By law, your average Mr Sato is not allowed to make any alcoholic beverages containing more than 1% alcohol.
Japanese people are also not (officially) allowed to gamble, either!
Living in the more rural parts of Japan, I am frequently given bottles of home-made rice wine in other legal rice wine bottles.
It's a fairly common practice and isn't done for profit.
But beer is a completely different kettle of fish. Drinking in Japan is very popular, but complicated...
Everyone in Japan just assumes that you can't make beer, that it's too difficult and should be left to the big five companies. A mate who was a "counsellor for International relations" bought a load of beer kits and set about teaching the locals of my town the wonders of homebrews.
Within 10 minutes of the workshop, one of the local public officials approached and was on the verge of CANCELLING the whole class: but we were allowed to continue as long as we promised not to make the beer with more than 1% alcohol... yeah, right!
While he was there, we set about cleaning all the equipment, sorting out the apparatus and set aside all the ingredients for the 1% ABV beer. As soon as his back was turned, we made several other sets running with the 'appropriate' amount of alcohol. He was none the wiser!
Big Name Japanese Beer Brands
Here's a list of the well-known international brands. Click to find great merchandise for each brand.
People shouldn't be afraid of their governments: governments should be afraid of their people. Talking of governments, or rather, governors...
The government in Japan loves to keep control of its people in very subtle but annoying ways. The level of bureaucracy in government is astounding and those bureaucrats, politicians and corporate bosses have such a strong love-triangle set up that no numbers of affairs (scandals) or unwanted policy changes will break it.
So it was with great surprise and much raising of beer glasses when the tax bureau announced in 1994 a change in its alcohol tax laws, and thus the entire Japanese beer culture. Before the change, breweries had to produce at least two million litres of frothy stuff every year to gain a licence.
That's over three million 600ml bottles of beer, folks! It was quite impossible for one of the lesser Japanese beer brands to produce and sell that much beer.
So for years, everyone fell in line and drank the subtlety different, but never-changing beers from the five major beer companies.
The law change in 1994 changed all this, but in no way did it produce a revolution! The new tax law now allowed any brewery that could produce 60,000 litres (100,000 bottles) to be granted a licence. Yippee!
Unfortunately, brewers of the smaller Japanese beer brands have to sell their beers at a much higher cost than the big five, BUT citizens at least have many more Japanese beer brands from which to choose their tipple.
We'll attempt to review as many of these smaller Japanese beer brands' products as soon as possible.
Even the impossible can be found on eBay, if you are patient in your searching.
Try searching for Russian River
(you'll need to narrow down by beer name, ex. Pliny, Damnation, Temptation), Black Albert
or any of the BIG beers. Don't overlook eBay's Belgium Beer results either...