Beer, etc…Belgian Beers and More in Arakicho, Shinjuku

“If you don’t like beer, try Belgian beer” is something I often find myself saying. The main reason is that among the hundreds of different kinds of Belgian beers. you are bound to come across something that suits your taste. Another reason is, that Belgian beers do not have to follow the German beer purity law, which states that beer must contain only barley, water and hops. Belgian beers, on the other hand, may contain herbs, spices and fruits. If you have a sweet tooth, give fruit beers a try – for example a Kriek, which is has sour cherries as one of its ingredients.

2018-09-07   Arakicho, Bars & Restaurants, Araki-Cho, Tokyo,


A secret spot for Belgian beer lovers

Hidden in a bend of Sharikimon Dori street, only a few steps away from Tonkatsu Suzushin, is Arakicho’s only Belgian beer bar. New and discrete – I only found out about it through the owner of the Czech restaurant Dashenka. From the street, Beer, etc... isn’t easy to spot, and only because I knew it was there, was I able to locate the entrance, set a few meters back from the street. You’ll need to look for the Maredsous blackboard sign, opposite the Kanamaru shrine. It will lead you down a short corridor, towards the restaurant sign. Oddly enough, the entrance door is on the left side, reinforcing the impression that this is a secret meeting spot. There is no secret knock though – just push the door and walk in!

It looks like an entrance door but it isn’t – turn left here

Being Belgian, I felt that it was imperative that I put in an appearance. The fact that this place is both 100% non-smoking and has no table charge, made it doubly attractive. Beer, Etc… also does a ladies set on weekdays (except Tuesdays, when it is closed) from 5pm, the opening time, to 8pm for a round 2000 yen, which includes two draft beers and one side dish, or “otsumami” from the menu. Another thing to consider is that Belgian beers are trending in Japan at the moment – there are 7 Belgian Beer Weekends (BBW) held over the year in different Japanese cities, from Osaka to Sapporo. The previous BBW was held in August in Hibiya Park. The next one will be in the 2nd half of September in Roppongi.

 Upon entering, I was surprised at how spacious the place seemed – considering its hidden location, I had expected something a little narrower. One factor may have been the simple and minimal design – white walls, totally free of posters or any other kind of decoration (apart from some cat shaped coat hooks). There are about seven counter seats plus two tables surrounded by wooden bar stools, seating up to ten people. The background music was mostly smooth jazz. The lighting was on the dim side, as befits a bar, making the place feel cozy – a good place for a quiet chat among friends.

Personal space is valued at Beer, etc…

A place connected with Brussels Beer Project

According to the explanation inside the menu, the owner used to work at the Kagurazaka branch of the well-known Tokyo Belgian Beer bar chain called Brussels. I asked him why he chose the name “Beer, Etc…”, or “bia etosetora” in Japanese. He replied that he wanted to stress the fact that they served not only Belgian beers but also other beverages such as wine – the name translates as “biru nado nado” in Japanese (“nado” means “et cetera”).

 However, for a Belgian, and a beer lover, the most important aspect of a Belgian beer bar is, of course, the selection of beers, so I focused only on that aspect. Beer, Etc…has 3 beers on tap which is fairly standard. The three options are: Vedett extra white (a white ale 4.7%), Kagurazaka 30th House Ale (a special blond ale 6.5%) and La Chouffe (a golden ale 8%). The first and last can be found in other bars, but the second is rather unique. It’s a beer specially brewed for the 30th anniversary of the Kagurazaka branch of Brussels. This selection will of course vary depending on what the owner can get his hands on. Previously, Bitter XX and Delirium Tremens were also available on tap, both great beers.

 I was also surprised to see the menu offered some bottled beers from the Brussels Beer project, a fairly new and popular brewery in Belgium. Last year they opened their own taproom in Shinjuku, and a little research showed that it’s being run in collaboration with the Brussels beer bar chain. We enjoyed the Grosse Bertha (a wheat beer) and Babylone (made from fermented bread). Both were excellent, and I would order either again without hesitation.

One of the creations of the Brussels Beer project

A wide selection of quality beers

I also treated myself to a Duvel Tripel Hop Citra, the latest, and according to the bottle label, best version of the Duvel Tripel Hop series. I had already had a chance to try it at home, having bought a bottle at the Ikebukuro Seibu department store. Unfortunately, it was sold out last time I went by, so I was delighted to see it on the menu at Beer, etc… As the name suggests, it´s extra hoppy with a lemony aftertaste. The alcohol content is nearly 10% so it’s one of those beers that should be sipped rather than gulped down. 

 As is typical of Belgian Beer bars, the number of Belgian beers on offer was endless, and I recommend checking the details on a website such as Beeradvocate or Ratebeer to find something that suits your taste. One thing I really appreciated about Beer, Etc…is, that all the beer names, styles and breweries are written in English, and not in katakana – the Japanese writing system used for writing foreign words and names) – as is the case in other Belgian beer bars in Tokyo.

 The main drawback – and this applies to Belgian Beers in Japan in general – is the cost. A beer on tap will set you back about a 1000 yen, and most bottled beers are priced around 1250 yen. Considering that a lot of the beers on the menu are hard to come by in Japan (some are even unfindable), and also, that the quality and alcohol content are higher than average, I feel that it’s well worth it. As a bonus, each beer gets served in a special glass designed by the brewery, enabling you to fully enjoy its taste and smell. The bottle is placed on the table next to your glass, so you can appreciate the label design.

Many kinds of alcoholic beverages are served at Beer, Etc…

How about some food with that beer?

Finally, this article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the food. The first thing I ordered was a small portion of French fries, or “Belgian fries” for 400 yen (medium and large sizes are 700 and 1000 yen respectively). In case you didn’t know, Belgium is known as the country that invented French fries and an evaluation of a Belgian Beer bar wouldn’t be complete without tasting my country’s signature dish. Conclusion? They weren’t as thick as I would have liked them but they fit the bill when it came to crispiness. I’ll surely have them again next time.

 We also ordered the paté de campagne (600 yen), the fresh mushroom salad (600 yen), and the homemade roasted sausage (900 yen – you have to choose one of 3 types) – everything was delicious and I can absolutely recommend this place for the food as well. Other dishes available on the menu include pizza and lasagna, which I look forward to trying on my next visit. With a closing time of 1AM, and you will definitely find plenty of great beers and foodstuff to sample until then. If you’re new to Belgian beers, just make sure, you try at least one fruit beer!

Probably the best paté de campagne I’ve ever had

 

For smartphone users, please click the link below to go to the Tadaima Japan website which includes additional location details:

Beer, etc…Belgian Beers and More in Arakicho, Shinjuku

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AUTHOR

David

David

Writer / Translator

I’ve been in Japan for over 10 years although it feels shorter because I am constantly discovering new things and new places. Sometimes it can be hard to get the full Japanese experience because of cultural differences and linguistic barriers. For that reason, I want to share what I have learned in order to enhance your experience in Japan. Having said that, figuring out stuff on your own can also be fun. In any case, I hope you can find here whatever you need in order to make your stay a success.

Information

Address Shinjuku city,
7-3 Arakicho
Hours 5PM - 1AM
Price ~3000 yen
Close Tuesdays
Access 3-minute walk from
Yotsuya-sanchome Station
via the Marunouchi line
10-minute walk from
JR Yotsuya station
Phone 03-6356-4499
Language Japanese
Website http://www.facebook.com/beeretc.jp