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Orion Breweries, Ltd. (オリオンビール株式会社 Orion Bīru Kabushiki Gaisha ) is the 5th largest beer brewery in Japan, headquartered in Urasoe, Okinawa Prefecture. The company commands approximately 1% of the Japanese beer market. However, it controls over 50% of the beer market on Okinawa.
“There’s only one full-size Okinawan brewery, and Orion Breweries churns out 72 million liters of fresh beer each year to please the palates of Okinawan beer drinkers” (Charles, 2010). Orion Beer is “characterized by a crisp refreshing feel and mild taste. The alcohol content is 5.0%. Hops used to create this beer are Hallertaurer hops from Germany and the malt is carefully selected from the highest quality European and Australian varieties” (Orion Beer Co., Ltd., 2012).
Orion uses water that “comes from springs” out of the mountain “just behind the brewery” (Charles, 2010). Like many breweries, Orion likes to give some credit for the quality of its beer to the source of its water. Orion also has its own ingredients and techniques that could be what makes it special.
Founded in 1957 in Nago, Okinawa during the American occupation of Okinawa, Orion began making beer in 1959. Orion struggled to compete with the other major Japanese breweries, but after changing from a German-style beer to an American-style beer, it gained the top share in the Okinawan market. Orion became the most widely consumed beer in Okinawa, and “the company’s popularity took off as the brew became a more American style beer” (Forte, 2010), but until 2002, it had a market that was limited to mostly Okinawa. Since 2002, Orion has worked together with Asahi Breweries to manufacture Asahi beers in Okinawa, in return for Asahi's assistance in selling Orion beer outside of Okinawa.
Orion made an agreement with Asahi Breweries to increase its market, and it is now distributed much more widely in Japan but had yet to capture a lot of attention in international market. “While Orion Breweries maintains its independence in Okinawa, it is now distributed outside of Okinawa through the Asahi company” (Restaurant Equipment and Supplies, 2012). As a popular beer to those who have been exposed to it in Okinawa, it has great market potential. Some go to great means to be able to acquire this beer in other places. There are many people who prefer it over all other beers, and Orion beer appears to have a great future now that it is being distributed by Asahi Breweries in markets outside of Okinawa.
“At the Orion Beer Nago Factory, specially-selected quality barley and hops from Europe are thoroughly matured in the strictly-controlled brewery process to create beer with flavor that goes well with the climate of the subtropical Okinawa” (Japan-i, 2008). The factory then provides a tour where tourists “can participate… and learn about the ingredients from the staff and also observe the brewery process” (Japan-i, 2008).
Orion Beer emphasizes recycling all its waste, producing "zero elimination". For example, most bottles are tried to be recycled and plastic crates delivering bottles are melted down and re-cast as new crates. The Orion Company is well known for being environmentally friendly and recycles everything. There are many collection centers where the bottles and plastic cases are returned to be recycled. “Recycling is a byword at Orion, with everything being allocated a second life after the beer’s been brewed. Hops, yeast, malt and grains mash are recycled as fertilizers or animal feed, while glass beer bottles are cleaned and sterilized and used an average of 20 times. Even the old, worn plastic beer cases are ground down and remolded into something else”.
Akihito Yagi, 7th Dan in Meibukan Goju Ryu Karate-do, which his late grandfather (Meitoku Yagi) created, and who is the current chairman of the International Meibukan Goju Ryu Karate Association (IMGKA), is a spokesman for Orion beer.
3. Charles, B. (2010, July 22). Orion beer quenches Okinawa thirst. Retrieved from: http://www.japanupdate.com/archive/index.php?id=10485
4. Forte, S. (2012, Nov. 17) Orion Beer Factory. Retrieved from: http://okinawahai.com/2010/11/orion-beer-factory.html
5. Japan-i. (2008). Orion Beer Nago Factory. Retrieved from: http://www.japan-i.jp/explorejapan/kyushu/okinawa/okinawa-northernpart/d8jk7l000000u3g1.html
6. Orion Beer Co., Ltd. (1999-2012). Orion Draft Beer. Retrieved from: http://www.beerpal.com/Orion-Draft-Beer/14419/
7. Restaurant Equipment and Supplies. (2006-2012). Japanese Beer: A Short History and Guide. Retrieved from: http://www.foodservicewarehouse.com/education/japanese-beer-a-short-history-and-guide/c27578.aspx
8. Orion Beer Co.m Ltd. Retrieved from http://www.orionbeer.co.jp/brand/specialx/video.html.