Exploring the Sapporo Beer Museum

The iconic Sapporo Beer logo.
The museum entrance.
Known for it's annual snow festival, indigenous Ainu culture, and shiroi koibito(白い恋人)or "white sweetheart" cookies, the city of Sapporo is also synonymous with beer as Sapporo is the original home of the Sapporo Brewery. Hence, any visitor to the city must stop by the Sapporo Beer Museum(サッポロビール博物館).

Whether you're a beer aficionado or not (I am the former, ha!), the Sapporo Beer Museum is a great place to visit as it conveys Sapporo history from an interesting perspective. The iconic beer company not only introduced the well-known beverage to Japan, but was also a defining presence in the alcohol industry during both Japan's pre-WWII and economic miracle days. Today, the company has internationalized and is one of the most respected beer brewers in the world. In fact, it is the best-selling Asian beer in the world. 

The old, massive brewery machine.
The Sapporo Beer Museum takes visitors through three floors of beer history. Entry is free, and visitors may choose to explore the museum with a guide. Personally, I feel exploring solo is the better option as the museum is interactive and explains Sapporo beer history clearly, concisely and creatively. 

Visitors start from the third floor and work their way back down to the first. The third floor speaks for itself; it houses a large brewery machine from the original Sapporo Beer brewery, which dates back to the 1890s. It's quite impressive and makes for a great photo spot. 

From the machine, visitors walk down a ramp to the second floor where the bulk for the artifacts and stories related to the brewery are displayed. There's a nicely produced film summarizing the story, the displays housing original beer bottles, advertisements, and other artifacts from the company dating over 100 years.

The location of the Sapporo Beer Museum—formerly factory—humbly began as the Sapporo Sugar Company's factory in 1890. As the beet sugar factory was being constructed, the Kaitaku-shi Brewery Company was establishing a manufacturing location in 1876. The project was managed by Seibei Nakagawa, a brewmaster who learned his trade in Germany. 

By the turn of the century, sugar production was essentially outsourced to Taiwan (which was under the thumb of Japan at the time), and Sapporo Beer took over the city's sugar factory. 

The progression of kuro raberu(黒ラベル)or Sapporo "Black Label" Beer from 1957 to present day.
Before the second world war, there were four major beer companies in Japan: Yebisu (Tokyo); Asahi (Osaka); Kirin (Yokohama); and of course Sapporo Beer. The Sapporo and Osaka companies joined together to create the Japanese beer monopoly Dai-Nippon Beer Company, which broke apart into their original companies after the war between the 1940s and 1970s. 

In 1987, Sapporo Beer production operations moved elsewhere, and the original factory because the museum that it is today, a shining tribute to the famous black label beer. 

Old Sapporo Beer ads featuring stars.
The bar maids at work.
Most patrons ordered a full sampler.
The beer was delicious!
Naturally, after reading the intricate history of Sapporo Beer, you'd probably want to taste it yourself. Luckily, the museum doubles as a beer garden, and guests can sample it from the tap for just a couple dollars on the second floor.

If you can't choose just one beer, you can buy a sampler of all the beers on offer for less than $10. Perhaps I'm not a cool kid, but one glass was enough for me! Nevertheless, I have to say that it was a great glass of beer, light buy a noticeable depth of flavor. 

Oftentimes, people skip museum gift shops, but the first floor shop at the Sapporo Beer Museum is definitely worth checking out. There are a few brews of Sapporo Beer that cannot be purchased outside of Sapporo, so it's a great idea to buy some for the road. I bought a six pack of minis to enjoy later and share with friends.

Along with the museum at the University of Hokkaido, the Sapporo Beer Museum is a wonderful free stop in Sapporo which colorfully tells the history of Japan's northernmost major city. As I visited the museum on my 27th birthday, it felt like even more of a treat!

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