Updated: December 11, 2018
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Find Out About Japan's Oldest Breweries!

If you've ever been curious about Japan's beer history and how it ties to the current market, you can learn about Japan's beer history here.

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Japan's Oldest Breweries

There are a few major beer brands in Japan which have been competing for over a century. These namely include Asahi, Kirin, and Sapporo. Which arrived first and how did they come about? Mainly, it is thanks to Germany's craft and Japan's diligence.

Spring Valley Brewery

Spring Valley Brewery (SPB) was founded in Yokohama in 1870 by William Copeland, an American born in Norway. Let's bear in mind that the contact between the Americans was only re-established in 1853, with Commodore Matthew Perry. Not that Westerners didn't have access, simply the Japanese were exasperated with the number of missionaries trying to convert them, they only allowed access to the Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish traders.
William Copeland opened the brewery very far from his hometown, and without the necessary ingredients or equipment to properly make the beer. Still, he managed to pique the curiosity of the Japanese by improvising with what was available at the time.

SVB is the longest standing bar in Japan. They now have 4 locations in Japan, including a take-out stand in Ginza.

The location in Daikanyama is particularly enjoyable as there is a nice terrace to enjoy a beer in the summer or you can the futuristic interior on a cold day.

The tasting flight is really nice to get at the brewery as you get to taste all of their best home-made beers with some food pairing.


The Hokkaido Kaitakushi Beer Brewery was founded in Sapporo in 1876 and was the first one to be managed by the government. Earlier, the government set out to develop the region of Hokkaido.

Seibei Nakagawa went to Germany to study the art of beer making and was chosen as brewmaster upon his return to Japan. A year later, the Sapporo Lager appeared for the first time and it was represented with the North Star, the Pioneers' emblem.
In 1887, the Japan Beer Brewery Company was established in Meguro, Tokyo. There was a large market share battle between the major beer brands, namely Sapporo, Asahi and Kirin. This eventually led to a merger and a near monopoly until the Second World War.

Yebisu is part of the Sapporo beer brand and is part of their luxury products.

Fast forward almost a century later and Sapporo Breweries acquired Canadian brand Sleeman beer. Now, most of the beer sold in North America is in fact produced in Ontario, Canada.

Lili Wanderlust
I love travelling and discovering new cuisines. Japan has a panoply of local dishes to try. I also love yoga, coffee, reading, and cycling.

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