Watering Hole
Home-brew heaven in Yoyogi
By: Amy Holdsworth | Sep 17, 2012 | Issue: 964 | 6 Comments | 7,789 views

Japan’s homebrew hero Ichiri Fujiura and his wife Michiko Tsutsui, a former manager at Vivo, have pooled talents to bring thirsty Tokyoites a new addition to the jibiru circuit. Watering Hole promises a nice marriage of domestic and international selections, with big hitters such as Stone and BrewDog alongside local breweries like Isekedoya and Harvest Moon.

The nineteen taps—handmade by Fujiura—plus two hand-pumps mix creative choices and crowd-pleasers. Beer styles run the gamut from pilsner to barley wine, with something to satisfy every taste. Better yet, next year the couple’s adjacent brewery, Tharsis Ridge, will add its own craft beer to the lineup. Most pints run ¥1,000-1,300 yen; a better deal than the half-pints, which start at ¥750. The indecisive can spring for a beer flight for ¥1,000.

To start, I opted for Beer Buddy’s New Zealand IPA, a hoppily crisp beer that suited the weather perfectly. My partner went for Nihonkai Club’s Bohemian Style Pils, and ended up with a glorified Ebisu. Not bad, but not great. We quickly moved on, ready for something heavier. Epic Brewing’s Rio’s Rompin’ Rye and Ballast Point’s Tongue Buckler seemed to fit the bill.

Menu in: Japanese, English

Half-pints from ¥750; pints from ¥1,000

Nonsmoking seats available

At the bar or by the window

Nice selection and good location

Over-priced half pints

5-26-5-103 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku

Tel: 03-6380-6115

Nearest station: Yoyogi

Open daily 3-11:30pm

At 10 percent ABV, many bars serve the latter in a smaller snifter or tulip glass. Watering Hole gives you a pint. This alters the flavor slightly, emphasizing the hops more than the sweetness, and it proved the favorite. Epic’s Rye, on the other hand, seemed heavier and cloudier than on a previous tasting. We asked if it was the bottom of the keg.

Let me tell you: this staff knows their stuff. We found out how long the keg had run, that it was from the middle, and that it was a live beer, accounting for the taste change. Even more impressive was the friendly, helpful manner of the answer. These are people who love their beer.

On our way to being sozzled, we deemed it an appropriate time for food. The menu is small but varied. The organic green salad (¥700) is fresh and generous, but the dressing underwhelming. We wished we’d ordered the sausage (¥600)— we salivated every time the sizzling platters went out. The fried hops (¥350) come with a warning on the menu—“bitter!!”—but the flavor is nuanced. They paired nicely with the heavier-bodied Rye; less so with the already complex Tongue Buckler.

Luckily for jibiru fans this bar lives up to its name, offering a good range served by helpful staff, and decent food alongside. Skip the water, and drink more beer.

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  • tripeler

    There is no homebrewing going on at Watering Hole. Home brewing, the making of beer in one’s home, is illegal in Japan. Watering Hole is a craft beer bar. Also, I was hoping the writer would explain WHY Fujiura is “Japan’s homebrew hero,” but there is no explanation. For the record, Fujiura was once a noted winner in a homebrew contest run by the American Homebrewer’s Association. While I applaud the writer’s intent on publicizing good craft beer, it is obvious that serious omissions in the story, coupled by some fairly careless editing, leaves the article with a whole lot to be desired. Finally, I have heard that Watering Hole intends to brew their own beer in the near future, but this is not mentioned at all in this story. Like being served a fairly lousy beer, this story left me totally unsatisfied.

  • txjewel

    Actually, the article DOES says that the brewery next door, owned by the couple, will be adding their own craft beer next year.

  • booyah23

    And what a shame it is that home brewing is illegal here. It’s one of the many things slowly pushing me back towards the States.

  • tripeler

    I think this was added later.

  • tejaku

    No, it wasn’t added later. It’s in the print copy of the magazine, as well.

  • Henry

    Home brewing illegal in Japan. I wonder why Rakuten sell homebrew beer kits…

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