|Ohshita Masaji, president of A.J.I. Beer Inc., makers of Minoh Beer, passed away on December 15th, 2012, after having suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage and subsequently falling while in the brewery several days earlier. He was 63.
Minoh Beer was the vision of Mr. Ohshita who suddenly launched the brewery much to the surprise of his daughters. The family had run a retail liquor business for the previous thirty years, but this new shift would prove prescient. Minoh became one of the most respected and successful craft breweries in Japan over the next fifteen years. The brewery is most closely associated with Osaka and the Kansai region, where they operate three pubs in addition to their brewery. They also embrace a funky Osaka style, from their bold ales to their line of original, eye-catching T-shirts. And, of course, Mr. Ohshita had that Osaka swagger that often made him a center of attention.
In recent years, Minoh became visible on the world stage, winning several World Beer Awards before taking gold this year at the World Beer Cup in the fruit wheat beer category for their lovely Yuzu White Ale. While his eldest daughter and head-brewer Kaori deserves much credit for the company’s brewing success, Mr. Ohshita seemed to take every opportunity he could to travel to craft beer festivals and be a part of the action—he hated not being in the action. As many no doubt remember, he often served beers himself and drank quite a few of them, too.
At every festival I saw him, he would always come up to our table with a big smile, carrying several beers with great pride that he wanted us to try. He wanted people to like his beers because, in a way, it seemed to him to mean that they liked him, too. I liked him because he was full of charisma and somehow always made me smile. I saw him once in a department store in Ikebukuro, hawking Minoh Beer at a special exhibit. He was surrounded by a throng of young women giggling at his banter and seemed quite in his element.
His many colleagues in Japan’s craft beer industry will no doubt have some warm last memory of him. Everyone who met him, whether at a festival or some other event, will probably remember his smile. He is survived by a wife, three daughters, a family of employees, over 200 fellow craft breweries, several hundred bars that serve their beer, and tens of thousands of craft beer fans that will celebrate his life every time they sip a Minoh Beer.
– Ry Beville, publisher of Japan Beer Times
(Ohshita, far right.)
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