Japan’s breweries face uncertain future after disaster

Japan Earthquake

AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye

(JAPAN) – With the death toll expected to pass 10,000 and parts of Japan in disarray, breweries face a tough road ahead.

[3/14 Update: More updates from Japan Craft Beer Association (need to use translator)]

Officials gave grim news over the weekend with over 1,400 found dead and that number expected to multiply. The Atlantic posted a slew of images of the destruction. One of those images is shown above, one of Kirin Brewery‘s facilities located in Sendai.

The Wall Street Journal reports, “Kirin Holdings Co. said it halted operations at its brewery in Miyagi. Kirin said Saturday that four large beer storage tanks had been damaged.”

From Business Week:

Beer vats were smashed and products washed away at the Sendai plant of Kirin Holdings Co., Japan’s second-biggest brewer. Kirin hasn’t been able to confirm the safety of more than 10 sales staff in the city, spokesman Jun Sato said by e- mail [on Saturday].

Workers at the Sendai plant evacuated to the rooftop to avoid danger, and Kirin’s Toride plant halted operations because of damage, Sato said.

Sapporo Holdings Ltd. shut down three plants to inspect equipment after the earthquake, spokesman Yuki Hattori said by e-mail today. The brewer’s Sendai plant suffered some damage and many bottles were broken, he said. Sapporo’s Chiba plant was also affected, and its Nasu facility is closed for equipment inspections, Hattori said.

Asahi.com adds, “Sapporo Breweries Ltd. said the ground level of some parts of its plant in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, appeared to have fallen and water was flowing in, which officials said could have been caused by earthquake liquefaction.”

Asahi Breweries. Ltd. was still assessing damage as of Friday according to the SF Chronicle. On its Facebook page, the USA division showed empathy. “Our thoughts and our prayers got out to the families of Japan.”

The Winnipeg Free Press said this morning, “Japanese beverage maker Suntory Holdings Ltd. says it will deliver 360,000 bottles of water in the disaster zone.” Suntory runs a large beverage business in Japan specializing in both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic sectors.

On the craft front…

hitachino-nest-nipponiaKiuchi Brewery, makers of Hitachnio Nest beers, posted a message on the brewery’s website:

A big earthquake happend around our brewery. It will take a long time todo our ordinary job including export to foreign countries. We will do our best to reconstruct our brewery, so please wait for a while.

Here’s more from the U.S. import partner, B. United International, via Toshiyuki Kiuchi:

1. They are all ok. Kiuchi brewery, in particular the Sake part, was damaged & need fixing/rebuilding. He will keep us posted.

2. The most damage was caused to Sendai, about 180 miles northeast of Mito. Lots of damage, but more importantly, lots of people missing.

3. Kiuchi brewery is now using their full brewery capacity to bottle water for people who have lost their homes. As you might have read on the internet, there is a severe shortage on food & water there. We are extremely proud of Kiuchi Brewery’s commitment and fast action to help everyone in need.

4. We are putting together a shipment of special kegs & cases [at our cost] to be shipped to Kiuchi Brewery as soon as possible/appropriate. We want to organize a special event at Kiuchi brewery to raise money for all these many people who have lost their homes and loved ones.

P.S.: Over the next months we will not be able to perfectly serve all our markets with Hitachino Nestbeer. We do apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you and your /our Hitachino customers. But we DO believe that you and all your /our Hitachino customers will understand & embrace Kiuchi Brewery’s societal responsibility and commitment.

On Saturday, Baird Brewing said on its Facebook page, “We are okay down here in Numazu. The brewery and Fishmarket Taproom are both undamaged, and we’re working as usual.”

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