Suntory Brewery Kyoto Tour
Suntory has been around since 1899 and is a leader in the market for both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages in Japan (and not only).
When it comes to beer, Suntory offers tours at the Tokyo Musashino Factory, Kyoto Factory and Kyushu Kumamoto Factory. Whisky-wise they have the Yamazaki distillery and the Hakushu distillery, both usually offering tours, but the latter is in renovation until autumn 2023.
How to get there?
Suntory Kyoto Brewery is about 30- 40 minutes from Kyoto Station by train or a 25-minute drive. I was close to Karasuma Station so I took Hankyu-Kyoto Line to Nishiyama-Tennozan Station (9 stops, 280 Yen one way). From there I walked for about 10 minutes to the Brewery. Of course, it was raining heavily.
I'm pretty sure the other two factories have the same type of tours but I can only talk about the one I visited.
The free ones take place every day between 10 am and 15.15 and include at the end a tasting session where you get to enjoy their 3 most popular beers.
The paid tours are mainly on Saturdays and Sundays (with a few more on specific dates). They also include a tasting session where you can try the 3 Premium Malts as well as The Premium Malt's Master's Dream - Hakushu Unblended Barrel.
You need a reservation in order to take part in the tour. You can book up to two months in advance either online or by phone.
I completely forgot about Suntory Brewery's existence since I'm too in love with whisky so when I tried to book online the message displayed told me to call. My advice is to book as much in advance as you can. You will find an extensive list of Q&As on Suntory's website.
If you want to try your luck and book on the day, you will have to call, as online it will not be possible
Luckily for me, the amazing receptionist from Fuji Hotel Kyoto Gojo was super helpful and made the booking for me, otherwise, this tour would not have been possible. Thank you again.
Suntory Brewery Kyoto Tour
My only option was the free tour, and, again, I'm lucky I managed to find a slot for that.
The whole thing - tour and tasting at the end - lasts about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
You can download the audio tour on your phone before the tour starts and it will be made available for you to listen when the tour begins. You cannot listen to it before or after.
The tour starts with an introductory video about the manufacturing methods in the same building as the reception. You then get on a bus which takes you to the actual factory. There the tour continues with details about the ingredients used and the preparation equipment after which you get to see the manufacturing process.
As expected, it all looks impressive. what's even more impressive is that at the end of the tour, you get to try some of the beers they make. In the tasting room, you are greeted with a freshly poured glass of beer and a little packet of edamame snacks.
After you've enjoyed your beer you can sample 3 of their best products. You can see below what I tried, but I'm not sure that they always have the same 3 products to try.
After you try the tasters, you can choose your favourite and they will give you a glass of whatever it is you have chosen.
The only downside is that the whole tasting session lasts only 15 minutes, after which the tour fully ends, so if you like to take your time enjoying your drink, it might feel a bit rushed.
I was genuinely impressed by how the tour was conducted at the Suntory Brewery in Kyoto and I would honestly recommend it. If you're a fan of beer or just curious about how it's made, book a tour, you won't regret it.
If you have any questions, ask away in the comments below.
I hope life is treating you well.