Kansai Beer Scene
Howdy, Chris here.
Today with help from friends Ajen B and Akira F, I’ll write a bit about the Kansai beer scene, specifically the opening of Minoh Beer’s fourth Kansai Taproom, Beer Belly Tenma. (Read about the other three, in Japanese, here.)
First, the important stuff: Beer Belly Tenma has 10 taps and 4 beer engines all serving Minoh beers. The servers were imported from the UK and are vice mounted onto the counter. The beer itself is stored in cold tables under the counter, meaning nice short direct pulls — no need for glycol cooling or mixed gas pushing beer through extremely long beer lines.
The pub itself features a long counter, which seats most of the customers, with three tables for four along the opposite wall.
But what’s most noticeable upon entering is the huge blackboard announcing beers and food. Looks fantastic, but it also looks like the space behind the counter is a bit narrow — I’m betting that the servers’ shirt sleeves are chalk colored by the end of their shift, especially on busy nights.
Pints, which seem to be slightly smaller than a US pint (~420 ml?), are ¥800 to ¥850; ¥500 to ¥550 for a half. The kitchen puts out some pretty tasty meats (from the Meatguy?): roast beef, BBQ ribs, chicken, etc., with most of their stuff coming off the grill. The staff did a great job on opening night, getting food out quickly and correctly — not an easy accomplishment with the nerves and disarray of opening day!
Now a little bit about the Tenma area where Minoh chose to open their latest pub. Basically it’s “stand bar” heaven. There are wine bars, shochu bars, whiskey bars and nihonshu bars, all serving at rock bottom prices. It can get pretty competitive between the different bars. If you know where to go, you can drink really hard-to-get stuff at very reasonable prices. Notice no mention of craft beer bars — until now. Most people in Kansai don’t really have a high beer IQ, but taprooms like this will provide the opportunity for people to start getting more exposed to different beers, and hopefully draw more people into the craft beer scene. As Ajen says, “We need it in Kansai.” I’d say we still need it pretty much everywhere in Japan!
Beer Belly Tenma was packed on opening night, and although I didn’t have the chance to join the fun, I did manage to time a phone call to Ajen perfectly. Right when I called, Minoh Brewer Kaori walked in from a long day at the brewery, so I was able to congratulate her “in person”, so to speak, as well as invite myself down to see the brewery later this year. It’ll be my first trip to Kansai in many years — can’t wait!
We will be sending beers and maybe even a brewer (although not me, I’ll be in the States for my daughter’s college graduation). Stop by and say hello — or at least have a beer!