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Japanese beer brands

by Douglas Gloag
(Beer Delegate, Japan)

Japanese beer brands: go beyond the macros

Japanese beer brands: go beyond the macros

Japanese beer brands: go beyond the macros The long-defunct Sakura beer had some amazing advertising

Beginner's guide to Japanese beer brands
Visit the UNOB's Japanese beer guide

WOT! No homebrews? True!

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!

Japanese Beer reviews

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.

Asahi Super Dry beer

Asahi Super Dry beer

Asahi Super Dry beer

Asahi Super Dry beer

Kirin Lager beer

Kirin Lager beer

Sapporo beer

Sapporo beer

Suntory beer

Suntory beer

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.

The 24 main local Japanese beer brands

Oyuki Local Beer (Asahikawa, Hokkaido)
Furano Local Beer (Furano, Hokkaido)
Ohotsuku Beer (Kitami, Hokkaido)
Otaru Beer (Otaru, Hokkaido)
Kamui Beer (Iwamizawa, Hokkaido) | Independent site
Sapparo Kaitakushi Beer (Sapparo, Hokkaido) | Now owned by this company
Onuma Beer (Nanae, Hokkaido)
Hakodate Beer (Hakodate, Hokkaido)
Ginga Heights Beer (Nishiwaga, Iwate)
Miyamori Beer (Miyamori, Iwate) (Unofficial site)
Echigo Beer (Niigata city, Niigata)
Nasu Heights Beer (Nasu, Tochigi)
Jorikuno Nest Beer (Ibaraki)
Santo Garren (Kanagawa)
Sagami Beer (Kanagawa)
Shonan Beer (Kanagawa) (Name change?)
Shiga Heights Beer (Nagano)
Yaho Brewing (Nagano) (No website)
Tama no Megumi (Tokyo)
Oraho Beer (Nagano)
Gotenba Heights Beer (Gotenba, Shizuoka)
Hideji Beer (Nobeoka, Miyazaki)
Tazawako Beer (Senboku, Akita)
Minoo Brewery (Minoo, Osaka)

Have we missed any Japanese beer brands? Please post comments below.

Related topics and references

Comments for Japanese beer brands

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Sep 16, 2012
Need help locating a Japanese Beer NEW
by: Stan

Hi, A year ago I was in Japan and was in a town called Kedogawa and was at a Beer Brewery and I believe they made the Beer out of Sweet Potatoes. The Beer was excellant and they had 3 differant beers on tap. Can anyone out there PLEASE find me the Brewery web page as I would like to order some of there Beer to take back to California. The Beer is EXCELLANT and a sleeper and women will love the sparkling taste.
Kind Regards
Stan E mail is

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