|Sapporo Breweries Limited|
|Location||Ebisu, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan|
|Owner(s)||Sapporo Holdings Limited (TYO: 2501)|
|Annual production||616,374 kiloliters (2005)|
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.
On July 1, 2003, Sapporo Breweries renamed Sapporo Holdings, Ltd. and became a pure holding company. Its brewing business operations were transferred to a newly established wholly-owned operating subsidiary "Sapporo Breweries Limited." Sapporo Holdings' major business units are Sapporo Breweries, Ltd. (beer, happoshu, wine, spirits, foods, etc.), Sapporo Beverage Co., Ltd. (soft drinks), Sapporo Lion, Ltd. (restaurants) and Yebisu Garden Place Co., Ltd. (real estate).
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%. 
Despite its name, Sapporo beer is no longer brewed in Sapporo, though the company does run a brewery in Hokkaido. Sapporo is also brewed in Sendai, Chiba, Shizuoka, and New Kyushu. Most Sapporo sold in North America is brewed at the Sleeman brewery in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Yebisu (ヱビス Ebisu ) is a beer produced by the Sapporo Brewery. It is one of Japan's oldest brands, first being 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, being resurrected in 1971. It has been brewed continuously ever since.
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." It is a 100% malt beer.
Yebisu is notable in that its Japanese name includes the now-obsolete we kana (written in this name in katakana, we). 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.
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 than 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.