A mythical "kirin" statue in the front garden from which the company takes its name.  (Photo: Justin Velgus)

Sendai Kirin Brewery Tour

Free drinks, brewery tour, and did we mention drinks?

A mythical "kirin" statue in the front garden from which the company takes its name.  (Photo: Justin Velgus)
Justin Velgus   - 5 min read

While many of us do like to enjoy a beer from time to time, we don’t put a lot of thought into how it is actually made. If you are traveling around Tohoku, why don’t you stop by for a free tour of the Kirin Brewery to learn for yourself?

The name "Kirin" is synonymous with beer in Japan. The company borrows its name from the legendary mythical creature of the same name that is said to appear when something spectacular is about to happen. The good luck charm has certainly paid off with over a 130 years of continuing success as a top domestic alcohol and soft drink company that now sells its products to the international market. Kirin has several breweries around Japan, but this time allow me to introduce how to enjoy your own Sendai Kirin Brewery tour experience.

Your first step is to make a necessary reservation. This can be done on the website homepage, or by phone. As far as I know, all the receptionists speak only Japanese, so you may want have a friend, hotel staff, or the Sendai tourist information center (located in Sendai station) to call on your behalf if Japanese is not your forte. The Kirin reception desk will ask for your name and how many people in your party, and the day and time of your desired free tour. My party was able to call in the morning and go in the afternoon the same day. That was a weekday though; it may be too busy on weekends to do this. There are many tours throughout the day (see the website for details). Once a tour slot is confirmed you are given directions if needed. Drivers are reminded that according to Japanese law, they cannot operate a motor vehicle after drinking an alcoholic beverage (even a sip!) Those coming by train are told what time they should arrive at Tagajo station to catch the service shuttle. Tagajo station is 20 minutes from Sendai station via the Senseki line. Take a left after exiting the front ticket gate to see the clearly marked Kirin sign at the pick-up/drop-off zone. A 10-15 minute ride and you arrive at the brewery.

Check in at the front desk and watch a brief video in a waiting area with comfy seats until your tour guide comes out to greet you. The nearly hour long tour itself is entirely in Japanese, though there is an informative English pamphlet at the front desk and important machine areas along the route are labeled in Japanese and English. This is a walking tour, so you should expect to do some briefly outside, mostly inside, and on a few staircases. The tour itself is absolutely fantastic. The tour guide shows and explains what is right behind the glass windows: the magic of making beer. The entire process is detailed from selecting ingredients, filtration, cooling, and packaging. You also are given information about Kirin’s own history and products. The tour is made somewhat interactive as you can smell the ingredients, feel how cold the cooling tanks are, stand inside a circle on the ground that is the same size as the production tower outside, and taste the products.

Certainly everyone’s favorite part of the tour was the finale. At the end of the tour, guests sit along a table then are given several freebies. While enjoying these free mementos, your tour guide will show you how to properly pour a Kirin beer and lead a "kanpai" or cheers. From that point you have about 15-20 minutes to enjoy the free bar. Kirin Shibori, Kirin Lager, and Kirin Stout are all on tap. Just let the bartender know your preference. I couldn’t decide, so I went with one of each. It was no problem. Soft drinks are also available for guests that would rather not drink alcohol. Brewery attendees are also given crackers and adults receive beer jelly chocolate samples. If all this wasn’t enough, each visitor will also receive a Kirin beer can coin bank. It is an actual can made at the factory, but the top is a coin slot. Reportedly, it can hold about one hundred 500 yen coins. The company store sells various Kirin souvenirs while an exhibit in the opposite corner of the room retells the aftermath of the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami had on the brewery. Right outside is the onsite Kirin restaurant, which features various dishes, buffet options, and several funky flavored beers (cow tongue anyone?) that are not given out during the free tour.

Want more Kirin beer in more places? Why not try a factory tour at Okayama's Kirin Beer Park, or Kirin Veer Village in Yokohama?

Justin Velgus

Justin Velgus @justin.velgus

Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is the Miyagi Prefecture expert for Japan Travel and a long-term contributor since 2012 with a focus on the Tohoku region.  Justin has written extensively for JT, and other publications such as VisitMiyagi and Sake Today, amassing over 350 published articles...