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Beers from Japan

An Introduction to Japanese Beers

As most of you might be aware, Japan is most popular for its beers! So, when do you think that the association of beer has started in Japan?

Well, the history of beers in Japan can be dated back to the seventeenth century i.e., during the Edo Period.

During this period, the Dutch traders opened the first beer hall in Nagasaki in order to serve the sailors arriving there.

Today, beers and beer-like beverages have become the most famous alcoholic drinks among Japanese. Do you know that beers are accounting for almost two-thirds of the total alcoholic beverages consumed by the Japanese in a year?

Such is the importance of beers in Japan. Here, let’s see an introduction on Japanese beers…

Wine grape varieties

How is Beer Classified in Japan?

The taxation system in Japan has led to the classification of beers in the country. In general, we can classify the brewed malt beverages in the country into two major groups:

  • Beer (Good Japanese beer)
  • Happoshu (Japanese non-beer)

This classification is mainly based on the levels of malt that are being used in relation with the grain adjuncts.


These are the real beers which are otherwise called as raw, fresh, or draught beers. These beers of Japan are known to contain all the traditional ingredients.

As mentioned earlier, this is different from Happoshu according to its malt content which is more than 67% in beers.


According to the Japanese taxation system, these are not really considered as beer because of the lower malt content in them.

Instead, these are the beer-like alcoholic beverages with only around 25% of malt. However, these are found to taste like beers. So, how could you differentiate between the beers from Happoshu? The simplest way to find the difference is the cost.

These beer-like beverages are found to be available at lower costs and can be widely found in the supermarkets all across the country.

Other Common Beer Terms in Japan:

In addition to the above-mentioned beer types, you can find the usage of terms like seasonal beers and craft beers very often. Let’s see what they are here:

Other Common Beer Terms in Japan:

In addition to the above-mentioned beer types, you can find the usage of terms like seasonal beers and craft beers very often. Let’s see what they are here:

Seasonal Beers:

There are several breweries in Japan offering seasonal beers. For example, you can get autumn beers that are brewed to have higher levels of alcohol say 6% as opposed to the normal 5%.

These beers will be available only during autumn and you could find these beers having decorated with the images of autumn leaves.

Similarly, you can find some winter beers like Fuyu Monogatari that will be available only during winters.

Alcohol and Distilleries

Craft Beers:

From the year 1994, with the relaxation of strict laws for brewing, Japan found a rise in the number of microbreweries all across the country.

According to this, the smaller breweries were allowed to produce up to 60,000 liters of beer per year and 6000 kiloliters of Happoshu per year.

After this change was affected, the microbreweries that are known to produce local beers have started using the term craft beers in their labels and marketing advertisements.

As of 2014, there were almost 215 craft breweries in Japan. These breweries are found to produce different styles of beer like:

  • Ales
  • IPAs
  • Stouts
  • Pilsners
  • Weissbier
  • Kölsch
  • Fruit beers

Although there were some ups and downs in the craft beer production initially, from the 2000s, there was a sustained development in craft beers. From this time onward, the domestic demand for craft beers has also increased significantly. The major factors that accounted for the rise of craft beers in Japan are:

  • Enhanced quality
  • Word-of-mouth marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Attention towards the U.S. craft breweries
  • Increase in the number of independent craft beer retail shops

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Tharani Rajamanickam

Tharani Rajamanickam


I am Tharani, I have Bachelors degree in Biotechnology. I am passionate about the wine industry and continue to explore, learn and share and I bring in a wealth of knowledge and expertise to help you keep updated with best wines in the world. Stay tuned..

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