Japan Times: Otaru Beer, with NJ braumeister, revolutionizing microbrews and beerdrinking styles in Japan


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Hi Blog. An article of personal import to me. The Japan Times reports on Johannes Braun, braumeister of Otaru Beer, who has come here and made the German-style brewing process a success. I drink with friends at Otaru Beer in Sapporo at least once a month (three to four times a month in summer), and think this development is good both for us as a local economy and for Japan as a place to do business. Arudou Debito


German braumeister puts Otaru brewery on map
Specialized suds sell and speak of long pedigree, perfection
The Japan Times, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011


While Japan’s major breweries continue to report flat beer sales amid an ailing economy, there is one Hokkaido-based beer maker that’s brewing up a storm.

Otaru Beer in the port city of Otaru has continued to flourish since its inception 15 years ago, with output growing at an annual average of 10 percent. At its head is a man who hails from a village near Frankfurt with a population of just 500 people.

Braumeister Johannes Braun, one of just two German nationals residing in Otaru, attributes the microbrewery’s success to a surprisingly simple recipe. “I brew beer — real beer, using only natural ingredients,” he says. “Many breweries in Germany still abide by a law governing beer production that dates back almost 500 years. I follow that law to the letter.”…

“The taste gap (between ‘third sector’ beverages and mass-produced malt beers) has closed dramatically, to the degree that consumers can’t tell the difference and therefore naturally choose the cheaper option,” he says. “That’s the ideology of the big makers and that’s why the output of beer is dropping in recent years.”

This is not such a big issue for most consumers in Japan who, Braun says, see beer as “little more than something to clear the throat” before moving on to something else.

Indeed, “nodogoshi ga ii” — a phrase used to describe the smooth sensation of beer passing down the throat — is a quality that Japan’s major breweries frequently stress in promoting their products, while taste or body are given short shrift…

Yet, Braun says this shift toward nonmalt “nonbeers” poses little threat to his brewery. Japan’s major beer producers have each attempted to mimic the kind of craft ales produced by the country’s 222 microbreweries, but invariably fail due to the distribution difficulties posed by yeast-based products.

“Every year, Asahi Breweries sends staff here for research purposes and they often say they would like to do what we do, but couldn’t get it to the customer in decent enough shape,” says Braun. “Neither could I, and that’s why I don’t try. What’s important for microbreweries is not to expand to other areas, but to brew decent beer that will lure more customers and improve understanding of what real ale is all about. By doing this, I believe we can change the beer culture here.”

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110122a1.html

9 comments on “Japan Times: Otaru Beer, with NJ braumeister, revolutionizing microbrews and beerdrinking styles in Japan

  • Japanese beer is not bad, but it gets dull after a while, as nearly all of the major brands taste so similar. I like 地ビール (microbrews), they offer a wide variety of different beers. Unfortunately, supermarkets never stock them, and even the Sakaya, the mom-and-pop stores selling alcoholic beverages and other drinks, often do not sell any of them. That’s sad. But Rakuten and other internet shopping sites offer a good selection of local beers.


  • Japan has great microbrew/craft beer. In fact, I would put Japan up there with some of the best craft beer countries in the world. Think about it. It is the perfect match: The Japanese love alcohol and tend to become passionate (read: single-minded) about one thing and one thing only. Thus, the quality of the brews you can find here are excellent. Iwate Kura (Iwate), Swan Lake (Niigata), Hideji (Miyazaki), Sankt Gallen, and Hakusekikan are some of the better ones.

    Check out this site for more info:

  • Tony In Saitama says:

    Well, my home town of Kawagoe has Coedo Beer, also brewed by a German, and it’s much closer to Tokyo, and not so cold.

    Just sayin’! 😉

  • Baird’s is not bad. If I am not mistaken it is run by a foreigner. I’ve had about a dozen Bairds and each one tasted as if it had been brewed to be drunk North American style: cold. This is never a good sign.

    Definitely try many of the amazing craft beers this country has to offer. I guarantee that you will find something better than Baird’s.
    goodbeer.jp is a good place to shop online as it carries many of these other good Japanese beers.


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