We had the pleasure to chat with Bertrand Oziol who works for the Scandinavian and Japanese Craft Beer bar ØL Tokyo located in Shibuya Tokyo. Last December during a trip in Tokyo we were impressed by the quality of the growing Japanese craft beer scene. What a surprise it was for us to discover by accident such an incredible craft beer bar in Tokyo.
Bertrand is 30 years old, half Spanish and half French. He left home 10 years ago to travel to South America and Asia mostly. After some time in London he moved to Japan 5 years ago. Before joining ØL Tokyo, he worked as cook, waiter, bartender and wine tender (sommelier) in high class restaurants and hotels. Bertrand heard about our love for ØL Tokyo and kindly replied to our questions. He told us more about this incredible bar serving European and Japanese craft beers in one of Tokyo’s busiest and trendiest area.
Top of the Hops : What is ØL Tokyo? Why opening such a Craft Beer Bar Tokyo?
Bertand Oziol – The bar is a collaboration between two Oslo (Norway) based companies: Fuglen and Oslo brewing company (OBC). Fuglen Tokyo, which is already well established in the city since a few years (with its popular cafe roaster/cocktail bar) first approached OBC. The idea was to somehow put Oslo in the Tokyo map through craft beers. It was also a way to reopen a former Mikkeller bar. Fulgen and OBC are both owned by a bunch a young tattooed people with different skills. brewers, baristas, bartenders, business developers and designers.
Our focus now is to introduce our beers to as many people as possible, through fairs and festivals and having Oslo brewing company beers on tap at many bars across Japan. Shibuya is at the centre of this booming culture. There is already few well established craft beer bars and there is vibrant night life where locals, expats and tourist congregate.What’s better than a good beer to tie new international friendship? Our bar is a cool hang out for beer geeks and beginners alike.
How can you describe the Japanese craft scene?
The craft beer scene is about to boom in Japan. Everyone is getting into the trend and discovering the wide variety of beers both local and foreign markets can offer (there is 200+ breweries in Japan). Some craft breweries are already well known, like Baird beer, Minoh or Shiga Kogen. Japanese do have in general a well educated palate and beer is becoming already a good alternative to good wine or sake in the country’s habits.
Can you tell us more about what makes this bar special?
Being a Norwegian bar in Japan we want to put forward Japanese and Scandinavian craft beers. Oslo brewing is our own beer, that you can only find at our bar anywhere outside of Oslo. Scandinavian pilsner and the mellow IPA being our most popular beers. We also have a wide variety of European beers.
The place also works as a communal space, where you can order take out food, work or have a party and we also organize DJ events, live music performances, art exhibitions and we regularly have pop up chefs and food trucks at the outside area.
The jewels in the crown are, of course, the 20 taps, always in rotation, with new beers on tap every second day and lots of rare special editions. The board is shared in between 10 Japanese and 10 European drafts mostly, sometimes maybe from somewhere else.
As you serve both European and Japanese craft beers, do you also encourage some collaborations between European and Japanese breweries?
We are a relatively new bar, newly integrated to the craft beer community in Japan, but we encourage collaborations between both continents by inviting brewers from all across and organizing beer community events like speeches and tap take overs.
How do you see the worldwide craft beer revolution? Is that only a trend or do you feel this would last in the long run? For instance small breweries are now getting more and more acquired by big industrial groups…
I think the craft beer revolution is taking up and it’s here to stay. Even though big companies are taking over, the beauty of craft beer is the DIY (do it yourself) spirit. Young people with crazy ideas making their own brews in garages and basement with basic tools. Small breweries will always continue to pop up like mushrooms and will always continue to bring us new creative beers out of scratch.
What was the first craft beer you had and which made you crazy about craft beers?
I first got in contact with craft beer through Belgian abbey beers, central European strong ales and old British pub style ales and stouts with special interest in higher alcohol content than mainstream lagers. Then I grew older, educated my palate and discovered the vast variety of flavours, especially with American IPAs.
What is the craft beer you enjoy the most at the moment?
If I had to choose a beer that I’m particularly fond of right now it would be the Blonde triple (limited) from brasserie La Bèstia, in Chanac, from my family hometown Lozère France. As with many other French ones, I would love to see this beer being introduced to the Japanese market and contribute to promote the French craft beer scene.
37-10 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan
For more info : http://www.oltokyo.jp/