Asahi Beer is the juice that Japan runs on- it fuels the salarymen and the office ladies alike, keeping them lean, mean, and ready to work 18 hour shifts until karoushi (death by over-work) drives them into the ground. Asahi is the beer in a silver can- its most distinguishing feature by far. Kirin and Sapporo in their gold and white cans with cluttered labeling scream respectively- ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ and ‘nothing to see here, move along’. Asahi Super Dry is where it’s at.
Asahi Factory Front.
SY organised this trip to the Asahi Brewery and Canning Plant in Ibaraki a few weeks ago, a trip I co-signed onto with great cheer: a trip out of Tokyo- excellent; a chance to drink up to 3 glasses of my favourite beer for free- excellent. And so, off we went.
The observation / tasting tower.
I became an Asahi fan a few years back, when I made the leap from being a cheap-skate street-drinker quaffing only to get drunk to a more distinguished social drinker imbibing for the taste and a light buzz. It was a wonderful move for me, as I’d never genuinely enjoyed getting totally drunk- though I did do it quite a lot- I was invariably just bored with whatever situation I was in and felt drinking to be an interesting way out.
Resultingly, I faced a choice of what beer to adopt. Earlier it had been easier- I chose my drink by its strength and price alone- the cheaper and stronger the better; if it tasted bad I didn’t care, I’d likely just chug it anyway. Upon changing, Asahi seemed the best, the most classy, the sleekest, and also one of the more expensive brands; so, as some kind of symbol of my progress in the world, I adopted Asahi and it adopted me.
Me hungering for giant Asahi.
This factory is the largest of 9 in Japan, at which they enact the whole beering process from start to finish, brewing through to canning and shipment. We took a shuttle bus from Moriya station and joined our tour upon arrival. First off they showed us a movie detailing how the beer is brewed, then they took us on a walking tour of the plant. Unfortunately it was in-active as it was a Sunday, but we got to see what the process would be like on a workday via numerous videos presented innovatively throughout the tour.
Out tour guide demonstrates the correct way to pour a beer.
I chatted a little with the tour guide as we went along.
MJG- Do you get to drink free beer every day then? (in bad Japanese)
Tour Guide- You drink beer every day?
MJG (not understanding)- Really, how much do you drink every day?
Tour Guide- Thank-you for drinking every day! (She bows as we walk.)
Hmmm. She also asked me why I like Asahi.
Tour Guide- Which beer do you drink?
MJG- Asahi Super Dry.
Tour Guide- *eyes light up* Oh, thank you! (bows). Why do you like Asahi?
MJG- I like the silver can.
Tour Guide and SY- (laugh).
A ‘correctly’ poured glass of Asahi. The Japanese prefer their beer with a big head of foam; beer-foam moustaches are often lauded in TV commercials.
Now SY teases me that I drink Asahi just because of the design, so I join in. When I take the opening sip of a can of Asahi I sit back and go- ‘aaaah’ with pleasure, then add ‘that’s a good design’.
This is brewery stuff.
The Tour Guide asked us how many cans we think these vats would fill. It’s something in the 100s of thousands, if not millions.
The top of a mash tun vat.
The canning warehouse, silent on a Sunday.
At the end of the tour we proceeded to the observation / tasting area where we could drink up to 3 glasses of Asahi for free. The choices were Asahi Super Dry, Asahi Black, or half and half. I had one of each. Asahi Black is a stout so of course I compared it to Guinness in my mind. For some reason before I could get my third drink the Tour Guide hustled us along, even though the next shuttle bus was not for 30 minutes.
To kill time we went in the gift shop, and SY (ever a sucker for omiyage) bought these beer-flavored chocolates for us to enjoy on the ride home. They didn’t taste anything like beer, but were still very nice.
SY and I pose with a big can.
To take the tour yourself, you ought to book yourself in at their website here. You’ll have to do it in Japanese though, as the English version of the site is only corporate stuff.
You can see all MJG’s Tokyo content here:
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