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The History of Takasago Beer and Taiwan Beer

More than 5,000 years ago, beer, a barley-based alcoholic beverage, had already appeared in the history of human writing. In 1613, the record showed the first time that beer appeared in Japan, but it was not until 1853 that a Japanese scholar, Kawamoto Komin, began to try brewing beer locally; afterwards, this foreign beverage was gradually accepted by the locals. By the end of the 19th century, there were beer factories emerging everywhere in Japan.

In 1920 (Taisho era, 9th year), Konosuke Abe and his colleagues invited their peers from the Japanese wine industry to found the Japan Takasago Brewery Co. in Taiwan. At the time, the Japanese word for ale was used, and “Takasago” was Japan's customary name for Taiwan since the Edo period.

The Japan Takasago Brewery Co. was the only beer factory established by Japan in Taiwan, with a capital investment of 2 million Japanese yen. It was located in the Kamihito District (which is today's Jianguo Brewery in Taipei City), covering an area of more than 14,000 pings with the main equipment imported from Hawaii.

Originally, the company planned on exporting beer, but when it was first established, the export results were not satisfactory; thus, the management decided to produce and sell the products in Taiwan to enjoy tax exemptions. In 1922 (Taisho era, 11th year), the Japanese government attempted to promote the state monopoly of alcohol to increase its revenue but was met with protests from Japanese companies, who lobbied members of congress to exclude beer. 

In 1933 (Showa era, 8th year), the Government-General in Taiwan re-introduced the state monopoly for beer, and it was implemented in July of that year. In addition to export, the products of Takasago Brewery Co. were purchased and sold by the Monopoly Bureau in batches, while the raw materials were secured with the support of the three major breweries: Sapporo Beer, the Kirin, and the Sakura. Even the Bank of Taiwan invested in this booming business. 

After Taiwan's restoration, the Taiwan provincial administrative executive office took over the “Monopoly Bureau of Taiwan Government-General” on November 1, 1945 and changed it to the “Monopoly Bureau of Taiwan Provincial Government.” Since the monopoly accounted for the top 17% of the revenue during the Japanese occupation, it was decided to continue the system. The Takasago Brewery Co. was among the seven factories taken over by the Bureau, and renamed “Taipei Winery.” Through reforms, the factory was later renamed “Taipei’s No. 2 Winery” in 1975. 

It was in the 1960s that there was a shortage of supply due to the significant increase in the demand for beer in Taiwan. The Bureau decided to seek technical cooperation with Dominion Breweries Co., Ltd. in 1964 by introducing the patented technique of continuous fermentation for beer. The winery director, Wen Tsengpao, the deputy director, Lin Fulai, and the head of the laboratory department, Hsu Kuanglu, were chosen to visit New Zealand to learn and practice the new technique so that they would be able to immediately set up a fermentation plant upon their return to increase supply for the market demand. 

Because of the popularity and acceptance of Taiwan Beer by the public, the Bureau continued to build the Zhongxing winery in Wuri, Taichung, in 1966 and then the Chengkung winery in Shanhua, Tainan, in 1973. To meet the public demand, the Bureau introduced canned beer, instead of glass bottles, in 1975, which reached a sales volume of 44 million dozen cans of beer in 1992. The average monthly production reached 5 million dozen cans during peak seasons so that Taiwan beer became a familiar sight in Taiwan.

In addition to its popularity in Taiwan, Taiwan beer has also received international recognition and has won awards such as the Superior Award at the World Beer Tasting, the Gold Award for bottled beer at the 17th Monde Selection De La Qualite in Geneva, Switzerland, the 2nd place at the Wall Street Journal Asia and Australia International Beer Tasting, and the Gold Award at the World Wine Tasting.

The domestic market of tobacco and alcohol was opened in 1987, and Taiwan beer continues to be a quality taste recognized by the public. In 1995, the green bottle was used as a marketing appeal to young consumers by aligning with the word “freshest” in Taiwanese for youthfulness. The campaign also hired the well-known singer, Wu Chunlin (aka Wu Bai) and associated the product with the Taiwan Beer basketball team, not to mention organizing several promotional events with a mobile beverage stand in order to attract younger generations of consumers for a fresh taste. 

In 2000, the Legislative Yuan passed the Tobacco and Alcohol Administration Act, putting the state control of these commodities into history. In 2002, the Bureau was restructured into a private corporation. Taiwanese can be proud to say that the mesmerizing flavor of Taiwan beer is not affected by such a transition at all. Whether it is consumed in a five-star international hotel or a snack stall on the roadside, Taiwan beer remains the best choice of refreshment for many people.

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