Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Craftheads in Shibuya

Oh thank heaven,
for Craftheads in Shibuya
The craft beer movement in Japan doesn't seem to have caught on with quite the grip that it has back home. While trying to locate a good craft beer bar, as we always do when traveling, we ran into a little bit of difficulty. There seemed to only be maybe one or two different beer bars in Tokyo that serve Japanese craft beers. Luckily, after a good bit of research, we located one of them. Craftheads is located about ten minutes from Shibuya Station in the basement of a building a little away from the craziness of that neighborhood.
Featured pours on the wall behind
the bar
It's a cool space with a nice long wooden bar, and a few tables behind. There are all sorts of bottles located at the rear, and rows and rows of taps. On the chalkboard wall behind the bar, you'll see a list of beers that they have on tap and are featuring for the day. When we visited, they had a bunch of beers from North Island Brewery out of Hokkaido. We were all in.
North Island Coriander Black
I started out with the North Island Coriander Black. At initial taste, I was surprised just at how dark and chocolatey it was, with just a hint of spice and coriander zing at the back of the throat. It went down smooth, and I would order it again. A nice, diverse, different beer. 
Shigakogen's IBA
The bigger half went for Shigakogen Brewery's IBA (India Black Ale). The hops that they use for this ale were especially fragrant, maybe even flowery. I wonder if they're grown in Japan? It was bitter and smooth, but with distinct caramel sweet notes near the end.
Onidennsetsu's Tomato Ale
Since I wanted to try something really different, I ordered up a glass of the Onidennsetsu Brewery's Tomato Ale. A little strange to add tomato flavoring to a Belgian style ale, but it kind of worked. The beer was sweet and fruity, but also a touch savory. I would describe this beer as crisp but clearly too much stuff going on to say light. Not sure if I would order a keg of this for a summer party, but it was an interesting Japanese beer to try.
We also ordered the Fujisakurakogen Pils, which was really just a good solid pilsner. I would call it less fragrant and crisp than say a typical Czech pilsner, but it still had a good fizz as it went down the throat, and some floral grassiness in the head. (sorry, no photo.)
The next beer that we went for was the North Island Brewery IPA Falconer's Flight. This beer tasted more akin to an American IPA than a British IPA, very interesting, pronounced hop notes, again bringing us to wonder whether the crisp herby flagrant smell could have been produced by hops grown in Japan. Even if they were not hops grown in Japan, they were definitely a flavor that we'd only seen distinctively here. (sorry, no photo.)
Three Floyd's Robert the Bruce
Nearing the end of our tour, I picked out a beer too well named not to try. Robert the Bruce, by Three Floyds, would be yet another beer we would be unable to try in the USA. It was hoppy and dark, with distinct caramel notes and a fine scent of flowers coming off of the fluffy head. Quite a lovely malty beer to enjoy with anyone who likes a malty, earthy beer interplaying with floral notes, and a touch of sugar near the end. 
Three Floyds' Thick White Freaks
The final beer that we ordered was the Three Floyds' Thick White Freaks. While not Japanese, we can't get Three Floyds in Massachusetts, so I was delighted that they had it. The Thick White Freaks was a delicious example of a Belgian white ale. Very light, smooth and a little bit fruity. The smell is clean and refreshing.
While sipping all sorts of beautiful beers that we would soon miss back home, we were getting peckish. And that's the great thing about this little beer bar is that they have a variety of pizza, burgers, and little snacks to order. We went for the smoked plate.
Smoked quail eggs
The plate came with tasty little quail eggs, prepared in nitamago style, marinated with soy, mirin, and sugar. The light smoke that flavored the eggs was a welcome addition to something that I pop like candy at any time of day... if I could only find them in my perfect world somewhere over the rainbow. Creamy center, solid whites, sweet/salty/smokey flavor.
Cold smoked salmon
There was also a few wonderful slices of cold smoked salmon, which were tender, salty, and highly addictive.
Smoked cashews
Who doesn't like salted, smoked nuts? I didn't know what I was missing. These smoked cashews were crunchy and savory... excellent at soaking up some of that beer.
Smoked pork
To round out the plate, they had rounds of delicately smoked pork loin. Smoked pork is one of my favorite things, as it's so meaty and satisfying to chew. This salty version of thin sliced, smoked chashu - whether on top of a steaming bowl of ramen, or artfully presented in a tasting plate of deliciousness, is always a welcome site. I was thrilled to see something so homey being smoked and served up as an item at a little beer bar.
If your'e looking for a craft beer bar in Tokyo, Craftheads is an excellent choice. The owner is American, and commented to us when asked how the craft beer movement is doing in Japan that he has been here for 17 years waiting for it to explode. I certainly hope that it does, and it's certainly making strides with nice little bars like this.

Craftheads Craftbeer & Bourbon
渋谷区神南1-13-10 B-1


  1. "There seemed to only be maybe one or two different beer bars in Tokyo that serve Japanese craft beers."

    There are A LOT more.
    Check out this list:



    1. Wow! Great list! Will have to visit a bunch of these places on my next trip. Thanks for sending!