Every izakaya 居酒屋 or Japanese bar you go to in Japan serves only one type of draft or nama 生 beer, usually Asahi, Yebisu, Suntory or one of the usual suspects. Because of the underexposure of the Japanese crowd to microbreweries, or just craft beers, these have become a relatively rare sight in Tokyo. Also, besides the Japanese style of chicken wings, tebasaki 手羽先, the heat and tanginess of good ol’ hot wings or buffalo wings are missed dearly. Putting the two together and without further ado, we went on a pub crawl for yummy craft beers and buffalo wings!
After doing some research, we found some breweries located in the vicinity of Roppongi 六本木 within walking distance of each other that also had good looking wings. It may not have been a coincidence that Roppongi is a nightspot frequented by foreigners; of course where there’s demand there’s supply!
The crawl route was BrewDog -> Two Dogs Taproom -> The Hobgoblin. Two Dogs was lively and had a seemingly good crowd but unfortunately it was full. So we skipped it and ended up going to another place called Harlem Freak instead.
We ordered the Libertine black ale and the Scottish chocolate breakfast stout. They taste as good as or better than they sound. The range of beers both on tap and bottled was pretty impressive, from IPAs to weizens to amber ales to stouts. There was also an imperial stout that has a jaw-dropping alcohol content of 32% named the Tactical Nuclear Penguin.
The interior was industrial chic, and they had movie theatre seats for chairs! The buffalo wings had a spicy zing and left us licking our fingers. The blue cheese dip was chunky and complemented the wings perfectly.
Rating: 4/5 kegs
Situated next to a sports bar, the Hobgoblin has all the vibes of a British pub. Wooden furniture, London memorabilia, a carpeted floor and curtained windows, you might just be in the mood for a Sunday roast.
It has a variety of English ales on tap such as the Speckled Hen and Abbot, the Aspall Suffolk cider, as well as Guinness. The wings came without the boney joint and were only slightly better than abysmal in terms of flavor and meatiness. The cheese dip tasted like a mix of cheese and mayonnaise.
Rating: 3/5 kegs
The beers were only of the bottled variety (Corona, Miller), but the wings were absolutely delish. They were golden crispy drumlets coated in a well-balanced red sauce that had just the right notes of heat and tanginess. There were no cucumber sticks, but the blue cheese sauce was already drizzled and had melded with the wings in perfect gastronomic harmony. The only downside was that they had taken quite some time to come even though the place was empty.
Rating: 4.5/5 for wings, 1/5 for beer
We’ve satisfied the beer fiend in us for now, but hopefully the craft landscape is on an upward trend and starts gaining traction. There needs to be more accessible proprietary breweries, and more sophisticated noses for notes of malt like that for sake. Perhaps most pertinently, there should be more appreciation for a repertoire of beers other than the monotonous, single (bad) taste of nama draft beer.