One of Japan’s major craft beer companies and its first beer microbrewery is Echigo Beer Co., Ltd. Located in the heart of Niigata Prefecture, a region known for its quality rice and sake production, this brewery formerly produced sake for over a century. When the government reformed the liquor tax law in 1993, the brewery established a beer production factory in order to put more unique types of beer into Japan’s beer market. The business was finally launched in 1995.
Sake and beer are both alcohol brewed from grains, but the production process and required skills are different. Echigo Beer went through a process of trial-and-error to find the best flavor for each product. Not only producing stout, Weizen, ale and pilsner, they invented unique, lager beer made from Niigata's super-premium, short-grain rice called Koshihikari.
Using a time-consuming decoction method originated in Germany, Koshihikari Echigo Beer delivers sweetness from the rice variety to satisfy even non-dry beer drinkers. It contains 5 percent alcohol, has a crisp, refreshing flavor, and flows exceptionally smoothly for superb drinking enjoyment. It goes well with all Japanese dishes, especially sushi. Koshihikari Echigo Beer comes in two styles, bottled and canned, which are both available in the U.S.
Other Echigo beers available in the U.S. include Premium Red Ale and Echigo Stout. The former has a beautiful red color and is brewed using carefully selected Amarillo hops for a pungent citrus nose, a medium body and a noticeable bitterness. The latter, which won the bronze award in the World Beer Cup in 1996, employs a longer brewing period to produce a mild flavor, pleasant aroma and fuller body.
The batches of beer being exported are gradually growing. Long-standing yet still young, this microbrewery strives to improve the quality of its beer and expand further into the global market.
3 Key Points About Echigo Beer Co., Ltd.
1. The Brewery Treasures Its Personnel
The brewery believes that its most important asset is human resources, both past and present. Most of the current brewers are locals from Niigata Prefecture, but in the past, several overseas brewing professionals helped develop Echigo Beer’s signature flavor. Based on this foundation, the company strives to improve its beer day by day.
2. The First Beer Microbrewery in Japan
The Japanese government reformed the liquor tax law in 1993, reducing the minimum amount of beer production from 2,000 kiloliters to 60 kiloliters. Thanks to this, many breweries that produce small batches of beer burgeoned. Established in 1994, Echigo Beer is the first officially approved microbrewery for beer since the new liquor tax law. The company marked its 20th anniversary February, 2015.
3. Ever-Growing Popularity in the Global Market
More than 10 years have passed since the brewery started exporting Koshihikari Echigo Beer abroad. This beer, made from rice and malt, is well-received outside Japan, especially in the U.S. The company also started shipping to countries like England and Thailand in 2013, and the business is still growing worldwide.