The company has five breweries in Japan as well as the Sleeman brewery in Canada. The main brands are Sapporo Draft (Premium in North America); Yebisu; and Sleeman Cream Ale.
The origins of this company are in Sapporo, Hokkaido during the Meiji period, where the Hokkaido Development Commission (Kaitakushi) established many businesses. Seibei Nakagawa, a German-trained brewer, became the first brewmaster of the Kaitakushi Brewery in June 1876, and the first Sapporo Lager was produced at that time. Privatized in 1886, the Sapporo brewery became the centerpiece for the Sapporo Beer Company.
In 1887, another company, the Japan Beer Brewery Company was established in Mita, Meguro, Tokyo, and began producing Yebisu Beer. The competition between Sapporo and Japan Beer, as well as competition with the Osaka (now Asahi) and Kirin breweries led to a 1906 merger of Sapporo, Japan, and Osaka breweries into the Dai-Nippon Beer Company, Ltd., which formed a near monopoly on the Japanese market until after World War II.
After 1949, Dai-Nippon was split into Nippon and Asahi breweries, with the Nippon Breweries resuming production of Sapporo beer in 1956 and renaming itself to the present name, Sapporo Breweries, in 1964. Yebisu Beer was relaunched as a separate brand in 1971, marketed as a German-style barley beer. Sapporo Black Label beer was launched in 1977.
On July 1, 2003, Sapporo Breweries renamed Sapporo Holdings, Ltd. and became a pure holding company. Its brewing business operations were transferred to a newly established wholly owned operating subsidiary “Sapporo Breweries Limited.” Sapporo Holdings’ major business units are Sapporo Breweries, Ltd. (beer, happoshu, wine, spirits, foods, etc.), Sapporo Beverage Co., Ltd. (soft drinks), Sapporo Lion, Ltd. (restaurants) and Yebisu Garden Place Co., Ltd. (real estate).
In 2006, Sapporo announced they would be acquiring No. 3 Canadian brewer Sleeman in a $400-million all-cash deal.
On February 15, 2007, Steel Partners Japan Strategic Fund, a Cayman Islands-registered fund management subsidiary of Warren Lichtenstein‘s Steel Partners and the biggest shareholder (18.6% as of Feb. 2007) of Sapporo Holdings, submitted a proposal to the company seeking approval to raise its stake to 66.6%.
Despite its name, Sapporo beer is no longer brewed in Sapporo, though the company does run a brewery in Hokkaido. Sapporo is also brewed in Sendai, Chiba, Shizuoka, and New Kyushu.Most Sapporo sold in North America is brewed at the Sleeman brewery in Guelph, Ontario, Canada
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