Kamikawa Building Travelogue: Kamifurano Town, drying space for delicious hops

The warehouse on the Sapporo Beer Raw Material Development Laboratory grounds. A large Sapporo Beer company sign hangs on the front
The third floor of the warehouse. Koie explains, "Some areas seem to have employed usable scrap lumber"

About 10 minutes on foot eastwards from JR Kamifurano Station, a wooden building with a striking dark brown roof jumps out at the eyes. This is the warehouse for the Sapporo Beer Raw Material Development Laboratory which focuses on R&D activities including improving quality in hops, the raw material for beer. It was built around 1926, and has been in use for nearly a century. 

The roof is a “barn roof” style, with the slope angle dropping down dramatically midway through its descent. The beams are made of solid wood, and Laboratory head Koie Koichiro proclaims, “Whenever a carpenter sees it, they are always surprised at how thick the beams are.” The building is currently being used to store a total yearly average of approximately ten tons of dried hops collected from four farms in town and as a space to keep research and development materials.

The history of Kamifurano hops stretches back to 1923, when test growing started. When the Dainippon Beer Company, which later became Sapporo Beer, was considering ways to expand hops fields within Hokkaido, they learned that Kamifurano was an ideal setting. Dainippon Beer President Makoshi Kyohei was known as the “King of Eastern Beer”, and in 1925 he took a team to visit the then Kamifurano Village and purchased land on recommendation from Mayor Yoshida Teijiro. Afterwards, the company constructed the warehouse and office.

In one area of the first floor, a furnace-type area made from Biei stone still remains. It is thought that coal was burned there to dry hops. Today each farm has its own mechanical drier.

This is the same Development Laboratory that brought the world items like the legendary hops “Sorachi Ace”, which grew in popularity mainly across the US. Koie comments, “Amidst all of our various activities, I think this building continuing to live on is the coolest thing.” This passion for hops making transcends time in its onward march.


Warehouse for the Sapporo Beer Raw Material Development Laboratory