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History of Japanese Beer

History of Japanese Beer

Beer was first introduced in Japan during the 17th century in the Edo period. It all started when Dutch traders that were stationed in Nagasaki opened a beer hall for sailors. And to this date, Beer remains to be the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan. It is commonly consumed at homes and drinking establishments.


The first brewery in Japan was established in 1869 in the town of Yokohama. They started producing Kirin-branded beer in 1888. While in Sapporo, they built a beer brewery and established Sapporo Beer in 1876. And until today, there are still arguments on whether the birthplace of Japanese beer was in Yokohama or Sapporo.

Japan also opened its doors for foreign trade during the Meiji period, they have imported beers such as Bass Pale Ale and Bass Stout. European brewers also contributed to the growth of the local beer industry in Japan. Over the years, the popularity of beer increased until it has been Japan’s favorite drink. Along with this, Japan’s beer have gained popularity overseas because of it’s unique and delicious taste.   

Variations of Japanese Beer

Because of the taxation system in Japan, the different kinds of brewed malt beverages have been categorized into two, the beer and happoshu. They are taxed according to their malt content thus, the less malt the beer contains, the cheaper the price. This tax law also applies to other beer-like drinks and these are the three ranks of beer in Japan.

Beer:  This is regular beer that has regular malt content. Because of the malt used in this beer is higher than the next two variations, this kind of beer costs more than them.

Happoshu– Happoshu or also known as sparkling alcohol is a low-malt beer that has a similar flavor and alcohol content as the regular beer but with less malt. It has a slightly lighter taste and it is taxed differently because of it’s malt content.

New Genre:  New Genre beer or also known as “Daisan no biru” is the newest innovation in the Japanese beer industry. In order to sell this beer at a lower price than the previous two beers and counter tax changes, inventors remove the malt content and substituted it with pea, soy and wheat spirts.

Market Size

Being the most popular alcoholic in Japan, statistic says that in 2006, nearly two thirds of the alcohol consumed in Japan was beer. Their domestic consumption of beer reaches a total of 187.37 million kiloliter in the global beer market in 2012. And in 2014, Japan was at the 51st spot in terms of beer consumption which is equivalent to 42.6 liters of beer consumed per person.

Craft Beer

Craft beer became popular in Japan in the mid-1990’s, several microbreweries in Japan is now making and selling high-quality beer both domestic and abroad. Tokyo and Osaka are the two popular in making the craft beer because there are various dedicated bars to sell beer that comes from a particular brewery they are linked to. Ever since then, there’s an increase in the number of brewpubs that makes and brews their own beer and sell it on their bar.

How to Enjoy Beer in Japan

In Japan, the legal age you can enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages is 20 years old. And in their culture, beer drinking is used to open formal toasts as a group, sports team and social bonding activity in very common. In Japan, beer can be legally consumed in almost anywhere in public. Beer is also present at musical events, summer festivals and more commonly at the spring cherry blossom parties.

However, Japan also has some strict rules when it comes to riding a motor vehicle and bicycle after drinking beer. There are punishments like fines and prison time even to the person who sold the alcohol to the intoxicated driver and the same goes with the people who are in the vehicle with the intoxicated person.

Beer Related Attractions

Japan’s love for beer is extremely powerful that’s why other breweries in the country have established beer museums and offer factory tours. Here are some of the beer attraction in Japan.

Asahi Suita Brewery – Located in Suita City, this brewery offers free tours inside their factory. They offer  Japanese and English tours. Other breweries in Asahi also offers tours to their facilities similar to what Asahi Suita does.

Kirin Beer Factory– This brewery in Yokohama offers free tours of their factory with a free beer tasting session at the end of every tour.

Sapporo Beer Museum– In this museum, visitors can discover the history of beer and understand the beer making process. And for a small fee, there are also free beer tasting sessions at the end of every tour.

Museum of Yebisu Beer– This museum is located in Yebisu Garden Palace in Tokyo. This museum will take you on a journey that reveals the history and science of beer brewing.

Japan indeed loves their beer. The crisp, flavorful  and less watery drink is truly another world-class product that Japan is very proud of. Drinking Japanese beer is like tasting a piece of their culture because the Japanese puts their heart and effort in perfecting the taste of their delicious beer that is prefect for every occasions.


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