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Home > Sapporo Group > Our Business : Alcoholic Beverages (Japan) > The History of Sapporo Breweries

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The History of Sapporo Breweries

The Birth of Sapporo Beer

In 1869, the new Meiji government set about developing Hokkaido, establishing a Kaitakushi (the national government Hokkaido Development Commission). Thereafter, over more than a decade until the post was abolished, many businesses were developed on this northern Japanese island. One of them was the brewing of beer. In June 1876, Seibei Nakagawa, who had recently returned from Germany where he studied the art of beer making, was chosen as brewmaster to oversee construction of a beer factory. That September, the Kaitakushi Brewery was completed. The following year, Sapporo Lager was born, prominently displaying the Pioneers' symbol, the North Star.
Establishment of Sapporo Beer Company and Birth of Yebisu Beer

In 1886, with the establishment of the Hokkaido government, the Sapporo Brewery Factory, as it was renamed, was sold to a private company, the Okura Trading Company (Kihachiro Okura). In December the following year, a group of entrepreneurs led by Eiichi Shibusawa and Soichiro Asano, bought the factory from the Okura Trading Company, and established Sapporo Beer Company, laying the foundation for major growth in beer brewing in Japan. In September 1887, the Japan Beer Brewery Company was established in Tokyo by a group of local entrepreneurs. After inviting a brewmaster from Germany, this company began selling Yebisu Beer in February 1890, marking another milestone in our history. Yebisu Beer has since garnered strong support as a beer born and bred in Tokyo.
Establishment of DaiNippon Beer Company Ltd.
At one time, there were several dozen breweries spread across Japan. In the latter half of 1897, four companies, Sapporo, Japan, Osaka (Asahi Breweries) and Kirin, were embroiled in a fierce battle for market share. In 1906, Kyohei Magoshi, head of the Japan Beer Brewery Company, merged Sapporo, Japan and Osaka breweries to form DaiNippon Beer Company Ltd., with a 70% of the Japanese beer market. Throughout the Taisho period, and into the Showa period, beer demand grew. During a time of robust economic growth in Japan, DaiNippon Beer Company Ltd. played a major role in the industry in improving brewing techniques and the natural ingredients used.
Division of DaiNippon Beer Company Ltd. and Revival of "Sapporo Beer"

In September 1949, the DaiNippon Beer Company Ltd. was divided into two companies, Nippon Breweries, Ltd. and the Asahi Breweries, Ltd. upon application of the Law for Elimination of Excessive Concentration of Economic Power. Although Nippon Breweries, Ltd. was the rightful successor to Sapporo Beer and Yebisu Beer, the company restarted its business by introducing a new brand name, Nippon Beer. Notwithstanding, beer lovers clamored for Sapporo Beer. In 1956, answering those calls, Sapporo Beer was revived in its birthplace, Hokkaido. The following year, it was distributed throughout Japan once again. In January 1964, Nippon Breweries, Ltd. changed its name to Sapporo Breweries, Ltd.
The Revival of Yebisu Beer

In December 1971, Yebisu Beer, the mainstay brand of the DaiNippon Beer Company Ltd., was relaunched after a 28-year hiatus. Our corps of beer technicians worked on brewing a full-fledged 100% barley beer, devoid of any sub-ingredients. This was the first German-type 100% barley beer to be sold in post-war Japan. Yebisu Beer, sold as a premium beer and under marketing messages proved extremely popular thanks to its superb quality.
The Birth of Long-Seller Black Label
To answer strong calls from beer lovers for a beer hall quality draft that they could enjoy at home, our beer technicians put in many hours of research to come up with technology that allowed draft beer to be bottled in its freshly brewed state. In 1977, this work culminated with the launch of Sapporo [Bottled Draft Beer]. The high level of acceptance this brew received is underscored by the coining of a new word at the time, which was inspired by Sapporo [Bottled Draft Beer]. Subsequently, the beloved signature black label that graced the bottle was adopted as the name for a new product, Black Label. Today, Black Label enjoys the same popularity as it did when it was first born.
Sapporo Beer Advertising and Promotion

In 1949, accompanying the lifting of the ban on trademarks that was enforced during wartime, the Japanese beer industry saw advertising re-ignite. Our post-war advertising started in 1950 with ads for Nippon Beer. 1954 then saw the birth of The King of Beer. This series of advertisements, which featured characters illustrated by the then up-and-coming cartoonist Takashi Yanase, were run in conjunction with related events. These coordinated advertisements attracted an overwhelming reaction and publicity, and broke the advertising mold in Japan. In 1957, coinciding with the revival of Sapporo Beer, our advertising emphasized the true beer hall draft nature of this brew. In 1958, this concept was manifested in advertisements run under the banner "Munich, Sapporo, Milwaukee." At a time when Japanese were not permitted to travel overseas freely, this advertising, with its use of a world map of beer halls and the tri-city catchphrase, was innovative and persuasive, eliciting a major response from the public. 1970 saw a new campaign launched. The extremely simple posters and other designs, together with TV advertisements featuring only music left an indelible impression. In January 2000, we rolled out innovative commercials for Black Label that were designed to symbolize what we stand for in the new century. The series of ads, became a major topic of conversation, propelling us up the rankings to the number-one spot in advertising reach in the Japanese beer industry, according to research complied by CM DATABANK.
A Long-Standing Tradition of Proposing Value
Sapporo Breweries' pioneering spirit arose from the Kaitakushi Brewery 130 years ago and has since been passed down to Sapporo's product development. The fresh taste of Hokkaido Namashibori has been popular as a totally new happo-shu since its release in 2001 when the happo-shu market was booming. In 2004, Sapporo Breweries started to market the low-alcohol beverage Draft One as a nationwide hot-selling product. Taking advantage of its all-new pea protein ingredient and an original production method, Draft One has an unprecedented clear taste and has created a "neo-alcohol culture." The Company also entered the shochu market in April 2006, always introducing and developing new products to meet the changing needs of consumers.

Loyalty to the Quality

The History of Sapporo Breweries

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