With the Japan Craft Beer Associations (JCBA’s) biggest beer week in Japan, the ‘Japan Craft Beer Week in Tokyo’ approaching rapidly (week commencing 25th May 2012) there is no questioning the popularity of beer here in Japan.
In fact beer is the most popular drink, making up for 33% of alcohol consumption which exceeds 9 billion litres in a year.
What makes beer such a popular drink?
An original concept is the seasonal beer, one example of which is Kirin’s Akiaji beer which is classified as an ‘Autumn’ beer (Akiaji means “The taste of Autumn” in Japanese) and is brewed with a higher alcohol content (usually 6% as opposed to the common 5%). Autumn leaves usually appear on the picture of the beer cans and they are promoted as being appropriate to drink with one-pot (nabe) cooking dishes.
Beer can also be consumed virtually anywhere and is sold in a vast variety of places including stores, supermarkets and train station kiosks.
Occasionally being able to purchase cans from vending machines is an advantage in the sales of beer, and these can be found all over Japan including at the end of my road,
Japanese beer is popular abroad, with 3 major brands being available in the U.S.
These are Sapporo Draft, Asahi Super Dry and Kirin Ichiban.
Asahi Super Dry is readily available on supermarket shelves in the UK and is becoming more popular in restaurants. I’ve heard rumours of Kirin being spotted in some shops too.
Has production been affected by the Earthquake?
One year after the massive earthquake at Sanrikuoki, production and supply has now been resumed after Kirin and Asahi Breweries were forced to stop producing on a temporary basis proceeding a large fall in sales generally.
The demand for imported beer is high with beer importers using their Japanese import insurance to vast potential and supplying beer to pubs, hotels and both Chinese and Japanese restaurants, although there are still dedicated customers who prefer to stick to their favourite home brands.
Drinking in Japanese Society
Drinking plays an important role in our society, our drinking parties held at izakaya and restaurants strengthen both our business and social connections.
It is easy to lose sight of the background of beer with it almost seeming like a modern phenomenon.
Beer in Japan officially dates back to the early Meiji Period (1868-1912), but was introduced even earlier than that when a beer hall was opened by the Dutch for Sailors working in the trade route between Japan and the Dutch Empire.
Following this it was exported to Southeast Asia and this quickly led to factories spreading to the rest of the world.
A good way of deciding whether you prefer Japanese beer or imported brands would be to visit the Oktoberfest which would give you an excellent opportunity to sample a wide range of foreign beers.
The Oktoberfest originated in Germany over 2 centuries ago.
This adults-only festival boasts a great atmosphere with German performers singing and performing live to music.
You get to choose from over 70 German and Japanese beers and it takes place mid October onwards at Akarenga Soko, Yokohama.
The first Oktoberfest was a horse race and fair to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) to Therese von Saxe, the event had such a good atmosphere that the couple decided it should be held annually.
It is now the largest festival in the world with an international flavour.
In 1910, to celebrate a hundred years of Oktoberfest, 120,000 litres of beer were consumed and the largest Oktoberfest beer tent of all time was founded. It had room for 12,000 guests!
Other festivals coming up shortly are the previously mentioned Great Japan Beer Festival in Tokyo and the International Beer Summit in Osaka. There is an even vaster range of beers to sample here, with over 120 different types of craft beer to try.
This festival was founded by Mr Ryouji Oda back in 1998 and you can enjoy the company of more than 60,000 beer lovers. The JCBA are also hosting an event called ‘Grande Biere 2012’ which is to be held in Tokyo Midtown Hall.
If you aren’t fortunate enough to visit a festival but you can get to Tokyo. ‘Bois Cereste’ or ‘Antwerp Central’ could be places to enjoy your favourite pint. Even if you prefer to enjoy your beer at home, it’s great to unwind with and sit back and relax. Cheers!