Slurp through 30 types of beer at a vibrant, open-fronted bar in the Bohemian urban-suburbia of Jimbocho, courtesy of Craft Beer Market’s second branch. The first one in Toranomon has been such a success since opening last year that this new locale was unveiled a couple of months back to some media fanfare. Which perhaps explains why, when arriving there at 5pm, the entire place was booked out. We’d heard a reservation was recommended, but figured getting there early would be fine. Wrong.
We managed to wangle a table for a limited two hours. That gave us an excuse to order practically everything on the menu in record time.
Most ales are Japanese, from Shikoku, Saitama, Kanagawa and more, with international wildcards thrown in. We kicked off with a Belgian cherry beer less sweet than its aroma, which layered the palate reasonably. Various other beers came and went, but none were particularly satisfying. The hoppy beers seemed too hoppy, while the fruity beers were too fruity or not fruity enough. Some were wonderful on the first sip, only to be scuppered by a bizarre aftertaste. We’re not craft connoisseurs, but it was quite difficult to find one that really worked. The victor was a Kanagawa yuzu beer. You couldn’t taste the yuzu but the ale was great.
The otoshi—tasty tostados of tuna salad—turned us onto the food menu, with assorted snacks and Japo-Mediterranean fusion. Pass over the paltry ham (half portion; ¥900) for the rotisserie chicken that revolves seductively above the shiny taps. A whole bird comes quartered for ¥1,600, with a lip-smacking flavor to its crispy skin. The skinny and herby chips (¥600) are abundant, dusted with chilli powder for some bite.
All this tucker couldn’t soak up the gallons o’ ale. At ¥480 a glass, it’s more economical to get pints for ¥780, but the desire to try kept us on the glasses. Plus most come only slightly chilled, and even a glass’s dregs could get a little soupy.
The place is smartly laid out with high, square wooden tables, bottles and kegs on display and a chalkboard beer map of Japan. But the best part is the Tokyo rarity of an open front that allows the summer breeze (if any) to float in. Smokers are confined to a small corner box, and there’s a small standing-only area.
In the end we were glad to be kicked out at 7:15pm, as a longer stay would have led to bankruptcy. The costs mount up as you’re chugging down the glasses, and the food, though generally respectable, is not cheap. All in all it was fun tasting a range of Japan’s craft beer, but gimmicky flavors might make you wish for a smaller, and better, selection.