One of Yokohama’s newest craft beer purveyors is not a boisterous place to hang out, imbibe cheap suds and foment revolution. A self-styled “premium beer bar” situated only a stone’s throw from the JR and Keikyu rail tracks between Yokohama and Kanagawa stations, Beer Republic is more Japanese tea house than buds ‘n’ suds.
Inside the second floor establishment, a long counter sits in front of a compact array of copper beer taps. A couple of tables sit next to the window, and just past it, a small tatami room with a low chabudai table and four sturdy zaisu back rests. Only the tatami was free, so the shoes came off¾a first for a specialty beer visit.
We settled on a large-size Tamamura-Honten Shiga Kogen India pale ale from Nagano, a Ise Kadogawa Kangaroo light ale from Mie (both ¥950), and a regular size Atsugi-brewed Sankt Gallen pineapple ale (¥750).
As we waited for our drinks, the lighting dimmed significantly and we realized we were the loudest group in the place, standing out against the tea room-like backdrop.
“A little too Japanesque,” one of us commented softly.
Our host arrived with the drinks and we shut up. Serious beer is the politics of the Beer Republic. The IPA was a light amber color, slightly citrusy with a distinctively hoppy punch. It wasn’t exactly room temperature, but in the cloying setsuden heat, it seemed like it. For an IPA with little carbonation this makes for a sludgy drop by the time you’re halfway through. It was refreshing on first sip, less than enjoyable near the bottom. Perhaps the anticipation for the first beer of the evening had heightened expectations.
The Beer Republic has 14 different taps, and two hand pumps for real ales, so it’s safe to assume cooling can be adjusted for each different brew. Upon asking which brew was served coldest we were told that they were all the same “recommended” temperature. If we wanted something colder, we were going to have to order a refrigerator-kept bottle of some nameless Japanese domestic beer.
The Kangaroo ale received a better reception with its earthy malt and slightly fruity, more robust American pale ale style—though again, the latter half was a little chewy.
By the time we had compared notes on the pale ales, the lone pineapple ale had disappeared. Our quick-drinking compatriot claimed it had been light and “Juicy Fruit delicious.” And it wasn’t overly sweet, either… apparently.
The pricing of this republic is democratic, with all beer clocking in at ¥750 for a regular, ¥950 for a large and ¥1,100 for a pint. Barley wine is also on offer for the same price. Nibbles are mostly locally-sourced with simple edamame (¥450) that seemed wonderfully seeped with garlic, nama ham with onion (¥650), and a sliced cucumber salad (¥350) with a relish of onions and tomatoes that was spicy and kimchi-like. The lack of nicotine in the air of this entirely nonsmoking bar further added to the enjoyment of our food.
For round two we were keen on the Ise Kadogawa, the blonde ale, but were informed it was served at exactly room temperature, so we passed. We settled on the Minamishinshu Dunkelweizen, a dark banana-infused roasted malt wheat beer, a Shiga Kogen pale ale, and a Michinoku Fukushima peach ale¾then rubbed our hands together in anticipation.
Unfortunately, for some reason it took almost thirty minutes to receive our order. We waited and called on the status, received some attention and then were quickly forgotten. We thought perhaps the party at the table was running them ragged—but they had already gone.
When it did arrive, we quickly went to work on the imposing Dunkel (clearly the winner in the size/price contest) and the peach ale. The Dunkel was toffee-like, with a subtle banana nose, and a rich chocolate and coffee bitterness. The peach ale was light-bodied with slight hops overtones and the summer fruit kept to a bare minimum, though still cheeky enough.
“Good, but boring,” was one resigned comment on the Dunkel weizen. “As forgettable as the establishment.” Ouch. The heat, the service and “recommended temperature” of the beer had everyone a little off.
We paid our very reasonable bill. The table we had been hoping for still sat with its dirty dishes and glasses waiting to be cleared. Half a dozen people were perched at the long bar, nursing their drinks. Not depressing, but Beer Republic was certainly not the fiery, barley and hops infused ambiance we were expecting. This revolution will not be televised.