Despite the long history and importance of sake in Japan’s drinking culture, beer is much more widely consumed throughout Japan. Thanks to its introduction by the Dutch in the 17th century and the discovery of hops growing wild on the island of Hokkaido, local beer production was in full swing by the late 1800s.
Yebisu beer (pronounced ‘ebisu’) can trace its origins back to the first emergence of beer in Japan. First brewed in Tokyo in 1890 by the Japan Beer Brewery Company (who were later taken over by Sapporo), Yebisu is one of Japan’s oldest brands and is now seen as a high-end beer label.
You can find out more about this historic brand at the excellent Museum of Yebisu Beer. Easily located in Yebisu Garden Palace, a ‘mini-city’ in Shibuya that is named after the beer, the museum commemorates the original brewery with a number of exhibits. It’s free to visit and wander around the museum, and to visit the ‘Tasting Salon,’ although you will need to pay for your own drinks! Alternatively you can take a 40-minute tour (for a small fee) that will give you a more detailed insight into the history and science of beer production in Japan.
As well as the exhibits and Tasting Salon, there is a small museum shop where you can purchase beer-related products.
After your beer museum tour you can either kick back in the Tasting Salon or explore the rest of Yebisu Garden Palace. There are plenty of restaurants in the area, including the grand Michelin starred Château Restaurant Taillevent Robuchon, a large hotel and department store, and a photography museum.
Yebisu Beer Museum is open everyday but Monday from 11am to 7pm. From Ebisu Station (one stop south of Shibuya Station), it’s a five-minute walk to Yebisu Garden Place.