There are, in fact, a few places to get a really good draft beer in this town. And we do our best to help you out with our list of the best craft beer bars in Sapporo. We like a lot of those places, but this place, Phred’s place, is special. Welcome to Beer Inn 麦酒停 Mugishutei.
I have been here maybe 20 times. And while “Beer Inn” is rather easy to understand, the Mugishutei part was always confusing for me. Not easy for me to say, and even harder to remember, but just for you, or loyal readers and dearest friends, tonight, I took a moment to translate the Japanese into English:
As you start to dump the kanji into a translation app, the first character (麦) is wheat. As for the second character (酒), even a bad student like me would understand is “sake” or more generally “alcohol.” So up to this point, we have “wheat alcohol,” otherwise known as beer. So far so good. The third character (停), the “tei” part, means “stop” (like bus stop, etc). So putting this all together, this is the “wheat alcohol stop,” or basically, “a place to drink a beer.” Okay. I accept those terms.
Tonight, as I arrived, along with my oshibori, I was handed a menu with seven beers on tap.
It has been a few months since I have been here and Phred has raised his prices. I used to drink a proper pint here for ¥600. Is that right? Maybe ¥800? But tonight all the beers are ¥1000 a pour. Okay, I can accept that too.
You want more? Yeah, well there is food too (and that isn’t even the best part about this place, I’ll get to that in a minute, hold on).
Burgers (pan fried). Pizzas (I have never had one here, and I will in no way vouch for the pizzas). And Tex-Mex (which almost makes me “LOL”). That part of the menu consists of tacos. And, for ¥1000, you can have chips and salsa. And for that price, we will forever refer to them as Chips and Salsa™. That is the new rule.
And on that note, I will tell you: those Chips and Salsa™, for all you know, they start (maybe?) with locally-sourced corn meal from genuine Hokkaido corn（とうきび), which (perhaps) is then formed into lovingly-made corn tortillas, (which could be) hand pressed, and then (possibly) cooked to order, and paired with salsa from Phred’s family recipe, handed down for no less than six generations; passed from Mexico, to California, and then across the pond here to Japan. And maybe that it true.
Or maybe the Chips and Salsa™ come from Costco. And are those two experiences really that far apart? You decide. What do most Japanese know about hand-made corn tortillas, anyway. I mean, really.
(On a subsequent visit, I ordered the Chips and Salsa™, so we could provide adequate photographic evidence for your review. And having personally eaten ¥1000 worth of Chips and Salsa™, I cannot say that I was in any way disappointed. Let it now be known that Chips and Salsa™ shall always be a part of my order at Phred’s Mugishutei in Sapporo.)
The Beer Inn sometimes calls itself a beer museum, and all that means is that there is a truly incredible collection of assorted beer cans and bottles, spanning nearly a half-century, lining the walls, and, the ceiling. Hundreds and hundreds of bottles and cans. There is not much more to the “museum” than that, but it makes for unique atmosphere and I like it.
I have been coming here long enough to have made friends with Phred. He is also American. And he has been in Sapporo for no less than 40 years (he has watched it grow up, quite a bit, as you can imagine). He loves beer, and this is his place. In fact, he imports all this beer, and beyond this bar, he is, by trade, a beer distributor. And he also knows a thing or two about tequila and mescal (but that is a another story).
I swear I have never (in all my life) used this phrase in speech or in the written word, but I will now; Phred is a bon vivant. He loves food. He loves to drink. He is epically social. He has one million friends. And if you’re lucky you can catch him here on weekends much of the time. Buy him a beer (yes, buy him one of his own beers, just do it). I have many times and it’s part of the experience.
And now, for the very best part of this whole story (which is the best review ever written, about maybe the best beer bar in Sapporo, here, in the best city in the entire world)… one of my favorite things about Phred’s bar (and this is complete genius, as far as I am concerned), is that the bar has VH1’s greatest hits on loop.
What’s does that mean?
What (on Earth) is this “VH1” that I speak of? VH1 is (was?) MTV’s (“what is that?”) more musical and less naciccistic little sister. VH1 is (was?) a music video channel on cable television, back when people had televisions and watched things like “music videos.” And here in Phred’s bar, he has somehow managed to port in a never ending stream of mid- to late-90s VH1 videos. And that, is the soundtrack that plays in the background when you drink
¥600 ¥800 ¥1000 beers in Phred’s bar.
Tonight, on Phred’s personal VH1 timewarp video experience (along with my two criminally delicious IPAs, they were fantastic) I had the pleasure of (re)experiencing Nirvana, U2, Outcast, Beyonce, Third Eye Blind, Alicia Keyes and Counting Crows (I could shed a tear, I really could). Pure bangers. To be in Sapporo, in 2023, with lovely Nihonjin on either side of me, chattering away in Japanese (and, I might add, rudely ignoring the cultural significance of VH1’s “Mega Hits”), with the beer, and the shocking collection of beer cans, and the foozball table, and the walk-in cooler full of imported Pacific North West American “wheat sake”, it’s all so…
I love it. I do. I love Beer Inn Mugishutei. I love this place. And it’s ¥1000 pints (and free water: remember to always stay hydrated). And it’s $10 artisinal corn Chips and Salsa™ (yeah, sure, totally, whatever).
Come check it out. You’ll be glad you did.