Kirin sales for the first six months of 2014 decreased 6.6 percent compared to the previous year. Kirin was once the biggest brewer in Japan, but has been losing ground, especially to Asahi, since 2001.
Kirin has, with the exception of their Grand Kirin line, pretty much ignored the premium beer market, which is growing quickly.
However, the other major breweries have been introducing premium brews at a fairly steady pace.
Last year, Sapporo’s Yebisu brought out its Joël Robuchon lager, which was packed with Nelson Sauvin hops. This year, the same brewery developed Yebisu Royal Selection, which has rapidly become the highest-rated Sapporo beer ever on RateBeer.com.
Suntory has also recently produced new premium brews, including Suntory Bitter Roast, Suntory Craftsman’s Beer Kifu No Kaori wheat lager, and an ale version of their Premium Malt’s, called Kaoru Premium.
Asahi Breweries has sort of entered the game, with Asahi Double Yeast. Mostly, though, Asahi has been content with the sales of its flagship, Asahi Super Dry. It also put out a premium version of Super Dry last summer and has released a number of half-beer oddities, such as Asahi Cola & Malt and Asahi Lime Black, both as strange tasting as they sound.
And so…. on Wednesday Kirin announced that it will open two microbreweries in Tokyo and Yokohama that will focus on producing craft beer. Spring Valley Brewery will run the breweries, with plans to develop 20 types of beer which will be available at brewery pubs.