Harvestmoon Brewery, Tokyo Disney Resort
When I first heard that the multi award winning Harvestmoon Brewery was near Tokyo Disneyland, I thought “near” meant a few subway stops away.
Even when I alighted at Maihama station, I still expected to have to take a bus or a 30 minute hike in the opposite direction from Tokyo Disney Resort to get there. Ok, so Roti’s House – the Harvestmoon Brewery restaurant and meeting point for the brewery tour – might be in the resort but I still couldn’t believe they would actually make the beer in such an expensive location.
Turns out I was wrong.
Roti’s House is not only the restaurant face for Harvestmoon but it also houses the brewery.
Owned by the same company that runs Tokyo Disney Resort – including Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disneysea – Harvestmoon Brewery Roti’s House is located in the Ikspiari shopping center at the resort. Since Ikspiari isn’t actually in Tokyo Disneyland itself there’s no entrance fee to go to the restaurant.
Today I was here for one of the small brewery tour sessions – limited to around 10 people – the brewery hosts occasionally. I paid my registration money and was led to a room at the side of the restaurant. From the size of the room, it was clear Roti’s House is bigger than it looks from the outside.
The tour started with a presentation about how beer is made from Sonoda-san, one of the brewers. We were invited to taste grain, smell the pellet hops Harvestmoon uses, and even taste the hops if we wanted to. The talk was all in Japanese but Sonoda-san does speak some English and could answer questions in English.
Me though, I was itching to get inside the brewery and see just how big it was.
Explanation over, we were led out to the restaurant. The back of the restaurant has windows that look into the brewery:
After changing into wellies and walking through disinfecting solution, we were led into the brewery:
The brewery is very compact. As you enter you are immediately greeted by the fermentation and serving tanks. There are 11 tanks for fermentation and conditioning and 5 tanks for storage and aging.
Beer in the restaurant is served directly from the tanks – there is no kegging and bottling in-between. As Sonoda-san explained, that made getting the license for the brewery quite difficult because for tax purposes they need to calculate on a daily basis how much beer is served – it’s easy when you’re kegging, not so easy when you’re serving straight from 1000L tanks.
The equipment used in the brewery is all Japanese. The mash tun – also used for lautering – is shown in the right in the photo above. Behind it is the boiling tank. Capacity is 1000L.
Hot wort is pumped through this plate chiller. I didn’t add the “handy” ears – honest.
There are pipes running everywhere in the brewery, mostly along the ceiling, connecting all the various pieces of equipment.
As mentioned above, the brewery has 11 large tanks for fermentation and conditioning – a mix of 1000L and 2000L. Sonoda-san explained that fermentation and conditioning is done in the same tank, without moving the beer. Local water is used to make the beers and yeast is either an ale yeast or a lager yeast. The initial yeast was originally brought from overseas and since then has been harvested after every fermentation and reused.
As the tour continued, so did work in the brewery. I asked about dry-hopping. The tanks used at Harvestmoon are closed type, which prohibits directly putting in a bag or hops to dry-hop. Instead, after taking out the yeast, to dry-hop they make a “hop tea” in kegs and then use CO2 to push the tea into the tanks.
Including Sonoda-san, there are only three full time workers in the brewery – plus one guy who comes in to bottle part time.
At the back are two small tanks to hold experimental and seasonal beers – at the time of visiting the brewery was in the middle of making a pumpkin ale.
Some wider shots of the brewery:
This first one was taken from the back corner of the brewery, in front of the boiling tank. With the exception of the boiling tank, mash tun, and hot water tank which are behind the camera and the cold-storage fridge and entrance at the far opposite corner which are hidden by the tanks, you can see the entire room here. It’s compact but very well laid out.
Back tanks. Just to the right of the ladder are the two small tanks and windows to the restaurant, shown below:
One of the things that impressed me about the brewery was just how spotlessly clean and well organised it was. I don’t think that was just for the open day – everywhere was spotless and well organised, which can only come from the brewery habitually being in that state.
Beers are carbonated before bottling and bottled without pasteurisation. The brewery advises drinking within 3 months.
Looking back onto the bottling area and the hot water tank. The mash tun is just to the left of the hot water tank.
On the way out Sonoda-san showed off some Japanese Shinshu Wase hops she’d picked at Shiga Kogen a few weeks back. A number of the Japanese breweries joined Shiga Kogen for hop picking this year. These hops will be used in the IPA Harvestmoon is about to brew for November 2009 release.
Hops and kegged and bottled beers are kept in cold storage in the fridge next to the entrance to the brewery, in front of the tanks. Temperature is kept around 3 degrees. With the exception of the Shiga Kogen picked hops in the photo above, pellet hops are usually used.
Brewery seen, it was time to head back for a tasting.
Shown above, the year round range – Pilsner, Belgian White, Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Schwarz – and the food set included with the tour. In the background Sonoda-san explains how to taste beer like a beer judge.
The standard range was followed by the current seasonal specials – a richer Pale Ale and this year’s Barley Wine. Harvestmoon’s Barley Wine was the first ever Barley Wine that I enjoyed drinking and introduced me to both the brewery and the fact that Barley Wine can taste good. Very good to try it again before this years batch runs out.
After the sampling I couldn’t leave without stopping off in the restaurant and having more beer, tapped straight from the tanks. I do love that Schwarz – rich and dark and tingly on the tongue, with subtle burnt roasted burnt smell; lovely.
The Roti’s House website is here and there’s information on how to find the restaurant on Ikspiari’s website here. The restaurant in on the 4th floor, open 11am to 11pm daily (last order 10pm). Phone number is 047-305-5652.
My opinion? Harvestmoon’s beer isn’t that easy to find in Japan – it’s very occasionally on tap in bars like Ushi Tora and Popeye and at festivals, and bottles are only available in a handful of places – so I have to confess I’d only tasted their Barley Wine before doing this tour and didn’t know what to expect, and there were people on the tour who had never tasted Harvestmoon’s beer at all before the sampling. But I was very pleasantly surprised. There isn’t a bad beer in the range – and the Schwarz, Pilsner, seasonal Pale Ale, and Barley Wine were nothing short of fantastic. I can see why the brewery has won so many awards. Given that Harvestmoon beer is difficult to find and the restaurant is only 14 minutes from Tokyo station on the Keiyo line, I’d definitely recommend a trip out there – even if the bottles don’t have mouse ears.