The early years
Every story has a beginning. This one begins in the year 1823. This is the era of the Samurai. In the Naka river valley of Ibaraki prefecture in eastern Japan, lies a small village called Kounosu. The headman of the village, Gihei Kiuchi, whose family collected rice from farmers as tax for the Tokugawa shogunate, had the idea of using the remaining rice stocks in the warehouse to make sake. Legend has it that the water in a well nearby, called Sakaide, was so pure, that you could draw sake directly from it. Gihei being a practical man, set out to learn the craftsmanship of sake brewing himself and so the Kiuchi brewery was born.
1950s - under Mikio Kiuchi
After the Second World War, Japan experienced an incredible period of growth in the 1950s, which lead to an increase in the consumption of sake. The Kiuchi brewery was now under the leadership of Mikio Kiuchi (7th generation) who was only 27 at the time. While other breweries decided to meet this demand by pursuing the road of mass production, resulting in low quality produce - Mikio, having inherited his ancestor's passion for excellence, decided instead to remain small and focus on quality ingredients and craftsmanship. This philosophy remains at the heart of the Kiuchi brewery to this day. This is why their flagship sake, KIKUSAKARI, is still made today according to the same traditional methods, care and passion set out by Gihei Kiuchi over 190 years ago.
1990s - the birth of HITACHINO NEST beer
By the 1990s, Sake consumption in Japan was dropping, so the Kiuchi family, now joined by Mikio's two sons, Youichi and Toshiyuki (8th generation), needed to evolve or face the inevitable decline. In 1994, the strict alcohol laws in Japan were relaxed, allowing smaller producers to start making beer. They decided to take the risk and enter the craft beer market. However, none of the big breweries in Japan were willing to share their production secrets. Instead they turned to North America for help, where a large homebrewing and microbrewery community had erupted. Through a Canadian company, they were able to get the equipment and knowhow needed to start making beer.
In 1996, after 18 months of sweat and tears, the first beer was born. For the first attempt, they decided to brew a rather traditional European top-fermented ale using British malts and hops. On 3rd October 1996, the first fermentation was complete and the filtered beer was decanted from the beer tank. This was the moment of truth. The taste was unexpectedly good for their first attempt, although not a big surprise considering the craftsmanship, care and passion the Kiuchis already possessed from making sake for 190 years.
They named their beer HITACHINO NEST, a combination of the area's old name HITACHINO and the word NEST contained within the Kanji (Chinese characters) of the village name Kounosu. And as the area has many owls, the owl logo became their distinctive symbol.
The combination of European beer-making technology with traditional Japanese sake-brewing techniques provided a unique platform for creativity and experimentation. Not even a year after the first brew, the AMBER ALE won Gold at the first International Beer Competition in Japan. And in 1998, the XH (Extra High) won Silver and the WEIZEN won Bronze at the World Beer Cup held in the USA. Winning these international awards, together with a growing cult following amongst beer connoisseurs, gave the Kiuchis the confidence to begin exporting HITACHINO NEST beer first to the USA, and then to the rest of the world.
The present day
Following these early successes, HITACHINO NEST beer production doubled every two years and in 2008 the Kiuchis expanded their facilities to a new brewery location nearby, the Nukada brewery. In 2017, the two brothers Youichi and Toshiyuki inherited the brewery and are continuing the traditions set by Gihei and Mikio before them. After 20 years, they have now become one of the top craft breweries in Japan and are expanding rapidly oversees, having opened a brewery in Korea in 2014 and in Hong Kong in 2017 to serve the Chinese market. With distribution, available in over 30 countries, HITACHINO NEST is set to become a renowned craft beer amongst the new generation of beer lovers that are moving away from mass produced pilsner.
In March 2018, HITACHINO NEST beer arrived in Luxembourg.