Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sapporo's Mighty Beer Festival of Beery Delights

13th August, 2010 - Now the one thing about Japan is that they love to drink. And I mean drink. Yet for all that you rarely evidence of drunken violence or aggression. Unconscious salary-men that didn't make it home from "working late" the night before yes. Hooligans no.

The one thing about Sapporo is that come summer-time, it's also the home of the Beer Festival. What was that I hear you ask. I know that the Japanese love festivals... but one dedicated to beer? Where do I sign up? Well... not only is it a festival (of sorts), but it's also a month long. And it's epicentre is right smack bang in the middle of Odori Koen in the city centre.  Now I had gone with Otousan (and the rest of the family) into the city with the thought that we'd share a few drinks whilst my wife and Okaasan did some shopping. I had brought in my camera gear thinking that I'd take some nice shots of the park and of the beer tents. Indeed each of the major Japanese brewers has a large open air tent, or Odori Beer Garden, situated in the long Odori Koen where you can find beer and food ready to be sampled.

Before I had managed to even warm up the camera, otousan and I had found ourselves ensconced in the Sapporo Beer Tent... pitchers in hand. Well... I'll have just the one - not to be rude. I did have serious photos to be taking after all. And food to be eating (though a word of warning - the food is best consumed after copious amounts of alcohol, as it was definitely not up to usual Japanese fare). 

Speaking of copious amounts of alcohol.... we quickly set about improving our appetite. And tried our hand at making good old, "half and half" - half standard half dark ale. This is of course also known as black and tan... or just a ripping good drink. Though for the two of us, we seemed to be ordering one for the table too. The table became our instant best friend. 

Mental note - after having consumed large amounts of alcohol, expect to be deleting most anything you took a photo of. And for crying out loud - don't give your DSLR to the waitress whose idea of a camera sits on her phone and expect a good picture. Life's lessons.

Actually - beer is a good socialiser. There's no doubt about that. And there's things that can be talked about that often never otherwise find a place in the conversation. I heard a lot more about otousan's youth, and we  were able just to chew the fat. However - all good things must come to an end. And we had our wives to meet. Somewhere. Courageously we made a move... to find the next nearest stationary object (a park bench) upon which to wait. Looking ever so much like we hadn't just downed half a bathtub of beer each.

And we waited... and waited. I am sure at this point, we were wondering if there was enough time to head back for just one more, when T-chan and okaasan arrived with L-kun. I suspect that when T-chan took the above photo that she was already smelling us (from 100 paces).

It was however a very nice day. Hot (like a good summers day should be). And designed perfectly for drinking beer. Even if your thoughts of capturing it in pixels didn't quite go to plan. By the way - it may be a festival, but the beer and food is not cheap cheap. It is however abundant - although I understand that there's been a drive to constrain the festival more and more... now with the last drinks sold at around 10pm. Well... I do suppose you have a whole month or so to come back and fill up with more.... The dates around the 20th July through to the 20th August (or thereabouts). Check tourist info for more precise dates.

Alas - my time in Sapporo was coming to an end... again. But I will always remember that afternoon fondly. Arigatou otousan!


  1. A great time! I love the beer gardens they have in the big cities during the summers in Japan. They never seem to last long enough for me!

    Japan Australia

  2. Definitely a good way to spend a hot (and humid) summer's day and night in Japan. I don't though 3-4 weeks sounds like a long time (but that's all relative I guess),.

  3. The Beer garden in summer is my favourite festival of the year. I am always amazed at little trouble there is. Back in the UK there would be a riot every night. The Japanese just get really friendly and happy when they are drunk! Must be something in the beer!

  4. Hi fellow Ben... I can imagine it's a much-anticipated part of Sapporo's calendar each year. And you're right - here in Oz, it would also invariably end up getting ugly (though not quite riot-grade-ugly). BTW - it was nice to come across your blog. It's amazing how easy it is to miss some things.