Beer ground-zero at Ebisu

Get a taste of Tokyo’s history with the city’s local beer

Beer ground-zero at Ebisu

February 25th 1890: on that day 120 years ago Yebisu beer, one of the most iconic of Japanese brews, was born. Brewed by the Japan Beer Brewery Company, predecessor to the Sapporo Brewery and produced in the midst of the rapid modernization Japan underwent after the Meiji Constitution was introduced, Yebisu was a high quality beer brewed with traditional German methods.

Over a century later, Yebisu Garden place now stands on the site of the beer’s origins. After its launch, Yebisu soon grew to become Tokyo’s leading beer through clever advertising and the opening of Japan’s first ever beer hall. The beer became so much the thrust of the local economy that the eponymous JR Ebisu Station was built to transport the beer, and the Ebisu area was named for it. Having shaped such an integral part of the city, it’s no wonder that Yebisu is one of the city’s most beloved domestic beers.

The Beer Museum Yebisu, within Yebisu Garden Place itself, is the newest homage to the classic brand. It’s the brand’s sole amusement complex, and where visitors can learn everything they need to know about Yebisu beer. Such a museum in commemoration of a brand which produces a single unique product is something of a curiosity. The entrance is at the first basement level, and on entering, a grand staircase leads you down to the second level where an image of the auspicious deity, Ebisu, will greet you with his cheerful, smiling face. Ebisu is one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune, and the mascot of Yebisu beer, lending his friendly face to the good times to be had.

This open, spacious floor forms the heart of the museum and is divided into five areas: the Tour Lounge, the Yebisu Gallery, the Community Stage, the Tasting Salon and the Museum Shop.

Admission to the museum is free, but if you do go make sure you check out the Ebisu Tour (¥500). This 40 minute tour is lead by a special guide known as a ‘Brand Communicator’ who provides detailed knowledge on all things Yebisu. First thing on the list is the Yebisu Gallery; here in front of a giant 120-inch screen the Brand Communicator will take you back 120 years, using the screen to show pictures of the brewery as it was when it first opened. You will also be told how brand labelling was changed to counteract imitations and shown images of how horses were used for the first shipments, and the tour will progress using historical materials which can be studied up close. Factoids such as how Yebisu won a prize at the Paris Exposition, and how the brand was abolished during the war bring to life the beer’s 120 years of history.

After the history lesson, next on the roster is the Communication Stage. Here guests get to sample and compare two varieties of Yebisu beer only available to those on the tour. No skimping on samples, the amount of beer doled out is certainly enough to wet the throats of those on the tour. At this point the Brand Communicator also gives the group tips on how best to enjoy a glass of beer at home, everything from how to pour it properly to the correct posture for drinking it so it goes down easy.

The tour stops here, but the Tasting Salon and the Museum Shop are the last two destinations to round out the museum. The Tasting Salon is, just as the name says, a salon dedicated to beer connoisseurs where different varieties of Yebisu brand beer can be quaffed at ¥400 a glass. Having just come off the Communication Stage, this is great opportunity to compare these brews to the ones tried on the tour. Light pork-based meals and snack foods are also available to accompany the beer, so you might end up staying longer than you expected. At the Museum Shop, an abundance of items featuring the Ebisu mascot are on hand. The t-shirts, towels and omamori lucky charms are only available at the museum shop, so it’s a great place to pick up gifts and souvenirs from Tokyo.

You might think that a beer museum would only be for beer fanatics, or a place to learn more about the drink’s manufacture, but as the history of Yebisu is unravelled, the history of Tokyo is also revealed. With Tokyo as a city of beer lovers and home to a revered brand of beer, the Yebisu beer museum is a unique chance to see the history of the city from a new perspective.

Beer Museum Yebisu (Full details & map)

Yebisu Tour
Time: from 11.10am (last tour starts at 5.10pm)
Mon-Fri: every 30 minutes, at 10 past and 40 past the hour
Sat and nat. holidays: every 20 minutes, at 10 past, 30 past and 50 past the hour (there is no phone or internet booking available for the tour)
Length: around 40 minutes
Price: adults (20 years old and older) ¥500; Junior High school students and those under 19 years old ¥300; Elementary school age and younger Free
(if the group contains only those under 19 years of age, the tour will end at the Yebisu Gallery)

Related articles:
World beers, Tokyo bars (part 2)
 Drinking beers from across the globe in Tokyo: Akasaka and more
World beers, Tokyo bars (part I)
 Drinking beers from across the globe in Tokyo: Shinjuku and Shibuya
Where to watch the winter games
 Get an eyeful of the Olympics from the best seat in the bar

By Kyoko Kitamura
Translated by Virginia Okno
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.



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