As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, Hugh McCafferty (Fukuoka Now editor and bona fide Irishman) recommends the best places in Fukuoka to get a true taste of Ireland
On 17 March, millions of people around the world mark St. Patrick’s Day, the annual celebration of all things Irish. With this generally comes a torrent of green; clothes, faces, beer, even rivers all take on an emerald hue for the day. The more discerning Irishman/woman, however, disregards such frivolity in pursuit of an altogether more interesting colour: the deep ruby-black and creamy white of a pint of Guinness enjoyed in the company of friends.
In Japan it’s possible to buy Guinness in a lot of bars. Unfortunately, due to space restrictions, many businesses employ an ultrasonic “surger” to give beer poured from a can the appearance of a true pint. Don’t be fooled, though, the only way to enjoy Guinness is on tap. To further complicate matters, it’s said that to achieve the “perfect pint” a strict pouring method must be carefully followed. First, take a clean, dry 20oz imperial pint glass. Hold it at 45 degrees and pull the tap until the glass is as full as possible at that angle, being careful not to allow the spout to touch the beer or glass. Leave the pint to rest until the nitrogen bubbles have surged to the top and created a satisfactorily creamy head. Finally, slowly top up until you get a slight dome peeping over the top of the glass.
If that sounds like a bit of a handful, don’t worry. If you drop into any of the following fine establishments, you can leave the hard work to the bartenders and concentrate on enjoying a delicious pint of The Black Stuff. Without any further ado, then, here are the top five best bars to get a pint of Guinness in Fukuoka.
5. The Hakata Harp
1-1 Susaki-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi 812-0028
According to its website, The Hakata Harp was the first Irish bar in Kyushu. Its age and, perhaps more significantly, its attachment to a hotel, are reflected in the clunky formality that seems to characterise the place. Staff often seem to be stiffly standing to attention when unoccupied, the high ceiling stifles any potential atmosphere and inappropriately multi-tiered tables serve as an impediment to easy-going conversation. Despite its shortcomings, though, The Hakata Harp cannot be faulted for its Guinness. In this regard, the bartenders’ seriousness works to their customers’ advantage, as they diligently follow the precise method of pulling a “perfect pint” time and time again. The result is well-balanced, with the beer’s deep, roasted flavour set off by that characteristic tang and a rich, creamy head that stoically remains even after the last mouthful has been drained from the glass.
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, The Hakata Harp offers an unusual all-you-can-drink deal which covers just Guinness and Kilkenny (a popular Irish cream ale) for two hours. This is recommended only for drinkers of a sturdy constitution.
4. Irish Pub Booties
1F Takeuchi Building, 1-2-2 Kyo-machi, Kokurakita-ku, Kitakyushu-shi 802-0002
Booties has been around, in one form or another, for nearly 10 years. The business has experienced a few twists and turns but, since moving to its attractive new premises on the banks of the Murasaki River in 2010, it’s been going strong. With the motto “Bad beer is the enemy” the bar staff pride themselves on their diligent care of equipment, regular keg rotation and the high quality of their product.
Happily for customers, this sense of pride is entirely justified, particularly with regard to their Guinness. Smooth, cool and consistently fresh, it is always a pleasure to drop by, sit at the long bar and enjoy a pint while watching the evening set in outside the window.
3. British Pub Morris
7F Stage 1 Nishidori Building, 2-1-4 Daimyo, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi 810-0041
Morris is a standard fixture on the bar circuit in Fukuoka and has been for many years. This longevity can be attributed to a number of factors: Friendly staff, a great location (its seventh floor outdoor patio is the perfect location for summer drinks) and, perhaps most importantly, consistency. Customers return to Morris because they know they’ll always be happy with what’s put in front of them, whether that’s a smoothly mixed cocktail, a fresh, chilled bottle of import beer or a patiently poured pint of Guinness.
Morris’s Guinness boasts everything a good pint should: Smooth texture, subtle, coffee undertones, and a well-proportioned, creamy head. Even at the height of summer on the aforementioned patio, it remains steadfastly drinkable.
If you seek a lively spot to enjoy a top-notch pint this St. Patrick’s Day, then Morris is the place to go. Be careful not to confuse it with its new sister bar, Black Sheep, down the street, though, to which its impressive Guinness quality control does not, unfortunately, extend.
2. Irish Pub Sláinte
1F Nakagawa Building, 1-3-21 Akasaka, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi 810-0042
Sláinte (pronounced slawncha, the Irish equivalent of kanpai) is a cosy, unpretentious Irish bar in Akasaka. This second quality is key to its charm. Unlike many other bars, you won’t get a kitsch shamrock shape traced into the head of your pint. The staff are friendly but keep to themselves. Rugby is shown almost continuously on a big screen, but it does nothing to encroach on the comfortable atmosphere in the bar. In many ways, Sláinte is the closest you will get to the homely, unassuming ambience of Ireland’s best pubs. In this sense, it’s hands-down the best place in Fukuoka City for a quiet pint.
As mentioned before, the Guinness here is a no-frills experience, making it all the more authentic. Hovering marginally above the standard temperature, it’s got a satisfying bite that adds a sharper edge to the usual tangy aftertaste.
It’s also worth mentioning that, when available, Sláinte’s oysters are remarkably fresh and make the perfect accompaniment to your pint of plain.
1. Public House Bravo
4-1-2 Kurosaki, Yahatanishi-ku, Kitakyushu-shi 806-0021
There are many reasons Bravo is the best spot in the prefecture to enjoy a pint of the black stuff. Staff members are talkative but unintrusive; the atmosphere is intimate but not exclusive; the food menu is unwaveringly tempting. However, the purpose of this list is to champion the best Guinness and the best Guinness only – and it is in this category that Bravo truly distinguishes itself. The people pulling your pint here are enthusiastic about beer and know exactly what makes an excellent pint. They are well-versed in the “perfect pour” and the Guinness at Bravo is smooth, creamy and, more than any other bar in the prefecture, supremely drinkable. Even a novice could knock this stuff back all night.
Unless you’re willing to reserve the second floor, Bravo doesn’t lend itself well to big groups, making it the perfect spot for a quiet pint with a few friends or, if they’re too busy painting the town green in Fukuoka City, a good book.
This St. Patrick’s Day, then, why not leave the green face paint at home and try a slightly more restrained but entirely more authentic celebration of Ireland’s best?