Hey. We just got here; is it too soon to use the “L” word? It is our great pleasure (and we’re only part way through our first beer as we type this) to give your our very local review of Streetlight Brewing Company in Sapporo.
As you might know, we have a strong passion for a decent pint. And as we have been working on our list of the best beer bars in Sapporo for months now, of course we had heard about Streetlight Brewing Company near Soen. This place is about four blocks away from the Soen station on the JR line. It is not central Sapporo, not entirely convenient, but… it has been on our mind.
And today, well today… I missed not one, but two flights from the same airport in the same day. That is impossible. And as I was taking the JR line back from New Chitose airport tonight, it occurred to me:
I should take this whole disaster-of-a-day, and turn it into a great excuse to finally go to Streetlight at Soen. I was already on the JR. One stop past Sapporo station and… maybe a cold beer to two would help me make sense of missing my flight(s).
Maybe I was meant to be here, today, tonight, writing, with my confuser propped up on a giant “spool,” listening to well curated alternative music, and not-so-gently nursing a double IPA. Maybe this is exactly where I am supposed to be tonight. With each sip of this very tasty Streetlight Brewing Company IPA, it seems more and more that that must be true.
If you know our Sapporo beer bar reviews, you know we have kind words for so many of Sapporo’s beer bars. We really do. And while we recently published a complete tear down of Susukino’s ES Craft (which… is legitimately not great), I am increasingly stoked on how many great beer bars there are in this town, in Sapporo, my Sapporo (yours too, my friend)… the best city in the whole wide world.
Sapporo… ICHIBANNOMACHI でしょ.
As I dragged my sad, underused luggage (that should be in the overhead bin on an international flight right now) down the street from Soen station, I almost missed this place.
On the corner of Soen-Hassamu dori Ave and Nishi 20, there is what looks like an “abandoned” building; tall late-summer weeds growing where they might not. I walked right past this place. And then checked my phone, realized “I am here,” but still couldn’t see it.
Sapporo’s Streetlight Brewing Company is part of that same building on the corner, but the entrance is “set back” off the street. It is on the north side of Nishi 20, back about 10 meters. The entrance is what I might call a “carport, with a few parking spots, and then an area with what we might call a “beer garden” (and it will make our list of beer gardens, when such a list exists).
As I rolled up here tonight in the dark, there were no obvious signs that said “Streetlight” (that I noticed).
From that covered area, a big sliding door will lead you into the taproom. And from the taproom, we were surprised to learn that Streetlight brewing is no just a beer bar…
In addition to a very fine drinking area, Streetlight Brewing Company is actually a brewery. The big, unassuming, semi-industrial building that helped to almost hide the taproom is functional; they really make beer at Streetlight.
The first time I ever went for a beer in a place where you could see the brewing process was a place called Gordon Biersch, on the waterfront in San Francisco. This was early 90s. It was a bar, and a restaurant, and a “happy hour” place, and in the early days of craft they brewed beer there; the giant metal canisters were evidence of that process. You could even smell it. In the many years since then, I have been through several such experiences, and Streetlight is my first experience of a brewery Sapporo.
Streetlight Brewing Company is not “downtown.” To get to Streetlight you have to go a little further out; where the property values in Sapporo are a little less precious and they have the square footage (I believe that is called m2 here in Sapporo) to do some industrial strength work. It is not particularly easy to get here… but there are many reasons to come.
Should we talk about that beer? Sure.
As you walk into Sapporo’s Streetlight Brewing, you will see the counter to your right, and a row of taps behind that counter. Looking at the menu, you’ll notice some nice choices on draught – on our first night it was seven beers and two ciders from a guest contributor.
There is a range of styles, but they err toward the eccentric; from a low ABV “smoked grisette” (whatever that might be) to a sour, then the ciders, and a trifecta of IPAs. I had had a long day, and was looking for some “medicine” so I chose the “Reincarnations” double IPA – a big 8% monster of a beer.
Personally, I have a lot of beer in my time. And (if you read this blog you’ll know) I love a good IPA. But I personally think 6-7% alcohol is the sweet spot. As for double IPAs, Streetlight Brewing Company’s “Reincarnations” (which literally means “to put back into the flesh,” or “back from the dead,” and shares a root-word with “carne asada”) was good, but probably more about being すよい than about being exceptional. It was good, a total asskicker (which at 8% is what a double IPA will do), but more about the horsepower than the flavor.
But, as I was enjoying the vibe at Streetlight so much (and it had been a hard day), it was happy to have another.
For this second round I had their お祝いエール (“Celebration Ale”), which was fantastic. At 5.5%, that is a mild IPA, but it had a much better flavor. Both were good, the latter was better.
They give you three choices as to the size of the pour at Streetlight; half, regular, and pint. And at ¥1000 for the pint of their in-house varieties, that is a fair price for a fine beer (and with a much cooler experience than some other places that charge more).
On display at the counter (and across the bottom of the menu), you’ll notice they have a fine selection of canned beers (with the same smart marketing and style you see throughout the taproom).
I am curious about what I think is a Sapporo tendency to mix the idea of a “beer bar” (where they pour you a beer from a keg) with that of a “liquor store” (where you buy cans and dump them into a glass). Places like Phred’s Beer Inn Mugishutei do that well, whereas Es Craft in Susukino does it poorly.
But I like what Streetlight Brewing Company does better than most of the other places that sell cans; which is to make it about their own beer first (which I realize not every place can do, not every good beer bar in Sapporo is also a brewery), and then the cans become a way to continue that experience at home. The cans on sale aren’t the same as the ones on tap, so that extends the options as well. Nicely done.
After a beer and half, with the pain to my day fading into a cheerful buzz, I became reflective; what does the name “Streetlight” mean? Where did that come from?
So I asked:
The guy behind the counter is hip dude. Good vibe. He does not speak English (not really) and my Japanese is seriously bad (yeah, really), but through my low-key beer buzz we tried to talk about it.
Look at their logo:
“Steetlight” (so he told me) is about the golden light coming down from overhead. Golden, like a good pint. Oh, I like that. When I ask a deeper questions about meaning or whatever, I don’t usually assume I’ll get a compelling answer – but I did this time.
We tried to go back in forth in broken English (and even worse Japanese), and he said the word “lightning.” (I think he did. I’d just crushed an 8% beer, with no dinner in my belly, I was only a vaguly reliable source at that point). Lightning… it comes down from above… like the streetlight. It brings “light to the people.” (Is that what he said?)
I told him that in English we have an expression (and I am thinking of a really OG house music song as I say this) that “alcohol raises your spirits.” Is that the same thing?
Is the idea of a streetlight pouring (so to speak) “golden” light down on the people similar to the idea of alcohol “raising your spirits?” Like lightning “animating” us with a kind of energy?
I like that guy. Sometimes… you ask a question, and you get a very interesting answer. You should come in for a few pints and consider that (and all of life’s really big questions) for yourself.
As an outsider, as a rouge はくじん (white person), an American ろうにん (浪人 ronin) here in Hokkaido, I don’t come to Sapporo awash in connections. I like to explore, I follow my nose, and I like to share what I see.
I’d come across tale of Streetlight Brewing Company in other establishments. I had noticed Streetlight’s signature designs on display at 二ューチャぺス (really great izakaya-bistro, review coming soon). And I’d seen reference to Streetlight Brewing, regularly, at Beer Cellar Sapporo (where I believe they might sell Streetlight’s beer).
(In fact, as this review was coming together, I stopped by Beer Cellar for a pint. And on this occasion, with Streetlight in mind, I looked in the beer case to see if I could see any of Streetlight’s beers for sale. I did not, but I grabbed a pint of the HBJJ (“Home brew jujitsu”), which I had here one night when HBJJ had their release party. As I went to the counter to pay for it, I asked if they had any Streetlight beers for sale and…
It turns out the HBJJ TDDIPA is actually brewed at Streetlight. For me, that was a total coincidence.)
We think we’ve done a good job of selling this place – not because we have a lot of friends here (not yet!), but because Streetlight had made its mark on Sapporo’s beer culture, and I wanted to come for myself. And after a beer (or two), I was a fan… and I hope to become a regular.
Streetlight takes good beer, and a comfortable setting, and ads a flair for art and good design. Inside it’s concrete and plywood (an aesthetic similar to Beer Cellar), which comes of slick, and modern while still feeling warm.
I don’t like Susukino Brewery (which is a cheesy “Valentine’s beer bar,” and not a brewery at all), with their girly mix of beer and desert. While Sun and Moon Brewing has great beer (and the staff have been very cool to me), there is a stiffness there, and an over-reliance on “reservations,” fancy-food, high prices, and an ugly insistence on QR codes. I’m critical of the vision of several of Sapporo’s beer bars, but not Streetlight – this place does it righteous.
I could be cryptic and careful, and “too cool” to say how I really feel, but I won’t do that here. I love this place (see, the “L” word, after all). Streetlight Brewing Company is going on our list of the absolute craft beer bars in Sapporo. Of course it is.
We have referenced many of our favorite Sapporo beer bars in this review already, but in terms of top recommendations, we’ll run them down again for you again:
If you’re in the south part of the city, we like Phred’s Beer Inn by Nakajima koen. Closer to Susukino, we have already mentioned some places to avoid, but for three spots that combine great beer and good food we like Craft Beer Volta, The Craft, and for a more high-end experience we love Salt Moderate. With all these good choices, I probably would not send you to North Island Beer Bar (which has good beer, but can’t compete with most of these other places for style), but I would definitely recommend Beer Kotan by PARCO.
Sapporo, is a great place to drink beer. And Streetlight is an exceptional example. We’ll be back.
BTW: We have to say… the music at Streetlight Brewing Company is very good. Right now, it’s like nuevo-disco. Or funk; a guy singing in a falsetto with a baseline bouncing along behind him. Earlier, it was more “wavey” and synth. Great playlist running right now. Original. Musical. Way beyond “pop trash.” I do like some good music and goes well with cold beer.
And that is all.