Craft beer is now a major draw of Sapporo tourism—Mr. Kikuo Sakamaki, member of the Sapporo Craft Beer Forest Executive Committee

Beer has become an essential element of Sapporo tourism, from Japan’s largest summer time beer garden to tap houses where you can enjoy locally brewed draft beers straight from the factory. In recent years, a growing number of tap houses have popped up showcasing craft beer made at microbreweries located in Sapporo, which has spread the enjoyment of beer to many more people. We sat down with Mr. Kikuo Sakamaki, owner of Maltheads, a tap house specializing in beer and malt whiskey, to talk about the draw of craft beer and also about the Sapporo Craft Beer Forest event for which he serves as a member of the executive committee

Craft beer delivers many unique beer flavors

Have you ever heard of the word craft beer? This is the name given to limited production beers handcrafted by master brewers at microbreweries. The draw of craft beers are the many unique flavors one can enjoy, since brewers can alter the raw ingredients and brewing conditions to manipulate the bitterness and aroma, and add a unique kick with spices, fruit or other secondary ingredients. A rising number of tap houses have appeared in Sapporo showcasing unique microbrews, such as Moon and Sun Brewing, which is a pub with its very own brewery.

“Beers are finely classified by country, region and brewing method, and craft beer has served to highlight this diversity. Today’s mainstream beer made around the world is the pilsner lager* brewed by major beer companies. There are many others, too, including India pale ale, which offers a robust aroma and bitterness because of its large amount of hops, and also weissbier made from wheat. I’m really happy that today people are able to enjoy a particular beer to suit how they feel that day, such as choosing India pale ale for its bitter taste, from among the countless varieties available.

*Beer is largely categorized into ale beer or lager beer. Ale is a beer made using traditional European brewing processes. Lager is a comparatively newer beer born in the Munich region of Germany in the 15th century.

Sapporo Craft Beer Forest—A craft beer event where you can meet and greet the actual brewers

Mr. Sakamaki and fellow members of the executive committee who own tap houses in Sapporo have organized the Sapporo Craft Beer Forest since 2013, an event that showcases craft beers from throughout Japan and the brewers that produce them. The venue for this event is located close to downtown Sapporo at the Sapporo Bankei Ski Area, with its verdant natural surroundings. In 2015, the two-day event welcomed some 3,000 visitors.

Sapporo Craft Beer Forest is an event where you can taste and compare craft beer produced at Japan’s leading microbreweries. We emphasize having the producers themselves attend the event to showcase their products. Having the chance to meet and greet the actual producer makes a craft beer much more enjoyable. If you have the chance to attend Sapporo Craft Beer Forest, I definitely encourage you to strike up a conversation with the producers. We haven’t decided on a venue for 2016, but the event will definitely be held during the summer.”

Enjoying beers crafted from around the world year-round in Sapporo

The Sapporo Beer Map was published in autumn 2015. This map contains about 20 tap houses in Sapporo that offer beer tastings or focus on serving foods that go great with craft beer.

“Sapporo is the birthplace of lager beer in Japan. Sapporo is also sister cities with Munich (Germany), the birthplace of lager beer, and Portland, Oregon (United States), which has the largest number of breweries in the world, so you can say we have deep beer roots. Sapporo’s dry climate with low humidity is also perfect for brewing delicious beer. I want people to know that they can enjoy a variety of beers from around the world here in Sapporo year-round, and not just during the summer when we host Japan’s largest beer garden. The Sapporo Beer Map is available at Maltheads and Moon and Sun Brewing. Stop by for a copy so you can visit the many tap houses in the city.”

Moon and Sun Brewing

Mr. Kikuo Sakamaki

Owner of Maltheads
member of the Sapporo Craft Beer Forest Executive Committee

Japan Craft Beer Association certified Beer Taster. Moved to Sapporo from Tokyo in 2000 and opened his very own tap house. In 2013, he had the third highest score on the Japan Beer Certification Exam, which only 4% of test takers pass. In 2014, he passed the exam again, becoming one of only two people in Japan to do so two consecutive years.