After what was a long afternoon of getting lost in Sapporo, my wife, her two classmates, and I finally arrived at the Sapporo Beer Museum. When we arrived, the first thing I noticed is what a huge parking lot was near the museum. I’m still not used to seeing large swaths of parking in Japan. It blows my mind that there’s actually space in Japan for large surface parking.
The next thing that caught my eye was the beautiful red brick warehouse and it’s tall smoke stack bearing the iconic red star and name of Sapporo Beer. The museum building was built 1890 and was a sugar factory in its first incarnation. Sapporo Beer took over the facility in 1905. Then in 1987, it became the Sapporo Beer Museum. Admission is free to the museum. And we all know that free is affordable!
Information booklets and facility maps are available in several languages at the Beer Museum, but most of the actual displays are in Japanese only. However, it’s still fun to look at all the fun beer paraphernelia and memorabilia on display. The suggested path for the tour is to take the elevator up to the third floor and tour the exhibits on beer making, the beer industry, and ingredients used in beer. There’s also a handy chronology of the evolution of Sapporo Beer (if you can understand the Japanese).
There are also a variety of bottles on display showing off some vintage labels from Sapporo Beer and Yebisu Beer (one of the many brands owned by the larger Sapporo Breweries Limited). So even if you’re not into beer, you may appreciate some of the beautiful labels found on the older bottles.
At one end of the building, there’s a beautiful stained glass window overlooking one of the giant boiling kettle. Since we didn’t arrive at the beer museum until later in the afternoon, the sun was shining right through the stained glass window. I guess it was serendipity for us to get lost (that’s just an excuse to make me feel better). The boiling kettle itself was two stories high and it’s copper surface shone brightly in the filtered sunshine.
Down a level on the second floor was a collection of advertising over the years. The advertising included classic wood signs that I imagine were posted outside izakayas serving the beer. Further along, there were a collection of classic beer advertising posters.
There was also a small one-corridor display explaining the history of Sapporo Draft Black Label. I’m not sure how long this history is, but it was only 3 little windows worth of display here. I can’t help feel that it was more advertising than museum in this part of the complex. But what can you expect in a museum dedicated to a commercial venture. Although I must admit, this one corridor was the most stylish part of the whole place.
Then finally, we reached the first floor. The first floor and the tasting lounge is probably what I truly came for. True to Japanese form, we had to buy our tickets for our drinks and snacks through a vending machine.
It was ¥500 for 3 medium sized glasses of beer with 3 different flavours, plus a small, complimentary snack. There were the Black Label, Classic, and Kaitakushi Beer. My favourite out of the 3 was probably the Black Label. For me, the Classic was too light of a beer. It also tends to be the most common beer available in restaurants in Hokkaido from my experience. Classic is also exclusively available in Hokkaido. So you have to at least try Sapporo Classic if you visit Hokkaido.
I think the 3 glasses of beer hit the spot after a long afternoon of getting lost. So what was next? But the shopping mall, of course!