The most sacred craft beer in the country.
Have you ever wondered where Japan’s northernmost brewery is located on the mainland?
Neither did we, until the other day when our Japanese reporter Haruka Takagi heard about it. The brewery is located in Oma City, Aomori Prefectureand what makes it special is not just its location, but the person behind the operation, who is a high priest.
▼ “Kampai” (“Cheers”) to the world from Honshu’s northernmost brewery!
Priests and beer making don’t usually meet in Japan, but here in this brewery they do, because it’s actually a Buddhist temple.
Officially named Baikouzan Soutokujibut often mistakenly transcribed as “Takanori Temple” in English due to misreading of kanji, this temple has a long history dating back to 1625.
With a burial ground in the grounds and an ornate main building, nothing seems out of the ordinary at this temple.
However, this temple has something that others don’t – a sign on the front promoting the direct sale of beer. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice manji symbol (卍) on the panel here, but it should not be confused with the Nazi swastika, as the manji was commonly used as a sacred symbol to mark Buddhist sites in Japan for centuries.
▼ Curiously, the sign says “Temple Wine Estate“up and”Local beer at the Temple” basically.
To purchase these goods, simply head to the right and drop down outside the building.
From here you will be able to see a set of sliding doors at the end with panels across them.
The building on your left is the brewing facility that is off-limits to the public, but the sliding doors at the back house the direct sales office.
Visitors are welcome to buy wine and beer here, although when you enter you might feel a bit confused as it looks more like an office reception than a store.
Even though this area is unstaffed when you visit, you will be able to buy wine and beer, thanks to the vending machine that sells it near the entrance.
The stock varies from time to time, but when Haruka visited, she was able to choose between two types of wine and six types of beer.
▼ Wine on the top row and on the bottom rows: Apple, pilsner, blond beer, beer, pale aleand bitter beers.
There was more variety than she expected, and everything was reasonably priced, ranging from 440-490 yen (US$3.44-$3.83) per beer and 700 yen for a bottle of wine.
Wine and beers are both present the holy Manji symbol on the labelwith the wine named “silent snow” and named beers “Mugishizuku” (“barley drop”)although it is translated as “Mugisizuku” in English.
Haruka wanted to buy one of everything, but decided to exercise some zen restraint by settling for just three beers.
And, just like that, Haruka completed her purchase – three beers brewed at a sacred site with centuries of history behind it, dispensed by a modern vending machine.
As Haruka was about to leave, she spotted the head priest in the back of the sales office and decided to ask him about this unusual business.
Haruka had always thought it inappropriate for alcohol to play a role in daily temple life, so she started by asking the priest, whose name is Mr. Sasaki, when and why he started brewing alcohol. alcohol in the temple.
He responded by saying:
“I first made beer about 20 years ago. The reason is that the water [around here] is delicious. Water is the life force of beer. After that, the wine I started making has grapes as its lifeblood, so again it’s different.
It was then that Haruka realized why alcohol was not necessarily a bad thing in the eyes of religion, as it celebrated the energy and life forces around the temple. She was curious to know more about the water that Mr. Sasaki talked about so well, and he told her:
“Yes. There is spring water in the enclosure which comes from Osorezan [a holy mountain known as Mount Osore in English]. When I was thinking about ways to use it, I came up with the idea of making beer.
Learning the background behind the temple brewery gave Haruka even more appreciation, and as she returned to her motorbike, she discovered another vending machine a little further from the direct sales office.
This is where you can buy the temple brews at any time of the day or night, but a driver’s license is required to use this particular machine, to verify that you are over the legal drinking age. There is no license requirement to use the vending machine inside the sales office, as staff are usually present to verify your age.
After returning home from her trip to the tip of Honshu, Haruka had developed a craving for temple beer. She made sure to chill the bottles before trying them and lined them up for a tasting.
▼ From left to right: pilsner, pale ale and apple
It was a true artisanal experience, as the lid of each bottle popped open, as if they had been knocked down by a spring.
His flight of beers showed that each had a different color – the pilsner and apple displayed brownish hues, while the pale ale was golden orange.
While drinking her beers, Haruka was delighted to find that they all had a good aroma, with a crisp bitterness and a slight alcoholic touch. It was hardly moralizing to say it, but Haruka thought they would go well with a slice of juicy grilled meat.
As for the individual taste of the beers, the pilsner had a pronounced taste and aroma of wheat and hops, with a bold bitterness. the White beer was easy drinking, with fruity acidity and a refreshing finish. the apple beer – a nice addition to the range, as Aomori is famous for its apples – wasn’t as sweet as she had expected, with fruit appearing at the end of each sip to provide a delicious counterpart to the bitterness.
They were great beers and a true testament to Mr. Sasaki’s 20 years of beer making experience. While each had a very different flavor profile, Haruka’s favorite was the lager, and it was so good she’s now vowed to return to the brewery in the future to try the rest of the collection. .
▼ The range is certified as an official brand of Shimokita district in Aomori, while Omacho, where the brewery is located, is famous for tuna.
Haruka also made a mental note to share this temple brewery story with the staff at the Yokohama convenience store that sells 300 varieties of beer, as they had previously told him that no temple in Japan brews beer.
Few people know about this unusual brewery, especially since the temple does not have an online store to help expand distribution. So if you’re looking to try a very unique beer that even the Japanese don’t know about, you might want to take a trip north to Soutokuji. And while you’re there, you can discover seven other hidden gems of the region!
Baikouzan Soutokuji / 梅香山崇徳寺
Address: Aomori-ken, Shimokita-gun, Omacho, Okoppe 93
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[ Read in Japanese ]