The Oldest Japanese Booze: Touring the Sapporo Beer Museum
Founded in 1876, Sapporo is the oldest brewery in Japan. By 1906, it held a major monopoly in the country, after buying up a couple competitors. One of those purchased competitors, Yebisu, was located in Tokyo and is where Sapporo Beer is headquartered today.
The original brewery building remains intact in the city of Sapporo, now open for tasting and tours of sorts.
There isn't a lot to see here, though what's on display is interesting for beer fans. And the old building mixed with modern-design displays is attractive.
You can see old bottles and brewing equipment. Note that there isn't that much English signage here, but the displays speak for themselves.
On the upper floor, in addition to the old bottles, some brewing-process displays, and the history lesson, you can view a collection of Sapporo beer signs mixed with photos.
To get from the upper level to the lower, visitors walk down a ramp that goes around an old kettle.
Once you get downstairs, you can view a modern-style bar. Unfortunately it doesn't seem that beer is served here... at least not on slower days.
Across from the bar, the long wall has dozens of old advertisements. They are very similar to US beer advertisements, and many of them have attractive women. After you finish seeing the fake bar, you head into the shop and the real bar. (More on this later.)
In another building known as the Sapporo Bier Garten, you can have all-you-can-eat barbecue, known as Genghis Khan (pronounced jin-gi-su-kan). The Bier Garten serves lamb and vegetables (onions and bean sprouts) that you cook at your table on a helmet-shaped plate plus plenty of beer to wash it down. Most (Japanese) tourists consider this a must-visit experience.
I have a strong desire to return to Sapporo, even if only for a couple days, and I plan to return for dinner one night. I have heard that the smell of grilled meat will soak into your clothes, which isn't so pleasant as it gets stale, so plan on doing laundry after eating here. (Yes. There's an old train to see behind the Garten.)
So, as I mentioned, after touring the museum, you can try some fresh beer. You can order individual beers, or a set of three different styles with some beer crackers. You can see what I bought. The three-pack includes Black Label, Classic, and Kaitakushi (Pioneer) Beer. The kaitakushi beer is the "original recipe" for Sapporo Beer and uses local ingredients. It has a stronger flavor but was still pretty good, though my favorite has become Black Label. Also, there's a store selling all kinds of gifts and foods - Hokkaido and Sapporo specialties in addition to Sapporo Beer souvenirs.
The Beer Museum is located a 25-minute walk from Sapporo Station, or you can take a bus (Loop 88 Factory Line) directly from the train station right to the front door. Admission is free, and the museum is open from 9:00 AM until 6:00 PM; the Bier Garten is open 11:30 AM to 10 PM. All-you-can-eat/drink lamb and beer is under 4000 yen; alternately you can order smaller plates or dine at the Garden Grill.