Tokyo: Suntory Brewery, Where Premium Beer Is Born

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A passageway made of used beer-aging tanks

Visitors to the Suntory Tokyo-Musashino Brewery in Fuchu, Tokyo, can deepen their understanding of the beer-making process and enjoy the drink even more than before.

The highlight of the tour is seeing how the Premium Malts beer series is produced, as it is the flagship product of Suntory Spirits Ltd. The facility is the only large-scale beer brewery within the borders of Tokyo and it is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

About 90% of beer is water. The brewery uses spring water, or groundwater originating in rain that falls in the mountains of the Kanto region. In the museum’s “Sozai Erabi” (Selecting ingredients) section, visitors can learn how rainwater filters through geological strata to produce the spring water used to make the beer. Suntory is said to be the only major company that brews all of its beer with spring water.

Malts, which bring out the rich flavor and umami taste in beer, and hops, which enhance its aroma, are also on display at the facility. Beer lovers do not usually have a chance to see malts and hops. Panels explaining where the ingredients come from and how rare they are also show Suntory’s commitment to craftsmanship.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Premium hops, which bring out a beer’s aroma, are displayed at the brewery.

The beer production area is filled with the fragrant aroma of malt. It is lined with silver tanks that include those for brewing, in which spring water and malt are mixed to make starch break down into sugar; and filtration tanks, in which the malt husks are removed. Visitors can look into the tanks through circular windows and see the process of making wort, or what is known as the “beer starter.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Visitors learn about the process of filtering yeast and other substances from aged beer.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Wort production area

The process in which wort is fermented is explained next to the production area. When yeast is added to wort, the yeast takes in sugar and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. The wort is then aged in cold tanks.

Visitors can walk through old tanks, which now make for ideal photo spots. Along with of the sound of bubbling beer, this all creates an experience that will make you want to drink some beer.

“We hope to show visitors even a little bit of our commitment as a brewer,” said Yusuke Umezawa, 52, manager of the plant. What visitors can observe through the tour is probably only a small part of the techniques and manufacturing processes that have been passed down over the years at Suntory. Even so, the beer I tasted after learning about each step of the process was exceptional in both flavor and aroma.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Suntory Tokyo-Musashino Brewery

Completed in April 1963. The amount of beer produced annually is about 177,000 kiloliters, equivalent to about 14 million cases of large bottles.

Address: 3-1 Yazakicho, Fuchu, Tokyo

Hours: Eight 70-minute tours are provided, starting at 10 a.m. Closed on year-end and New Year’s holidays, as well as factory holidays.

Admission: Free. Reservations are required via the official website.