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The Alehouses of Tokyo

by Bryan Harrell


Microbrew (Ji-Beer)

     Popeye (in Ryogoku, 3633-2120) still remains the best place in Tokyo for Japanese microbrew. Alongside the biggest selection of microbrews on tap in Japan, new additions include taps for Hair of the Dog, Golden Rose and a few varieties of Rogue Ales imported into Japan by Phred Kaufman. Due to the higher cost of just about everything in this country, Japanese microbrew is expensive. However, publican Aoki-san does all he can to price the beer as low as possible and keep turnover high with sampler specials. Prices for the good pub food, however, are surprisingly reasonable for Tokyo, which helps to even out the equation. Also check out the selection of microbrewed sake.

     Ginga Kogen (in Akasaka, 3224-9686; Ginza, 3575-0850; Roppongi, 3405-8819; and Shibuya, 3406-1995) is a chain of brewery restaurants operated by Ginga Kogen Beer, one of Japan's largest microbrewery concerns with four good-sized breweries throughout Japan. The beers served in these Tokyo restaurants come either from the Gifu or Tochigi breweries and are very stable in flavor and quality. The best is the weizen, followed by a sturdy pilsner. The so-called stout would seem more like a porter if it wasn't fermented with weizen ale yeast. Prices for both beer and food are very reasonable, and the atmosphere is always bright and clean.

     TY Harbor Brewery (in Tennozu, 5479-4555) is out on the Tokyo waterfront in a somewhat inconvenient location, but well worth the trip. It has recently undergone changes in its restaurant operations, with new management by the innovative pair of Ian Tozer and David Chiddo, so look for more Pacific Rim/light Italian influences. Over the past year, the beer has become better and more even in quality. Recent seasonals include a tremendous Coffee Stout with a coarse, tan "milkshake" head. Best of the standard brews is the pale ale, which shows plenty of Cascade hop character.

     Saloon (in Roppongi, 5410-4988) is a more centrally located place to enjoy the TY Harbor beers mentioned above. Roppongi is an area of bars and clubs and is one of the most popular nightspots in Tokyo for western ex-pats and U.S. military personnel. Saloon also features pool tables and a cigar bar, which helps foreign patrons feel more at home.

     Speakeasy (in Ikebukuro, 5985-8177) is Tokyo's newest brewery restaurant, featuring pale ale, amber, wheat and stout brewed on the premises. Not the best microbrew in Tokyo, but still satisfactory, and better at each visit. Creative food and reasonable prices all around.

Belgian Ale

     Although there are a number of great Belgian beer bars, there are relatively few Belgian taps in Tokyo. Although Hoegaarden White is on tap in a number of places around town, there are three places worthy of special note. The Cafe Hoegaarden (in Shinjuku, 5388-5523) also has Belle-Vue Kriek on tap, with well-prepared Belgian and Continental cuisine to boot.

     Good Belgian food can also be enjoyed at the lovely Bois Celeste (in Akasaka, 3588-6292), which has Tokyo's best selection of bottled Belgian ales. Finally, the casual and cozy Belgo (in Shibuya, 3409-4442; ) is a cash-on-delivery place that allows you to choose from a wide assortment of Belgian and other beers from its coolers, and take your choice to the counter to pay for it and receive the proper glass.

British Ale

     The Warrior Celt (in Ueno, 3836-8588) has Tokyo's best selection of ales. In addition to the increasingly ubiquitous Guinness, Bass Pale Ale and Kilkenny, owner Andy has managed to bring in kegs of Morland's Bitter, Old Speckled Hen, Ruddles County, The Tanner's Jack and two varieties of Sheppy's Cider -- Bullfinch (dry) and Goldfinch (sweet). Live music, often Irish or Celtic, with no cover charge.

     The Black Lion (in Meguro, 3491-2312) is a rambling, funky and friendly place, and perhaps the most "English" pub in terms of atmosphere, thanks in large part to friendly landlord Mike Marklew. Bass, Guinness, Old Speckled Hen and Dry Blackthorn Cider are on tap.

German Beer

     Bernd's Bar (in Roppongi, 5563-9232) is the best place for German beer, with several varieties on tap, including Bitburger Pils, Jever Pilsener, Diebels Alt and Köstrizer Dunkel. A favorite of German ex-pats, no doubt because of the good food in large portions at fair prices. Your host is Bernd Haag, who hails from Dusseldorf.

Online Info

     The Tokyo Food Page (www.bento.com) has a section on brewpubs and beer bars (www.bento.com/r-beer.asp) and also carries my Brews News newsletter (www.bento.com/tf-rest.html) featuring craft beer info in English for Tokyo residents. Log on and take a little tour of eating and drinking in Tokyo.

A native of California, Bryan Harrell is a professional copywriter and journalist who has lived in Tokyo since 1977. He is the Tokyo correspondent for the Celebrator Beer News, and he can be reached at .

Copyright 1999, Celebrator No material herein may be reprinted without permission of the Celebrator Distributed On the W3 For personal, non-commercial enjoyment and use only. Cheers!

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