About the history of Japanese beer

2022.09.08

Overview of the current Japanese beer industry

Japanese beer is mainly produced at four major breweries: Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo, and Suntory.
Pilsner-style lager is the most commonly produced beer style in Japan.
Beer-flavoured beverages such as Happoshu and Miyoshi Beer also form part of the market.
These have a lower tax rate than beer and can be sold at a lower price than beer.
Since deregulation in 1994, the popularity of local beer, such as Japanese local beer and craft beer, has increased.

Birth of the Japanese beer industry

Beer was first introduced to Japan when British and American ships arrived.
In 1860, Sadao Tamamushi, one of the first shogunate envoys to the United States, drank beer for the first time.
When Perry came to Japan in 1853, Dr. Komin Komoto, a herbal medicine doctor, read a description in a Dutch book and tried brewing beer at his private residence in Tsuzuki-cho, Edo.
This is the origin of beer brewing.
In 1870, American Copeland established Spring Valley Brewery in Yokohama’s Yamate settlement and began brewing beer primarily for foreigners.

Formation of the modern beer industry

In the 20s of the Meiji era (1888-1912), modernization was in full swing in Japan due to the industrial revolution.
A new era was approaching with modern beer companies popping up all over the country.
Nippon Beer Co., Ltd. was founded in Tokyo in 1887, and after being sold to the Hokkaido Government in 1899, Sapporo Beer Co., Ltd. was established in 1899, followed by Osaka Beer Co., Ltd.
Yokohama’s Copeland Beer was later acquired by Japan Brewery.
At the beginning of the Meiji era, beer was not subject to the liquor tax.

World War I Boom

World War I broke out in 1914, but Japan was blessed with geographical conditions and could hardly participate in the war, and the economy was booming.
The beer industry also benefited from the war boom by entering markets in Southeast Asia and India that had been cut off from the European beer supply.
Demand for beer continued to be strong after that, and the beer industry boomed, with breweries building factories one after another and launching beer businesses.
By the way, in 1919, the year after World War I ended, the U.S. Congress passed a law that made beer brewing machines unnecessary.
A Japanese entrepreneur happened to buy it and created a new beer company.

Confusion in the beer industry due to the recession in the early Showa period

From the end of the Taisho era to the beginning of the Showa era, the post-war recession deepened, and the beer industry entered a period of upheaval and stagnation due to a drop in consumption and intensification.
In 1933, due to large-scale mergers and the establishment of joint sales companies, orders in the industry gradually recovered, and in 1939, production volume reached 310,000 kl, the highest level before the war.
In 1939, when World War II broke out in Europe, the government decided to invoke the National Mobilization Act and implemented price control orders.
Beer price control began with the price designation in 1939, and in 2015, official prices were established in three stages: production, wholesale, and retail for each city and region. I was.
In 1940, rationing began, and in 1943 the label began to simply say “beer.”

From post-war reconstruction to reconstruction

Amidst the turmoil after the war, beer companies began to move toward recovery.
In 1949, a law was passed to eliminate excessive concentration of economic power in the beer industry, and Dai Nippon Beer, the top manufacturer, was split into two, creating a new post-war structure.
In June of the same year, beer halls around the country revived in preparation for the reopening of restaurants, and beer fans flocked to the area.
By the way, a 500ml mug costs 130 yen in Tokyo.
The following year, in 1950, full-scale competition resumed with sales through the distributor route, restrictions on raw materials were lifted in 1952, and in 1953 production surpassed the pre-war peak.

Recent Market Trends

In the 1960s, beer demand growth slowed, but production doubled in ten years as 10 new factories were built across the country.
It was also around this time that the plastic boxes that we know today came into being, and beer gift certificates were sold.
In the 1970s, although the production volume reached 4 million kl in 1977, it entered a period of stable growth with an average annual growth rate of 2.6%.
In the 1980s, various companies launched different beers, including Dry His Beer, and beer production increased again.
However, after this peak, beer production continues to decline.

What is Japanese draft beer?

Japanese draft beer is beer that has not been heat treated.
Heat treatment is the process of making beer that kills the yeast and bacteria introduced during the brewing process, making the beer tastier.
Today, the technology of making beer is evolving.
It became possible to drink delicious beer without heat treatment, and most of the beer sold is “draft beer”.

What about Japanese craft beer?

Recently, you can buy craft beer at convenience stores.
I think that many people are surprised by the taste of craft beer, which is different from the beer they usually drink.
Japanese craft beer is not yet clearly defined.
Craft beer was originally made in America.
Beer made by small breweries was called craft beer.
At that time, small Japanese breweries had to produce at least 200 kiloliters of beer per year, something only big breweries such as Asahi and Sapporo could do.
This he corrected to 60 kiloliters per year in 1994.
Small breweries sprung up all over Japan, creating a boom under the name of “microbreweries.”
That’s why craft beer is so popular today.

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