Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Popeye, Ryogoku

Well, it comes down to this - I've waited until now to write about one of the best places in Tokyo. The WORLD, even! THE WORLD!  Phew, this is off to an exciting start. If you like beer, you'll agree with me. If not, skip the rest.

These two guys probably knew what they were getting in for, going up the nondescript stairs to Popeye. It's a bit hidden behind another, more normal, place, so if you go, make sure you know where it is (which is in the little grid just south of Ryogoku JR). And if you go, you'll probably want a reservation. I've been turned away more than once. What makes it so great?

That's right. 70 beers on tap. Their web site used to be 40beersontap.com, but they upgraded and had to change it. The mind boggles. The 70 beers on offer are firstly Japanese craft beers (of which there are a surprising number), secondly American craft beers (they always have a selection of Rogue, for example, I think due to a special relationship), and then a smattering of European beers (e.g. there was Lindemann's Framboise on tap when we were there).

Needless to say, these are not bad beers. They run a range of styles from light-as-you-want (cream ale!) to heavy-as-you-want (dark 12% bombs and barley wines).

The menu is divided into helpful sections. Go on, have a look.

And then order something. Oh, there are a number of beers on hand-pull taps too (go on, joke about it). 

There are always foreigners in here, I think because the taste of the beer takes you right back to craft beer in America, and it's a nice homey feeling. You'll find a lot of blogs of people coming from overseas to visit the place (some of whom are surprised to find that it's just a bar and not a temple, shrine or palace), and you'll also see the odd picture of Michael Jackson and other beer dignitaries on the wall, visiting. There's a reason why they've been here 25 years.

Now, I've been here before, and one reason I didn't go back sooner is the food. My 'dining companion' for the night was Brothers, who commented "The food isn't nearly as terrible as you led me to believe," and this is true. It IS boring and stodgy, but there are some salady items if that takes your fancy. The fish and chips was quite good. No, scratch that - the fish was good. The chips were actually chips that they fried themselves, like 'crisps' if you're a Pom or Antipodean.  One point of note - between 6 and 8 is happy hour, and if you get a pint, or a 9-oz beer out of about 20 styles marked on the menu, you get one of these food plates free. This was ideal; we got pretty much all our food for free, not having to venture into the more substantial 'beef stewed in beer', 'chicken stewed in beer' and 'beer stewed in pork' that comprise the larger-plates section of the menu. You can get by on the food here, is what I'm saying, but you should go purely for the beer.

Because it's such a big! Indeed, What a Big! This refers to the 3.5 pint glass available specially for Yona Yona beers, but I like to think of it as a referrendum on Popeye. It is indeed a Big, and if you call yourself a beer lovah, you should indeed give it a try.

 I yam what I yam.

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