Finding the Yokohama Seasider Magazine at our US library here in Japan gave my husband and I a jackpot source of free information on local beer pubs. Discovering craft brewers in new cities is always an adventure for us and we love it. Yokohama felt like a good place to start because Tokyo's population size and density still seems a bit daunting.
After reading up on Yokohama's craft beer scene we set out this past Saturday on our pub crawl. With much thanks to Google's incredible map app we successful navigated our way through the train system to get there; granted there was only one transfer but we'll take our victories, no matter how small, with pride.
About halfway through the 45 minute trip between Machida and Sakuragicho stations my Ikea radar went up and I said to my husband, “I think the Ikea is around here.” He suggested looking out for the sign but I was sure it would be further from the tracks, out of viewing distance. How I forget that Ikea builds their giant signs loud and proud – a few minutes later, there it was. Ooh, how I look forward to that inevitable shopping experience.
|Yokohama (part of it).|
Once arriving at Sakuragicho station we walked out into the city of Yokohama and it's beautiful day of sunshine and temperatures slightly cooler than the recent 90 degrees. Perfect beer weather. Between the magazine's easy-to-read map, Google maps, and a friendly Japanese couple we found our way to Yokohama Brewery. We sat downstairs at the small bar, there was an enthusiastic private party occurring upstairs, and ordered sample flights of the available beer. The bartender spoke English pretty well, she had attended Cambridge in England and was now preparing to study aviation at Western Michigan University this fall. Small world – I graduated with my bachelors from Western!
We then walked a block down the street to our next stop, Bashamichi Taproom which serves Baird Beer along with American barbecue. Immediately upon entering the dark, lower level bar the incredible scent of smoky BBQ stirs your appetite. A server ushered us upstairs to the restaurant, decorated with old wood floors, country-style tables and chairs, and a wall of windows letting in the afternoon sunlight. We ordered flights with six of their ten available brews. They also serve two beers on hand-pump (or cask, as the term I'm familiar with) but we passed on those, giving us an excuse to return. We couldn't resist the BBQ so we ordered a couple small plates to enjoy with the beer.
|Baird Beer Sampler.|
Let me just say, thank goodness I took photos along our way or you wouldn't be reading much more. I didn't drink excessively, but alcohol certainly doesn't help my already poor memory. Nor does it help when faced with the narrow, steep, and uneven staircases in so many older, compact Japanese buildings. One step at a time.
|Bashamichi Taproom staircase.|
Following our loose-planned itinerary, we walked west up the river to Bay Brewing, a tiny, local bar with seating for fifteen, tops. We found two prime seats right at the bar. They had two beers on tap that day, a brown ale and a stout, and serve only half pints and pints so we ordered a pint of each. One of the bartenders who spoke English told us proudly that he made the stout. Through conversation we learned that he traveled internationally finding craft beers, spending time on the west coast from Vancouver BC, down through California and even Colorado. He said there was too much pale ale there for his liking and is actually planning on spending time in England soon learning to brew in the British style. Thornbridge Brewery is what I wrote in my notes. We also spoke with a friendly couple sitting next to us, he speaking better English than she, which helped us feel less like outsiders and more like any other person enjoying a quality beer on a summer afternoon. We definitely left there richer for the experience.
|Bay Brewing with brewer.|
Down the block, across the street, and on the fifth floor of a quiet building we stopped into Antenna America, an “American Craft Beer Tasting Room”. Tall, chair-less tables filled half the fairly large space. On the opposite wall was a sparse bar with a few beers on tap, nothing local, and the adjacent wall held glass-front coolers filled with an impressive selection of American craft brews.
|Cases outside America Antenna.|
We spoke with an employee (owner, manager, I don't remember) from the US asking him about local brew pubs. He mentioned a great little place nearby, he knew the owner, but that we would never find it on our own so he took the time to walk us over there. Thank goodness because he was correct.
|The street with El Nubi.|
The quiet street we walked down was lined with small businesses in what almost resembled shipping containers. And by small, I mean tiny. We ducked through the doorway of El Nubichinom and shimmied into a room no bigger than a king-sized bed. My husband stood behind the three people standing at the bar while I found a spot next to the two women standing at the back by the window looking over the river.
|My beer at El Nubichinom.|
I believe there was a server, strange because every person in the place was within reach of the bar. The owner/bartender stood behind the bar with about four feet of space to work. The atmosphere felt relaxed with a subdued, joyous humor, if that even makes sense. The beer was excellent, I had the incredible orange pale ale and hubs fell in love with a saison from Atsugi Brewing (or this link). The owner brings in kegs local craft brews, most are seasonal and very limited, once the keg is empty he serves something different or closes up for the day. We loved the place and made sure to drop a pin on our map so we can find it again because we will find it again.
|Kaji at El Nubi also serves unique, beer-friendly cheese!|
By this time the sun was beginning to set and we were completely satisfied with our craft beer tour of Yokohama, even though we only explored one part of the city. We found our way back to Antenna America to purchase a few unfamiliar bottles and carried them back to the train station.
|Sunset sky over Yokohama.|
I don't remember exactly how the following scene played out, but we got on one train and needed to transfer at the next station. When we exited that train and crossed the platform to board the next one I paused to read the train line on the outside of the car and in doing so the doors closed with my husband on the train and me still on the platform. I remember laughing as the train pulled away, a perfect moment of “not knowing whether to laugh or cry,” so I laughed. There I was, kind of tipsy, going back and forth between Google Maps and the Japanese train schedule. With some quick texting and fingers crossed I got on the next train and when it stopped at the next station, he rejoined me. Fortunately we didn't have to take an unexpected tour of the Yokohama train line that night.
(These photos were taken with an iPhone and are by no means intended to be "real" photos, just snapshots of where I was and what I saw.)