Old Sake Brewery Revived as Craft Beer Studio, Beer Hall in Osaka Pref.; Owner Aims to Revitalize Local Community

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mototaka Ishida, left, and Shozo Minami stand at the beer brewery area of Banrinoharu Shuzo in Tondabayashi, Osaka.

TONDABAYASHI, Osaka — A sake brewery that shuttered its business at the end of the Showa era (1926-1989) was recently revived as a craft beer studio and beer hall in the district of Jinai in Tondabayashi, Osaka Prefecture.

Banrinoharu Shuzo sake brewery also plans to produce local beer using fruits and vegetables grown in the Minami-kawachi region in the prefecture.

Mototaka Ishida, 43, the sixth-generation owner of Banrinoharu Shuzo, and brewmaster Shozo Minami, 41, are hoping to make the brewery a base for revitalizing the local community.

The town, home to old traditional houses, has been designated by the central government as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.

Jinai originally developed as a religious self-governing town during the Sengoku period (late 15th century to late 16th century), where religious followers and others lived as the whole town was the precincts of a temple. It then evolved into a commercial town.

Sake brewing had been popular there since then. As the town has been blessed with underground water from Mt. Kongo, it was said that “the wells of the sake breweries in Tondabayashi have the golden spring of water at their bottom.”

Banrinoharu Shuzo was founded in the early days of the Meiji period (1868-1912) and prospered by selling sake wholesale to major liquor companies and others. Even when other sake breweries in the area went out of business as time went on, Banrinoharu continued to brew sake. But in 1983, it finally suspended operations, mainly because its wholesale contracts were terminated.

Banrinoharu applied to have its sake brewing license revoked, leaving only a company building and the wooden sake storehouse behind.

Hoping to revive the family sake business, Ishida kept the company and rented out the brewery as an event venue. However, he gave up on the idea as the government does not allow new sake breweries to obtain sake licenses due to supply-demand adjustment.

Ishida turned his attention to craft beer, which has become a catalyst for revitalizing local communities in recent years.

Then a mutual friend introduced him to Minami, a native of Fujiidera in the prefecture.

Minami had traveled around the world after working as a firefighter for four years and took note of craft beer which was popular among young people in Central America. After returning to Japan, he spent five years training at craft breweries in various regions.

Ishida and Minami soon hit it off with each other and began planning to open a beer brewery in 2021.

The two started by renovating the one-story wooden sake storehouse built in 1870. They turned it into a beer hall, taking advantage of its historic atmosphere. They repaired damaged exterior walls and installed plumbing and other facilities. With the help of their relatives and friends, they assembled tables and chairs for the beer hall by hand.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A beer hall converted from a sake storehouse

They converted part of the former reinforced concrete company building into a brewery. Five beer tanks were installed on the first floor, allowing them to brew five types of beer at the same time.

In order to use groundwater from Mt. Kongo, the two replaced the pumps in the well that used to pump groundwater for sake brewing.

In October last year, they obtained a license to brew craft beer. Since they need to produce at least 60,000 liters of beer per year to have a beer production license, Banrinoharu started with a license to produce happoshu, low-malt beer-like beverages and some types of craft beer which requires them to produce at least 6,000 liters of the liquors annually.

Banrinoharu brews 10 kinds of drinks, including pale ale and wheat beer, and serves them at the beer hall, which opened in November last year.

The brewery also produces beer using hops grown in the village of Chihaya-akasaka in the prefecture. They plan to develop craft beers using fruits and vegetables from the Minami-kawachi region and sell canned beer in the future.

“Since the water here is clean and tasty, the town is an ideal place for craft beer brewing. We want to make it a place that attracts people from all over the country,” Minami said.