We didn’t really have any plans for Monday, so instead of spending a lazy day inside, we decided to venture out into the chilly air, and headed to the Suntory Musashino Brewery for a tour. To go on a tour, you just need to call ahead of time to make a reservation. It’s free, so as long as you can be there twenty minutes before the tour time you choose, you’re good to go.
The facility itself is really nice. When you go into the visitor reception area, they have a shop with all sorts of Suntory goods, as well as a beautiful display for their the Premium Malt’s line. We checked in, go our brochures, took a look around the store and then waited for our tour to start.
There were about twenty people on the tour, most of which were businessmen. Our guide first took us up to the third floor, where we were seated and were showed a series of short video shots while we waited. They were all of nature, and I suppose they were supposed to make a clear point that the Premium Malt’s line is made from amazing natural water. Honestly, it felt more like they were trying to brainwash us with subliminal messaging. There was a short advertising spot featuring some celebrity who I don’t know, and also an introduction on the things we’d be seeing on the tour.
First we learned about the ingredients. They showed us how they get the water from deep in the ground, and about the barely and hops. We were all given (if we wanted) a bit of barely to try. It’s not bad, it’s not something I’d want to eat on a regular basis either though. It’s perfect as a drink, haha. Hops we weren’t allowed to eat (she said it was too bitter) but we smelled two types. Pretty strong aromas from those.
Next, we learned about how the ingredients are made into ‘wort’. Wort is made when the barley (malt) is mashed up, and then the liquid is separated from the grain husks. Then the wort is boiled, and hops are added. Getting into this room was pretty cool; it felt like we were on the USS Enterprise. When we walked through one door into a tunnel, it closed behind us before the other could open. The machines in the room go up to some ridiculous temperature, so you couldn’t touch them. The room was also really warm.
Moving on to the fermentation section, where the yeast is added, eats up all the sugar, and releases CO2. The window in the first picture (above) was all shaded at first, but with a click of a button became see-through. It was really spiffy. On our walk to the next part, we passed through a tunnel which used to be a barrel where the beer was kept to age.
So what happens after beer becomes beer? It’s canned! We couldn’t see the actual canning machines during their thing, but they did show a pretty cool video.
While heading towards the final stage (free drinks), we passed this wall that explained how the company deals with waste and whatnot. Unless you’re into waste disposal, I can’t imagine it’s super exciting, but I thought the presentation aspect was well-done nonetheless.
And last but not least was the end, where you got free drinks and snacks. I don’t really drink, but I figured I was there, and after seeing how it was made, I felt obligated to try it. Not a big beer fan, but it wasn’t bad. We also had some non-alcoholic beer, which was nice and sweet, and for those who didn’t want that, there was juice.
My boyfriend printed out a coupon on the website, so along with a free tour and free drinks, we each got a free Suntory beer glass. Pretty awesome. If you’re in Tokyo and looking for a way to spend an hour or so, I really suggest going on the tour. It was really interesting and very well put together. And did I mention, it’s free? Seriously, they could charge for it and no one would bat an eye. That’s how good it was. I guess the only downside for some, is that there’s a minimum of three glasses of beer at the end, haha. They also have a free shuttle that you can take back to the station, since they’re not in the habit of encouraging drinking and driving.
They offer tours (in Japanese, it’s called an ‘observation’ or 見学 [gengaku]) at some of the different factories in the country, so if you’re interested, check out http://www.suntory.co.jp/factory/.