Another American who has been carving out an impressive niche for himself in Japan is brewmaster Bryan Baird. Over nine years has passed since he first began producing craft beers, which he sold in his own brewpub, the Fishmarket Taproom in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture.
After gradually building up his distribution base, last spring he opened his first branch in Tokyo, in Naka-Meguro. Now, he already has a second venue in the city, the Harajuku Taproom, which opened earlier this month.
Besides carrying a full range of Baird draft beers, there are two other original brews on tap — Harajuku Ale, a light European-style summer ale that is poured from a hand pump; and Harajuku Taproom Celebration Ale, a hoppy, refreshing American IPA.
The hand-crafted wood decor is very similar to the interior of the Naka-Meguro branch. You can also buy similar (but not interchangeable) prepaid “Nombei” drink cards that entitle you to 12 pints for just ¥9,000. However, the ambience and food menu are considerably different.
Essentially, the Harajuku Taproom is an izakaya tavern, specializing in kushi-yaki, grilled skewers of chicken and vegetables, rather than European pub grub. You order at your seat, and instead of paying upfront, as in a pub, here you settle up before leaving.
With beer this good, it really doesn’t matter what you’re eating. But as the first izakaya pub selling only jibiru (microbrewed beer), this is definitely an idea whose time has come. We’ll raise a glass to that.