Dec 252017

Christmas Day – 2017

Sapporo Beer

The Sapporo Beer Museum and Bier Garten are a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Sapporo Beer Museum

The factory was built in 1890 as the Sapporo sugar factory and used as the beer malting plant until 1963.  It was turned into the museum and beer garden in 1966.

Sapporo Bier Garten

Registered as one of the Hokkaidō Heritage sites in 2004, the museum is the only beer museum in Japan.

In 1895, Japanese sugar manufacture declined, causing the liquidation of the beet manufacturing factory run by the Sapporo Sugar Company. In 1903, the Sapporo Beer Company purchased and remodeled the factory to use as a brewery.

Sapporo Beer Posters

Beer posters through the ages, notice the predominance of women, and yes, children.

A very good self-guided tour, with English translation cards, is available through the museum.  You can also take a guided tour for a small fee, which includes beer tasting, however, it was not available Christmas day as the tasting room was closed.

Some interesting facts about Sapporo beer:  In 1869, the Meiji government set about developing Hokkaido, establishing a Kaitakushi (the national government Hokkaido Development Commission). One of the businesses established under this commission was the Kaitakushi Brewery.

The following year the  Sapporo Brewery was born. It was originally slated to open in Tokyo, but wild hops were discovered in Hokkaido and the area was found to be highly suitable for both the cultivation of hops and also barley.

The first brewer was a Seibei Nakagawa, a Japanese man that had gone to Germany of his own accord to study beer brewing.

Since Sapporo beer was brewed in the German style, which relies on fermentation and maturing to be done at low temperatures, and since ice was easy to procure in Hokkaido, the area turned out to be ideal for beer production.  Also, at the time they had not developed the ability to fully remove yeast, which would change the taste of the beer if the temperature rose, so the ice was also needed during the transportation of the beer to Tokyo.

In 1937, due to a war economy, all beer production in Japan stopped. At the end of the war, the company was split into Asahi Breweries and  Nippon Breweries (now Sapporo).  The Nippon brand included Yebisu.   However, Nippon did not utilize either of those names in making beer.  In 1956, the unrelenting cries of fans pushed Sapporo Beer to bring back the name, and once again begin making beer in Hokkaido.  The sale of Sapporo Beer did not even go countrywide until 1964.

Labels of Sapporo Beer through the ages

Labels of Sapporo Beer through the ages

Sapporo Beer Museum

The Kaitakushi Brewery was established in the place where now the Sapporo Factory Shopping Mall is in downtown Sapporo. The inauguration was held at the brewery, and beer barrels were piled up in front of the building. These barrels were restored, and now stand in front of the Sapporo Beer Museum

The museum does not take more than a half of an hour, if the tasting room is open it could take longer, but what everyone goes for are the restaurants.

These are packed in the evening, so a leisurely lunch was considerably more inviting. There are five restaurants on the grounds, each with a slight twist on either its decor or its menu offering, but the big thing is that they all offer all you can eat and, should you choose, all you can drink.  The catch on the all you can drink is you have 100 minutes, and, more importantly, it does not include the premium beers.

Sapporo Beer Garden Genghis Khan meal

The reason people go to eat is the Genghis Khan.  You can order it as a meal (shown above) or as part of the all you can eat.  You grill your own strips of lamb and vegetables.

Ghengis Khan dinner Sapporo

As mocking you for improperly cooking your Genghis Kahn is de rigueur, directions are set before you so you are not teased by the table next to you.

fat Genghis Khan Sapporo Japan food

You begin by getting your personal, table-top, griddle covered in fat with the slab of lamb fat that comes with the raw meat and vegetables.

Sapporo Beer Garden Genghis Khan mealNext, you place the vegetables on the edges and the meat in the middle.

Sapporo Beer Garden Restaurants

Cook until the meat is no longer red, and your vegetables to your liking.

Sapporo Beer Garden Restaurants

Kessel Hall, the most fun of the restaurants that are open for lunch, is dominated by a giant Kessel.

In German the word Kessel (literally a cauldron) is commonly used to refer to an encircled military force, and a Kesselschlacht (cauldron battle) refers to a pincer movement. The common tactic which would leave a Kessel is referred to Keil and Kessel (Keil means wedge).

In German the word Kessel means cauldron.

Sapporo Beer Garden and restaurants

Notice the plastic bags next to the diners.  The smoke is so intense in the room when it is full that you, your hair and your clothing go home reeking of Ghengis Khan.  The plastic bags are provided by the restaurant to keep that from happening to anything that you brought in that isn’t attached to your body.

The green and yellow drink at that table are flavored beers, Sapporo also makes several types of soft drinks.

Next to the Sapporo Beer Museum and Garden is a shopping mall with a grocery store that I would pay good money to have in my hometown.  If you have not indulged in entirely too much beer, it is absolutely worth a stroll. There is an ATM, and as those that travel in Japan, know, those are not the easiest to find, so it is a great opportunity to get some cash.

There is a taxi stand at the museum, but it was snowing on Christmas day and cabs in the snow in Japan are as rare as they are anywhere else in the world in the snow.  There is also a cab stand at the shopping mall, and it was frequented often, just a word to the wise.


screen-shot-2017-12-25-at-7-52-26-pmSo just a small note about Christmas in Japan, known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend together and exchange presents. In many ways, it resembles Valentine’s Day.

We had a fried chicken dinner because fried chicken is often eaten on Christmas day. It is the busiest time of year for restaurants such as KFC and believe it or not you can put in orders in advance at KFC’s and other fast food restaurants that serve fried chicken. This most likely came about because of a 1974 advertising campaign by KFC called ‘Kentucky for Christmas!’ (Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!) which was very successful and made KFC popular for Christmas.

Meri Kurisumasu

and if you are really challenging me Merry Christmas in Hiragana is: めりーくりすます; and in Katakana is: メリークリスマス.