Back in the early days of April 2015, Kirin Beer, one of the major brewers in Japan, entered into an experiment in the backstreets of Daikanyama, a small and quiet neighbourhood of Tokyo. Established as a minor house of creation, The Spring Valley Brewery takes advantage of the changes in brewing laws of a decade ago that allow for low volume, on-site creation of some quite remarkable tastes. And as you sit outside, under cover from the rain and with a heater to keep you warm, you have to wonder as to the origins of the name. At least I did.
And the name goes back to the origins of Kirin Beer itself. Today Japan has three major beer companies; the Osaka based market leader Asahi, with its signature tipple "Asahi Super Dry", remains slightly ahead of Kirin following the shocks of the 1990's when it overturned their market dominance which is then followed, a little far behind, by Suntory, another Osaka based brewer dating from the days of the Meiji restoration. But Kirin's roots date to chaotic days of the opening of Japan, in the the twilight of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Founded in 1869 by William Copeland, an American-Norwegian entrepreneur who had arrived in Japan half a decade earlier, 'The Spring Valley Brewery' provided German style beers to both the local Yokohama foreign community as well as the Japanese market itself through Meidi-ya, at the time an importer and distributor of foreign goods and produce. Selling out to local investors in 1885, the brand would eventually evolve into Kirin, the name of a lucky, mythical Japanese beast. And so if you'd like to see the origins of The Spring Valley Brewery take the short walk from the Gaijin Botchi in Yokohama, past the international school and over to Kitagata Elementary School, for that's where it all began. Kampai!