Historic Beer Birthday: William Copeland

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Today is the birthday of William Copeland (January 10, 1834-February 11, 1902). He “was a Norwegian-American brewer. In 1869 he established the Spring Valley Brewery in Yamate, Yokohama, Japan. Spring Valley Brewery was one of Japan’s first beer breweries, and in 1907 became the founding production facility of Kirin Brewery Company, one of Japan’s largest domestic beer producers.”

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Here’s his basic biography, from his Wikipedia page:

Copeland was born Johan Martinius Thoresen in Arendal in Norway. In the 1840s, Copeland worked for five years as an apprentice to a German brewmaster a few blocks from his home before immigrating to the United States and changing his name to William Copeland.

Moving to Yokohama, Japan in 1864, Copeland first worked in the dairy business and then set himself up as a brewer in 1869 with the Spring Valley Brewery, which was located at the site of a natural spring next to the Amanuma Pond below the Yamate foreign residential neighborhood, where he dug a 210-meter cave into the side of a hill and used its low fixed temperature to help the beer mature. After Louis Pasteur invented pasteurization, Copeland was quick to adopt the new technique in his factory. Copeland produced three varieties of beer: a lager beer, a Bavarian beer, and a Bavarian Bock beer. His beer was principally sold in casks to local Yokohama taverns with a small amount of bottled beer being made available to foreign residents in Yokohama, and then was shipped to Tokyo and Nagasaki. He went back to Norway and married Anne Kristine Olsen in 1872. They lived in Japan but she became sick and died seven years later. Although Copeland showed talent as a beer brewer, he was a poor manager, and in 1884 Spring Valley Brewery was put up for public auction.

With the assistance of Scottish merchant Thomas Blake Glover, the Spring Valley Brewery was sold in early 1885 to a group of Japanese investors and renamed The Japan Brewery. German brewmaster Hermann Heckert was hired to oversee production. Glover was also instrumental in establishing a sales agency contract with Meidi-ya for the relaunched brewery, Kirin Beer, which was launched in May 1888.

William Copeland’s grave, maintained by Kirin Brewery Company, is located in the Foreigner’s Cemetery in Yamate, Yokohama. The site of the former Spring Valley Brewery is now occupied by Kitagata Elementary School. Monuments and water wells visible at the edge of the school grounds attest to the site’s history.

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The tourist website Japan Travel has an article, Yokohama Beer Pub, Spring Valley, which gives some additional details about Copeland:

Copeland was born in Arendal Norway in 1834. His original name was Johan Bartinius Thoresen. There was a beer brewery near his house and he was apprenticed to the brewery for five years. After working there, he immigrated to America and changed his name to William Copeland. In 1864 he came to Japan and invested in some companies for a few years. He saved some money and eventually established his own beer brewery, Spring Valley Brewery, in 1870. He came up with various ideas on how to brew delicious beer; He dug a 210-meter cave into the side of a hill and used its low fixed temperature to help the beer mature. After Pasteur invented pasteurization, Copeland soon adopted the new technique in his factory. His beer rose in popularity among foreign residents in Yokohama and then was shipped to Tokyo and Nagasaki as well. He went back to Norway and married Anne Kristine Olsen in 1872. They lived in Japan but she became sick and died seven years later. Although Copeland showed talent as a beer brewer, he wasn’t a good manager. In 1884 Spring Valley Brewery was put up for public auction.

Kirin took over Copeland’s brewery and eventually expanded the business worldwide. The place where Spring Valley Brewery used to stand is now called Kirin-en Park. There is a big monument there to commemorate the brewery.

Copeland remarried a Japanese woman, Umeko Katsumata, in 1889 and took trips to Hawaii and then Guatemala, trying to establish new businesses but chronic heart disease and arthritis, as well as financial difficulties, prevented him from doing so. Finally the couple came back to Yokohama in January 1902, and Copeland passed away the following month at the age of 68.

By the way, his wife Umeko was the second daughter of the proprietors of Ise-ya—a famous, long-established inn in Hakone’s Ashino-yu district. These days, Ise-ya is called Kakumei-kan and is still doing very well.

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William, his Japanese wife Umeko and her parents.

In 2014, the Kirin Brewery reopened a new Spring Valley Brewery as a brewpub, and there are currently two locations, one in Tokyo and another in Yokohama, which is near where the original brewery was built.

The new Spring Valley Brewery website has this history of Our Brewer’s Passion:

150 years ago, one beer brewer stepped foot on a newly opened seaport of Yokohama. His name William Copeland, a Norwegian-born American, founded the Spring Valley Brewery in Yokohama located far from his homeland.

During the time, Japan was in the midst of cultural enlightenment and supplies of ingredients and equipment for brewing beer was scarce. However, he exercised his ingenuity to overcome these struggles by installing a naturally powered water wheel to mill malt and prepared wort during the winter season to keep it cool.

His beer attracted the interest of many foreigners who lived in Yokohama’s foreign settlement, which eventually caught on to the Japanese locals. This popularity made Spring Valley Brewery become the first brewery in Japan to achieve commercial success.

Copeland devoted his life to his passion for beer, not just as a brewer, but also by making Japan’s first beer garden in his own yard, later passed down to Japan Brewery, the forerunner of Kirin Brewery.

Brewers who studied under Copeland found their own paths to cultivate the production of domestic beer, thus often, William Copeland is referred to as the father of Japanese beer.

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Asahi Buys Grolsch, Peroni & Meantime

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Business Insider is reporting that Anheuser-Busch InBev, who’s in the process of closing the deal for SABMiller, agreed to sell off Grolsh, Peroni and Meantime Brewing, which is part of SABMiller’s portfolio, most likely in order to smooth the regulatory approvals necessary to close the transaction. In fact, this deal in contingent on the other one, so that if the ABI/SABMiller deals fall apart, then this one won’t go through either and they’ll remain part of SABMiller.

SABMiller posted a short press release today:

SABMiller plc (“SABMiller”) has been informed by Anheuser Busch InBev SA/NV (“AB InBev”) that following its announcement on 10 February, it has accepted the binding offer from Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd (“Asahi”) to acquire certain of SABMiller’s European premium brands and their related businesses (excluding certain US rights), following completion of the relevant employee information and consultation processes applicable to the sale of these brands and businesses.

The acquisition by Asahi of these premium brands and related businesses (comprised of the Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brand families and related businesses in Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and internationally (“the Business”)) is conditional on the successful closing of the recommended acquisition of SABMiller by AB InBev as announced on 11 November 2015, which itself contains certain regulatory pre-conditions and conditions, and the approval by the European Commission of Asahi as a purchaser of the Business.

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Patent No. 4053653A: Method Of Obtaining Lupulin-Rich Products From Hops

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Today in 1977, US Patent 4053653 A was issued, an invention of Junjiro Miyata and Yasushi Kikuchi, assigned to Asahi Breweries, Ltd., for their “Method of Obtaining Lupulin-Rich Products from Hops.” Here’s the Abstract:

A method of obtaining lupulin-rich products from hops, which comprises: subjecting frozen hop cones to coarse crushing by a first crusher equipped with a screen having width of openings in the range of 6 – 15 mm and sieving fragments of crushed hops passing therethrough to obtain a first lot of lupulin-rich product as accumulated beneath the sieve; and then subjecting the portion which passed over the screen of the sieve to recrushing by a second crusher equipped with a screen having narrower openings than that of the first crusher a screen having width of openings in the range of 3 – 6 mm, and sieving fragments of recrushed hops passing therethrough to obtain a second lot of lupulin-rich product as accumulated beneath the sieves.
The method is performed on hops and particles thereof maintained in the frozen condition.

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Asahi Buys Mountain Goat

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So larger breweries buying smaller ones is not confined to the U.S., or even the Western Hemisphere. Australia’s Mountain Goat Beer announced on “Monday that Asahi Holdings (Australia) had taken a 100 per cent ownership stake in the company.” Co-founders Dave Bonighton and Cam Hines will be staying on although an Asahi employee, Matt Grix, has been “named as the new Mountain Goat general manager,” but they also added that “Mountain Goat will continue to operate as a stand-alone business.”

I first met Dave Bonighton either judging in Japan or in the U.S. at the World Beer Cup, although we also judged together in Australia last year at the AIBA. Dave’s a great guy and his beers are some of the best I’ve had from Australia.

The Australian magazine Beer & Brewer has the full story.

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Mountain Goat co-founder and brewmaster Dave Bonighton.

Patent No. 0472298B1: Keg For Draft Beer

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Today in 1995, US Patent 0472298 B1 was issued, an invention of Yutaka Fujimoto, Takaaki Furuhashi, Katsuoki Kawanishi, and Ryo Sakazume, assigned to Sapporo Breweries Limited, for their “Keg For Draft Beer.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes this summary:

A keg for a liquid to facilitate cooling of the liquid retained in the keg and to keep the temperature of the cooled liquid in the keg, comprising:
   a keg body for retaining the liquid therein and having an upper face (3), a lower face (5), a side face (4) and a mouth piece (2) for providing the liquid into the keg body and ejecting the liquid therefrom, said keg body being formed of a keg inner cylinder (1) for constituting a container for the liquid and a keg outer cylinder (6), said keg inner and outer cylinders being laminated together to form a space and air being removed from the space to form a vacuum adiabatic layer (VL) therebetween; characterized in that the keg outer cylinder (6) substantially covers the keg inner cylinder (1) except one of the upper and lower fades (3, 5) of the keg body, and in that a cooling face (Cz) is formed on said one of the upper and lower faces (3, 5) of the keg body where the inner cylinder (1) is not covered so that the liquid inside the inner cylinder (1) can be cooled through the cooling face and the temperature of the liquid inside the inner cylinder is kept by the adiabatic layer defined between the inner and outer cylinders.

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Beer In Ads #1615: Harrison Ford For Kirin Lager


Monday’s ad is for Kirin Lager, from the early 1990s, probably 1994. I’m guessing 1994, because Ford also did a television commercial for Kirin that year. Featuring actor Harrison Ford, whose birthday is today, the poster is advertising Kirin Lager. According to one account, here is a translation of the poster, which was seen in a convenience store window:

Harrison Ford endorsing Kirin beer, Fukushima 福島

“Kono aji ga, biiru.” = “This taste, beer.”
“Kire aji, daigo aji” = “cutting edge taste, the epitome of taste”
“Kirin ragaa.” = “Kirin lager.”

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And apparently the small letters at the bottom here translate as: “You have to be 20 years old for beer and recycle the empty cans.”

Beer In Ads #1556: Lady In Green


Friday’s ad is for Sapporo, probably from the early part of the 20th century. It shows a female bartender in a green dress with a red belt serving a bottle of Sapporo. I can’t read Japanese Kanji so I don’t know what it says, but it’s a cool ad and you can see why they obviously made a poster out of it.

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Beer In Ads #1535: Asahi Anime


Friday’s ad is for Asahi, from sometime over the last decade or so. It’s hard to say since Japanese anime or manga art is often so timeless. Animation in the form of anime and manga is incredibly popular in Japan, and became increasingly so in the U.S. from the 1980s on. Beyond the cheesecake factor, it’s a simple, and familiar beer advertising image, of a woman on the beach in a bikini. I’m sure that music means something, but I don’t recognize the tune. The woman also may be a familiar character from a popular manga book but I don’t recognize her either.

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Beer In Ads #1145: Kirin Soldier


Saturday’s ad is for Kirin, from 1939. This is another odd one, with a Japanese woman holding a large bottle of Kirin beer over her shoulder. But her shadow shows a soldier marching behind her, which seems almost eerie in hindsight, knowing that World War 2 was looming and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was only two years away.

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