Where to go when just you’re just looking to down a few cold ones in good company...
You can’t keep Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and his signature ‘gypsy brewery’ down. The Danish beer rogue was forced to close his short-lived Tomigaya bar in winter 2016, but he’s now back on the scene. After a few months of pop-ups and other foamy events, a new permanent location finally saw the light of day in April 2017.
Mikkeller Tokyo the sequel is set in a corner building in Shibuya’s love hotel-infested Hyakkendana. Offering a smallish but comfy stage for sipping both Bjergsø’s own artisanal brews and guest beers from Japan and beyond – there are 20 taps in total – it’s a wonderful addition to an offbeat neighbourhood where sex shops co-exist with stylish restaurants and even a Shinto shrine.
Partially opening up onto the street, the ground floor is where to enjoy a drink on your feet and always gets crowded once the sun goes down, while tables are found in the quiet space upstairs. Bringing a touch of Scandinavian flair to Shibuya, Mikkeller is the kind of place we’d like to stop by every night.
The sister shop of Kyoto-based craft beer and sake bar Before 9, Another 8 landed in the capital this April, opening in posh Meguro in a space that used to be a garage. A place for laidback drinking, it’s got tables and benches both inside and out front, in addition to a stand bar that tends to get very crowded on weekends.
Although beer is the speciality at Another 8 – the place is equipped with eight taps – there is also a small but very nice selection of sake. The bar snacks are pretty good too – we’re big fans of the marinated octopus and celery, while those looking for something more substantial will want to try the shirasu (whitebait) and daikon omelette.
When the sun begins to set over Oku-Shibuya (‘inner Shibuya’), the trendy back streets of Tokyo’s buzziest neighbourhood, you might spot more than a few suit-wearing characters making their way towards this shrine to Norwegian craft beer. The best bar in the area for a post-work pint, Øl Tokyo is the local outpost of Oslo Brewing and exudes Scandinavian style: the furniture and part of the décor was flown in straight from Norway.
The 20 taps serve a range of Nordic brews plus a rotating selection of guest beers. Food trucks occasionally park in front of the bar to compensate for its very sparse food menu, although we love the house-made waffles, filled with goat’s cheese – when in Norway and all...
A drinks menu is provided at Ebisu’s Gem by Moto, but locals know you’re best to ignore it. Instead ask manager Marie Chiba or her staff to pick out the perfect drink to match your mood. This counter-only hideout is the repository of some serious sake expertise, so you’re in safe hands.
The food is good too, particularly the ham cutlets with blue cheese and cherry tomatoes with mozzarella, which will keep tempting you back for one last round. Gem lives up to its name, especially in Ebisu – a neighbourhood that suffered from a serious lack of proper sake bars before Chiba and her team rolled into town in July 2015. In fact, it’s become so popular that reservations are recommended at all times.