Saturday I went out to do some photography – a hobby that I have neglected since starting to make beer! It was fantastic to be out with a camera again.

My walk through the streets of Harajuku led me to Shinjuku. For me, Shinjuku is a place pretty much void of decent beer. Maybe others know better than me, but the only places I know of in Shinjuku are:

  • Frigo (Belgian)
  • Christon Cafe (has a few Belgian bottles)
  • an izakaya that serves Ginga Kogen white beer on draft
  • the place under Dubliners that has craft beer

… and a few assorted bars that have your standard selection of Belgian’s and British beers. Nothing particularly special or different or hoppy.

So upon arriving in Shinjuku I decided to head to Shinanoya and see whether they had anything worth carrying home.

On the way there, though, I accidentely stumbled across a Scottish bar called Hazelburn! Previously there was a Scottish bar in Ginza called – wait for it – Scottish Glamour (!) As well is having a dubious name, it had no Scottish beer and had a cover charge – any bar in Scotland that tried to impose a cover charge would be torched by the natives. So I wasn’t expecting much from Hazelburn.

I was pleasantly surprised. Not only do they have Scottish beer and a few English regulars, but they promised TWO IPAs, including a Scottish IPA!

The beer list

The beer list

First order was naturally half pints of both IPAs.

Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA

Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA

First half pint of the Twisted Thistle IPA was pretty good – hoppy, bitter. It has a little bit of Scottish characteristic in that it was a touch syrupy like a Scottish ale, but drinkable. Real hop heads would probably wish for more hop flavour though – and when I moved onto drinking a pint of it later though, it seemed less hoppy than that first half pint. Not sure whether it was my imagination, or whether it was my first hops of the day, or whether it was because the barrel for that first half pint had been newly cracked open, but the pint wasn’t as good as the half pint.

But whatever – they both ran a dance over the Greene King. Take a look at this photo and tell me what’s wrong:

How much alcohol?!

How much alcohol?!

An IPA with 3.6% alcohol? Give me a break. The Greene King IPA website says that “Greene King IPA is currently Britain’s favourite cask ale”, which makes me slap my head in disbelief. It tasted like Belhaven Best or John Smith’s smooth – there are less hops in this than in a can of Coke.

Bar staff chatting with the punters

Bar staff chatting with the punters

There's a few tables behind this, a few to the right of the bar, and some more in the back - not huge, but not as small as I expected

There's a few tables behind this, a few to the right of the bar, and some more in the back - not huge, but not as small as I expected

Hazelburn is a friendly little place. The bar staff seem to chart with everyone at the counter (in Japanese), and when I responded to an American guy’s question of “Anywhere else round here I can get hoppy beer?” with “No, but there’s this place called Popeye” – the staff all nodded in agreement. Similar nods when I mentioned Takanaya. These guys know beer.

They also sell copies of this British beer magazine:

Beers of the World

Beers of the World

At 1000 yen, it’s around the “Rest of the World” subscription price for an issue, and not too far off the 4 quid cover price. Doesn’t tell you about homebrewing, but has some good writeups of British craft beers and bars – I bought the two issues Hazelburn currently has since I want to read a bit more about the British beer scene.

In addition to draft, they have some bottles too – Bomberdier Satanic Mills, Banana Bread Beer, Black Wyon Stout, St Peter’s Grapefruit, Traquair House Alse, Courage Directors Bitter, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, Young’s Kew Garden Gold, Old Peculier, Hobgoblin Circlemaster, Newcastle Brown Ale – were all in the menu, with some others in the fridge including Fuller’s Discovery Blonde Beer which is rather hoppy and my favourite of the Fuller’s range. They also has some Brew Dog:

Russian roulette

Russian roulette

But after the cack that was Storm, you wont can’t me paying 2700 yen a bottle for Brew Dog in a hurry – that’s about 15 quid.

Unfortunately the IPAs are “specials” at Hazelburn, so I don’t know whether they’ll have anything similar when they run out. It’s certainly going to be within my top three places to visit in Shinjuku though – the other two are the Ginga Kogen selling Izakaya and Christon Cafe – especially since it’s on the way to  my number one place to visit in Shinjuku though, especially since it’s on the way to Shinanoya.

Sakura street

Sakura street

Hazelburn is just down Sakura street (between Family Mart and Megishi in the photo above), maybe the 3rd or 4th (of thereabouts) building on the right.

Hazelburn, in the basement

Hazelburn, in the basement

Map:

Click for large size

Click for large size

The street next to the Hazelburn is Sakura street and the big street in the middle is the large street with Donki.

Shinanoya (another site) is a few blocks down and to the left. It currently looks like this:

Shinanoya

Shinanoya

A map:

Click for large size

Click for large size

In the map above, the square to the right of Shinanoya shows Donki. I’m pretty sure there’s a few small side streets missing from this map though, so check the website for proper maps.

Not the biggest selection of beers…

About 75% of the beer range

About 75% of the beer range

…but they usually have some pretty unique stuff on offer. I picked up Nogne 0 Double IPA, Nogne Imperial Stout, Mikkeller Imperial Stout, Samichlaus “The Strongest Lager Beer In The World” Beer (14%), Yoho’s 2009 Seasonal American ESB (!), and a whole bunch of Sankt Gallen: Amber Ale, Brown Porter, Kokutou Sweet Stout, Sweet Vanilla Stout, and their two special “Father’s Day” bottles:

Japanese Father's Day beer (!)

Japanese Father's Day beer (!)

The night finished with a trip to Shinokubo for Korea town and some less refined alcohol:

Soju and beer

Soju and beer

After a bottle of soju and a few rounds of the generic Asahi/Kirin,  I ended up opening the Nogne 0 Double IPA using balcony railings (no bottle opener). It was pretty warm, but gosh, did it taste nice.

Back at the house, I cracked open the Nogne Imperial Stout, Mikkeller Imperial Stout, and Sankt Gallen Sweet Vanilla Stout. I’d had the Nogne on draft at Popeye just a few days ago and it was amazing – not nearly as good in bottles, too much of an “alcohol fumes” taste. The Mikkeller was totally different from the Nogne, very complex flavours in there and a much meatier body. Still a bit fumey but less than the Nogne – would love the try it on draft.

The Sweet Vanilla Stout.. tasted better in the bottle than on draft at the Craft Beer Festival a few weeks ago, but it still has a taste in it I don’t like – a hint of BBQ briquettes or something. Don’t know what. A lot of people say Sankt Gallen are well know for inconsistent and dodgy beers with off flavours – but they also make Yokohama XPA which I really like. The reason I bought so many Sankt Gallen at Shinanoya is to get a better picture of the brewery and see, over time, whether they really are inconsistent.

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