Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

International demand for Japanese craft beer prompts Kiuchi Brewery expansion

Published:  26 May, 2015

Japanese family-owned brewery Kiuchi Brewery is expanding its facilities to meet increased demand from the overseas and domestic market for their range of Hatachino Nest beers.

Japanese family-owned brewery Kiuchi Brewery is expanding its facilities to meet increased demand from international and domestic market for its range of Hitachino Nest beers.

Hitachino Nest Japanese craft-beers have developed a cult-following on the international market with their distinctive owl logo. The brewery, which has won international awards for its beers, has gained a reputation for making good quality, innovative styles of craft beer, including ales made from indigenous Japanese red rice, hops, barley and fruit.

Originally a sake brewery established in 1823, Kiuchi branched out into craft beers in 1996, following a deregulation of brewing regulations that saw a sudden explosion of micro-breweries across Japan. Previously, brewing licenses could only be obtained by breweries with an annual output of 2m litres, but in 1994 this was reduced to 60k litres, enabling smaller breweries to start up. However, as home-brewing was - and still is - illegal in Japan, many of these early micro-breweries had little experience of brewing and did not last long.

Over time, the microbreweries making good quality craft beers, such as Kiuchi, have helped to contribute to a growing Japanese craft beer scene, which is sold both domestically and internationally. 

Although the majority of beer sold in Japan is still made by the big four breweries: Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo and Suntory, which accounts for around 99% of all beer sold nationally, the big players have all spotted potential in the craft beer market, and now produce their own craft beers.

Hitachino Nest has done well in the US craft beer scene, and is increasingly seen in the UK, where it is available in Waitrose, specialist beer shops, restaurants and bars. The rising interest for Japanese cuisine - particularly ramen and sushi - has seen customers increasingly keen to accompany Japanese food with Japanese brews and for many people outside of Japan, Hatachino Nest is the only Japanese craft beer they know.

Around 60% of Kiuchi Brewery's beer is exported and to meet the increased demand and boost potential sales for its beer, it has expanded its facilities. This week it finished work on a new brewery in Ibaraki prefecture, where the family business has remained for 192 years.

Toshiyuki Kiuchi, president of Kiuchi Brewery said: "Our current production is 2,000 KL a year, and we will now be able to produce 3,000KL a year." 

It is also building a brewery in Hong Kong to target the market in China.

"We are aiming to start operation in the beginning of September and the brewery will produce approximately 300KL a year," Toshiyuki Kiuchi said. "This brewery will produce white ale, dai dai and lager (original recipe) just for the market in Hong Kong and China. Hong Kong is the gateway to distribute our beers to Greater China, [making it] much easier than directly exporting from Japan, due to Chinese government restrictions on importing alcoholic products made in Japan. These beers will only be sold and consumed in China. We may also brew special beers for this market".

With the increased production, Kiuchi Brewery will be better equipped to cope with the increased demand from the international community, it says, including the UK where sales of craft beer have reportedly risen 79% a year, according to the GCA.