Way back in February of this year, I was in the snowy northern island of Hokkaido. While there, I was able to visit the Sapporo Beer Factory, producer of one of the most iconic Japanese beers seen at home and abroad: Sapporo. While the tour was all in Japanese (unlike the information available from Yebisu) and we were unable to take a tour on that day, another main draw of the factory was open: Its plentiful beer gardens.
Sapporo Beer Factory
The factory is just outside the central area of Sapporo, and you can see its tall smoke stack and red star on the horizon as you make your way there. It’s a beautiful red brick piece of history from the early 20th century in Japan. In the winter, they’ll decorate the trees with lights and have their own mini illumination displays to distract you from the cold air.
Sapporo Bier Garten
There are multiple beer gardens on the premises, all of which serve cold Sapporo brews and some are exclusive to Hokkaido and even this specific site. You can get some nice grilled meats while you’re hear, Japanese/Korean BBQ style, as well as the Hokkaido specialty, Genghis Khan (mutton piled on a conical grill). They also have small bites and salads, but the main draw is the meat. You’ll know this because the brewhouse is filled to the brim with smoke and steam from the multiple grills browning choice cuts all around you. Vegetarians or those not into eating meat may not enjoy themselves so much if they’re sensitive to smells, since the smell of cooking meat is 100% unavoidable.
So, let’s be honest: This isn’t exactly a beer you travel across the country to try. It has a slightly better flavor than the commercial Sapporo, and I think I like it a bit more than Five Star. The German brewing, I think, helps the light flavor achieve a bit of balance. But overall, not the most exciting brew out there.
Sapporo Five Star
So this one is a Japanese rice beer–not a happoshu, I believe, because it doesn’t adhere to the rules of happoshu–that you can only buy at this factory. You can’t find it anywhere else in Japan! The flavor of rice beers tend to be… not that great, in my opinion. They’re a little watery and the flavor is a bit off due to the use of rice in the brewing process. It was an interesting taste, but nothing that memorable. Still, if you’re there, it’s worth a try. Much like with the Classic, it certainly isn’t worth a trip to solely get this brew.
And with that, my very late report on the Sapporo Beer Factory is complete. Now, the actual industrial plant where they produce the thousands of gallons for distribution is outside the city center, but this little operation is a fine testament to the history of Sapporo brewing.