Over the past few years Miwa and I have been to the top seven beer breweries from Fukuoka to Sapporo and in between. Most were informative, however the Yokohama Kirin tour is by far one of the best. Last year while in Sapporo on the way back to the airport we stopped in at the Chitose Kirin Brewery. Since it was snowing there were no other people taking the tour and we had our own private tour guide. It was really fun, but Yokohama Kirin even beat them out for a very thorough and entertaining tour. I am sure it all depends on who the guide is and each brewery has different features.
We recently retook the Yokohama Kirin Beer Village tour after taking it about three years ago. There are several new videos and a tasting area where you can judge the difference between the First Press Malt method verses the Twice Press Malt method used by other mass produced beer brewers. The first press had a much fuller less sweet taste.
Ichiban is the only mass-produced beer in the world that uses first press malt. Ichiban in Japanese means first or number one.
The hops used in the process are the main reason for the quality taste. Hops come from the Tohoku region of Japan, as well as Germany and the Czech Republic.
The Yokohama plant has 129 storage tanks and would you believe each one holds the equivalent of 1,480,000, 350 milliliter cans.
The length of the tour is about 1 hour, and when finished make sure to dine in one of the exceptional restaurants in the village.
It all started in 1885 when a group of foreign Yokohama residents established Japan Brewing Company. In 1907 the company merged and was renamed Kirin Beer.
The creature shown on their Beer labels is the legendary Kirin from ancient Chinese myths and is said to be a good luck charm.
At the end of the tour we get to drink three glasses of beer. We tried the new Premium, the Yokohama special edition, and Ichiban.
This tour involves all your senses: seeing the process, hearing the presentation, touching the malts, smelling the hops, and at last tasting the beer - now that is a tourist attraction!
Once our time was up we headed from the brewery to the Beer Port Restaurant for barbeque and a frozen head Kirin beer. We had tried the frozen head last year and I love the concept. The food was excellent and the prices very reasonable.
When you're visiting the Yokohama area put the Kirin tour on your agenda. It is free and so is the beer drinking at the end. If someone with you does not drink beer that’s ok, because they have non-alcoholic Kirin beverages available in the tasting area.
Reservations are required and the tours are generally in Japanese. You can request an English brochure and I have heard that on occasion they will do the tour in English so you may want to ask.
From Yokohama station take the Keihin Kyuko Line to Namamugi Station. It is only about a 10-minute walk from there.