Museum of Yebisu Beer Tour
By Matt De Sousa on 17 Oct 2016
Those who have visited Japan or at least maintain a passing interest in the culture will likely be aware that most Japanese folks like a drink or two to unwind from the stresses of their infamous working culture. On pretty much any night in any part of Tokyo you can find a small bar, or “izakaya”, packed full of people boisterously sharing beers with their co-workers. If you have an interest in delving deeper into this drinking culture, you can explore the history of one of the most prominent Japanese beer brands, Yebisu, by visiting the Museum of Yebisu Beer.
The Yebisu Beer Museum is located in the Ebisu Garden Place, about a ten-minute walk from Ebisu Station which sits along the JR Yamanote Line. The museum itself is a little tricky to find, as it is built below-ground and behind one of the bigger buildings in the Ebisu Garden Place. If you come around the side of the large buildings, you should see a set of stairs leading down to the museum. Despite the frontage of the museum appearing to be quite basic (though still pretty cool, with those giant beer cans), the interior is unbelievably massive. As you enter, to both your left and right sides you will find some displays of Yebisu memorabilia including statues, sculptures and a beer display. In typical Japanese-fashion, everything inside the museum is beautifully crafted and carefully organized, making it even more amazing that this place feels so hidden away.
The tour costs 500 yen per person, and tickets can be purchased at the bottom of the stairs in the main museum area. With that ticket comes a 40-minute tour and two kinds of Ebisu beers to try (or soft drink if you are under 20 or a designated driver). Before visiting the museum, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The tours are usually run in Japanese, so if you have a Japanese friend try to bring them along (they’ll love it anyway, at the very least for the cheap beer!). They will provide an English pamphlet if needed, and all of the signage in the gallery has English explanations. The other thing to keep in mind is that the tours are popular and can book up fast, especially on weekends, so be prepared to buy your ticket up to an hour in advance. I found it to be a blessing in disguise, as the extra time I had to wait allowed me to wander through between tours and actually read the information while taking photos without people in the way. The tours run three times per hour, in twenty-minute intervals.
About five minutes before the tour starts, guests are required to be ready in the waiting area to be collected by the tour guide, after which they are taken on the Yebisu Beer Museum tour! The tour itself is divided into two sections: the historical tour and the beer tasting.
The historical tour takes around fifteen minutes and tells the history of Yebisu Beer in Japan, from its origins in the late 1800s, its establishment as a global beer in the early 1900s, to its awaited comeback in the 1970s. Throughout the gallery are countless Yebisu Beer artifacts, including a plethora of artwork and a collection of beer containers from its beginning as a wine-style bottle, up until the modern beer can.
After the historical tour concluded we were escorted to the stunning beer-tasting area, where each guest was given two different types of beer, a light and a dark. Unfortunately, due to my lack of beer and history-related Japanese language skills, a lot of what was said by the guide was lost on me. What wasn’t lost on me, however, was the taste of those beers! Served at the perfect temperature, with complimentary dried peas, the beers were incredibly delicious and both went down smoothly after a group “Kanpai!” (Cheers!). I believe these beers were “The Perfect Yebisu (a light beer)” and the “Kohaku Yebisu (a slightly darker beer)”. During the tasting, the guide treated us to a pouring demonstration, followed by a collective paper-scissors-rock game to determine who would be given the poured beer.
Upon the conclusion of the beer tour we were lead out to the cafeteria area, where guests are able to purchase more beer or a small selection of food items. Right next to the cafeteria is the gift shop, which has a large selection of Yebisu-related gifts, from sweets to t-shirts.
The Museum of Yebisu Beer tour is well-worth the mere 500-yen charge. For barely more than the cost of a cup of coffee (or even a beer for that matter) you can get a history lesson and two quality beers, served with a side of light entertainment. Perfect for dates, hanging out with friends or even just killing an afternoon by yourself, this tour is not to be missed! Kanpai!
Matt De Sousa
Matt is a punk music-loving videographer from Melbourne, Australia. He usually spends his time at live shows, touring Japan with bands or sitting at home re-watching Dragon Ball. In his time off he enjoys traveling around Tokyo for decent ramen.