Status of Japan-grown hops
Hops grown in Tono in Iwate Prefecture are the main ingredient of Kirin’s Ichiban Shibori Toretate Hops Draft Beer. The harvested hops are snap-frozen in their raw state to –50°C before being ground for use in beer production. It is precisely because the hops were grown in Japan that this product has been made possible. Moreover, with the expansion of the craft beer business, the importance of distinctive, Japan-grown hops is increasing.
However, due to the aging of the farming population and a lack of successors to take over the farms, the production volume of Tono hops has fallen to a quarter of its peak, and there is a possibility that it could disappear completely in ten years’ time.
In response to this situation, Kirin, which purchases 70% of Japan’s hops crop, is pursuing a range of initiatives to increase the value of Japan-grown hops.
Hops production volumes and number of farms
Hops Fields Living Species Survey
We have been conducting an ongoing living species survey in the Tono hops fields since 2014. In 2015, the survey confirmed the presence of 104 insect species and 19 bird species. This rich diversity of living species in the hops fields is attributable to the existence of windbreak forests that protect the hops plants, which grow to a height of 5 meters, from the effects of the wind. The combination of the windbreak forests and underbrush is nurturing a wide diversity of living creatures. This has made it clear that human innovations for the cultivation of hops have nurtured and protected the diversity of living species in the area surrounding the hops fields. We have held Living Species Observation Events since 2016, inviting local elementary schoolchildren to participate and having them get a feel for the rich nature of Tono and the fact that hops fields are part of Tono’s nature.
Initiatives for increasing the value of Japan-grown hops
In Tono, Kirin and the City of Tono have launched the TK (Tono x Kirin) Project to take maximum advantage of the appeal of hops and revitalize the region. Project activities include the Hops Harvest Festival, which it is hoped will nurture civic pride in the crop. In 2018, Kirin invested in the agricultural corporation BEER EXPERIENCE CO., LTD. to accelerate the realization of Tono City's “Beer Village Concept,” and contributed to social value in a form of revitalizing local economies through the sustainable production of Japanese hops, especially rare hop MURAKAMI SEVEN bred by Kirin and increasing the brand value of such Japanese hops. At the same time, we will lead the investment to development of the craft beer category through stable procurement of Japanese hops and external sales to craft breweries.