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History of the Japanese Beer Industry

Birth of the Beer Industry

Origin of beer-making in Japan

  • In 1853, it is said that beer was first test-brewed in Japan by Koumin Kawamoto, a doctor of Dutch medicine, following a description in a Dutch book.

Early period of the Japanese beer industry in the 1870s

  • In 1870, an American, W. Copeland founded the Spring Valley Brewery in the settlement of Yamate, Yokohama.
  • In 1872 in Osaka, Syozaburo Shibutani became the first Japanese to brewing and selling beer.
  • In 1876, the Hokkaido Kaitakushi Beer Brewery, the first brewery under governmental management, was established in Sapporo, Hokkaido.
W. Copeland
W. Copeland
Hokkaido Kaitakushi Beer Brewery in 1876
Opening Ceremony of the Hokkaido Kaitakushi Beer Brewery in 1876

Formation of the modern beer industry

Beerpub in 1890s
Beerpub in 1890s
  • In 1886, the amount of domestically produced beer exceeded the amount of import beer for the first time.
  • The 1890s marked a time of great prosperity for the Japanese beer industry.
  • In 1901, the Beer Tax Law was enacted.
  • In 1906, major consolidation took place in the industry for the purpose of preventing excessive domestic competition, promotion exports and concentrating capital.
  • In 1908, due to a change in the Beer Tax Law, the minimum quantity of the beer necessary to be produced to obtain a manufacturing license became 180Kl, which made management of small- scale enterprises difficult.

Prosperity Due to the First World War

  • In 1916, the Japanese beer industry progressed into Asia.
  • In 1920, the enforcement of Prohibition in the United States allowed surplus brewing equipment to be imported into Japan, resulting in the establishment of the Nitiei Brewery and Toyo Brewery.
Brewhouse in 1910s
Brewhouse in 1910s
Beerpub in 1910s
Beerpub in 1910s

Confusion Resulting from the great Depression and the Second World War

  • In 1933, Dainippon Beer combined with Nippon Beer Kosen due to falling sales caused by the Great Depression in the 1930s.
  • Kirin Brewery Co., Ltd. invested in the companies, giving them stability. Other companies also came under the control of the joint company.
  • In 1939, price controls were introduced.
  • In 1940, the minimum quantity of beer manufacturing license for a brewery was increased from 180Kl to 1,800Kl.
  • In 1943, a distributive control mechanism was established. The distribution control period lasted between 1943 and 1949.
Common Label
Common Label among the years of the 2nd World War, when each company's brand can't be used.

Postwar Reconstruction

  • In 1949, the distribution control mechanism was abolished.The major brewer Dainipponn beer was divided into two to avoid excessive concentration of financial power.
  • In 1953, the Brewers Aassociation of Japan was established.
  • In 1959, the minimum quantity of beer manufacturing license for a brewery was increased from 1,800Kl to 2,000Kl.
  • Demand for beer increased rapidly following the advanced economic growth between 1955 and 1965.

Movement of the Market in Recent Years

  • From around 1965, the rate of increase in demand for beer gradually dropped off. Under the circumstances, 10 breweries were established nationwide and the manufactured amount doubled over a 10-year period.
  • In 1983, licensed production of foreign brand beers was started.
  • In 1994, the minimum quantity of beer manufacturing license for a brewery was decreased from 2,000Kl to 60Kl. As a result, many small regional breweries were established.