Beer in Taiwan
Beer in Taiwan was dominated by monopoly products until 2002, when free trade became law in Taiwan.
The first beer monopoly was held from 1922 to 1946 under Japanese rule by Takasago Beer. Takasago Beer was brewed in light and dark varieties and competed at times against Japanese import beers. Its successor in 1946, Taiwan Beer, remained a monopoly product under one-party Kuomintang rule. Taiwan entered its modern period of multiparty democracy in the 1990s and shed its government monopolies as it joined the World Trade Organization in 2002.
After the liberalization of Taiwanese beer market comes the emergence of craft breweries. Some of the well-developed brands include Le Blé d'Or (金色三麥), Jolly Brewery+Restaurant and North Taiwan Brewing (北台灣麥酒).
The main domestic brand remains Taiwan Beer, brewed by the publicly owned Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation that succeeded the government's monopoly bureau in 2002. Taiwan Beer is primarily sold domestically, though the brewery does make some beer for export to Taiwanese living abroad. In recent years Taiwan Beer has stepped up export to China.
Domestic beer production in Taiwan was more than 400 million litres annually in 2008, with significant volume being used for local consumption. Local beer production accounts for over 80% of total beer consumption in Taiwan. A small proportion of the domestically produced beer is exported.
The 'Beer Wars'
Trade disputes with China led to what is known locally as the "Beer Wars".
Taiwan (under the name Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu) and China (represented by the People's Republic of China) were admitted into the World Trade Organization (WTO) simultaneously in 2002. Beer could now be imported and exported across the Taiwan Strait for the first time.
Foreign labels accounted for just 18 percent of the NT$45 billion (US$1.3 billion) beer market in Taiwan in 2004; Taiwan Beer accounted for all of the remaining 82 percent. Two years later the People's Republic of China refused to allow Taiwan Beer to be imported. Officials cited a law banning the use of county or regional names in commercial products. In Taiwan this argument was hardly persuasive, given the number of products in China already sporting such names, including China's Tsingtao Beer, named for a city in Shandong province. The move was interpreted by many Taiwanese as an attempt to thwart the free trade China had pledged by denying Taiwan proper recognition of its trademarks. A boycott of beers from China was soon under way on the island. The controversy, widely reported in the international press, led to increased recognition of the Taiwan Beer brand.