Baird Beer Taproom Pub Crawl

Last Saturday I dragged four friends along on a tour of the Baird Beer Taprooms starting in Numazu. We had a miracle start to the trip. I’d planned on catching a 9:41 train from Yokohama, an express out to Atami, but we weren’t able to get through the gates until the minute hand was just about right on the :41, so I just kind of moseyed over to the escalator assuming that we’d end up on the next train and stood on the slow ride up to the platform. When we got to the top the train was still there for some reason, and the door-closing music had only just started playing. I turned to see where the four others were behind me. Teppey was close, but we shared a look – there’s no way we’re getting on this train, right? Slowy Rei, Junichi, and Adam ascended the escalator as the music continued, and we stepped slowly toward the doors as a group. Then suddenly we were on the train and moving to the West at 9:43am:

Baird Beer Taproom Pub Crawl from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

Numazu Fishmarket Taproom

The original Taproom. The brewery used to be on the first floor until they outgrew it. Great atmosphere, great view of the fish market from the counter along the window. And the pints are all 200 yen cheaper than the other Taprooms – your bonus gift for making the trek out to Shizuoka. The food was very impressive as well. I highly recommend everything we tried, especially the chicken wings which I don’t normally like. I was a bit disappointed there were no exclusive beers available – the first time I visited, there were a couple new selections and lots of older bottles available The beers we had were: Nihon Monogatari Ale, Old World Kolsch, German Summer Ale, Hop Havoc Anniversary Ale, Shimaguni Stout, Numazu Lager, Red Rose Amber Ale. We also picked up bottles of the Wheat King and Single-take Session Ale for the train.

Bashamichi Taproom

The newest and most well-appointed Taproom. Three floors of beer and barbecue goodness in a great part of Yokohama. I have to admit that I have been disappointed by the barbecue; what they offer is good – really good – but when I think barbecue, I think pulled pork, and there was none to be had. I was told, however, that they offer it occasionally. I think the chicken was the most flavorful of all the meat we tried, but I’d like to try the sandwiches at some point. Of all the Taprooms, this is by far the nicest space. There are tables on the roof, which will be amazing when the weather cools down a little, and the second floor is nice and open and surrounded by brick and wood. Free darts! The beers we had were: Bashamichi Ale, Rising Sun Pale Ale, Wheat King.

Harajuku Taproom

The third Taproom, right off of Takeshita-dori – quite a juxtaposition with the wacky Harajuku fashion scene. I love the food at this Taproom. It’s slightly upscale yakitori – everything is nicer than you’d find at a ガード下 location. Don’t miss out on the gyoza or the potato salad, and of course all the chicken is great as well. Also the smallest space of the four Taprooms, so it fills up quickly and seems more full than the other locations. We had: Harajuku Ale, Shimaguni Stout, Single-take Session Ale (I believe…this was the only location where I forgot to film close-ups of the beers themselves, so I’m forced to judge from afar.)

Nakameguro Taproom

The first Tokyo Taproom, second Taproom overall. They’ve done some redecoration since I last visited, and now there the vibe is much comfier – there are sofas in one of the corners and some smaller more intimate tables. The food is the least remarkable of all the Taprooms – unfortunately Nakameguro Taproom has been the big loser of the expansion (in my opinion). I’d choose Harajuku or Bashamichi over it, partially out of convenience but also because of food selection. Nakameguro does serve imported guest beers at decent prices, which offers a refreshing change, and they also have the very sessionable (3.7% ABV) Nakameguro Bitter on hand pump. We had: Naka-meguro Bitter, Old World Kolsch, Green Flash West Coast IPA, Caldera Amber Ale, Suruga Bay IPA.


– Very impressed with the Single-take Session Ale as a new addition to the regular lineup. Great beer. Definitely my go-to Baird Beer.

– I’m disappointed we weren’t able to go (for Seishun 18 Kippu reasons) a few weeks earlier when the Cool Breeze Summer Pils was on. Nice beer. Also disappointed that the Sayuri Saison wasn’t available, although I managed a pint at Ushitora’s third anniversary.

– Other Baird Beers I miss: rauchbier he made back in fall of 2008 and the strawberry something in the summer of 2008. I haven’t seen either since, and they were nice. Don’t remember anything specific about the rauch, but it’s always nice to see that style. Hard to compete with Fujizakura, though. And the strawberry beer had this weird metallic aftertaste…not unpleasant after the first few sips…which I hope sounds like a compliment.

– I feel like Baird has done impressive expansion, but I’d like to see the beers available in more grocery stores and other easy-access locations. I guess this is asking the impossible, though: the latest macrobeer craze is beer that can be served on ice. Boo.

Collabo-Ramen – ほん田

Brian and I thought we’d covered Tokyo Ramen Street last year when we finished Collabo-Ramen videos for the first four shops, but then they went and expanded this past April, adding four more shops which we felt the need to cover for completion’s sake.

We finally made it to the last shop this past Friday – Honda has slight variations on traditional bowls of shoyu and shio along with shoyu and miso tsukemen. Brian and I had the tsukemen. Afterward we went over to Kanda to have beers at Devil Craft, one of the newest bars on the Tokyo craft beer scene. The store is somewhat small but not uncomfortable – we made a reservation for five and were able to fit six at one of the tables upstairs. They also have a nice beer selection that isn’t monopolized by high ABV beers:

Collabo-Ramen – 本田 Honda from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

I have to admit I was skeptical when Brian first suggested that we review the restaurants on Tokyo Ramen Street. I’d been reading his blog for a while and knew that he was the Ramen Adventurer: I wanted to trek out into shitamachi neighborhoods in search of Ganko-style secret ramen shops. But he had much more experience recommending ramen to readers of his blog, and he insisted that Tokyo Station is easily accessible for most tourists and that the stores on Tokyo Ramen Street have great bowls.

There’s definitely an extensive selection, and working with Brian has expanded my palette, which I think has enabled me to appreciate some of the bowls more. Definitely check out these stores if you have to be passing through Tokyo, especially Junk Garage, since that brings the Saitama-based mazemen into the heart of the city. Here are links to all the Tokyo Ramen Street Collabo-Ramen episodes:

The first four:

Keisuke Nidaime (lobster ramen, currently a crab ramen which Brian and I gave a pass)

And the new four:

Junk Garage
Honda (you’re reading it)

サークル ≠ circle (Join my 会話サークル!)

Well, I’ve been on Google+ now for a week or so, and it’s pretty cool. You can find me here, and my Public posts will probably be along the same lines as my Twitter feed.

I still haven’t made any major adjustments to my Circles just yet, but I’m about to start sorting them into Input and Output Circles, interest group Circles, ridiculous GIF poster Circles, et ceteraz.

I imagine that in the near future there will be public Circles or at least publicly visible Circles, so I’d like to create some useful ones for students of Japanese that I plan to open up publicly when/if that feature becomes available. One of the biggest problems for me back in New Orleans is that there are only just over 100 Japanese folks in the whole state of Louisiana, and only one of these 100 is willing to speak with me on a regular basis: I need Japanese speaking partners. The Google+ “Hangout” feature is a perfect way for groups to get together and practice speaking Japanese.

I plan on having three Circles at first – 日本語サークル初級, 日本語サークル中級, and 日本語サークル上級. I’m thinking this all up on the spot, so I’m not sure exactly how it will work, but the basic idea is to get a group of folks together who are at a similar ability level to speak Japanese. For the beginners, I’ll try and give explanations and keep things simple. Intermediate folks I think should focus on speaking more accurately and increasing the sentence patterns they can use actively. And the advanced folks can chat about whatever they want.

Maybe I’ll have set times during the week to host hangouts. Maybe I’ll just do it randomly (more likely). Who knows. So let me know if you want in to one of these speaking Circles, and if so, which Circle you would like to be placed in. You can either DM me on Twitter, email me, or leave a comment on my Google+ feed and I’ll sort you out. Ideally you’ll be able to add yourself to these Circles in the future.

I don’t plan on spamming any of these circles with anything except the actual Hangouts themselves, so you can join with the assurance that I won’t be overfilling your G+ streams.

And a wee Japanese lesson for you today as well. Did you notice the pun above? In Japanese サークル is based on the English word “circle,” but サークル ≠ circle. The Google images evidence is overwhelming: サークル, circle. サークル in fact means “club.” Schools, particularly universities, use the term to refer to student-run interest groups. When I studied abroad, I helped teach an 英会話サークル. Basically, I’ve made サークル Circles.

So, once again, mind yer inequalities.

Collabo-Ramen – Junk Garage

There’s never too much Junk in the trunk of a big fat bowl of mazemen. Brian and I checked out Junk Garage on Ramen Street:

Collabo-Ramen – Junk Garage from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

Six down, two more to go. (Oh, and we also tried the crab ramen over at Keisuke – I’d recommend against it. It comes in a bowl shaped like Hokkaido, and there’s a layer of oil on top about a centimeter deep.)

Game Lingo – クリア ( = clear?)

My handy set of inequalities doesn’t always hold true when it comes to video game terminology. I realized this last Friday when I was checking the translation of a video game manual. The word クリア is always used to mean “complete (a goal, level, task),” and the translator had left it “clear” (e.g. “when you have cleared easy mode”).

I’m always torn with this one. I often change it to something a little more natural (in my opinion) like “complete,” but in this case I left it “clear” and made a note to reconsider my decision after I’d finished looking through the entire manual. Then I could go back through and see how many times it was used throughout the whole manual. If it was used just once, then I’d feel comfortable making the change. If it gets used repeatedly as a sort of set term, then it should probably stay as is.

I am realizing now the decision might already be made for me – we have the in-game text and if I go in on Monday and find an instance of クリア = clear in the text, then I have to 統一.

This game has already had one frustrating example of 統一. The Japanese ミス has been rendered “miss,” which just feels dirty and wrong. Initially I was surprised that the translator made the decision to translate it that way because he is one of our more reliable translators, but then I found an instance of ミス = miss in the in-game text and quickly realized that he had done a thorough job of checking back and forth between manual terminology and in-game terminology. Which leaves some terrible sentences like “You completed Level 1 without a miss!” Ugg. Time for a shower.

ミス is closer to “mistake,” as noted by スペルミス – spelling mistake – and depending on the circumstances it could be anything from a mistake to a failure to an error and should be translated in context.