A few weeks ago I wrote about BrewDog , the Scottish craft brewery that has been making a major effort to enter the Japanese beer market. The new BrewDog Roppongi has been on my to do list since it opened earlier this year. Recently I had a chance to check it out, and I was very favorably impressed with what I found.
Upon entry the bar feels very spacious, especially considering the space constraints of Tokyo. Japan is a land of tiny bars, with watering holes stuffed into all sorts of tiny little nooks and crannies. This can be a lot of fun, and uncovering a small personality filled bar is one of the great treasures of the Japanese drinking experience. However, sometimes you just want to be able to walk around without knocking into anything and everything, and it was great that BrewDog Roppongi felt so roomy.
Once you get settled, it is time to get down to the business at hand, drinking some great craft beer. BrewDog Roppongi has 20 rotating taps featuring mainstays like Punk IPA, and 5AM Saint as well as seasonal and limited edition releases and a few guest taps from the likes of Mikkeller and Stone. With that many options anybody can find something they want to try. Though let’s be honest, it will probably be several somethings. Personally I was really eager to have a glass of Tokyo*, the 18.2 % ABV stout that epitomizes the BrewDog approach to very flavorful and very strong beers. It did not disappoint. The brew was inky black, with a ton of malt sweetness and layers of smoky, toasty, fruity flavors all backstopped by the bite of the high alcohol content. I found the experience to be akin to drinking a port more than a beer. Tokyo* rewarded slow sipping and quiet contemplation. I liked it a lot, but even splitting the 1/3 of a pint was enough to get me started on a nice buzz. Tokyo* packs a punch, and as wonderful as it is one was enough.
For my second beer I went with something a little less intense, the BD Shoreditch 01 White IPA. As far as I can tell, this recipe was created by the staff at BrewDog Shoreditch, one of the chain of BrewDog restaurants in London. This beer was very similar to one of my favorite beers of all time, Lagunitas’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’. Wheat beer and citrus is already a flavor combination akin to bacon and eggs, and so layering hefty amounts of citrus flavored hops onto a wheat beer base is a ticket right to my beer loving heart. BD Shoreditch 01 was everything I want in that style, with a huge spicy citrus hop blast complimenting a quality Belgian style Wit beer. It is a perfect IPA for summer, packed with flavor but light enough to drink several, though the 7.5% ABV might slow you down after the first couple. I really, really enjoyed it.
My companion ordered a Hello My Name is Sonja, which was a Blueberry Double IPA brewed in collaboration with Evil Twin Brewing. Being a Double IPA Hello My Name is Sonja had plenty of hops for both bittering and flavor, but also had a nice kick of blueberry flavor there in the middle. I enjoy fruit IPAs as the added sweetness can help your palate withstand the hop assault. I liked the added complexity the blueberries brought to the table, but the fruit flavors were not as dominant as they could have been. This beer was an IPA first and a blueberry beer second. Depending on your feelings towards blueberries and hops, this is either a bug or a feature.
Casting an eye from the beer menu to the food, I gave their pulled pork tostada a try. It was divine. The pulled pork was topped with green tomato salsa and ricotta cheese and it made an excellent snack. It went really well with the beers, and the flavors were nice and rich without being too spicy. I look forward to being a bit hungrier the next time I go and dipping a little further into the menu. I was very excited to see haggis on the menu as that is not the kind of dish that shows up very often in Japan and I am eager to try it someday.
The only real downside to the proceedings was prices. As you can imagine, eating and drinking in an airy bar specializing in imported beer located in one of the trendiest and most expensive neighborhoods in Tokyo does not come cheap. Most pints were between 1,000 and 1,500 yen, though you could order half or third pints that were a bit more pocket change friendly. The Tokyo* was quite expensive, at 1,300 yen for a third of a pint. Though that did not feel outrageous because the beer is almost four times the alcohol content of a normal Asahi or Budweiser. You really really do not want to drink a full pint of Tokyo*! So while BrewDog is not cheap, I do think it offers good value. This is very much a situation where you pay a lot, but you get what you pay for. At the end of the night your wallet will be lighter, but your head will be full of memories and your heart full of songs.
I swung by BrewDog mostly on a whim, but I really liked what I found. I do not often find myself in Roppongi for dinner and drinks, but I gladly add it to my regular Tokyo area rotation. I can’t wait to go back.
Next week I depart for a two week trip back to America. I will try to update the blog while I am there, but content may be spotty. I will of course be drinking plenty of craft beer from all over the United States, so there will be lots to talk about upon my return to Japan. It has been a few years since I have been back, so I ask- What recommendations to people have for me to drink while I am in America? Please leave a comment and let me know!