The world is conspiring to make me drink every night. On Monday I postponed my “day of rest” until Tuesday because of Ruination. Then on Tuesday I find out it’s the opening of the new Ushi Tora.

Should I stay or should I go? I’m not a huge Ushi Tora fan as you know, but with 38 beers on tap – that must be the second biggest range in Tokyo, behind Popeye. Could I resist that?

The new Ushi Tora

The new Ushi Tora

Obviously not. I resigned myself to drinking but not touching the food – not a good idea because I went out on an empty stomach, but essential after what I saw last time.

The new Ushi Tora is actually in the same building as the old one, but two doors along. In between there’s some other place which, come to think of it, I don’t know what it is. Who cares? If I’m in this area, I’m looking for good beer. Maybe the plan is to squash out that place but pushing the internal walls of both places, or irritating the hell out of the owners by having people walk back and forward between bars all night?

A lot of taps for a small standing bar - superb to see

A lot of taps for a small standing bar - superb to see

Each Ushi Tora has about 15-20 beers on tap – different beers in the old one and new one. It’s a rather strange system – if you want a beer that’s in the other bar, you have to go there, and you can’t carry beers between bars.

The new bar is a small standing bar but – amazingly – smoke free. The old bar remains the same. Completely different atmostpheres and staff.

Who forgot to say Awa chotto?

Who forgot to say "Awa chotto"?

First beer had an awful amount of head, but at least the prices were cheaper than usual for the launch. Subsequent beers both myself and Chuwy requested with small heads and the staff were happy to do that – in fact it became a bit of jokey-banter by the end of the night.

The menu in the standing bar (click to enlarge)

The menu in the standing bar (click to enlarge)

Beer list in the new bar.

Greedy boy

Greedy boy

My choice, and Chuwy being greedy. Looks like he’s even wanting an Ebisu there, strange boy. Next he’ll be on the superdry.

He'd look like a pro if it wasn't made in Fisher Price plastic

He'd look like a pro if it wasn't made in Fisher Price plastic

A behind the scenes look at how Chuwy photographs for his blog. He carries two cameras and two tripods. I felt rather under prepared with my crappy little Sony. I’ll need to bring my big boy out next time – my DSLR, saucy! – so that I don’t feel out camerad.

After the Alaskan IPA – hoppy but a little watery; would order again though – and Super Vintage Oak Casked Version – excellent beer; little bit fruity, vanilla, winey, but not OTT like the oaked Stone Arrogant B – we decided to head out to the “old” bar and sample a few beers.

Oh how I'd love to take you home tonight

Oh how I'd love to take you home tonight

The path was littered with random kegs – this Rogue and a Nogne being just two. Full kegs, so it looks like they don’t keep the kegs refridgerated.

The other bar menu (click to enlarge)

The other bar menu (click to enlarge)

After the smoke free “new” bar, the old bar was horrid. So much smoke that I couldn’t smell any aroma from my Rainbow Hop Pale Ale, and maybe that contributed to me thinking the beer was nothing more than “inoffensive” – not hoppy, a little fruity on the tongue, but mostly watery. In the time it took me to buy my half, Chuwy decided the smoke was too much and wasn’t going to order anything. I quickly downed my half and left.

How big?! (was the head)

How big?! (was the head)

Back at the new place, it was getting busier. Looks like someone just told something shocking to the woman with the glasses.

I bought Chuwy a, erm, 300ml! But it cost the same as a pint, honest..

I bought Chuwy a, erm, 300ml! But it cost the same as a pint, honest..

I bought Chuwy a drink, taking pity after reading his “I am poor” tweets – and as a thank you for Boozelist. The “pint” of Super Vintage was actually 300ml so I’m not sure if I qualify for his “I bought Chuwy a pint!” list.

Fish, cats, and Chuwy. Is the cat watching Chuwy or the fish?

Fish, cats, and Chuwy. Is the cat watching Chuwy or the fish?

But by this stage, our photography – me photographing Chuwy photographing beer – was starting a bit of a trend:

Photographing people photographing beers? That looks like fun! I wanna do that too!

Photographing people photographing beers? That looks like fun! I wanna do that too!

And everyone started to want in on the photography action, even people without cameras. This guy got out his scars:

Everyone wanted in on the action

Everyone wanted in on the action

Now it was just getting silly. It became clear that this drinking on a empty stomach lark was taking its toll. After the Super Vintage, I’d had Bekken Pilsner (good smell but dry and sweet at the same time!), Rogue Imperial IPA (superb), a sip of someones Harvest moon Barley Wine 2009 (which was released the same day and taught me that barley wine can taste very good), and Nogne Imperial Stout (great as always).

We had to move on to Beer Rock for some food.

I like the new Ushi Tora. Unlike the old place which is smokey and a little bit “train station Izakaya” crossed with “Kirin City”, the new place is smoke free and relaxed. People talk to each other. There’s opportunity to do silly things. And they staff will pour small head. It was probably safe to eat the food there also since nose-and-pizza guy works in the old place, though for the moment I don’t have that trust.

I can be sure I had this one

I can be sure I had this one

Four of us moved to Beer Rock – myself, Chuwy, Tim who organises the BEERS group that meets monthly (not the same as the meetup.com greoup), and a Japanese friend of ours, Rei. I was surprised Tim had never beer to Beer Rock, but then the place was only opened in September last year. Here‘s my writeup from a few weeks ago. Tim liked the place so much he said “I’m going to bring my BEERS group here.”

Beer Rock was empty – like I said before, Beer Rock’s weakness is that it’s in competition with Ushi Tora and while Beer Rock has a number of drafts and a superb range of bottles, it’s hard to compete with 20-40 taps around the corner. Tonight, with Ushi Tora launching its new bar, Beer Rock being empty wasn’t surprising.

But I like Beer Rock a lot. The beer is excellent, the staff are friendly, the food is good, it’s relaxed – it’s an excellent place.

Did I order this?

Did I order this?

Unfortunately by this stage, I think my mind must have gone. I have random snaps of beer that I don’t think I ordered. My iPhone tasting notes say things like “Jap herb beer is better” without saying which beer the notes refer to.

I'm just going to give up now and accept defeat - I really have no idea

I'm just going to give up now and accept defeat - I really have no idea

I think I had the Brutal Bitter, Shakespeare Stout (notes: “v. good but could be more imperial”), and Summer Blond (notes: bitter like a pilsner but a little Belgian) – but I might just have tasted someone elses. I might have had a Double Dead Guy also – my notes say “Double dead excellent” – but maybe not. I don’t really know. I remember getting the last train home, I remember stopping off in a convenience stores and buying three packs of sandwiches and scoffing them all before I reached home,.. but I’m a bit hazy on other details.

I know one thing though: I must ask the owner of Beer Rock his name next time I’m there. Can’t believe I don’t know it.

Thanks to everyone who made the night so enjoyable! Congrats to Ushi Tora for going smoke free. And if you’re in the Shimo-kitazawa area, please don’t go only to Ushi Tora – stop in at Beer Rock. It’s a great place and the food is a safer bet!

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