How was Sapporo Beer developed? Exploring the roots of
“Sapporo Draft.”

1876 The government-owned beer
brewery opens
for business

The Kaitakushi Beer Brewery, opening day.
(Hokkaido University Collection)
  • The Kaitakushi Beer Brewery, opening day.
    (Hokkaido University Collection)

The dedicated efforts of Nakagawa, the first Japanese man to learn German brewing, and those of his compatriots, a beer brewery was established in Sapporo. The Kaitakushi Beer Brewery was up and running.
The brewery measured only 860 square meters, about the size of a small factory these days, but this is where the Japanese beer industry and Sapporo Beer all started.

1876 Producing beer
using local
Hokkaido ingredients

Hop yard.
(Hokkaido University Collection)
  • Hop yard.
    (Hokkaido University Collection)

Although Hokkaido’s climate and soil were ideal for wheat and hop cultivation, things weren’t so simple at the start. The quality and yield of barley varied greatly and the hops withered for several seasons in a row.
After some trial and error implementing breed improvements, in the beginning of the 1880’s they were finally able to produce their product with 100% Hokkaido ingredients.

1877 The first beer
of Japan

Cold-brewed Sapporo Beer Label
(Maruzen-Yushodo Company, Limited Collection)

In 1877, “Cold-brewed Sapporo Beer” was finally made available for sale in Tokyo. The “cold-brewed” part of the name refers to the German method of fermentation and maturation at low temperatures, which Seibei Nakagawa was very confident with after his years of training there. The price for one large bottle was 16 sen (there is 100 sen in 1 yen), which is equivalent to about ¥6,000 in today’s currency. Comparing it to the price of a fancy bottle of Japanese rice wine, which was about a quarter of the cost of beer, it was considered a luxury item.
The beer received rave reviews and was not only loved by patriotic Japanese but also by the foreign communities in Hakodate and Yokohama, who called for it to be sold in their cities.

*Since 1876, Sapporo has been the first beer brewed by the people of Japan, the brand that paved the way for all beers in the nation.

1877 Polaris, the North Star, is our
symbolic logo

Pioneer Flag

In the center of the label for Cold-brewed Sapporo Beer, Hokkaido’s first beer, is a large Polaris, the North Star. The Kaitakushi Beer Brewery took inspiration from the Hokkaido pioneers and employed this five-pointed star. Even after 140 years, the north star still shines brightly on Sapporo’s products as a symbol of the intrepid spirit of all those who pioneered into the northern lands of Hokkaido.

1887 Establishment of
the Sapporo Beer

Okura Group Sapporo Beer Brewery
  • Sapporo Label of the time

In 1886, government control of the beer industry was relinquished, and Sapporo Beer was privatized into the Okura Group Sapporo Beer Brewery. The following year, 1887, the company would at last gain the name “Sapporo Beer” thanks to the governmental influence of Eiichi Shibusawa and others.

1888 Sapporo Lager, a pasteurized beer

Sapporo Lager Beer Label

“Sapporo Lager Beer,” released in 1888, is a pasteurized beer. Pasteurization kills off the remaining yeast to increase the drink’s shelf-life. Thanks to this, the beer was able to be transported far and wide, opening up many new routes for distribution.

1905 Sapporo Beer becomes the
industry leader

Label and Promotional Poster of the time
  • Photo of the Tokyo Brewery

By 1890, the top 4 beer makers in Japan were in heated competition. Sapporo Beer’s distant location put the company at a disadvantage, so in 1903, they opened a brewery in Tokyo. The company’s beer sales sky rocketed thanks to its new manufacturing location there. In 1905, it secured the top place for beer production in the industry.

1906 Three firms merge
to form
Dainippon Beer

Photo of Dainippon Beer
  • Promotional Poster

In 1903, the beer industry would be totally rearranged after Sapporo Beer opened a brewery in Tokyo. They then merged with Japan and Osaka Beer to form Dainippon Beer. This conglomerate became the largest beer producer in Japan, controlling over 70% of the market.

Sapporo Beer grows
more popular

1934 Completion of
Ginza Beer and the opening of its
beer hall

First Completed Ginza Building
  • Inside the Ginza Beer Hall at its opening.
  • Currently still operating as Beer Hall Ginza Lion 7 Chome.

The six-story Ginza Building was erected in Ginza 7 Chome. On the first floor they opened the Ginza Beer Hall. In fact, it still operates in the same building to this day with the same old charm as the original. As the oldest operational beer hall in Japan, it became a registered tangible cultural property in 2022.

1949 The new Nippon
Beer emerges

Label for Nippon Beer

Due to new laws introduced after World War II, Dainippon Beer was dismantled into “Japan Beer” (now Sapporo Beer) and “Asahi Beer” (now Asahi Beer). Japan Beer released their new product, “Nippon Beer” and reinstated the beloved star symbol that had been banned during
the war.

1956 An exclusive re-run
in Hokkaido: The
revival of
Sapporo Beer

Sapporo re-run label, available only in Hokkaido at the time.

In 1956, to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Sapporo brewery, Japan Beer released a limited-run production of “Sapporo Beer,” available only in Hokkaido. Due to its immense popularity, the Sapporo Beer brand was reinstated nationwide in 1957.

1957 Bottled Draft, a Hokkaido favorite

Bottled Sapporo Beer

A new promotion for “Bottled Sapporo Draft” was launched in 1957, available only in large cities in Japan. Although the product lost interest in many places, it persevered through the years in Hokkaido and eventually became a permanent sales product. With heaters becoming popular in the frigid reaches of Hokkaido, beer became a popular drink even in the winter, and when Hokkaido citizens wanted beer, they preferred draft. Eventually, the draft beer became a Hokkaido specialty.

This product later paved the way for the creation of the “Sapporo Bottled Draft” that we know today, as well as the “Black Label” and “SAPPORO PREMIUM BEER” brands.

1964 Company name changes to
Sapporo Breweries Limited

Advertisement for change of company name

Thanks to the resurgence of the Sapporo Beer brand, sales increased, and in 1964 the company changed its name to Sapporo Breweries, Ltd. At this point, 88 years had passed since the official opening of the Kaitakushi Beer Brewery. The star symbol of the company was already popular all over Japan, and once the brand and company name were unified, they began a new chapter in their history.