Food & Drink | TOKYO BAR ADVENTURE

Drunk Bat: Attune your sonar to this cozy craft-beer bar

by Angela Erika Kubo

Admittedly, the only reason craft-beer bar Drunk Bat in Mitaka caught my attention was because of its name. For English-speakers, it comes off as amusing; for Japanese speakers with only a few years of compulsory English education under their belt, it can be misheard as “Drug Bad,” which leads to some serious misunderstandings.

“I named the bar Drunk Bat because this place looks like a cave,” said owner Keisuke Ogasahara, who prefers to go by “Oga.”

I had to get him to repeat himself, because at first glance, Drunk Bat, brightly lit with colorful posters on the wall, looks less like a cave and more like — as Oga put it — “a yakitori shop.”

With a shabby interior, beer kegs cluttering the floor and a bar counter that seats only five people, Drunk Bat is not exactly roomy. It only has five or six beer taps, but it makes up for this with a welcoming atmosphere, especially with Oga, who constantly has a grin plastered on his face, to chat with behind the bar counter.

Oga, whose face lights up even further when he talks about IPAs, is clearly a beer enthusiast — maybe even a beer otaku (obsessive), judging by the long line of beer magazines displayed next to the entrance. While he can go on and on about craft beers, he’s helpful and uncondescending to newcomers who need a crash course on craft beer. Traces of his previous profession as a graphic designer are littered around the bar, including T-shirts with the Drunk Bat logo — a beer glass with a bat printed on it next to a crescent moon and the name of the bar — that can be purchased for ¥2,000.

Because I still couldn’t understand his reasoning behind his naming of the bar, Oga pointed to an open door in the back. Squinting and wondering if it was a kitchen or a storage room, I made my way to the back, and it was only after I passed through the door and allowed a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the dim light that I realized I was standing in another bar. Now I got it. Like a cave, the entrance is lit from without, but it’s hard to make out what’s in the back until you venture closer. The hidden bar, with a long wood counter that gleams under the low lighting, can sit far more people than the front, and it literally feels as if you’re in a different bar altogether.

“Another reason why this bar is called Drunk Bat is because bats like to gather together in a cave, just like people like to gather in a bar,” added Oga.

In addition to the unique layout of the bar, Drunk Bat sets itself apart from other craft-beer places and pubs with an unconventional menu, absent of the standard deep-fried dishes such as fish and chips.

“The most obvious pairing with beer is fish and chips,” says Oga. “But I want people to know that vegetables can also pair well with craft beer.”

Menu items include eggplant fritters (¥500), a different quiche every week (¥600) and a weekly vegetable special (¥650) — all the dishes are homemade, cooked up either by Oga or his customers.

Beer Bar Drunk Bat: 1F Inoue Bldg., 3-23-5 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo; 090-8560-4565; www.facebook.com/pages/Beer-bar-Drunk-bat/245101422301628. 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. ]