The History of Beer in Japan
Beer, which humankind has been well acquainted with for more than 5,000 years, first appeared in Japanese records during the Edo period. Beer was included among the freight list of an English ship that arrived at the port of Hirado (present-day Hirado City, Nagasaki Prefecture) in 1613, and this is said to be the oldest record of beer in Japan. With the establishment of Dutch studies in the later part of the Edo period, which is a study of Western civilization in the Dutch language, information about the West spread widely among the intellectual classes despite strict crackdowns by the shogunate government. Descriptions of beer also began to appear in the books written by Dutch scholars in this environment. Toward the end of the shogunate regime, the Dutch scholar Komin Kawamoto is said to be the first Japanese person to engage in the test brewing of beer. Since the establishment of Japan’s first beer brewery during the Meiji era, beer companies began to spring up successively across Japan. However, domestic beer production was eventually consolidated among the major companies. Even after the war, domestic beer production has been carried out by a few leading manufacturers. Throughout the postwar period of rapid economic growth, beer consumption expanded and became a national beverage.
Increase in the number of licensed production sites
With the amendment of the Liquor Tax Act in 1994, the minimum production volume that is required in order to obtain a license for producing beer, was lowered from the previous 2,000KL to 60KL. As a result, it became possible even for small-scale businesses to produce beer, giving rise to the successive emergence of so-called “microbrewery beers,” produced in small quantities across Japan. Today, more than 400 manufacturers are engaged in beer production based on their own unique recipes and concepts, and many of these beers have been highly rated in international competitions.