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Sunday, June 30, 2002

Thirsty yet? Here's where to enjoy beer in Japan


By BRYAN HARRELL
Special to The Japan Times

Belgo, Shibuya, (03) 3409-4442

Incredible selection of imported beer, mainly Belgian. Choose your favorite bottle of beer from their huge refrigerator, take it to the counter and pay for it. This nifty self-service system allows you to check the freshness date on the bottle and keep track of how much you spend as you drink. Interesting multilevel interior.

Bernd's Bar, Roppongi, (03) 5563-9232

Run by Bernd Haag from Frankfurt, this is the best place for German beer in Tokyo. All popular German styles served, along with German food in generous portions.

Bois Cereste, Akasaka, (03) 3588-6292

Belgian beer only, but the best place for it in Japan, and probably in Asia, with more than 130 varieties. Owner Yamada-san lived four years in Brussels and returns often to hone his encyclopedic knowledge of Belgian ales.

Fishmarket Taproom, Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, (055) 963-2628

A superb selection of five cask-conditioned ales brewed by American Bryan Baird and lovingly drawn by handpump into the pint glass. In addition, there are usually two seasonal ales tapped using CO2 Definitely worth the trip for beer enthusiasts in Tokyo, though booking a room in Numazu and drinking until closing time is more comfortable than taking the 2 1/2-hour train ride back to Tokyo.

Frigo, Shinjuku, (03) 5371-0666

Sister shop of Belgo (see above) with the same system, but a slightly larger beer selection.

Frog & Toad, Roppongi, (03) 3408-3602

One of the few British-style pubs in Tokyo that takes care not to serve ales too cold. Small but comfortable and well-managed.

German Farm Grill, Shibuya, (03) 5457-2871

Well-maintained selection of draft German beer that they import themselves and serve at reasonable prices.

Kura Kura, Shimokitazawa, (03) 5433-2323

Specialty beer pub with an emphasis on Japanese microbrews.

Little Euro, Meguro, (03) 3491-2312

Friendly neighborhood pub with a surprising selection of diverse brews.

Popeye Bakushu Club, Ryogoku, (03) 3633-2120

Best selection of Japanese microbrew in the world, period. Has 40 different beers on tap -- a rarity in Japan.

TY Harbor Brewery, Tennozu/Shinagawa, (03) 5479-4555

Tokyo's best microbrewery serves an interesting and tasty selection of American-style microbrews produced under the direction of Brewmaster Kazunaga Abe. Unfortunately, however, they can all too easily be overshadowed by the stellar Asian- and Italian-influenced Californian cuisine of Chef David Chiddo.

Where to buy it:> Isetan department store, Shinjuku, (03) 3352-1111

Kawachiya, Shibuya (between Seibu department store and Tokyu Hands), (03) 3462-6604

Tanaka-ya, Mejiro, (03) 3953-8888

Tobu department store, Ikebukuro, (03) 3981-2211

Yamaya, Shinjuku, (03) 3342-0601; Akasaka, (03) 3583-5657; and more than 120 other stores in Eastern Japan listed on their Web site at www.yamaya.co.jp

The big brewers' best While small breweries emphasize quality over quantity, getting great beer from a mega-brewing operation is far from impossible.

Asahi Black is a well-crafted German-style dark beer with a mild tang and good balance.

Not to be confused with Kirin Black, Kirin Stout is a thick, dark ale with a huge body, 8 percent alcohol and a smoky-sweet lingering aftertaste.

Sapporo Edel Pils is one of the finest Japanese lagers ever, with a well-structured malt body and a brilliantly forward herbal bitterness thanks to the use of high-quality European hops in three times the amount used for Sapporo's ordinary beers. Only available on draft at selected locations.

The sadly under-rated Suntory Malt's Super Premium is a superior lager with a good balance of richness and bitterness, with a fine flavor profile.

Information in English Tokyo Food Page ( www.bento.com ) regularly features articles in English about craft beer, as well as a monthly newsletter, Brews News, which can be viewed at www.bento.com/brews.html



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