Here’s your last chance to taste made-in-Japan Budweiser.

Few beers do more to trumpet their Americanness than Budweiser, what with its red-white-and-blue packaging, sponsorship of the Super Bowl, and, oh yeah, that time a few years ago when it just straight-up changed its name to “America” for several months. So you might be surprised to learn that Budweiser is actually brewed in Japan.

Not all of it, of course. For the last 25 years, though, the King of Beers has had a portion of its production happening in the Land of the Rising Sun. Back in 1993, American brewer Anheuser-Busch entered into a joint venture with Kirin to brew Budweiser in Japan for sale to the local market. Even after the joint venture was dissolved, Kirin continued making and selling Budweiser in Japan under license from the brand’s parent company, which is now Anheuser-Busch InBev.

▼ Kirin’s brewery in Shiga Prefecture, where Japan’s Budweiser is made (note the absence of Clydesdales)

However, this week it was announced that the license, which expires at the end of this year, is not being renewed, thus bringing to a close the quarter-century history of made-in-Japan Budweiser. Slumping sales don’t seem to have been the reason for the end of the arrangement, however. While Budweiser’s Japan sales are still around the same level they were a decade ago, the 9,000 kiloliters (2.38 million gallons) the brand sold in Japan in 2017 represented a three-percent increase over the year before.

▼ Made in Japan…for now

Instead, the cessation of the partnership seems to be part of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s expanded operations in Japan, following its formation of a Japan-based subsidiary in 2015. In January of this year, Anheuser-Busch InBev (which is headquartered in Belgium) also retook control of its Hoegaarden brand in Japan, which was until then handled locally by Asahi.

From 2019, Budweiser production in Japan will cease entirely, and instead the brand will be imported into Japan after being brewed in facilities overseas. Whether that will affect pricing and availability is currently unknown, but if you want to taste the end of an era, now’s the time.

Sources: Kyodo via Livedoor News via Jin, Reuters, Kirin
Top image: Kirin
Insert images: Kirin (1, 2)

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