To learn about the advent of Western-style beer brewing in Japan, a visit to the Handa Red Brick Building, some 40km south of central Nagoya on the Chita Peninsula, is recommended. By the late 19th century Handa’s brewing industry was well established and there were hundreds of sake and vinegar brewers in the area. One of these vinegar makers switched to beer and started Marusan Brewing Company in 1887. It was Marusan who commissioned Yorinaka Tsumaki, one of the most prominent architects of late 19th century Japan, to design their new German-style beer brewery, which opened in 1898. The five-storey building is designated as historically important as very few brick facilities of this size and age exist in Japan.
Marusan’s beer brand was Kabuto and for a time it was one of the nation's most popular beers, competing well with other brands such as Sapporo, Kirin, and Asahi. But the brewery closed in 1921 and the building was subsequently used as a corn starch factory and a warehouse. It was also damaged by gunfire during World War II.
In the late 1990's the building came under the administration of Handa City and with the support of a local citizen group was restored. In the exhibition room, models, videos, photographs, and other materials show the history of building and Kabuto beer which has been revived and is now brewed off site. Sample the beer, which comes in two varieties – a light Taishō lager and a darker Meiji ale – in the beer hall and buy take away bottles and other souvenirs from the shop.
30 minutes by train from Nagoya Station to Sumiyoshichō Station from where the Red Brick Building is a 5 minute walk. The building is a 10 minute drive from Handa Chūō Interchange.
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