They say you should never reminiscence on old loves, beers change, breweries develop new beers, and bars close. Since BeerTengoku has been up and online for over 6 years – an age in blogs it seems – we’ve seen a fair few close. Reasons are abound – lack of customers, being priced out of the area, or changing tastes. Someone asked us on a recent podcast about what our favourite closed bars were and thought it would be a good article to write up. The following are some of the bars we’ve enjoyed and repeatedly went back to. Where possible, we’ve tried to list the reason for the bar closing; however, sometimes it’s unknown.
Brimmer Beer Box in Omotesando, Tokyo
Why we liked it: It was very quaint. I would never imagine standing and drinking in a metal shipping container would have been such a good laugh at times. It was one of the places that we enjoyed that had no beers or whistles – literally all it was was a couple of bar stools with Brimmer Beer on tap and had a unique feel to it. The beers were also cheap, starting from ¥500 with tax already included, along with some pitchers of beer for a decent price.
Why it closed: The owner sold the land to build a car park.
Original Review: https://beertengoku.com/2015/01/07/brimmer-beer-box-omotesando/
Alternatives: West Coast Brewing Container in Shizuoka – a bit of a trek for those outside of Shizuoka.
Craft Beer & Whisky Bar Transit in Hatanodai, Tokyo
Why we liked it: This was recommended to us by a couple of friends and as soon as I went for the first time back in mid-2015, I knew it was a place that I would continually go back to. The darkened atmosphere, with large leather sofas and chairs, and some chilled out jazz playing in the background was a great place for sitting down and drinking. Compound this with decent prices, an excellent selection of beers on tap, and some cheap, homemade food and snacks, then it was easy to come back with change from ¥5000. The only downside was that the bar was smoking.
Why it closed: The owner had had enough and wanted to do something different.
Original Review: https://beertengoku.com/2015/10/14/craft-beer-whisky-bar-transit-hatanodai-tokyo/
Alternatives: N/A – Nothing since then has come close to what Transit was and meant.
August Beer Club B in Hiroo, Tokyo
Why we liked Iit: This was the first craft beer listing on BeerTengoku and it was one that I repeatedly went to for three reasons – the happy hour beers, the chips, the spicy padron peppers. The former, while not world class beers, were well-sized and a bargain for the ¥500 they cost. The spicy padron peppers were akin to playing Russian roulette but with spice. Known for being a bland pepper, once in a while you could end up with a sucker punch of spice to the throat. And the chips – proper Belgian fries – were delicious and I am not ashamed to say I missed them.
Why it closed: Lack of customers, in spite of being in a busy shopping street.
Original Review: https://beertengoku.com/2014/07/09/august-beer-club-b-hiroo/
Alternatives: August Beer Lab Kitchen in Nihonbashi, Tokyo– got all of the staples on tap.
Biere Cave Jan Bar in Kannai, Yokohama
Why we liked it: I’m a fan of Yokohama Baystars (I refuse to add DeNA in there) and would often pop in here for a couple of pre-game, or post-game beers depending on the win/lose sitation, and found it to be a friendly little bar with a decent range of beers on tap. While the prices were a little higher than usual, the beers were always well-kept and served well. On top of that, the food was freshly cooked in one of the smallest kitchens that I’ve seen and was delicious. The music was loud enough to drown out other people’s conversations but not enough to drown out those ones near you.
Why it closed: Building owner changed.
Original Review: https://beertengoku.com/2016/01/13/biere-cave-jan-bar-kannai-yokohama/
Alternatives: Beer Bar Jan in Yotsuya, Tokyo– it’s literally the sister bar!
Kura Kura Ji-Beer House
Why we liked it: One of the original craft beer bars that helped keep the movement going, Kura Kura Ji-Beer House was first set up in Shimokitazawa, before moving over to Kanda a few years ago, before finally closing down in 2019. It was a shame that it happened as Kura Kura Ji-Beer House had done a lot to promote craft beer from a variety of Japanese breweries, but times change and sentiments are soon forgotten. The small plates of food were a nice addition to pick on alongside a well curated craft beer list that offered up some solid, dependable beers from breweries.
Why it closed: Competition. Open in Kanda means you’ve got a lot to compete against.
Original Review: https://beertengoku.com/2016/05/04/kura-kura-ji-beer-house-kanda-tokyo/
Alternatives: Number 6 in Nihonbashi, Tokyo – a good variety of beers and grub on tap.
Thrashzone Meatballs in Kannai, Yokohama
Why we liked it: When the original Thrash Zone stopped selling food, well chips and dips, and replaced it with peanuts and other stuff like that, it was a sad day. I often enjoyed popping in at around 4pm, getting a couple of pints and some chips in, so when Thrashzone Meatballs opened up, it seemed like a great combination. Meatballs cooked in-store with some Thrash Zone beer on tap. While it was a great idea, the location was in the opposite end of where the majority of craft beer bars are – in fact it was just around the corner from Biere CAve Jan Bar. A shame really as the concrete minimalist atmosphere and heavy metal was conducive to stopping in for one or two beers pre-baseball.
Why it closed: Covid-19 took its toll on business and Thrashzone Meatballs was one of the casualties.
Original Review: https://beertengoku.com/2016/07/23/thrashzone-meatballs-in-kannai-yokohama/
Alternatives: Thrashzone Yokohama – the OG but eat before you go.
I’ve only been to thrashzone and really enjoyed it there, if not for this covid thing I would have been there again a couple of months ago.