Hokkaido Feature

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The Beer

Sapporo means beer to drinkers around the world, and what would a visit to the city of the same name be without a little beer research?

Head to Sapporo Beer Museum, 2 km (1 mile) northeast of Sapporo Station for a cursory history lesson in the redbrick former factory, and then to the neighboring biergarten, where waiters in a cavernous noisy hall will rush to get a glass of the golden brew into your hands. Raise your glass—Kampai (Bottoms up)!

If you are in town in July and early August, join Sapporo Beer and other companies at the Sapporo Beer Garden festival in Odori Park in the city center: every night for three weeks thousands of revelers sit out under the trees with beer steins and snacks getting very lubricated. The faithful can do the factory tour and tasting at Hokkaido Brewery at Eniwa, near New Chitose Airport, where guides (Japanese-language only) show the brewing process.

Brewmaster Seibei Nakagawa spent two years at the Berliner Brauerai studying German know-how and returned ready to put it all into practice. The first brewery was at the current Sapporo Factory shopping mall, and Sapporo Reisi (cold) Beer, with a red-and-black label bearing the red star symbol, first went on sale in 1877 (Sapporo’s cold climate was a competitive advantage in the era before refrigeration).

Toriaezu biiru! (For the time being, beer!) is still the first order of business at parties, beer-hall barbecues, and campsite cookouts. Sapporo Beer dominates the market up here, but microbreweries offer interesting alternatives. Look for local brews, ji-biiru, particularly Otaru Beer (factory tour available), Hakodate, and Taisetsu.

Updated: 02-2014

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