It’s been suggested in the comments section that my cycling ability could be improved if I wasn’t drunk most days of the week. This may well be true, but like a climate change denialist clutching at straws of gross generalisation, I would like to point out that it was the demon drink that powered the engine room of Nelson’s Navy and made the British Empire what it was. I remember reading somewhere that more people died at the Battle of Trafalgar from drunkenly falling out of the rigging than from the enemy’s doing. However, I’ve never been able to find a source for that information so there’s a good chance that it’s entirely untrue. Nonetheless, although I couldn’t possibly keep up with the Royal Navy’s daily issue of half a pint of rum or a gallon of beer, I still believe beer to be a tasty treat and although I’ve been living in Sapporo for about four months now, it’s to my shame that I had not yet visited the Sapporo Beer Museum until yesterday.

Sapporo is famous for the 1972 winter Olympics (the first ever held in Asia) and for its annual snow festival which features snow sculptures in Odori Park in the middle of town but probably Sapporo’s greatest fame is in its world-famous Sapporo beer. It was therefore necessary for me to visit the Sapporo Beer Museum to learn more about its history. But first I took a visit to the Sapporo Beer website where I immediately had cause to doubt the reliability of its information:

The only beer museum in Japan. Except for our other one.

The only beer museum in Japan. Except for our other one.

The real joy of the Sapporo Breweries website was in the excellence of its corporate mumbo-jumbo. I learnt that:

For over a century, Sapporo has aimed to enhance its corporate value by consistently creating and delivering new value in harmony with changing customer lifestyles and tastes.

And I was pleased to hear of their:

Establishment of the Frontier Laboratories of Value Creation

The need for each company to identify its core competencies in research and development is becoming more and more important against the backdrop of an increasingly competitive society.

It is indeed important to stay on the frontier of value creation but I always wonder who on earth this sort of guff is written for. I imagine someone was called into an office and told: Look, we’ve got a website so we need to put some words on it. Can you write a lot of words that sound fancy but are essentially mundane and meaningless yet portray us positively?

I didn’t let this put me off, so Kazuko and I got on our bikes and headed for the museum. Unfortunately it was very cold and windy and when it started raining on us, we decided to turn around and head home. But then yesterday the skies were clear so we tried again and this time we got there without getting wet. So I celebrated with a photo of Kazuko in front of some barrels:

Hooray! We made it to the museum.

Hooray! We made it to the museum.

And then we found some parking and headed to the entrance:

This way in.

This way in.

As we entered, we were passing a couple of little old ladies leaving when one of them loudly told the other that she was now very drunk. Music to my ears. The museum part of the museum actually wasn’t all that big – it was really just a room on the third floor. Still, it had some old beer bottles:

Yebisu, Sapporo and Asahi from 1908. All three of these are still major brands in Japan.

Yebisu, Sapporo and Asahi from 1908. All three of these are still major brands in Japan.

There was a timeline on the wall which showed various points in the history including the 1906 Peace Beer:

Tactfully celebrating the end of the Russo-Japanese War.

Tactfully celebrating the end of the Russo-Japanese War.

And my enjoyment of the beer ingredients section was hampered by the dastardly Hog ‘Flu:

This is the barley to help stop the spread of the flu. Do not eat it.

This is the barley to help stop the spread of the flu. Do not eat it.

And you can leave the hops alone while you're at it.

And you can leave the hops alone while you're at it.

And then we were treated to the process of beer-making in the magical beer land:

Fields of barley.

Fields of barley.

And hops that grows up to the clouds. (Did you know, in addition to adding bitterness to beer, hops acts as a preservative?)

And hops that grows up to the clouds. (Did you know, in addition to adding bitterness to beer, hops acts as a preservative?)

I think they may be grinding the malted barley. Malting means allowing the seed to germinate a little, then heating it to stop germination. Many kinds of seeds can be malted but barley is best for beer.

I think they may be grinding the malted barley. Malting means allowing the seed to germinate a little, then heating it to stop germination. Many kinds of seeds can be malted but barley is best for beer.

Looks like we may be mashing. There are two enzymes in the husk of barley that, at the right temperature, will break down starches into sugars that can then be fermented by yeast.

Looks like we may be mashing. There are two enzymes in the husk of barley that, at the right temperature, will break down starches into sugars that can then be fermented by yeast.

Rivers of beer. This must be fermentation. Did you know yeast can reproduce by both budding and fission?

Rivers of beer. This must be fermentation. Did you know yeast can reproduce by both budding and fission?

Bottling. Spot the lazy worker.

Bottling. Spot the lazy worker.

And finally shipping the beer to foreign destinations. Nowadays beer is often brewed under licence in other countries. This is much better for the environment than shipping beer half way around the world.

And finally shipping the beer to foreign destinations. Nowadays beer is often brewed under licence in other countries. This is much better for the environment than shipping beer half way around the world.

Downstairs there was a display of beer advertising boards:

Can you guess from these what the Japanese writing for beer is?

Can you guess from these what the Japanese writing for beer is?

Ah - the myth of the jolly fat man.

Ah - the myth of the jolly fat man.

And a display of beer packaging and novelties down the years:

I couldn't see a size for the smallest can but it's about a mouthful.

I couldn't see a size for the smallest can but it's about a mouthful.

I wonder why this packaging never caught on?

I wonder why this packaging never caught on?

A handy beer dispensing fridge. Hit the jackpot every time!

A handy beer dispensing fridge. Hit the jackpot every time!

Love Beer? The action figure.

Love Beer? The action figure.

Now seems to be as good a time as any to slip a beer ad in:

Hmmm – he actually says ‘Rub Beer?’

And after the tour, it was time for tasting. Behind the bar was an impressive collection of beer cans:

All the old cans. I wonder if they were full or empty?

All the old cans. I wonder if they were full or empty?

The menu included a tasting tray of three types of beer for only 400 yen. That’s cheaper than most places sell just one glass for. I think the museum may become my local. If you’re interested in improving your beer knowledge, I recommend getting several types of beer and sipping from one, then another glass to properly compare differences between them. I also recommend becoming familiar with the many different hop varieties and discovering what a difference they make to the taste of beer but that involves a different level of dedication.

From left to right: Sapporo Black Label, Yebisu the Black, Kaitakushi Beer.

From left to right: Sapporo Black Label, Yebisu the Black, Kaitakushi Beer.

Sapporo Brewery actually outdates the Hokkaido government and was originally called Kaitakushi after the commission that originally controlled Hokkaido in the 180s. The Kaitakushi beer that I tasted was easily the best beer of the three, which makes it all the more puzzling that it is only served at the museum and a restaurant across the road. This is not to imply that the other two types of beer were not good. I could have stayed all day. Kazuko tried to emulate the ladies in the ads behind her:

Cheers!

Cheers!

Can you notice a common theme to the Sapporo ads?

Can you notice a common theme to the Sapporo ads?

You have three sentences to describe the beer. Make sure you mention the Collaborative Contract Farming System.

You have three sentences to describe the beer. Make sure you mention the Collaborative Contract Farming System.

And finally we headed down to the souvenir shop:

Beer, jelly and chocolate. A fine combination.

Beer, jelly and chocolate. A fine combination.

But all good things must come to an end so finally, Kazuko dragged me out of there to wobble home on the footpath on my bicycle.

And now the big question is will Chong win the comments race three times in a row?

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