Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Ise Kadoya "Biyagura" suspends its Beer Day special
The news came from Midori, a hard-drinking hair dresser who has been a frequent participant at Ise Kadoya's all-you-can-drink specials. September, she said, would be the last month featuring the special until Spring (or, perhaps the last one ever ... more below).
Every since I arrived in Ise, a little more than three years ago, this special has been running. Two Wednesday's a month, the brewpub would bring in about three guest beers from microbreweries all over Japan, complementing the slate of beers made in-house, including some interesting seasonal offerings. (The roster was always rounded out with a two mass-market offerings to appease stubborn drinkers who think they know what they like.)
The result was a colorful, half-sheet of paper, describing 10 beers available that night. For 60 minutes, you were free to drink as much as you could for only 1,000 yen (until a recent price jump -- more on that below). If you didn't get enough, a second hour comes for just 900 yen.
The offerings weren't always good. Let's face it -- raft beer among the prefectures is a hit-and-miss game. But with three guest beers each time, there's was almost always something to like. But in the event of a strikeout, you could always rely on Ise Kadoya's own fabulous staple brews: The Brown Ale, Stout, Pale Ale and Shinto Beer. In all, it was a great deal, guaranteed to provide you with good beer.
The first sign that something was amiss came two months ago, when the price went from 1,000 yen for the first hour to 1,500 yen. Although this price hike made sense to me, I feared the deeper meaning -- the special was losing money. Sure enough, a few weeks ago the Japanese website announced the special's "vacation."
What's to blame? Or who? An easy potential target can be found in the mirror. I would usually eat dinner at home and then head to the pub for the nomihoudai a bit later. A few other friends would do the same, so we didn't order food while we drank quite a lot of beer. Did customers like us hurt the bottom line? Seems like it could easily be a factor.
But what else? Has it recently, for whatever reason, become more expensive to purchase and order the guest beer for delivery? I truly have no idea on this one.
Perhaps, also, the special still IS making money ... but barely ... making it an easy target to get the ax.
Whatever the case, it appears that they're going to use the time after this week's final installment to ponder what can be done, if anything, to make the special workable. While the original announcement said the break would last until spring, a more recent post on the Japanese site says something along the lines of "this COULD be the last one ever!"
If they do, how could they make it work? I have some ideas of my own:
Jack the Price
The original 1,000-yen hour was pretty crazy. I wouldn't have flinched the first time if I had found a 2,000 yen price tag. And I won't flinch next spring if they bring back the special with a new price/time structure. How about 2,000 yen (or more?) for 90 minutes? Sometimes an hour feels rushed if it's busy at the bar. And sometimes two hours is a bit much. Maybe 3,000 90 minutes, plus 1,000 for an extra 60? Basically, crunch the numbers and try it out. It just might work.
Map to Mini-Stop
Instead of offering Suntory's The Premium Malts and an Ebisu, point the stubborn types to the convenience store, where they can drink as much Standard Swill as they'd like. An award-winning brewery is no place for beer you can get ANYWHERE ELSE. Practically, this would cut back on customers who just come for a cheap hour of Premium Malts. Idealistically, it would force weary friends of beer-lovers to actually try something new. Or am I way off here?
Well, my ideas have run out for the moment. But surely there are more.
Whatever the case, I hope the special comes back. Being in rural Mie means that I don't have easy access to a wide variety of Japanese craft beers. This event has let me, and others, try all kinds of stuff, be it Baird, Shiga Kogen, or any myriad small breweries all over Japan.
-Any visitors to Ise-shi should certainly pop in to Biyagura, just a 20-minute walk or a 5-minute cab ride from Ise-she station. A 2-hour all-you-can-drink, for less than 2,000 yen, remains on the regular menu. Biyagura is closed Wednesdays, except for the soon-t0-be-suspended beer nights. Try the famous mochi across the street ... from the same company, it's history is much longer than the beer's.
-I will try to snag an interview with somebody at Ise Kadoya about the suspended beer nights. Stay tuned for that.