When you hear of the word of “brewery,” what do you think of?
I have experienced tours at 5 breweries so far, but the only thing I remember is the sake that I tried and liked. Though each tour guide explained to me the brewery’s history and process of sake brewing, to be frank, I do not remember much about them.
However, Ishikawa Brewery, located in Fussa City, Tokyo, is completely different from the others. It has been more than one month since I visited there, but I still can imagine clearly in my mind the whole atmosphere and each element that Ishikawa brewery consists of, such as the several types of sake I tried, its history, traditional buildings and so on.
Actually, it does not matter whether you like alcohol or not; Ishikawa Brewery is a place of entertainment where everybody can refresh and have fun.
Today, I would like to introduce you to Ishikawa Brewery that has been constantly evolving for the 155 years since it was founded in 1863.
After getting off at the closest JR Haijima station, following a map, I saw a residential street. I wondered if there was a brewery like this place. But, soon I saw an excellent Kurayashiki traditional Japanese storehouse.
Once I went through a gate, I entered another world.
First of all, I was overwhelmed by the excellence of the white walls and the brewery’s large-scale ground! As I walked further in, I saw the main building. Closer to the main building, there were a couple of 400-year-old keyaki trees planted in tribute to a god of rice and water, as well as some natural groundwater sourced as deep as 150 meters underground.
As I mentioned above, tours that I had experienced before were mainly focused on sake tasting. Besides, those breweries were like factories or warehouses, and guides introduced me to only a part of them.
However, Ishikawa Brewery was completely different from those breweries. The whole space including the buildings were as if surrounded by the holy spirit: I felt like I had been transported to the Meiji era. I was so impressed with the atmosphere that all I could say was “amazing.”
Ishikawa Brewery brews not only sake but also beer.
Ishikawa Brewery began brewing beer in the Meiji era, but after that they suspended it for a while. In 1998, they revived their beer brewing after an interval of 111 years.
The oldest beer equipment that survived the war is preserved at Ishikawa Brewery, and you can see the length of history from it. Currently, the main product at Ishikawa Brewery is unfiltered draft beer.
This makes me happy since I love craft beer, which are basically unfiltered.
This time, I enjoyed “TOYODA BEER,” which is a revival of the oldest beer in the Tama area.
Brewing “TOYODA BEER” is one of the regional revitalization projects of Hino, Tokyo, the neighboring city of Fussa. “TOYODA BEER” is 100% made of barley produced in Hino and brewed at Ishikawa Brewery. Most of Japanese craft beer breweries use foreign barley: therefore the beer made of domestic barley is very rare. It was smooth, lighter than I’d imagined from its amber color, and had a rich taste of barley.
Ishikawa brewery has a restaurant named “Fussa no Beer Goya [Fussa’s Beer Cabin]”. With alcohol brewed at Ishikawa Brewery, you can enjoy quality food such as homemade pizza, assorted sausage produced in Fussa, pasta with seasonal ingredients.
I saw many people enjoying food and alcohol in the restaurant. Since there were many families with kids, I felt as if I were in a theme park restaurant.
The second floor of the beer brewery is used for many purposes, such as live performance. It is also used as “kadouchi,” which means a bar area where you can enjoy the alcohol you bought at the liquor store. Ishikawa Brewery also allows local people to visit and use this space to hold a new year’s party, year-end party, Buddhist mass service, wedding reception and so on.
In this way, Ishikawa Brewery stays close to the local people and provide them a place to get together. The tour guide Mr. Hashimoto jokingly said,“Don’t you think we are good at business?” I felt, however, their strong belief in not only keeping up traditions but also adopting necessities accordingly from their attitude toward the local people.
Ishikawa Brewery provides dishes that match alcohol and creates a place where friends and families can get together. I felt that these two examples embody Ishikawa Brewery’s essential idea that creating “a place to enjoy alcohol” is also a role of brewery.
Ishikawa Brewery does each process of brewing sake such as rice-polishing, preparation for fermentation mash, and maturing by themselves like other traditional breweries.
At the same time, they make the best use of social media such as having an official website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. On their official website, you can check various information such as new products and the backstage of brewing sake.
One of the projects which uses social media is the “#mugipon” project.
Mugipon is a collaboration liqueur of beer and sake. I can say that this is a symbolic alcohol which is representative of how Ishikawa Brewery brews both beer and sake.
Since I am the person who loves limited items, collaboration, beer and sake, I decided to buy it immediately.
First, I enjoyed it on the rocks. It had rich alcohol fragrance and tasted sweet like caramel cocktails! Usually, I don’t drink cocktails that much, but I got to like the complex and deep flavor as well as the pleasant aftertaste soon: then I could not stop drinking it.
In the restaurant at Ishikawa Brewery, I saw several menus which mixed “mugipon” with wine or soft drinks. I would like to try these next time.
Ishikawa Brewery puts emphasis on social media and they wage a campaign, “if you find any new mix way with mugipon, use “mugipon” hashtag to spread in social media.”
Ishikawa Brewery is a company which values both tradition and new technology. They brew alcohol in the traditional buildings, making the best use of the wisdom of their ancestors. At the same time, they adapt ever-processing new technologies into brewing and positively approach their customers through social media.
This is Mr. Hashimoto, who guided the tour for me. He used to be a kurabito, sake brewer. His talk was as unique as a comedian. He explained to me every tip and detail about Ishikawa Brewery.
I recommend your visiting to listen to his exciting stories at Ishikawa Brewery!
From TOKYO or SHINJUKU station to Ishikawa Brewery, it takes only about one hour by train.
The tour I joined this time is available every day from one person. If you make an appointment in advance, English tour is also available.
Ishikawa Brewery is a healing theme park where you can feel history and fresh sensitivity. This is the best place to visit with your friends, family members, or of course as a solo trip. Come to Ishikawa Brewery to enjoy the extraordinary experience!