Food & Drink | TOKYO BAR ADVENTURE

Craft beer on tap couldn't be simpler

by Angela Erika Kubo

Opened last month, Pump is the newest addition to Tokyo’s continuously expanding craft-beer scene. The interior is clean and simplistic with unadorned concrete walls, spotless counters and tables and a stainless-steel wall behind the bar counter.

“A few customers are a bit intimidated by how clean and plain the place is,” says owner Yasuhiro Ijima, a former salaryman who quit his engineering job at an IT company last year to focus on starting his own business. “So we’re making the place a bit more interesting by adding colorful posters on the wall.”

Indeed, Pump, while clean and still filled with the scent of freshly cut wood from the new tables placed around the interior, does come off as dreary and prison-like with its concrete wall. This simplicity even extends to the menu. While other bars offer a wide range of choice when it comes to drinks and food, Pump’s menu fills both sides of one sheet of paper — with very large letters. Ijima only serves 10 beers at a time.

The stainless-steel wall, with 10 taps and pressure meters jutting out of it, seems more suited to an industrial-grade kitchen than a bar, but according to Ijima, this setup is what led to the naming of the place. The wall is actually one side of a large refrigerator. Warning me that he was going to take me somewhere cold, Ijima directed me through a door beside the bar that led into a small room with beer kegs and carbon dioxide gas canisters littering the floor.

Except for the first tap, which always contains Yebisu (¥680/pint), the beers flowing through the taps change every few days, but generally each is a different type. The tap on the far right, for example, features the strongest beer available. That day it was Drunk Monk Triple (¥580/half-pint, ¥980/pint), a domestic beer from Outsider Brewing in Yamanashi Prefecture that has a mango-like fragrance and is easy to drink, though it boasts an alcohol content of 8 percent. The ninth tap is typically a black beer, the eighth an IPA, and so on.

Unfortunately for those who prefer a large variety of drinks to choose from, those 10 taps represent all the beers available that day, though Ijima is contemplating whether to start stocking bottled craft beer as well, with the caveat that they would have to be “delicious bottled beers that you can’t find just anywhere.”

As for the food menu, you can try American favorites such as spicy buffalo wings (¥980) and spare ribs (¥1,200), while for someone like me who grew up in the southern United States, the most notable item is the plate of fried okra (¥480), covered in a spicy seasoning.

3-8-3 101 Minami-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo; 03-5927-9733; www.facebook.com/Pumpcraftbeerbar. Angela Erika Kubo is a freelance writer and bar lover based in Tokyo. Follow her on Twitter @aekubo.

[Read more on craft beer in Japan. ]

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