Last night I placed an order for 25kg of Weyermann Pilsen Malt. I’ll be using it with my new grain mill:

One careful owner('s footprints)

One careful owner('s footprints)

New to me that is – if you look carefully you might see the previous owner’s footprints on the base!

I’m surprised at how small this thing is – I imagined the rollers to be about 30cm long when they are actually only about 12cm (guessing). Heavy though.

The 25kg bag of Pilsen malt is costing 5,722yen, including tax and delivery. I realised this morning how cheap it is to make a beer with grain. That bag can make six pilsners – 21L at 1.046 – which works out at 954yen a batch. The equivalent using DME would be 5 packs – 3250yen.

I’ve never really thought about about how much it costs to make a beer before – but as a Scotsman, those figures are hard to ignore. And the difference is even greater if I’m making something like an IPA.

I don’t intend to make all pilsners with this grain – I’ll be using some to make IPA and other beers also. It might not well suited to those beers but if I mix with Munich or Vienna or even DME, I’ll get away with it. I could have got some 2-row also, but with this bag I have enough goodies at home now to make 6 or 7 beers. That will probably take me to the stage where I’ll have more beer at home than I can feasibly drink before leaving Japan without turning into a vegetable. Getting 2-row also would be just ridiculous.

A few weeks ago I stumbled across this review of Craft Beer Moonlight on Chuwy’s blog.

In Seoul there are plenty of places that make and sell their own beer. Ok, it might be all generic German – but at least there are some places. Tokyo has TY Harbour. That’s it. I guess you could include Taproom in there also, though technically the beer isn’t made on premises. So even though Chuwy said the beers needed improvement, I had to go along and see the place.

The website has some convoluted instructions on how to find the place which resulted in us getting completely lost. Much simpler instructions are:

Map

Map

1. Go to Noborito station. From the ticket barriers, go left, then take the exit on the right with stairs going down.

2. At the bottom of the stairs turn right and walk along the road. Keep walking past the shops along the road by the side of the railway track until you get to the crossing in front of the next station (about 5 minutes walk).

...until you come to this crossing, then go straight

...until you come to this crossing, then go straight

4. Cross the track and keep walking straight. You’ll pass a bunch of shops including a Kains supermarket. Keep walking. On the left you’ll pass some waste ground, then some more buildings, and finally you’ll reach Craft Beer Moonlight.

Why not get off at the other station? You could – but I don’t know what it’s called and the express doesn’t stop there. My way may not be the fastest, but it only takes about 10 minutes and it is the easiest – believe me, you can get lost in those streets very easily.

Craft Beer Moonlight

Craft Beer Moonlight

Craft Beer Moonlight

Craft Beer Moonlight

Inside was remarkable full of Japanese locals:

Cheers, ears

Cheers, ears

Decor inside is as unpretentious as the outside – more like a local community hall than a bar.

The menu lists several beers – Pale Lager, Lager, Bitter, Strong Ale, Half & Half, Porter, Stout – the white board at the back tells you which are available on the day. Sadly the Bitter wasn’t on.

Menu (Click to enlarge)

Menu (Click to enlarge)

This is 300 yen of Pale Lager:

Pale Lager

Pale Lager

Porter:

Porter

Porter

We tried all the beers on offer – Pale Lager, Lager, Strong Ale, and Porter. In honesty, all of them had a sweet-tinge to them, like the taste of LME or a kit. The staff claim though that although some of their beers use extract the four available today don’t – either she’s getting mixed up or the beers are a little young.

Of the four, the Porter was best – not too creamy with nice bittering which hid most of the sweetness. Second best was the Strong ale – strong bittering, light, and a dark caramel taste. The Lager was less sweet and a little more bitter than the Pale Lager.

As well as beer, there’s food available – and it’s pretty good. You don’t expect much for 100~300 yen, but these 300yen dimsum and gyoza were lovely:

I'd go back for these alone!

I'd go back for these alone!

Food really was a surprise there – I wish other places would take note (Taproom, for example) that bar food can be cheap and tasty.

The owner – Yamanaka-san – wasn’t around. According to the female staff member who served me – who apparently makes the beer with the guy in the kitchen – he’s busy advising other breweries and so only comes once a week for a few hours. I didn’t see any of the homebrew kits that Chuwy was talking about being on sale.

Although I tried to talk with her about beer – I’d brought my own IPA for them to try, which I left with them – I got the impression that she was more interested in talking with my Japanese friend about it than me. After our initial chat the only other time she started conversation with “us” is when I left to go to the toilet.

That could just be a language thing or it could be a cultural thing (I’m sure she is Chinese, not Japanese) – but it kind of bugged me. I also asked whether it’s possible to see where they make the beer and was refused with “I’m not even allowed in there” – in which case, how can you claim to be making the beer luv?

This is definitely an interesting little place – I enjoyed the food, and it was superb to see local Japanese enjoying craft beer rather than generic Asahi/Kirin, and buying beer to take out. The beer quality isn’t quite there yet, but what do you expect for 300yen, eh?

On Sunday I received an email back:

Dear Sir,

I tasted your beer and find very good but a little too hoppy.

Sadat Yamanaka
CBC CO.,LTD.

I don’t think we’re going to be seeing hoppy beers there for a while (and the Chinese woman’s reaction to the ingredients in my IPA when we were talking about the hops – “that must be expensive to make” – backs that up) – but I hope they work on getting rid of that kit-like sweetness. If they do, this could be an interesting little place, especially when I want that dim-sum and gyoza.

Moonlight is closed Mondays and only open until 9pm weeknights.

On the way back to the station I found “English Pub Best” by accident – it’s about a minute walk from the station.

English Pub Best

English Pub Best

Seeing Shigakogen Pale Ale on the menu and craving something hoppy, I decided to give the place a try and see whether they had anything good.

You can have a pleasure time with Drinks.

You can have a pleasure time with Drinks.

First time for me to see the phrase “Cash On” – I would see it later in the day in another place also. I’ve only just realised now it means “Cash On Delivery”.

Inside the place was a bit like a “ghost bar” – it had been open since 11am but no customers.

Love the keg placement

Love the keg placement

Placement of the kegs was hardly inspiring. As was the huge head on the Shiga Kogen. Why can’t Japanese get that English pubs don’t serve beer with head like that?

Kinshachi IPA and Shiga Kogen Pale Ale

Kinshachi IPA and Shiga Kogen Pale Ale

Next to the Shiga Kogen is the only IPA on the menu, and possibly even the last bottle of it. Is it just me or does this photo look like it has been taken in a prison… with beer?

The Kinshachi IPA was a typical Japanese IPA – too sweet and not hoppy. I’m pretty sure I had this at the Craft Beer Festival a few weeks back.

The Shiga Kogen also tasted sweet, and also a bit funky. In case it was my tastebuds being destroyed from the sweet craft beer, I downed half a pack of mints – but it still tasted the same. Next time I see this on tap somewhere else I’ll need to try it – because I don’t know whether it really was funky or whether it was supposed to taste like that. Certainly the keg placement doesn’t exactly give one confidence in how they keep their beer.

Tempting

Tempting

There were a few Belgians that I wouldn’t have minded tasting, but with a DVD of some 1980’s American dude wearing cheap Hush Puppy shoes playing LOUD piano jazz annoying me – HOW is this an English pub?! – we left. Time for real beer elsewhere.

No surprise the place is empty when you are advertising yourself as an English pub but playing crap 1980's American piano jazz

No surprise the place is empty when you are advertising yourself as an English pub but playing crap 1980's American piano jazz

Next stop was the train back to Shimo-Kitazawa and Beer Rock. Pretty easy to find – out the south exit, go straight past the McDonald’s and Game Zone, then take a right at Mister Donut, and first left.

Beer Rock

Beer Rock

Beer Rock is in this week’s Metropolis special “Tokyo’s top beer bars & restaurants” guide (which would be better named “Tokyo’s bars & restaurants that paid us money to be included” guide – no Popeye, no Nakameguro Taproom, no Vivo…. excellent guide, Metropolis) so I was a tad worried the place might be full. Thankfully (for us, not the owner) it wasn’t:

Beer Rock

Beer Rock

I liked Beer Rock a lot – several beers on tap at excellent prices (under 1000 yen a pint is rare), a good range of bottles, nice food (potato and blue cheese hot salad was very nice), a good relaxed atmosphere, and a very friendly owner (we talked for about 30 minutes about different beers). Beer Rock only has two flaws: (1) the live music on a Saturday night (cheap sound system), and (2) it’s down the road from Ushi Tori which has a wider selection of beers on tap. Apparently Beer Rock will have two new taps next month though since they are borrowing a beer server from  Kurakura (which used to be around the corner until this month).

On draft at Beer Rock (I only tried the first)

  • Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nector – very nice; the hazelnut is subtle, almost like vanilla or almond
  • Hitachino Nest Sweet Stout
  • Hitachino Nest Weizen
  • Hitachino Nest White Ale
  • Hitachino Nest Real Ginger Ale
  • Suntory Premium Malts
  • Yona Yona Real Ale

All these beers going for under 1000yen a pint (some are US pint, some are UK pint).

Good selection of Japanese beers including Minoh, Iwate Kura, Shiga Kogen, and one of my favourite J Breweries: Hakusekikan (remember that Brown Ale that I love?)

Japanese Bottles

Japanese Bottles (click to enlarge)

From the non-Japanese side – Rogue, Anchor, Pilsner Urquell, Erdinger, Vedette, London Pride & ESB. I could drink beers for a long time here – if I didn’t know that Ushi Tori had more on draft that I want to drink just around the corner.

Iwate Kura IPA and Hakusekikan Pale Ale

Iwate Kura IPA and Hakusekikan Organic

Iwate Kura IPA had an aftertase of caramel at the back of the tongue, though strangely don’t remember whether it was hoppy or not. The Organic was like a malt weizen.

But these beers:

Shiga Kogen IPA and Hakusekikan Pale Ale

Shiga Kogen IPA Harvest Brew and Hakusekikan Pale Ale

What can I say? The Shiga Kogen IPA Harvest Brew must be one of the best examples of a Japanese IPA there is. Very hoppy. I could drink this all night. Off the top of my head, excluding Baird, the only other Japanese IPA that comes close is Preston IPA (Yokohama XPA would be third, but not nearly as good as Shiga Kogen and Preston). Preston IPA is in Aldgate now and tastes amazing – get it while you can.

If Beer Rock was around the corner from me, I’d happily call it my local. It’s a much friendlier and cheaper place than Ushi Tora. Less than a year old, I really hope it continues.

But with the promise of other beers on tap, I had to pay a visit to Ushi Tora before going home.

You may recall I’m not a huge fan of Ushi Tora – but right now I have a craving for Ruination after drinking it in Popeyes a few days ago (which I didn’t write about – well if I wrote about every beer I drink I’d be writing forever!) and I thought they might have it. Unfortunately they didn’t:

Draft beer menu (Click to enlarge)

Draft beer menu (Click to enlarge)

Also unfortunately, they gave me another reason not to like the place – namely this guy, one of the two chefs, wiping his nose with his fingers then dipping the same fingers, unwashed, into a bag of cheese and sprinking it on a pizza.

WASH YOUR HANDS!!!

WASH YOUR HANDS!!!

No, I didn’t get a photo of it. It ranks alongside the second most disgusting “chef” thing I’ve witnessed in Japan, namely the chef in Hemel using a spoon to dish out some ketchup, licking the remaining ketchup off the spoon with his tongue, then dipping the same spoon into mayo – then serving both to a customer.

Beer wise:

  • Nogne Imperial Stout was amazing – sad that the bottles taste different
  • Kinshachi Green Tea was just WRONG and BAD and NO NO NO – not my choice but I ended up downing the half pint in one just so we could move on
  • Shonan Super Bitter IPA – didn’t seem hoppy at first but I grew to like it
  • Sankt Gallen Pale Ale Ushitora version – flat since it’s a “real ale” but nice and hoppy, though a little of that IPA taste I don’t like (but am starting to like)
  • And either Daisen Belgian Dark or Daisen Weizen – can’t remember for sure but whichever one it was, it was nothing special.

Ushi Tora will move premises in July I hear. I hope the place improves at the same time.

Back home for a nightcap:

Yoho Seasonal 2009 American ESB and Samichlans Bier Strongest Lager Beer In The World

Yoho Seasonal 2009 American ESB and Samichlaus Bier Strongest Lager Beer In The World

I wasn’t expecting much from these – and American style ESB and a beer that looks like it wouldn’t look out of place in a tramp’s hand – but I was pleasantly surprised. The ESB was lovely and malty – and the 14% “Strongest Lager Beer In the World” was super complex, almost like an Imperial Stout but with a complex malty Scottish ale body. Completely unexpected. I would order both of these again in an instant.

Sunday was a bit of a write-off.

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