First chance I got I visited Popeye in Ryogoku. While more places are opening up Popeye seems to retain its place as the natural home of craft beer around here. There were a few changes - a single, bilingual menu and the "Hops Heart" which is an ultra-late hopping device like the Randall. But the concept, the friendly well-dressed staff, the extraordinary beer list and the uncompromising prices are still unchanged. I got a congratulations on Hashigo Zake's opening from the legendary Aoki-san and it was a relief to hear the name Hashigo Zake get the laughs that it was meant to. I had a pint of Toshi's IPA (7%! and outrageously rich), two glasses from the Hops Heart (one passing through Centennial that smelt like a peach and custard danish and one Simcoe which was surprisingly restrained by comparison) and an Ozenoyukidoke IPA (always good).
Next it was a quick feed at an Izakaya and a reminder of the bad old days - cigarette smoke. While other countries resort to legislation to liberate our lungs, the Japanese government (50% shareholder in Japan Tobacco) all but make smoking compulsory by forcing smokers indoors.
Amends were made by a quick stop at Maltan in Kanda. It's an atmospheric underground bar with a good mix of tap and bottled beer. And particularly enjoyable when you come across it by chance.