Finally getting round to writing about the new Mikkeller bar that has fairly recently opened here in Tokyo. This is certainly a place that is going to divide opinion for reasons that I will go into in due course. The bar opened with a free drink giveaway which unsurprisingly resulted in a huge queue and I imagine created quite a buzz. I didn’t go. I was excited that Mikkeller were opening a bar in my (kind of) neighbourhood, but didn’t fancy getting all squashed up in order to get a free beer. Since the hugely popular opening things seem to have calmed down a bit which is a relief. I walk past quite often on the way home from work and it always seems to be buzzing along, but not horribly overcrowded, which is pretty good by me.
If you have been to any of the other Mikkeller bars you will have some idea of what to expect. The decor is modern, lots of wood and Scandinavian (so say people who have more idea than me about these things). It’s certainly a nice looking place. My initial worries about the lack of seating have abated slightly. Inside there are two tables for four, two tables for two, a couple of counters and a long bench seat with little tables in front of it. All in all, there is probably seating for around 30-40 people. In more temperate months this is augmented by a bit more seating outside the front of the bar and I have to admit, it’s pretty nice to sit out there (unless you have a heavy smoker sitting nearby). All in all, it’s a nice comfortable space.
On to the beers, and to the prices (probably the thing that most people will complain about). There are twenty taps which are generally speaking split 15/5 between Mikkeller beers and Japanese craft selections, although occasionally this seems to vary slightly. Beers are served in two sizes with everything being available in 200ml glasses, and the less strong stuff being available in what I guess is around 400ml. The cheaper end of the pricing (mainly the house beers) is ¥550 for the small and ¥950 for the large, which I think is pretty reasonable. Other less rare Mikkeller stuff and some of the Japanese guests go up to around ¥650 and ¥1200. Given that this means that I can get a big Udagawa Spontan for ¥950 most of the time, I’m pretty happy with this. However, as the alcohol percentage and the amount of barrel aging goes up, so do the prices. The highest price I have seen is ¥1600 for 200ml for the Chokeberry Spontan, which is really pushing it, I reckon. However, I think you have to take into account the fact that these beers are expensive in Denmark too. I guess it’s inevitable when you are a gypsy brewer. Beer is just more expensive to make if you have to pay someone else to do it. The beer selection is pretty interesting though. I can’t think of any other bars in Japan that have these kind of beers on. It’s great that they usually have some sour beers on. And the massive amount of varieties of barrel aged stuff sets it apart. Some of the guests though are definitely overpriced. Gueuze Tilquin was ¥1600 for 200ml I think and this is a crazy price for something you can get much cheaper in a few other places in Tokyo. Also, on my last visit they had Magic Rock’s Cannonball for ¥900 for 200ml. This also seems a bit too much for the same reason. As I come to Mikkeller in the most part for Mikkeller beers, I’m not going to gripe too much about the prices of stuff that I’m probably not going to drink.
This place is clearly not going to be for everyone. And I have the feeling that they are not 100% sure themselves who their customers are. It’s clear that this is a very fashionable place at the moment. Plenty of people come here for things other than beer. There were a few teething problems at the start when things weren’t quite running as the might have been expected to, but I think things have definitely improved recently. They now have their taplist online and things are running more smoothly. If you go here on a weekend evening, it will probably be busy, especially later on. They are open in the daytime though, even during the week, which is something I always love. Big thumbs up for that from me. Yes, it’s more expensive than other places, but they do offer something very different from the majority of bars in Tokyo. I actually enjoy the smaller sizes, as some of their beers are extremely strong, and I don’t particularly want 300ml of 17.5%. Naturally, I’d enjoy them more if they were cheaper, but then that goes without saying I guess. I think it is a massive plus for us to have this place in Tokyo, but I can also quite easily understand why people might not like it. I imagine most beer lovers in Tokyo will come here at least once and form their own opinion, so I’m not going to spend any more time trying to convince you either way. It works for me though.
Japanese breweries seen on tap here: