Are you thinking of visiting Japan and experiencing their craft brewing culture? There is an annual opportunity for craft brewers to enter their beers into the well run and respected Japan Craft Beer Association International Beer Cup, to be judged in September. Here is information for breweries who wish to participate. If you wish to attend the festivals as a beer enthusiast visit their Japanese page (with the option to view English version)
Japan takes great pride in its food and beverage heritage. Food, flavor and diversity are not only a way of life, but conscious means of achieving pleasure. And so it has become for beer in Japan, though it has taken 145 years since beer was first brewing in Japan by a Norwegian-American. The Spring Valley Brewing Company in Yokohama was Japan’s first brewery (1870).
The flavor and diversity of Japanese craft brewing has been discovered. What is making it work and happen is that the skilled brewmasters and craft beer enthusiasts are neither European nor American. They are the Japanese themselves. They are mastering the art of craft brewing and craft beer enthusiasm.
Coriander black ale, Daidai (Asian bitter orange) ale, red rice ale, sweet potato amber, Yuzu (east Asian orange) ale, Schwarzweizen, Ginjo (sake yeast) beer, cherry blossoms & leaf flavored ale, miso beer; native Japanese hops, malt and yeast are just a few examples of how Japanese brewers have claimed innovation, quality and elevated their skills, establishing their own beer heritage. Besides the unusual there is an expansive choice of the world’s classic and innovative beer styles skillfully brewed in Japan.
Currently Japan has about 225 small and independent craft brewers. The numbers are not growing dramatically and market share of craft beer is less than 1%, but there are a number of indicators that tell a different story. Existing breweries are increasing their production, Japanese craft beer enthusiasts (a significant force in Japan) continue to educate themselves, growing in numbers and showing up at dozens of craft beer festivals in greater numbers.
In 2014 the Japan Craft Beer Association celebrated their 20th anniversary. The organization established itself the “same day” Japanese legislation was passed lowering the minimum volume a brewery had to produce in order to get a license to operate; from 20,000 hectoliters to 600 hectoliters per year.
The Japan Craft Beer Association is unusual in that is a privately founded organization; Ryouji Oda founded the organization with his own funds, hard long persistent work and long range vision. After twenty years his organization has achieved success in helping craft brewers and craft beer grow in popularity in Japan
The accomplishments of the Japan Craft Beer Association are many and quite phenomenal. Several city centric craft beer festivals are staged each year (In 2013: 7000 in Tokyo, 6000 in Osaka, 13,300 in Yokohama, 3000 in Nagoya, new festivals were stated in Okinawa and Taipei, Taiwan in 2014). The Japan Craft Beer Association is involved with the American based Beer Judge Certification Program and offers its own Beer Taster, Beer Judge and Beer Coordinator Seminars each year with over 8,000 individuals achieving certification. They also offer a Basic Zymurgy Seminar for beer enthusiasts.
Their national and international beer competitions are held annually (and modeled after the Great American Beer Festival® & World Beer Cup® formats). There are several beer education and certificate programs for beer enthusiasts, restaurateurs, beer judges, beer “sommeliers,” Beer and Food event called Le Beau Mariage Beer & Food Experience, September 18, 2015 (photos here) modeled after SAVOR®. Their skills at organization and attention to quality are admirable. They have done more for craft beer education and promotion than any other organization or company in Japan.
Craft beer and Japanese craft brewers have benefited immensely from Japan Craft Beer Association activities.