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Craft Beer in Japan: TDM 1874

TDM 1874‘s British Head Brewer George Juniper started his craft beer brewing journey at Dark Star Brewing in England before coming to Japan and working for Hitachino Nest Beer. He continued honing his craft at Brimmer Brewing, working under ex-Sierra Nevada brewer Scott Brimmer. In 2017 he joined TDM 1874 as head brewer, going on to win awards as best new brewer in Japan. 

Gardner Robinson: What was the first beer you made as a home brewer?

George Juniper: I’m pretty sure it was an English bitter from an extract kit, very easy to brew. I can’t remember how it turned out, nor was I really old enough to be drinking beer when I first started brewing.

GR: Was there a flash point for you while home brewing when you thought you could do this for a living? 

GJ: It never really occurred to me until it fell in my lap. I was homebrewing lots at university in Brighton; I was lucky that a local brewery (Dark Star) offered me a job after one of the brewers tried my beer. At the time I wasn’t really thinking of what I wanted to do as a career, but I’m glad brewing found me.

GR: You’ve worked at British-run breweries, American-run breweries and Japanese-run breweries; what did you take from each of your experiences?

GJ: When you work in different breweries you really pick up on a lot of different methods. There are hundreds of ways to go about making beer. You also compile a list of ways you DON’T want to do things. 

An example in Japan: Many breweries here apply the same shoes/slippers rules there are for houses—in the brewery. Having worked in a British brewery I feel it is far more important to be wearing steel-toed boots when doing brewery work inside and outside, as safety is most important.

GR: As the name suggests, TDM 1874 has a long history. Can you give a brief background about the family and the business dating back nearly 150 years?

GJ: TDM 1874 brewery is owned by Sakaguchiya—a sakaya (liquor store) founded in the Meiji Era (hence the 1874). Shuichi Kato is the fifth generation owner of the company, which has been in his family and the same location since the start.

GR: When did TDM 1874 decide they wanted to start craft beer brewing?

GJ: Sakaguchiya has been selling nihonshu (rice wine) for nearly 150 years, but sadly in recent years the popularity has been in decline. The decision was made to broaden the company portfolio within the alcohol industry. This started some years back with expanding the variety of wine Sakaguchiya offers (the owner is also a sommelier), as well as importing. With the popularity of craft beer rising, the idea to build a small brewery was also put into place and we began brewing in January 2017.

GR: Is there a particular beer or style you’d consider your signature brew?

GJ: Our British Best Bitter is perhaps the one we are best known for as there aren’t many examples of the style in Japan. However we also are well known for the IPAs we produce here, which are extremely popular.

GR: Do you have any seasonal beers you think readers would particularly enjoy this autumn?

GJ: Our autumn beer, Akibiyori, is one I always look forward to—something a bit maltier and full bodied once the summer heat dies down. I personally enjoy beer more in the cooler months and Akibiyori was created as a celebration of the end of summer (not my favorite season to be brewing!). We will see the return of Brown Porter, too, which is one of my favorite beers.

GR: Brewers and restaurant operators have all been severely affected by the pandemic in 2020. How has TDM 1874 coped with the new normal?

GJ: We shifted beer production more towards cans rather than kegs, which really helped us to continue making beer throughout the state of emergency in Greater Tokyo. As we also have a liquor store at TDM 1874 we were able to stay busy. There were still lots of thirsty people staying and working at home, which fresh canned beer is perfect for. 

GR: What’s the best way readers and craft beer lovers around Japan can get their hands on your beer?

GJ: There are links to both our Rakuten and Yahoo online stores on our website if you want beer shipped directly to you. Or ask your local craft beer bar or bottle shop to stock TDM 1874.

TDM 1874 Brewery & Taproom

Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture
7-min. walk from Tokaichiba Station
(0459) 85-4955
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Closed Wednesdays) 

Read More Stories from the Autumn 2020 Issue

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