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Sapporo Brewery

Sapporo Breweries Limited
Industry Alcoholic beverage
Founded 1876
Headquarters Tokyo, Japan
Products Beer
Production output
616,374 kiloliters
Parent Sapporo Holdings

Sapporo Breweries Limited (サッポロビール株式会社 Sapporo Bīru Kabushiki-gaisha?) is a Japanese brewery founded in 1876. It is the oldest brand of beer in Japan. It was first brewed in Sapporo, Japan in 1876 by the German-trained brewer Seibei Nakagawa. Their world headquarters are in Ebisu, Shibuya, Tokyo. The company purchased the Canadian company Sleeman Breweries in 2006.

The company has five breweries in Japan, the Sleeman brewery in Canada, and Sapporo Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin, U.S. The main brands are Sapporo Draft (Premium in North America); Yebisu; and Sleeman Cream Ale. Sapporo Premium has been the #1 selling Asian beer in the United States since Sapporo U.S.A., Inc. was first founded in 1984.


The origins of this company are in Sapporo, Hokkaido during the Meiji period, where the Hokkaido Development Commission (Kaitakushi) established many businesses. Seibei Nakagawa, a German-trained brewer, became the first brewmaster of the Kaitakushi Brewery in June 1876, and the first Sapporo Lager was produced at that time. Privatized in 1886, the Sapporo brewery became the centerpiece for the Sapporo Beer Company.

In 1887, another company, the Japan Beer Brewery Company was established in Mita, Meguro, Tokyo, and began producing Yebisu Beer. The competition between Sapporo and Japan Beer, as well as competition with the Osaka (now Asahi) and Kirin breweries led to a 1906 merger of Sapporo, Japan, and Osaka breweries into the Dai-Nippon Beer Company, Ltd., which formed a near monopoly on the Japanese market until after World War II.

After 1949, Dai-Nippon was split into Nippon and Asahi breweries, with the Nippon Breweries resuming production of Sapporo beer in 1956 and renaming itself to the present name, Sapporo Breweries, in 1964. Yebisu Beer was relaunched as a separate brand in 1971, marketed as a German-style barley beer. Sapporo Black Label beer was launched in 1977.

In 2006, Sapporo announced they would be acquiring No. 3 Canadian brewer Sleeman in a $400-million all-cash deal.[1]

On February 15, 2007, Steel Partners Japan Strategic Fund, a Cayman Islands-registered fund management subsidiary of Warren Lichtenstein's Steel Partners and the biggest shareholder (18.6% as of Feb. 2007) of Sapporo Holdings, submitted a proposal to the company seeking approval to raise its stake to 66.6%.[2] [3]

Despite its name, Sapporo beer is not exclusively brewed in Sapporo. Sapporo is also brewed in Sendai, Chiba, Shizuoka, and Kyushu.[4] Most Sapporo beer sold in North America had been brewed at the Sleeman brewery in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.[5][dead link] Most Sapporo beer sold in the United States is now brewed by Sapporo Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin, U.S.[6]



Sapporo has five breweries in Japan.[7] The first, Sendai Brewery, was opened in 1971 in Natori, Miyagi, and was among the first to use a computerised brewing system.[8] Shizuoka Brewery in Yaizu was opened in 1980,[9] Chiba Brewery in Chiba was opened in 1988,[10] Hokkaido Brewery in Eniwa, Hokkaidō was built in 1989,[11] and the Kyushu Hita Brewery was opened in Hita, Ōita in 2000.[12]

United States

Sapporo beers are brewed, canned, and bottled by Sapporo Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin for Sapporo U.S.A.


Sleeman Brewery was purchased by Sapporo Brewery in 2006 for $400 million.[13] Sleeman was restarted in 1988 in Guelph, Ontario, Canada by the great grandson of John H. Sleeman, the owner of the original Sleeman brewery founded in 1834.[14] The first Sleeman brewery ceased operations by 1933, when their liquor license was revoked for bootlegging, specifically, smuggling beer into Detroit, Michigan. The company's current products are based on the family's original recipes, and Unibroue original recipes. Sleeman Brewery also owns 2% of The Beer Store (legal name: Brewers Retail Inc.), which has a legally entrenched monopoly on private beer sales in Ontario and 447 retail locations.[15]


The company produces a range of pale and dark lagers, including Sapporo Draft (Premium in North America) and Yebisu.[16] In the Sleeman brewery in Canada they brew Sleeman branded beers such as Sleeman Cream Ale, as well as Sapporo Premium.[17]

The company also produce a malt based soft drink, Super Clear, which was launched in 2002 as a low-alcohol beer, then changed in September 2009 to an alcohol free malt drink.[18][19]


Yebisu (ヱビス Ebisu?) is one of Japan's oldest brands, first brewed in Tokyo in 1890 by the Japan Beer Brewery Company. Through a complicated set of mergers and divisions, the brand was acquired and eventually retained by the modern-day Sapporo Brewery. The brand lay dormant during the post-WWII era, until it was resurrected in 1971. It has been brewed continuously ever since.[20]

Yebisu comes in two main varieties: Yebisu (Premium), a Dortmunder/export lager and Yebisu Black, a Euro dark lager. There are also occasional special varieties that are limited in distribution area and time. As of April 2007, there is a green-label "The Hop" variety.

The modern-day Yebisu is positioned as Sapporo's "luxury" beer label - Sapporo describes it as a beer brand with "a touch of class."[21] It is a 100% malt beer.

Yebisu is notable in that its Japanese name includes the now-obsolete we kana (character) (ヱ or ゑ), an anachronism (historical kana usage). This can lead to confusion when romanized, as the "Y" is not pronounced. The Tokyo neighborhood of Ebisu was named for the beer, which was originally produced there, though the we kana was later dropped. The pronunciations of both "Yebisu" and "Ebisu" are the same.

In the anime and manga franchise Neon Genesis Evangelion, character Misato Katsuragi drinks Yebisu Premium.

Space Barley

Using barley grown from seeds which spent five months on board the International Space Station in 2006, Sapporo created a limited Space Barley brew. The project was a joint one between the Russian Academy of Sciences, Okayama University, and Sapporo. Tasters described the flavor as no different from similar beers, which researchers point to as important in showing that producing food in space for long duration flights is possible. Six packs of the space beer were sold in a lottery system at a price of 10,000 yen.[22][23]

See also


  1. ^ "Sapporo acquisition of Sleeman on tap". CBC News. August 11, 2006. 
  2. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  3. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  4. ^ SAPPORO BREWERIES/Brewery&Restaurant Guide
  5. ^ Sapporo. Retrieved on 2014-04-12.
  6. ^ Sapporo Light & Premium Bottle & Can Redesign. Retrieved on 2014-11-02.
  7. ^ "SAPPORO BREWERIES/Brewery&Restaurant Guide". Retrieved 2010-05-26. [dead link]
  8. ^ "SAPPORO BREWERIES/Brewery&Restaurant Guide". Retrieved 2010-05-26. [dead link]
  9. ^ "SAPPORO BREWERIES/Brewery&Restaurant Guide". Retrieved 2010-05-26. [dead link]
  10. ^ "SAPPORO BREWERIES/Brewery&Restaurant Guide". Retrieved 2010-05-26. [dead link]
  11. ^ "SAPPORO BREWERIES/Brewery&Restaurant Guide". Retrieved 2010-05-26. [dead link]
  12. ^ "SAPPORO BREWERIES/Brewery&Restaurant Guide". Retrieved 2010-05-26. [dead link]
  13. ^ "CBC News - Money - Sapporo acquisition of Sleeman on tap". August 11, 2006. Retrieved 2010-04-04. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Sleeman Brewing History". Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Sapporo Breweries". Retrieved 2010-05-26. 
  17. ^ "Sleeman Brewing & Malting Co. (Sapporo)". Retrieved 2010-05-26. 
  18. ^ "Sapporo Super Clear from Sapporo Breweries - Ratebeer". Retrieved 2010-05-26. 
  19. ^ "サッポロビール サッポロスーパークリア". Retrieved 2010-05-26. 
  20. ^ SAPPORO BREWERIES/Corporate Information
  21. ^ SAPPORO BREWERIES/Corporate Information
  22. ^ "'Space Beer' Available for Purchase to 250 People". Universe Today. December 7, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-08. 
  23. ^ "'Out of this world' Japanese beer". BBC. December 7, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-08. 

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