Considering it has a population of almost double the UK it’s a bit surprising that Japan is home to only 220 microbreweries compared to our 1700.
This isn’t down to a lack of appreciation of the output of smaller breweries in the country, but rather due to a bit of a chequered history when it comes to taking on the “big boys” of Japanese beer.
Until 1994 it was illegal to run a brewery producing less than two million litres, a limit which obviously pushed lots of would-be microbrewers out of the market. Although the minimum brewing volume dropped to 60,000 litres when the law changed, that was still a lot more than many could afford to produce.
The law change did lead to an increase in the amount of “jibirru” (local beer) being made, but there was still a lot of stiff competition from the larger conglomerates.
Japanese beer is also subject to beer duties (as high as £1.50 a litre depending on the malt content) that make our own exchequer look positively generous and home brewing is technically illegal, meaning there isn’t a big a pool of enthusiastic amateurs lining up to make the move to doing it for a living.
Despite the fact there are some duty exemptions for smaller brewers and it is possible to get around the limitations on production levels by making beer with a lower malt content, Japan is still some way behind our own “craft beer revolution”.
However, the thirst for good beer is still present and many of the microbrewers are producing some really fantastic stuff.
Chief amongst these is our friend Dan (pictured above) who runs Hakuba Brewery in the ski resort of the same name. You might remember that we collaborated with Dan last year on Tokyo Express - made with Japanese matcha green tea - which proved very popular.
This year we are working on another collaboration on our limited edition Yuzu Juice - a pale ale made with Yuzu, a delicious native citrus fruit of Japan filled with a really delicious flavour.
Jason caught up with Dan during his trip to plan the beer and also take the chance to try out the local ski fields. Dan will be heading to Cumbria again soon to work on the actual brew and we’ll let you know when it’s due to hit the shelves.
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