What are some facts about Sapporo Beer?
- Sapporo is Japan’s first and oldest beer brand, founded in 1876
- It was created by Japan’s first German-trained brewmaster
- Sapporo’s logo has a special meaning
- The first brewery wasn’t meant for Sapporo City
- It has a special, one-of-a-kind can
- It follows exact brewing methods
- Sapporo has been to space
- It has a beer museum
- Sapporo beer tastes best on a full stomach
When one thinks about alcohol in Japan, what comes to mind are two drinks — sake, and beer. And of all the Japanese beers enjoyed around the world, Sapporo beer is one of the most well-known.
But when it comes to this legendary bīru, there’s a lot more to it than their signature crisp flavor. We’ve rounded up some of the coolest facts about Sapporo beer in this post. Interested in learning more? Let’s take a look at some things you might not know about the king of Japanese beers.
Sapporo is Japan’s first and oldest beer brand, founded in 1876
Did you know that Sapporo isn’t just one of the oldest Japanese brands, it’s actually the oldest? After the discovery of native, wild hops growing in the Hokkaido prefecture, the former government of Hokkaidō prefecture (Kaitakushi) decided to construct a brewery. They enlisted the services of Seibei Nakagawa, who was the first to brew Sapporo at Kaitakushi Brewery in 1876. This marked the creation of the first recorded Japanese lager, making the beer brand the oldest in the country.
It was created by Japan’s first German-trained brewmaster
Fueled by an adventurous spirit, Seibei Nakagawa left Japan at the young age of 17 — despite the country’s isolationist policies at the time. His travels would bring him to Europe, where he worked for several years.
His brewing career happened entirely by chance. He originally stayed in England, where he worked for seven years. However, life there was difficult for him, and he eventually left exhausted and broke. When he arrived in Bremerhaven, Germany, he befriended a young man called Shuzo Aoki — a future Japanese foreign minister, who was then just a student studying abroad.
Aoki was impressed by Nakagawa’s intelligence and work ethic and took an interest in his career. Aoki suggested that he learn to brew beer, and referred him to the Berlin Beer Brewing Company in Fuerstenwalde. Nakagawa would work there for two years and become Japan’s first-ever German-trained brewmaster, eventually mastering the craft and heading back home in 1876.
Sapporo’s logo has a special meaning
Sapporo’s logo is a picture of the North Star, which is a symbol also used by the Hokkaidō Development Commission. The North Star has a deeper meaning to it — it stands for guidance, hope, freedom, and purpose. It is believed that Sapporo Beer chose this for their logo to depict their company’s pioneering spirit. The original red star of Sapporo Beer’s logo is still prominent in many buildings in their home city, including the Sapporo Beer Museum.
The first brewery wasn’t meant for Sapporo City
When the Kaitakushi initially planned for its brewery, building it in Tokyo was their first choice. However, Nakagawa knew that the climate and location of Tokyo were not ideal. He knew that to make good beer, he needed to change their minds. As chief engineer, he convinced the board to move the location to the northern city of Sapporo, where the weather was considerably cooler, and there was a more plentiful supply of much-needed ice.
It has a special, one-of-a-kind can
One of the iconic characteristics of Sapporo beer is its design, which made its debut in Japan in 1984. Their signature 22-ounce can is made from pressed steel, a strong yet flexible material, and was shaped to be reminiscent of a pint glass and to feel weighty like one. It also originally featured a removable top that allowed drinkers to enjoy the beer as if it were served pint glass, which enhanced the drinking experience of Sapporo beers. This tumbler-like design was once called “Kappu Nama,” kappu meaning “cup,” and nama meaning “draft.” Over the years, this can design has had some subtle updates but still remains largely the same.
It follows exact brewing methods
Sapporo beers are made to very exact specifications. The brewery only uses the highest-quality ingredients they can find to give their beers their signature crispness and flavors. The 143 years of dedication to detail and quality allows each bottle to taste authentically Japanese in every aspect. Sapporo Beer even goes above and beyond their competitors — they are the only brewery in the world to cooperate with global growers to cultivate their own unique source of barley and hops.
Sapporo has been to space
Yes, this beer has even been to space! In 2006, the brand teamed up with Okayama University and the Russian Academy of Sciences to send barley into space. After spending five months in orbit, it was brought back to Sapporo Beer. Their master brewers used this to create a limited-edition Space Barley beer. The beer was auctioned in an online lottery to Japanese residents, with all proceeds going to charity.
It has a beer museum
The original brewery still stands today — as a beer museum. It’s a monument to the history and roots of this famous beer. People can visit and take a free, self-guided tour to learn about the brewing process, the company’s history, and how their beer was developed to what it is today.
Visitors can even take an in-depth tour led by a Sapporo Brand Communicator. This tour includes a beer tasting at the end, where visitors can taste a variety of the brewery's exclusive flavors. This includes the Fukkoku Sapporo-Sei, which is a special recreation of Sapporo’s original brew.
Sapporo beer tastes best on a full stomach
In the case of Sapporo Premium, its light finish allows it to pair extremely well with rich, heavy dishes. This is perhaps best exhibited in the Sapporo Beer Hall, which is placed next door to its museum. Here, Sapporo encourages guests to participate in an all-you-can-eat-and-drink feast with a local Hokkaido delicacy known as jingisukan. This experience shows just how well their beers go with a variety of foods, such as lamb, fish vegetables, and more.
There’s a lot of facts about Sapporo beer that prove its uniqueness, quality, and versatility — it’s no wonder that this beer is one of the most popular in the world. Want to get a taste of this beer and see what all the fuss is about? You can try some of this premium lager from Ralph’s Wines & Spirits. The best thing is, you don’t even have to go to our stores to get some, you can order online here, and we’ll deliver it straight to your doorstep.