Greetings: On the Occasion of the 17th Issue

Greetings in the Year of the Horse! Saddle up because 2014 is going to be a fast and occasionally bumpy ride for craft beer in Japan.

Everyone is talking about a craft beer “boom” but is craft beer really growing? It claims less than 1% of the market share for beer, so there is much more room for growth. Several breweries are at capacity or even expanding their facilities. Several new breweries opened last year and we know of about a dozen planning to open in 2014.

Places serving craft continue to open steadily in most regions of Japan. In Tokyo they’re growing at a mind-boggling rate—at least one a week. Festivals, too, continue to pop up everywhere. The number of online stores has jumped. Seminars and tasting events are everywhere. Even convenience and grocery stores offer more craft beer.

Craft imports are surging and not just from America. Several countries in Europe are seeing shipments grow. Some view such imports as competition for domestic craft, but we believe they are helping grow the market.

Room for growth, however, doesn’t mean we might not be growing too quickly or that there won’t be some serious hurdles ahead.

Consumption tax will rise from 5% to 8%, and then again next year. This will naturally pinch spending. More problematic—for craft beer, at least—is the weakening yen. The vast majority of beer ingredients come from overseas and now they’re going to be at least 20% more expensive than when this ‘boom’ started. Somebody will have to eat the cost: brewers, retailers and/or consumers.

It seems like every expat and his friend’s friend wants to import from his/her home country these days. Besides the enormous complexity of starting up, they will also have to grapple with the sinking yen.

Beer tax is high, almost to the point of being punitive. Last year, Japan announced the largest population decline ever and an increasingly aging society. With fewer workers to bolster the economy, there’s no chance that tax will decrease—if anything, it will go up. Guess who will have to eat those higher costs?

Ultimately, consumers will decide the fate of craft. You have a choice of what to drink. We’re happy to spend more on artisanal products. But we hope we’re not alone.

Drink better, drink craft.
Ry Beville (publisher)
& the Japan Beer Times team










Drink better, drink craft.
& Japan Beer Timesチーム

In this Issue:

Looking Back: Best of 2013
Preston Ale
Hill Farmstead Brewery: America’s Best Beer?
Epic Times for Epic Brewing
Brew Tunes: Steve Gardner
Beer Roundup (Winter 2013)
Beer Styles: Rauchbier
Hop Revolution 2013
Scrawlings (The Mailbox)

Posted: March 4th, 2014