This article by Angela Schnabel first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.
For just an hour of your time you can enjoy a free factory tour and beer tasting at Suntory’s Musashino Brewery in Fuchu, Tokyo.
Get off at Bubaigawara Station, catch the factory’s free shuttle, and you’re on your way to getting an up-close and personal look into beer giant Suntory’s Premium Malt brewing process. After about a 5-minute shuttle ride you arrive at the lobby and are promptly greeted by the friendly staff.
Your eyes are immediately drawn to the center wall that features the hallmark blue and gold Suntory logo, but before you go anywhere be sure to check in at the reception desk on the right side of the lobby.
If you have some time to kill before your tour starts be sure to check out the gift shop and the beer-themed photo props next to the logo wall so you can make your very own Suntory factory souvenir photo. If your tour begins right away don’t worry, you can visit these areas again at the end of the tour.
When it’s time to begin, you’ll take the elevator upstairs where you’ll be shown a short video about the quality of the spring water they use in their brewing process.
The first stop after the introduction is the hops display where you’ll learn about the type of hops that Suntory uses. You’ll even get to taste and smell a sample!
Next you’ll be led through a long hallway to the vat area where you can look inside a port-hole window that allows you to see what the vat looks like.
Then you’ll move on to the filling and packaging area. You’ll watch a short video about their process and you can look through the large windows that allow you to see the factory floor.
And now for best part of the tour: the beer tasting. You get to wet your whistle on some freshly brewed Suntory beer straight from the factory. After all, you worked hard learning all about the process on the tour, so you deserve a few cold ones!
Each guest can savor 3 frosty beers from Suntory’s selection of the day. You’ll also find Suntory-branded salty snacks on the table to pair with your brew.
After everyone gets their beer your tour guide will show you how to properly pour it so you get a nice foam, just like in the Suntory commercials.
True to Japan’s affinity for convenience and customer service, Suntory even offers a mail-order option where they will deliver fresh Suntory beer to your doorstep if you live in Tokyo.
After the tasting you head back down to the lobby where you can check out the gift shop and souvenir photo wall if you didn’t have time before the tour. At the gift shop you’ll find a variety of their beers, handmade glassware, t-shirts, key chains, and other gift ideas.
If you buy nothing else I highly recommend the Fujiyama beer glass, designed to resemble the iconic Mt. Fuji when a beer is poured into it. The Fujiyama glass won a Tokyo Midtown Award for its design and level of craftsmanship. It’s a little small (and a little pricey too at about ¥5,000), but its hand blown glass from a master glass blower and comes in an elegant bamboo gift box, making it a fantastic souvenir for yourself, or a unique gift for someone back home.
Important points to consider:
- Cameras are welcome, just know that there are some areas of the factory where photography and recording are not allowed. You’ll see signs advising where you can and can’t take pictures.
- The tour, handouts, and display placards are all in Japanese, so be sure to bring a native Japanese speaker if you want to learn about all the nitty-gritty details involved in beer brewing. Even without a native speaker to help you can still get the general idea, after all, beer is a universal language.
- Children and non-beer drinkers are welcome, as there are soft drinks and water available in the tasting room in lieu of beer.
- If you’ll have more than 10 people in your group you’ll need to make a reservation, which can be done over the phone, or on their website. Be sure to use Google Translate or the Google Chrome browser to help with making an online reservation.
Access: It’s about a 1.6-km walk from Bubaigawara station, or you can take the free shuttle on the south side of the station near the horse-mounted samurai statue.
Tour times: Monday-Friday 10:00 am-4:00 pm. Saturday, Sunday, and Japanese public holidays 10:00 am-11:30 am.
And if you really love free beer (and sake!), you can also check out the free tour at Ishikawa Brewery — the “Disneyland for beer lovers”.
Images by Angela Schnabel