Hotel Okura Fukuoka

Finest Craft Beer Brewed by a First-Class Hotel
- Get Carried Away by Hakata Culture -

☆A hotel with local roots, where a unique culture is transmitted.

The history of Hakata town dates back to the 6th century, when the town was flourishing as a gateway to overseas and was greatly affected by the continental culture. The historical side of this town still remains today and some can be seen in many local traditional crafts such as Hakata-ori textile, Hakata dolls, and traditional festivals such as “Hakata Gion Yamakasa” and “Hakata Dontaku Port Festival”.

Hotel Okura Fukuoka offers a refined and elegant space ■Hotel Okura Fukuoka offers a refined and elegant space

In the Hakata Ward (Fukuoka City), the Hotel Okura Fukuoka stands magnificently and elegantly at the center of this international city, where a unique culture has been shaped since ancient times. As everyone knows, Hotel Okura is one of the longest established and biggest hotel chains in Japan. Once you step into this high-end hotel, you will be able to perceive not only premium and comfortable feelings which are well deserved given its established brand name, but also an atmosphere of nostalgia and grace. Why do we sense this mysterious but comfortable ambience?

Mr. Shuzo Mizushima, CEO of Hotel Okura Fukuoka ■Mr. Shuzo Mizushima, CEO of Hotel Okura Fukuoka

We can find the answer in the words of Mr. Shuzo Mizushima, CEO of Hotel Okura Fukuoka. He explains, “We want to make our hotel full of cultural flavors.” Just to name a few, Kakiyama (decorative floats made to be carried around) of Daikoku Nagare* is displayed in the lobby floor during summer time, which evokes one of the typical summer scenes of Hakata. The hotel announces a special wedding plan called “Hanayome-Bune (a bride’s boat ride) plan”. Bride and groom ride on a boat and go up the Hakata River flowing by the hotel to reach the Kushida Shrine, the main guardian shrine of Hakata since ancient times, to hold a traditional wedding ceremony. This hotel offers many other cultural-flavored events based on Hakata’s traditions. “We are also planning unique parties inviting Noh actors and concerts of local artists. We always strive to provide all our guests with the opportunity to experience locally-inspired culture,” says Mr. Mizushima with a gentle smile.

*Daikoku Nagare is one of the seven areas where the Hakata Gion Yamakasa annual summer festival is held in Hakata
Decorative float on the Daikoku Nagarethe lobby floor, creating a joyous mood during summertime. ■Decorative float on the Daikoku Nagarethe lobby floor, creating a joyous mood during summertime.
Craft beer labeled with a motif featuring Hakata-ori textile art, the surface of Hakata River, and wind blowing on the barley fields. ■Craft beer labeled with a motif featuring Hakata-ori textile art, the surface of Hakata River, and wind blowing on the barley fields.

In addition, Hotel Okura Fukuoka proudly introduces a new product bearing the mark of its high excellency and which can become a new icon of Hakata culture. It is a “Craft Beer” labeled with a special motif featuring Hakata-ori textile art.

☆A small brewery breathes in the basement floor

In the basement floor of Hotel Okura Fukuoka, I was astonished to find a tremendous scene that was hard to believe. There were three copper tanks for beer brewing, four stainless tanks for fermentation, and twelve tanks for maturation, all of which form a micro-brewery, a small-scale but fully equipped beer factory.

Brewery tanks breathe in the basement floor. Brewery tanks breathe in the basement floor. ■Brewery tanks breathe in the basement floor.

Beer brewing at Hotel Okura Fukuoka dates back to March 1999, when the hotel opened in Fukuoka under Hotel Okura’s corporate philosophy called “BEST A.C.S.”, which is an abbreviation of “Best Accommodation, Cuisine and Service”. To implement its philosophy in this newly opened hotel, they created a strong mindset under the slogan, “let’s make locally inspired craft beer that can highlight our best cuisine”. However, it was the most difficult time for new beer producers to be successful, since the local craft beer boom had significantly calmed down after several years of extraordinary growth. Most Japanese people evaluated craft beer as being too bitter, not well chilled, flat, expensive, having no good taste at all. The hotel was off to a rocky start as it was in the midst of the ice age of local craft beer.

Hakata Draft beer is available at all restaurants in the hotel. ■Hakata Draft beer is available at all restaurants in the hotel.

Amateur brewers in the hotel launched research on different kinds of local craft beers all over Japan, with the support and advice from Japanese leading beer manufacturers. Then they set a clear goal “to produce an original craft beer that can compete thanks to its quality but not showing off its specific character. We would pursue the best and pleasant clean finishing taste in order to produce special character from its rich taste”. They began beer making by wishing that they would see more smiles on the faces of customers. Their earnest efforts finally produced this original craft beer named “Hakata Draft”, which has been loved ever since in Hakata.


☆Extreme Craft Beer Carefully Brewed by Professional Brewers

Mr. Shoko, Master Brewer ■Mr. Shoko, Master Brewer

“Now we produce 3 types of bottled beers under the brand name of “Hakata Draft”; Als, Schön Alt, and DAIKOKU,” explained Mr. Kohei Shoko, Master Brewer in Hotel Okura Fukuoka. Initially, the in-house brewed beer was only served at restaurants in the hotel. Gradually, more and more guests became great fans of this craft beer and many wanted to bring them home. In response to customers’ requests, they started to sell bottled beers since 2008.

Mr. Ota looking back to his memories of a challenging time. ■Mr. Ota looking back to his memories of a challenging time.

“When we first started to brew the beer, it took a process of trials and errors to meet the needs of local customers,” Mr. Hirokazu Ota, one of the brewers of Hotel Okura Fukuoka, looking back to his memories.

Als is similar to Chardonnay with an elegant fragrance and a clear refreshing and mildly bitter taste. The Schön Alt is a beautiful beer with a reddish golden color with a clear body and bitter taste. DAIKOKU is named after the "Daikoku Nagare", one of the seven areas where the Hakata Gion Yamakasa annual summer festival is held in Hakata. It has a strong taste with coffee-like fragrance and bitterness. Its first touch is sweet and the bitterness appears afterwards in the mouth, with a pleasant heavy finish. I was so curious to see how these three beloved beers are processed inside the hotel.

Toasting-flavored caramel malt. ■Toasting-flavored caramel malt.
Hand-labeling and careful process by three brewers. ■Hand-labeling and careful process by three brewers.
Mr. Shoko’s precise work proves his passion for beer. ■Mr. Shoko’s precise work proves his passion for beer.

“We use five carefully selected German barleys. We change the blending ratio of these barleys according the style and taste of each beer. For Schön Alt, we blend a total of three barleys, including a toasting-flavored barley called “Caramel Malt,” explained Mr. Shoko disclosing the secret behind the rich taste. Hotel Okura Fukuoka’s beer making policy is “all handmade” from the milling process of barley, brewing process to the labeling process on bottles.

The yearly production of Hakata Draft is only 60kℓ, which is less than one-hour production of Japan’s leading beer factories. But all their process is done by hand, which requires long working hours and an earnest passion from all brewers. I am sure their passion is the key factor behind the production Hakata Draft, beloved throughout Hakata. One of the most remarkable facts is that these three Hakata Draft beers were all awarded Gold Medals at a contest of the Japan Craft Beer Association (JCBA).

☆Relaxing time at Seven Stars Bar, produced by Hakata Draft

Hakata Draft delights serious beer lovers from all over the world in the Seven Stars in Kyushu. (Photo shows Schön Alt) ■Hakata Draft delights serious beer lovers from all over the world in the Seven Stars in Kyushu. (Photo shows Schön Alt)

Hakata Draft plays a very important role for promoting the unique Hakata culture and offers some special moments for patrons of the bar onboard the Seven Stars in Kyushu. The service philosophy of this first-class hotel (“comfort for those who are arriving, happiness for those who are leaving”) spares no effort to brew this superb beer, and brings astonishment and delight to travelers from all over the world.