First, I will confess, while I have spent a fair amount of time in some of the best craft beer bars in Sapporo, this is my first ever visit to Beer Cellar Sapporo.
The first thing to notice about Sapporo Beer Cellar is… it is not a “cellar.” It’s a street level business. And you can see it from the street car (“tram”) that runs along the northern side of the building.
The second thing to notice about the not-so-cellar-like Sapporoのビ-ル場所 (“beer place”) is that… this is a great spot to drink a beer.
I came by for the first time on a Friday evening in the spring, around 7 PM, peak “happy hour” – a perfect time for a beer (as if there is ever really a bad time). In addition to myself and the beer master, there were about eight other patrons. By the non-intrusive standards of the Japanese, you might say the place was about “half full.” Compared to a busy night at a crowded city bar in an American city, it was spacious. Plenty of places to sit, comfortable, but also modern, minimal, and cool.
Unlike a lot of other places you might catch a beer in Sapporo, Beer Cellar Sapporo functions more like bars in the US; No on greets you at the door, you’re not locked into any particular seat, you order at the bar, and then settle down anywhere you want. It is casual and comfortable. I liked it immediately.
As you can see from the pictures, there are 12 taps behind the bar.
As I walked up to order, I could see the names of six beers, and I choose “Sticky Hands;” I checked the board, and it’s a 8.1% ABV IPA. Strong. Great flavor. I ordered the small size, and it was about 8 ounces, for Y770. Delicious, but not cheap. Y1100 for a 1/2 beer and a bag of popcorn. Those were the terms of the deal, and I accepted.
I had a quick chat with the beermaster; of those 12 taps, they usually have six to eight options on draft. And as you can see…
They have a large collection of craft beers, many from Portland, Oregon. Before I could ask why, our friend at the bar told me, “Portland, sister city.” Okay.
When we wrote our review of Beer Kotan, we commented that most bars in Sapporo put you in issolated seats that make socializing difficult. While the high-quality beer and sound asthetics are reason enough to stop by for a pint, the layout is one of the most social-friendly of any place I have been in this, the greatest city in the world. You can stand at the bar, and there are several other standing-only tables that put you in close contact with other patrons and make it easier to give some guy the nod, or to say hi. The layout is a selling point for me, and makes this bar much less stuffy than some other places. Good vibes.
Last point, as you can see, there is a undwr-stated emphasis on music. A record player, a few boxes of LPs, some jazzy tunes in the background…
Well done, Sapporo Beer Cellar. I am impressed. And I will be back for more.