, for this event. Buy a stamp card for 5,000yen and get 5 pints PLUS a free pint glass to take home (provided they still have some -limited to about 25 or so pint glasses per night).
This is a very good offer, seeing as some of these beers are high strength and normal cost is up to 1200yen a pint.
Not only that, hand in the completed card and you go into a raffle for more Maui prizes. It's a no brainer, really. You can use the card for both days but I knew that was never going to happen.

 My first beer for the night was the Island hopper red, an American red ale.
Island hopper red.
The beer looks good. a nice roasty red color with a decent thick foamy off white head.
Nice aroma, good fruity American hops and a hint of caramel, Just right.
Good hoppy fruity flavor, giving hints of mangoes, pineapple, pine, grapefruits & nice caramel from the crystal malts blending in with it but the body was just so light and thin. Half way through it kind of felt like I was drinking flavoured water, it was so weird. I think this is their 'style' and it could just be I'm used to beers with a bit more body to them. Not a bad pint.

My second beer for the evening was the Black Rock black IPA
Black Rock BIPA
This Black IPA was a nice one. Nothing full on, gentle toasted flavor in there that reminded you it was a black IPA (using black or highly roasted malts to get the color and a little depth of flavor, without adding too much body to the beer) but otherwise felt like a nice hoppy pale or again a light bodied, drinkable IPA, going down. Still a bit thin bodied and light tasting but the speciality dark malts helped add a bit of character to it.

Right, third up and this one was the Shipwreck Stout.
Shipwreck oatmeal stout (with Mike, Jason & John)
The stout was an oatmeal stout (I think it was labelled as one). Smelled lovely! Nice roasty aroma with cream/tan head. Decent roast flavours mixed with cocoa and dark chocolate in here. Again a bit on the thin side, body wise, going with expectations. Don't mean to be unfair to Maui as they clearly seem to be designing their beers to be like this. Perhaps they think it suits the island way more to have thin bodied beers? I picked up a hint of coconut in this one. As John mentioned, it could be from the oats or possibly maize or other grains that might be used in here. Still not a bad, if a light oatmeal stout.

Only two spaces left on my card. Nuts. time to go large.

Next up and number four was the Imperial coconut Porter.
Imperial coconut porter
The imperial coconut porter was pretty nice. Bit of high alcohol flavours in here but thankfully less coconut than the normal coconut porter. 
A LOT of people love the coconut porter but I'm not such a big fan of huge flavours in my beer - I mean coconuts, bourbon, oak etc.
This beer certainly has more presence  and 'weight' in the body, thanks to the coconut and dark malts.
You can taste the cocoa in here. The beer uses "cocoa nibs, blended with the toasted coconut during the maturation process to intensify the aroma of coconut and dark chocolate" and you just about notice.
Quite a nice pint and one to take your time with. Let it warm up and appreciate the aromas and flavours as they are released.

Damn. Just one space left.
Luckily, I'd been granted a taste of Jesse's beer when I arrived and knew what it was that I wanted.

Maui Brewing Old Chinwig
Left: Imperial Coconut Porter, Right: Old Chinwig strong ale

The English styled Strong ale/ winter warmer needed a long time to warm up properly but for a strong ale up in the 8% area, it was very drinkable. Again thinner than you'd expect but quite nicely put together. Try her when first served, then let her warm and you'll notice the toffee notes increasing in the flavor. Nicely made. Again a little thin but this beer doesn't seem to mind. I enoyed this one.

All in all, a very well laid out event and some very nice beers. These beers are RARE and might not be available in Japan again so I certainly recommend you go to this event. Thank you,  Devilcraft for organsing this. 

Looking forward to the next event!

While you are in Devilcraft you definitely should take advantage of their kick ass pizza menu:
Gorgeous looking Hawaiian ham and pineapple pizza! Mmm!
This is the normal Chicago style pizza. Unfortunately, my 'friend' Tim Maloney covered the otherwsie beautiful little thing in chilli powder:
Do you have enough chilli on there, Tim? Bloody hell!
Go check out the Maui beers at Devilcraft today!
Kanda, South Exit. Directions here.

p.s. if you are interested in trying some production Maui beers (these may not be from the brewpub), you can find them in some craft stores, like Sugaya and Tanakaya or you can buy them here. They aren't that cheap though.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Few events this week/next week

I'll try to update this post as I find out about more events, leading up to Christmas.
So far, off the top of my alcoholic brain damaged head...

FRIDAY (today!): A few people are joinging in on a Tokyo Beer Meet Up pub crawl in Yokohama, starting from Thrash Zone at 6:30. Just bring 200yen for the organiser, Marco and come and join in and enjoy the fun. His Beer Meet Up group is fun and has regular meet ups at Craft Beer bars across Yokyo/Yokohama. Yokohama is a great place to pub crawl, too.
Note the new location for Thrash Zone, over the other side of the road, away from the station and close to the Lawson (just past it and to the right, walking from the station).

SATURDAY & SUNDAY: Devilcraft will be having a very special Maui brewing event featuring of some very special Maui brewing beers (many which are coming to Japan for the first time and some are quite special indeed). This is fast becoming a very cool place to hang out at and drink a great selection of Japanese and imported craft beer in great condition. They also have kick ass Chicago style pizza. On Sat/Sun, for the Maui event, they are having a special offer each day, 5,000yen gets you 5 pints PLUS the first 24 customers get a free Maui glass. Plus if you finish the card, there's a chance to win prizes in a special raffle, later on.
The event is from 3-11pm Sat, 12-9pm Sun and reservations are recommended (those tables might go fast but they do have a few floors!). you might see me at the bar, early(ish) on Sat.

SUNDAY: The grand opening of Good Beer Faucets, in Shibuya. 40 plus taps, 3 hand pumps, lots of Japanese and imported craft plus guaranteed to have great food, seeing as Dede Brim is overseeing things. See you there! Open from 5pm.

MONDAY: A new craft beer pub wil open. Yes, another one! This one is the brainchild of a certain green mohican haired bagpipe player. If you've been to Aoki san's Real Ale Festivals, then you know who I mean!

The guy loves Brewdog and has stated that he wants to open his own bar in Japan and serve Brewdog beer - well, he's done it.
The Royal Scotsman is open for business in Shunjuku from Monday. Reportedly they'll have at least 4 taps of craft (plus Guinness!), featuring Brewdog of Sctoland, Preston of Japan and others and 3 whisky kegs! Yes, the guys love whisky too. I'll check the place out early on and report back.
Opening hours are Tue - Sat:15:00-03:00 & Sun:15:00-00:00. Normally closed on Mondays.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Thrash Zone is Dead. Long live Thrash Zone!

Yes, the Thrash Zone as we knew and loved it is no more.
However, despair not, fellow hop head metal freak nuts bananas bonkers boozers!

There is a new Thrash zone.

It opened yesterday, December 1st.

It's bigger, longer, wider, harder. Satisfaction guaranteed.
I was surfing the web when I noticed my good friend Captain Tugwash had posted a pic of the place.
Well, then I just had to rush on down there, at 11pm and check it out myself!

Here are a few pics of the place:

The front, as you enter thru a small glass sliding door (easy to walk straight past it!)

As you can tell, the place is a lot bigger. Two t three times bigger. It's also wider, meaning you can go from front to back of the bar easy(er!).
He has 7 taps right now, with the option and space to add a lot more later on. The place is still undergoing construction and will just get better but right now, with the smell of fresh paint, big screen TVs resting on the floor, just a few taps and a load of happy metal freaking craft beer drinking lunatics, it's already started off in a great way.
Be prepared for a whole new Thrash Zone that still retains the essence of the old but brings in the extra oomph of the new!
It certainly offers something different from the other craft beer bars. Loud music, energetic regulars and always a warm welcome. This could be another classic craft beer bar.

I think this pic matches the atmosphere in there:
Gotta luv it.
The beer qulaity is very, very good.

Very friendly place. Don't be put off by the Thrash metal connections, everyone is friendly here.

Their main bar is a great long front bar. It goes on like one of those long bars that feature in Western movies. I just want to slide my pint down to the end...
Koichi san does a great job as usual in pouring the perfect pint.
Here is an example of the Thrash Zone pint. Almost no head. Filled to the brim.

The bar also bends around to the right, at the far end. This offers up more bar space and leads to the toilets. Great bar.

Definitely recommended. They are still adding to the beer and it is nowhere near finished but go there and grab a pint and savour the atmosphere.
Map is here, on the website.
Click on the link at the centre of the box.

It's located right opposite the Lawsons, the other side from the main road. Look for the first floor glass sliding door and the small Thrash zone sign.

Sorry, that's all the info for now. Late for boozing! Will write more when I have time. Rock on!