While visiting Ebisu a week ago, my wife decided that we would go to the Yebisu Beer Museum, just a short walk from Ebisu Station. I’m not a big fan of Japanese macro beers, but I figured it would be a nice experience. Little did I know, it would turn out to be much, much nicer than I had imagined.
Museum of Yebisu Beer
The museum is a fascinating (and reasonably short) look at the history of Yebisu Beer in the context of modernization of Japan. The company first started way back 1887 to develop a German-style beer in Japan. Through a series of trials and tribulations, the company grew, shrunk, and merged during the economic boom and Westernization of Japan during the 1910s and 1920s. The museum hosts a variety of old bottles, labels, signboards, and advertisements from the varying eras, giving a great glimpse into how the historical events of the time shaped industry and the Yebisu brand.
The most fascinating tidbit I learned was that in 1943, after increasing regulations from the Japanese government, all brands of domestic beer were abolished by the government. All production was shifted towards wartime efforts. So, for a while there in Japanese history, there was no domestic beer market.
There are two tasting areas: One big stage where you can get a Yebisu brand ambassador to explain the various tasting notes about the beers after a guided tour (all of which costs a nominal fee, around 500 yen). The issue here is that everything is in Japanese, so if your language isn’t the best, the information will go right over your head. The other tasting area is to the side of the stage. Here, you buy tasting coins from a vending machine and exchange those for tokens. All beers are 1 token for about a 350ml glass (400 yen per token), while a taster set of three of their standard beers is 2 tokens. Once you get your token, you get into line and order your drink. They will give you a coaster to mark which beer you are drinking. Show the bar tenders your coaster and they will give you a nice frothy cup for your enjoyment. They also served snacks here as well, but we didn’t bother to try any.
We ended up trying some of their special beers: The Mrs. got the Creamy Top Stout, while I got the Yebisu Meister. The Meister was pretty good, as the name would have you believe. The Creamy Top Stout was nice, low on the bitter side with a lighter constitution than other heavier stouts.
Yebisu Museum Review
All in all, I was surprised by all that I learned and all the cool artifacts from the 1800s and 1900s I got to see. All of the information on the signs in the museum are also in English, so you don’t have to worry about self-guiding yourself. Admission is also free, which is a hard price to beat! The tasters of beer are also pretty cheap by Japanese standards and you get a generous serving. If you’re down in Ebisu and want to pass an hour or two learning some history and a bit about beer, it’s hard to go wrong with the Yebisu Museum. A hidden gem, if you ask me!