Tucked away in the quiet suburbs of Mino-o on the outskirts of central Osaka, Japan is the tiny craft brewery of A.J.I. Beer Inc. Better known as Minoh Beer (箕面ビール), the name of the brand of beer they sell, the Kansai brewery rose from relative obscurity when in 2009 it won a coveted award for its stout at the World Beer Awards that skyrocketed it to the upper echelons of Japan’s then still nascent craft beer industry.
Minoh Beer is a true-blue Japanese family-run brewery. Minoh Beer was first founded by the late Masaji Ohshita in 1997, when he – a liquor store operator – decided to open a brewery and put his daughters to work there. The 63-year old brewery president unfortunately passed away in 2012 when he suffered a brain hemorrhage and subsequently falling while working in the brewery.
The late Masaji Ohshita is so well-regarded in Japan’s craft beer circles that ten breweries got together to create the Masaji Beer Project, where each – such as Isekadoya (Mie), Sankt Gallen (Kanagawa), Shiga Kogen Beer (Nagano) and Baird Beer (Shizuoka), amongst others – will create a beer inspired by Ohshita.
His eldest daughter Kaori, who was previously head brewer, took over most of his duties. Much of the brewing work is now done by a husband of one of the three sisters, as Kaori busies herself in the inner workings of growing the business. Mayuko, the second sister, also helps out at the brewery while her husband runs the trio of Minoh Beer Belly bars around Osaka. Even their mother chips in, cutting up the yuzu peel that goes into their seasonal Yuzu White Ale (and using the flesh for making ponzu sauce, which you can buy at the brewery).
Minoh Beer has continued its success with award-winning beers since landing its first title at the World Beer Awards; its Imperial Stout took the titles for Best Strong Stout, Best Porter and Stout, and Best Asian Stout at the World Beer Awards 2010’s awards, while its W-IPA won a slew of awards from the same competition in 2011 to 2014, and the Yuzu White Ale a best Fruit Wheat Beer title in 2012.
The brewery itself is a tiny affair; it should take no more than 15 minutes to see every part of the brewery that’s no larger than the size of three garages. The brewery is currently expanding; it’s recently bought some used equipment from Kiuchi Brewery – which makes Hitachino Nest beers – that will be moved to where the existing taproom is (which will be moved to another building down the road).
Visiting Minoh Beer is essentially free; you only pay for beers – from two taps and bottles in the fridge – you consume at their current taproom. The new taproom, which should be ready in a number of months, should see an expanded menu and may offer light snacks as well.
If you can’t make it out to the brewery, you can visit the three Minoh Beer Belly bars around Osaka which pretty much carries their entire range of brews.
A.J.I. Beer Inc (Minoh Beer) is located at Makiochi 3-19-11 5 Mino Osaka 62-0004 (〒562-0004 大阪府箕面市牧落3-19-11 箕面ビール).