THIS PLACE HAS NOW CLOSED
(Prices update, October 2014: Thanks to Tim M. for alerting me to the change in prices. It seems that the beer selection has shifted away from Japanese stuff and more towards imports. The prices consequently seem to have increased considerably. Beers are now individually priced, which makes sense when you are selling imports and local stuff, but now their main menu only seems to list the lowest price in a ‘starting from…’ format. On the last taplist they put on their facebook the regular size starts from ¥940 and the large from ¥1150. Not a massive increase, but when you bear in mind this is the very cheapest beer and it is most likely to be something that is priced a lot lower elsewhere, it jars a bit. Some of the imports were priced at an astonishing ¥1680 (regular) and ¥1980 (large). Bit of a shocker, and if they had these prices when I went there, I wouldn’t have bothered adding it here. I don’t think I will be going back. Actually, I’m sure I won’t.)
Today, a fairly new place that has opened in Ebisu. Previous to Hops 125 opening, the only place of particular interest to beer lovers around here was probably the Yebisu beer museum in the nearby Ebisu Garden Place (although to be honest, it’s not really somewhere you would want to go very often, even if they do have less common Yebisu varieties). But since June, we now have Hops 125. Ebisu isn’t an area I go to particularly often, but there are a few things to do there, and now we have a good beer place too.
Ebisu is a pretty fancy area, and Hops 125 goes someway to fitting in with this. However, even as a sweaty, scruffy man (it was a hot day, ok?!) I did not feel out of place sitting at the counter. It seems primarily aimed at a dining and drinking crowd, as the food menu was expansive and quite classy. I believe they have a ¥350 cover charge normally. I was not charged this, but I said I was only drinking and sat at the bar. Perhaps this was an exception though. I have certainly been places recently where saying you are only drinking and sitting at the bar does not exempt you from the charge. It’s always a bit of a grey area. In any case, there is a small counter section and an assortment of tables spread around. I was there pretty soon after opening too, which might have helped my cause.
On to the beer. Hops 125 has 12 taps but we are only really interested in the 10 taps of craft beer. When I visited they were having some kind of Japanese Alps special tap selection, so basically, plenty of stuff from Nagano which is pretty good by me. I quite like themed menus. Beers come in two sizes, regular (330ml) and large (470ml). Prices for all beers are the same. The regular is ¥890 and the large ¥1100. It’s certainly not the cheapest place around, but it’s not ridiculously overpriced like some new Tokyo places are (places that I won’t put on here as I don’t want to go to them). The regular size is a bit bigger than most places regular/glass/small/whatever they want to call it, so you do get to enjoy a bit more of each beer if you are on the smaller sizes. They have a daily ‘happy hour’ till 8pm where you get ¥100 off a large size, which makes it a bit cheaper too. They post their tap lists on their facebook page, so worth keeping an eye on that. They also have a selection of bottles from various Japanese breweries, most of which are around ¥980.
So, a pretty nice place. I spent a while chatting to the owner and he was really welcoming and wanted to talk about beer. He has plans to start importing Australian craft beer which would be pretty interesting as I am not aware of any bars that have Australian draught. It seems clear that the place fits well into the local area and is nice that now people have a choice of something a bit more interesting than the regular beers on offer most other places. Back in London there was a lot more uniformity in the pricing of similar beers in different bars, but this seems much more fluid in Tokyo. There are places that are a lot cheaper than Hops 125, but at the same time there are places much more expensive. I liked the place and will definitely pop in again when I am in the area, but this will most likely be during happy hour and sitting at the counter if that avoids the cover charge. If you have to pay a cover charge in a place when you just want to drink, it’s impossible not to think about the charge effectively putting up the prices of your drinks. Cover charges kill pub crawls, and they definitely make me think twice about visiting somewhere. But anyway, this is a debate that would be better aired somewhere that did charge me a cover, so thank you to Hops 125 for not doing that!
Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Saturday & Sunday, 17.30-24.00
Lights Ebisu 1F, 1-21-18 恵比寿, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
From Ebisu JR station, leave via the West gate and the West Exit. This should take you out on to a side street. If you are coming from the metro station, leave via exit 1 and then walk through the JR station at ground level. Turn right out of the West Exit and take the second left hand turn. When you get to the main road, turn right and walk up to the big junction. At this junction it gets a bit confusing! It is basically a left that you are doing, but it is the left slightly after the lights rather than the one before. Basically, Mizuho bank needs to be on your left as you turn down the side street, rather than your right. Hops 125 is a bit less than 100m down this side street on the left hand side.