A tiny bar where patrons queue for up to 90 minutes has become the go-to spot for beer connoisseurs in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The secret is in the pouring, but there is one catch: each person is limited to just two drinks.
"Beer Stand Shigetomi" in the famed entertainment district of Nagarekawa, the largest in Japan's Chugoku region, serves up cold ones for 500 yen a glass. No other alcohol is offered and there are no seats. Long lines are not uncommon on weekends. So why wait?
Although it serves popular beer brands, the difference is in the delivery. "We can make 15 flavor variations of beer just by the way we pour," said Yutaka Shigetomi, 54, who mans the taps.
Originally a liquor shop, which has been handed down three generations from the Taisho era (1912-1926), a standing-only bar was added in a corner of the store in 2012 to get people who order "just a beer for the time being" to drink a really tasty draught.
On a menu with several types of beer, the standard draught known as "Ichido-Sosogi" (One Fill), uses an old type of beer tap that was used before World War II. The tilted glass gently captures the beer that flows vigorously out of the spigot. Shigetomi slices off the froth, which looks as if it will overflow, with a spatula.
For "Nido-Sosogi" (Two Fills), once a glass has been filled with beer, only froth is poured in the second time, causing the first layered Ichido-Sosogi of froth to spill over in a fine texture of foam. The gentle flavor makes it seem like a completely different beer.
Not only does Shigetomi pay particular detail to the maintenance of his beer taps, he also has a glass cleansing method that he says brings out "80 percent of the flavor."
For Shigetomi, it should be easy to find a tasty beer to drink. He hosts seminars in various locations on how to pour beer, generously sharing with other restaurants his techniques and knowledge of the craft.
"I want a restaurant in Hiroshima to one day be able to serve better beer than I do, and let me fulfill my dream of devoting myself to the liquor shop."
And there is another factor that makes "Beer Stand Shigetomi" a spot for aficionados: the bar is only open for two hours a day, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
"At the end of the day we are really a liquor store. We shoudn't have rivalries with restaurants," said Shigetomi.
For that reason, the beer stand's motto is "zero repeaters." His function is to send his customers off into the nighttime entertainment district feeling only slightly intoxicated.
Just to make sure, this reporter asked for another refill but got the retort, "It doesn't matter how much you ask me, three glasses is out of the question."