Beer is by far the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan. Indeed, the Land of the Rising Sun consumes nearly 6 billion litres of beer annually, twice the amount of all other alcoholic beverages combined.
What is Japanese beer like? It is very similar to what we find in every Estonian shop - mostly pale lager. However, instead of Saku or A le Coq the main producers are usually from the ‘great quadruplet’: Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo or Suntory.
In addition to the traditional industrial beers dominating the market there has also been an explosion in the market of craft beers.
In general, the emergence of microbrewery became possible after 1994, when the limit on the annual production of breweries was lowered from 2 million litres to 60 000 litres. In only a few years, more than 200 new breweries were founded all over Japan, often on the initiative of local municipal governments and these began producing ‘local beers’ that could be sold as souvenirs.
These newcomers often lacked brewing skills and brewers were hired from the ranks of former mass producers or imported from Germany. This resulted in a multitude of breweries producing fairly average beer, standing out among mass producers only with their slightly higher prices: after all, they needed to earn back the expenses made on new and expensive brewery equipment.
By 2003, the number of breweries in Japan had risen to 251 and it began to fall after that, standing at around 200 today. Among the initial ‘souvenir beer’ producers, only those who focused on making great beers and stand out with the quality of their output remain. In recent years, several small producers have also emerged, taking their inspiration from the revolution of craft beer hailing from the United States, and aiming to brew masterpieces that have a distinct Japanese face and go well with Japanese food. It is safe to say that a second coming of craft beer is currently underway in Japan! A new pub or bar specialising in craft beer is opened in Tokyo every week and the volumes of best producers are booming.
The mission of Biiru Ltd. is to introduce these exciting developments in Estonia and its neighbouring countries. All in the name of giving a boost to Estonian beer culture!