Fish and Chips - small size

Fish and Chips - small size

I’ve had some pretty weird Fish and Chips in Japan, but looks-wise, the “fish sausage” I was served at Hazelburn Shinjuku last night has to take the award. It tasted good though – freshly made batter, flaky fish inside – it just looked strange. Maybe the large size actually looks like a fish.

Specials last night at Hazelburn were Chiswick Bitter and Fuller’s ESB. I had both – ESB is definitely the star of the two. Chiswick Bitter was limited to a 30 keg import to Japan though.

Fuller's ESB at Hazelburn

Fuller's ESB at Hazelburn

Had to return the first pint for having too much head – a common problem in Japan. Hilariously, they thought I was complaining because there was too little head, something which Japanese apparently do complain about (which explains why Japanese places often serve British and American beers with huge head) so I had to sent it back again. This time they understood and they were happy to de-head it. Every beer after that was perfect.

Hazelburn gets some stick from hopheads for not having that great a range of beer – but actually, they have a fair range there. Hazelburn is the only place I know of in Japan that has both Belhaven Best and Belhaven St Andrews continuously on tap, as well as other standards like Old Speckled Hen and Strongbow. They also have bottles which include Young’s, Boddingtons, Brewdog, Newcastle Brown, Harviestoun Ola Dubh, Discovery Blonde Beer, and White Shield IPA. White Shield is nothing special but Discovery Blonde Beer is actually pretty hoppy – it’s not a bad beer.

There are no decent IPAs though, no radical beers like the Americans have. When I asked the English speaking bar manager “Why don’t you have hoppy American IPAs then?” he replied: “Because we’re a British bar.”

When I asked “Why don’t you have more British IPAs then” he replied: “Because we can’t get them in Japan.” Two months ago they had Thistle IPA – but beers like that don’t come regularly to Japan.

While I feel “Damn you! British beers are back in the stone age, get some American beers in then!” I have to admire that they are at least staying true to the aim of serving UK beers.

Traquair Jacobite Ale and Young's Special London Ale

Traquair Jacobite Ale and Young's Special London Ale

What’s sad is that I know that when I visit Scotland later this year, there are going to be many times when I’ll be wishing for a selection like Hazelburn’s. I’ll have choices of Tennants and Carling and Stella – if I’m lucky there may be a white beer or Guinness.

I asked the bar manager at Hazelburn (should have got his name – doh!): “Which of your beers do you like the best?” He recommended Traquair Jacobite Ale and Young’s Special London Ale – and both were excellent. When I’m back in the Scotland I’ll be lucky if I get anything close.

It may not have the best range in Tokyo for hopheads but Hazelburn is better than most of the pubs in Scotland, and it has the benefit of not being overrun by foreigners like Dubliners and Hobgoblin and the home of flat beer, Hub. And despite not having been there for two months, they still remembered me – the staff in Cataratas in Shibuya don’t even acknowledge my existence even though I go there about twice a month.

Shinjuku still needs a decent hoppy bar, but for me, Hazelburn is one of only two good bars in the area – the other one being Frigo. I’m glad I found it. My advice to hopheads: See Hazelburn for what it is – a bar with decent British beer. That might not be what you want, but it doesn’t mean others wont like it.

Mmmm, I really did enjoy the Young’s Special London Ale – seeing it in the photo above now makes me long for another one…

Advertisements