Finally! This is the place I have been waiting for. A really nice bar, serving good beer at a good price, close to my house. Guess I have been a bit picky, but this is the kind of place I can see myself going to often, even if I have to walk 15 minutes to it, instead of the five minutes I might have hoped for. Maybe I should move house.
So, Gremlin is a great little bar in the basement restaurant area attached to Hatagaya station. This restaurant area is maybe a little dated but Gremlin is the opposite and has a very nice feel. Newly refitted with a nice design, there are seats for ten at the counter and five tables for about four people. The master is a rockabilly fan who loves real ale (which explains the music and beer choice to some extent) and is a very friendly guy. He spent some time in England, so might be able to help you if your Japanese is not good. They serve a limited food menu (delicious dressing on the salad!), but the place is focused on its beer. UPDATE ONE: The food menu has changed and so has the music so probably best not to expect salad or rockabilly.
They have six taps, three keg and three hand pumps and all serve Japanese craft beer. I guess it’s similar to the Cat & Cask in that respect. There were a good mix of breweries and styles available and it’s nice to get to try some Japanese beer on handpump. I’m not particularly a ‘real ale’ person, I just like to drink nice beers, rather than focus on the dispense method. However, I have to admit the ‘real’ version of Loco’s General Winter was very nice, with the handpump adding something that you don’t get from the bottle version. Beers are served in two sizes, regular and large, with most beers being ¥650 and ¥950 respectively. Occasionally, stronger beers are a little extra, but really not much more (¥50 or so). I would guess that the sizes are somewhere in the region of 250ml and 450ml, but next time I’m there, I’ll ask and update. UPDATE TWO: shockingly, I still don’t know the size of the half here but I think it’s UK half. The pint is US pint. The prices have gone up a little in five years. The ‘real’ beers are now ¥700 and ¥1000 and the keg beers are ¥800 and around ¥1150. I would say though that the breweries he is getting now include some excellent and less often encountered ones. You’ve also got to take into account the fact that it’s an independent bar and the rising costs of both beer and shipping. Plenty of places have had to put up their prices, and whilst of course I’d rather they didn’t go up, I understand when some places have to do it.
As you may have guessed, I’m really pleased this place has opened. It’s somewhere I feel that I can happily call my local. There’s no cover charge and a good range of beers at good prices. For me, places like this definitely have an edge over some of the places with more taps, because these places feel like they have been opened because the owners love beer and bars, rather than love making money out of what is for some people a cash cow at the moment. As craft beer in Japan continues to grow in popularity, I hope we see more of these kind of places open. These are the ones we should be giving our money to, and I intend to do just that.
Japanese breweries on tap when I first visited:
ゴールデンセンター B1F, 1-3-1 幡ヶ谷, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Easy! It’s in the shopping centre attached to Hatagaya station. If you are coming out of the ticket barriers, turn left, then right up the stairs, walk past McDonalds and it’s on the right hand side a little way down. As it’s in the station, probably no need for a map.
I’ve heard quite a few people get confused about getting on the right line to get here, so I’ll emphasise that it’s the Keio New Line that you need. Head for the Shinjuku line (which connects to the Keio New Line) and as long as you’re going the correct way from Shinjuku, your train will stop at Hatagaya. If you’re on the Shinjuku line platforms, platform 4 is the one you need. If you find yourself at Sasazuka you’ve gone too far, and need to get a train back from platform 3.