Japan Beer Scene 2013 vs. US Beer Scene 20 Years ago....

Discussion in 'The Rest of the World' started by JoeAmerican77, Jul 22, 2013.

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  1. JoeAmerican77

    JoeAmerican77 Defender (601) Oct 11, 2009 Colorado

    I've been living out here in Okinawa Japan for about 8 months now and I feel like this must be how it was in the States about twenty years ago (and I use 20 yrs loosely)... all yellow fizzy stuff, very little "Craft Beer". Orion, Kirin, Sapporo, Yebisu etc are like the BMCs and absolutely dominate the market. The small guys with a more flavorful product are few and far between, Helios is one for instance, better than the big guys but still subdued as if scared of the popular bland palate.

    Anyone who cares to agree, disagree, or point me towards some great Japanese beer I haven't found yet, i'd appreciate all three.
  2. pixieskid

    pixieskid Crusader (787) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    there is certainly stuff going on in japan but to my knowlege it is pretty pricey and since I dont know the geography of japan i have no idea where you are in relation to the following breweries and or their dist.

    Baird: solid hoppy stuff some interesting local ingredients also used
    Tamamura; good hoppy stuff as well, their India Summer Saison is fantastic
    Hitachino Nest is the largest craft brewery from Japan; exported to the states, some solid enough stuff.
    YOHO; havent had their beers but have decent enough ratings on the other site.

    Theres also always this:

    SammyJaxxxx likes this.
  3. BigJim5021

    BigJim5021 Zealot (512) Sep 2, 2007 Indiana

    All of the Hitachino Nest brews I've had have been pretty damn tasty.
    spitshaded likes this.
  4. beerme411

    beerme411 Initiate (0) Sep 28, 2010 California

    Here's a recent article about the rise of microbrew in Japan(the title is misleading as the $60 imported stout is Darklord at bar prices, perfectly reasonable). It's mainly about the exchange rate being a primary driver, which I disagree with, and their example of this is bad. Other then that there is some good info in it.
    "High taxes and the need to import many ingredients make craft brewing expensive in Japan, Beville said. Demand has nonetheless been rising, even amid lackluster economic growth."

    That plus some of their laws restrict growth of the industry. Seems like it's good news, I would need to see the growth rate to know more. What I've tried from baird and hitachino nest there is promise for a brighter future in japan.
    JoeAmerican77 likes this.
  5. yester

    yester Initiate (18) Apr 30, 2013 Netherlands

    Waiting for former Dieu du Ciel brewpub brewer Luc Bim Lafontaine to get his brewery settled in Japan. Then we'll see some great beers from there!

    SupremePie and JoeAmerican77 like this.
  6. Hoppsbabo

    Hoppsbabo Champion (890) Jan 29, 2012 England

    I've only spent a week in Tokyo and there was hardly any craft beer on sale in the bottle shops I went to. It surprised me because I'd heard Japan was up and coming. Even in the most renowned bottle shop, Tanakaya, the small Japanese craft selection was displayed seperately from the imports and definitely played second fiddle.

    Next door in South Korea we get Hitachino Nest and Coedo in the supermarkets but they are both exorbitant. It's cheaper to buy Weihenstephaner, Schneider Weisse, Duvel and a handful of American craft beers. I'm not going to pay any attention to Japanese craft beer when it's cheaper to buy renowned European/American quality stuff.
  7. JoeAmerican77

    JoeAmerican77 Defender (601) Oct 11, 2009 Colorado

    Good article, the price for a solid beer out here really does kick you in the wallet. I believe thats why there is such prolific home brew scene. It is not easy to get ingredients, however, many people call it their passion and continue to order kits and ingredients from the States.
  8. geocool

    geocool Disciple (339) Jun 21, 2006 Massachusetts

    In 1993 craft beer (then called microbrew) was exploding in this country. Brewpubs everywhere, companies like Sam Adams and Pete's were on their way to becoming Wall St. darlings, very very far from just BMC to choose from. The first great shakeout didn't really come until 1998 or so, from what I remember.
  9. draheim

    draheim Poo-Bah (2,805) Sep 18, 2010 Washington

    20 years ago I was drinking mostly Deschutes, Pyramid, Redhook, Bridgeport, Hale's, Maritime Pacific, Sierra Nevada, Anchor Steam... so no. Maybe 35 years ago, but not 20.
  10. Kanger

    Kanger Zealot (521) Sep 3, 2013 New York

    I love Japanese craft beers. The craft bar scene in Tokyo is exploding. It seems there is a new Craft bar opening up in Tokyo all the time. I'm sure Okinawa hasn't seen the surge, but Tokyo is dominating.

    Keep in mind that Japan has the highest beer tax in the world. Brewers are charges around $340 a barrel. Compare that to the USA where brewers are taxed about $5 a barrel. So brewing beer there is quite expensive. Also it wasn't until 1994 that small Japanese brewers could actually sell their beer. A brewer needed to make at least 17,000 barrels of beer to be able to sell it, that was reduced in 1994 to 510 barrels. Only then could the Japanese Craft beer scene really take off. So the Japanese Craft beer scene is less than 20 years old. Home brewing in Japan is still illegal, but mostly overlooked by the authorities as long as you're not trying to sell it.

    As far as Japanese Craft beers - you have the standards like Echigo, Hitachino, Coedo, and Baird. Then there are so many great smaller breweries to look for:

    Swan Lake
    Harvest Moon
    Ryujin Shozu
    Ise Kadoya

    I can't wait to get back to Japan and drink more beer!
    pudgym29 likes this.
  11. Jimbobebop

    Jimbobebop Aspirant (211) Jun 12, 2013 Illinois

    Home brewing in Japan is still illegal? From the land that brought us used woman's underwear in vending machines, legal prostitution and Hello kitty beer.

    Someone call Jimmy Carter.
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  12. Cjett

    Cjett Initiate (91) Dec 20, 2012 Illinois

    Craft beer (known as ji-beer in Japan) was still really hard to come by in Kyoto when I lived there a couple years ago. Basically one bottle shop (yamaoka sake shop, must go if you are in Kyoto) and about 3 bars served (wachi is also a must go, especially if you like smoked food) good stuff, and thats a pretty big city. I'd think it would be really tough to get stuff on Okinawa. Baird, Shigakogen, and Minoh were some of my favorites.

    I would suggest that you take the chance to get into sake and shochu while you are there. I went there thinking I hated sake and realized I just never had anything good in the US.
  13. Headyman

    Headyman Initiate (119) Mar 7, 2013 Massachusetts

    I wrote a term paper on the history of beer in Japan... Mostly stuff in the late 1800s and early 1900s. BM if interested in reading it.

    From what I researched it seems that homebrewing is still illegal in Japan.... has this changed recently? To me, Its illegality/ high taxes limits the ji-biru scene.
  14. Kanger

    Kanger Zealot (521) Sep 3, 2013 New York

  15. Kanger

    Kanger Zealot (521) Sep 3, 2013 New York

    Looks like a great line up of Japanese Craft beers at the Japan Society tonight!

    Baird Brewing Company Rising Sun Pale Ale
    Baird Brewing Company Kurofune Porter
    Baird Brewing Company Red Rose Amber
    Brooklyn Brewery Sorachi Ace
    Brooklyn Brewery Kaedama Ale
    Echigo Beer Company Echigo Stout
    Echigo Beer Company Koshihikari
    Echigo Beer Company Premium Red Ale
    Ise Kadoya Microbrewery Gemnai Ale
    Ise Kadoya Microbrewery India Pale Ale
    Nippon Craft Beer Kagua Rouge
    Nippon Craft Beer Kagua Blanc
    Orion Breweries Ltd
    Orion Beer Lager Draft
    Ryujin Shuzo Ozeno Yukidoke IPA
    Ryujin Shuzo Ozeno Yukidoke White Weitzen
    Yoho Brewery Yona Yona Pale Ale
    Yoho Brewery Aooni IPA
    Yoho Brewery Tokyo Black Porter
  16. JoeAmerican77

    JoeAmerican77 Defender (601) Oct 11, 2009 Colorado

    Well you can home brew in Okinawa however it must be under 1% abv so..... doesn't mean people don't bew higher alc beer tho, and many solid online home brew stores/warehouses do deliver to Okinawa. Definitely no local HB shops unfortunately.
  17. Kanger

    Kanger Zealot (521) Sep 3, 2013 New York

    Funny enough - Only recently has the US legalized home brewing in all fifty states.

    Mississippi and Alabama finally legalized home brewing this year.
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