Today, the latest in a chain of Chuo line ‘lots of wood’ brewpubs. It is fair to say they are quite a lot of similarities between this place, Bakushu Kobo in Koenji and Bakushu Dojo in Asagaya. My limited knowledge of the history of these places amounts to the fact that Koenji was first and then Asagaya was run by the brother of the guy behind Koenji. Ogikubo is the latest of the three and I didn’t see one of the brothers there, but it is quite clear that these are all places in the same group. I wish someone would do this along the Odakyu line!
So, Ogikubo. As you would expect from the other two, this is a brewpub with lots of wood decor. This time the place initially seems smaller, with a ground floor with a small counter for three people and seating for around 14. However there is an upstairs, which I didn’t get a very good look at, but seemed to have seating for about 20 and another bar area. I am not sure if you can get all the beers upstairs, but I would imagine so, as the staircase is pretty steep and I wouldn’t fancy negotiating it with a couple of glasses. It was always a shame that at Asagaya, if you wanted to drink any of their own beers you had to go downstairs to get them, and that it was only the Kirin stuff that they had on the 2nd floor (don’t know if this is still true, as I haven’t been there for a little while). Once again, it is self service, so order beers and food at the bar. They are happy for you to pay as you go, or at the end.
So, on to the beers. My first visit to Asgaya was a little disappointing as they only had one of their beers on to start off with. Ogikubo has got going a lot quicker though it seems. When I visited they had three of their own beers on, and I think one had just run out. The line up was Blonde Ale (¥390), Bitter Pale Ale (¥590) and Strong Ale (¥690) all served in Jokki size, so a decent size serving. They also serve in Carafe and Pitcher sizes. The beers here seemed to be a bit different from the other two places. I am unsure who does the brewing at the various places, as they all seem a little different. Clearly Koenji being open the longest has had plenty of time to bed in their equipment and tweak their recipes. Asagaya surprised me last time I went with an Imperial Stout (a surprise given that all of the other beers at both pubs were normally lighter coloured). Ogikubo’s beers seemed to have a bit of a different feel to them, the Bitter Pale was in the US style and the other two had what I thought was a bit of a Belgian influence. The Blonde was really good and had loads of taste for its strength (5%). It was the one I went back to try again as my last beer. Strangely it was copper/amber coloured, but who cares if the name doesn’t reflect the colour as long as it tastes good.
A quick word about the food. It was maybe the best of all three of them for me as a vegetarian, but I guess if you are not a vegetarian this fact may not be of much interest to you. It was generally Japanese style but with a few German and Czech pub dishes thrown in (the fried cheese was great!). To be honest it is probably exactly what I want to eat when drinking. The dips with the fried gobo were great. But anyway, what is this blog? Tokyo Pub Food Eater?
So, another winner from these guys. I guess with three places now, it has to be called a chain. But this is the kind of chain that would be welcome anywhere. Whilst the beers might not be in the styles that some beer drinkers go for (very hoppy IPAs and barrel-aged imperial stouts etc.) they are good and tasty and the type of thing that you could get a friend who is scared of Ji-Biru to drink. Gateway beers! They had 11 taps downstairs, so there clearly is some room for expansion if they want (update: when I visited again in mid November, they were up to six of their own beers on tap, so things are growing). There were a few Kirin options on too, but maybe one day they will have a couple more of their own beers on. I really like these places, as they are pretty different from a lot of the recently opened places in Tokyo. The clientele seemed to be mainly local, and I think this is part of the plan. They are not chasing the beer geeks, and given the amount of competition around, I think this is wise. Not saying that a beer geek wouldn’t be happy here though. I guess I fall into that category and I keep going back to these places. So, now I just need to find a wealthy and bored person and convince them to start a similar chain along the Odakyu line, starting in Yoyogi Uehara. Come on!
Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Ogikubu Beer Kobo
Sundays and public holidays), 15.00-21.00
5-23-6 荻窪, Suginami-ku, Toyko, 167-0051
From Ogikubo JR station head to the East gate and then the South exit where you will pass through the metro station’s ticket hall area. Leave via ‘South exit b’. At the top of the stairs turn back on yourself and walk a little way along the street. You should pass a Mistubishi Tokyo UFJ bank on your left and then shortly afterwards turn left down the first side road. Bear in mind that it is quite a small road. Carry on over the first junction and the bar is on the left hand side. Very close to the station!