Brazilian-Japanese Brewers Invade USA With Unique Recipes

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Most Americans are probably unaware that Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. That lack of awareness may change if the marketing plans of three female Japanese-Brazilian brewers are successful.

Maíra Kimura, Yumi Shimada and Fernanda Ueno, the co-founders of Brazil-based Japas brewery, have teamed with Beerternational, a woman-owned U.S. company, to brew, distribute and sell their beers in the USA. Currently, Japas beer is sold in 10 states: California, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“Our portfolio consists of year-round beers, rotating fruited sour ales and seasonal IPAs, fruited New England IPAs and special one-time releases,” says Kimura, who expects the beers to soon be available in Teaxs and South Carolina.

Ten Japas beers are sold in the USA, including Ichi-Um, a New England IPA with yuzu and cacao, and year-round beers Matsurika, Oishii, Neko IPA and Yuzu Nama Biiru.

Japas aims to combine “Japanese ingredients and concepts in its recipes whenever possible,” says Ueno, who, like her co-founders, was born in Brazil and has Japanese ancestors. The brewery contracts with Chicago’s Great Central Brewing Company to produce its beers in the USA.

The next beers Japas plans to release will be first-time releases, Kimura says. They will be Kimokawaii, a strong sour ale with blackberries, dragon fruit and hibiscus; Sawa Sudachi, a sour ale with sudachi, and Black Daruma, a Russian imperial stout with persimmon.

Kimura explains her love for beer and how she got into the brewing industry.

“Beer has always been my go-to beverage, but it wasn’t until 2009 that I realized one could actually homebrew,” she says. “After some research, I made my first homebrew batch and fell in love with the entire process. Then, in 2011, I went to England to learn how to brew professionally, took a technical course at Brewlab, and obtained a Brewer Certificate from the Institute of Brewing & Distilling. After that, I went back to Brazil and started one of the first contract brands in the country, worked in distribution and learned a lot about the market before we launched Japas in 2014.”

Shimada has a background in design and marketing and fell in love with beer 10 years ago.

“I attended a beer sommelier program with my boyfriend, and I was hooked,” she says. I wanted to gain a deeper understanding about the beer marketplace in Brazil, because craft beer was a very new thing at that time. After taking that course, I started creating labels for other brands and making magazine art for the beer market.”

Ueno credits her father for getting her into the brewing industry.

“My dad instilled in me a passion for craft beer,” she says. “He loved buying craft beer for parties and barbecues, and I went with him to the brewery in my hometown to pick up kegs.”

Ueno began studying food engineering, because she was particularly interested in the production process.

“I also loved learning about food science and brewing,” she says. “During my studies, I started to hone in on fermentation, and that’s when I started to homebrew. In 2009, I got an internship at the same brewery that my dad would bring me to, later became a certified beer sommelier and worked at Cervejaria Colorado, one of the most awarded Brazilian craft breweries. I haven’t looked back since, and I’m so excited for the next evolution of my beer journey with Japas.”

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