Tackling The Beer Bias - Meet The Women Behind Brazil's Brewing Revolution

Inspired by tradition, yet brewing for the future - meet the founders of Japanese-Brazilian beer company Japas Cervejaria, who together, are tackling the beer bias head on

By Hannah Connolly

4 August 2021

n 2020 the global beer market had reached a total value of a staggering $623.2billion. But it's not an industry willing to share, gatekept by conglomerate gargoyles that do all in their power to keep the brewing bias towards women alive and well.

The beer industry has had somewhat of a reckoning in the last few months as UK-based brewer Brienne Allan asked her female Instagram followers to share their experiences of working in the industry. She was met with over 800 responses, detailing encounters of demeaning comments, disbelief that women could be the owners of their brewing companies and accounts of sexual harassment at work.

What is developing is the brewing industry's very own #MeToo movement, with Allan having now set up a platform for women to share their experiences. Speaking this week with head brewer of south London’s, Coalition Brewing, Allan discusses the issues women face in a new podcast and outlines the things that need to change.

At The Stack, we think it is time to call last orders on the brewing industry’s blatant bias towards women, here we caught up with Brazillian brewers Maíra Kimura, Yumi Shimada and Fernanda Ueno who are tackling this bias head on with their brewing company Japas Cervejaria. Establishing a business model of interconnectivity and support of fellow women-owned businesses.

Named after the Japanese jasmine flower, the Matsurkia Pilsen is one of Japas Cervejaria hero products available year round.
Image by @japascervejaria

'At The Stack, we think it's time to call last orders on the brewing industry’s blatant bias towards women'

The First Round - Establishing a Brand Voice

Japas Cervejaria is a brand born from the midsts of conversations and meetings from within the bars of Brazil. A team built based upon their similarities, realising the power of unity in three of the few women - and incidentally some of the only Japanese descendants - in the brewing industry. Armed with a collective goal of highlighting that “when we decide to come together, women can and should participate in environments generally considered to be masculine.” Aiming to prove everyday that “beer has no gender”. This is the mantra of the Japas Cervejaria business model and this ideology is key to their success.

“We met a long time ago” said Fernanda, “we all worked in the brewing industry in some way before and we met several times through beer festivals, bars and beer sommelier courses, but there was this one Facebook post that really brought us together. The picture had the caption “Japas of the Beer Industry, so everyone just started to tag the other girls and that's how we got together” prompting the women to begin experimenting with the idea of setting up a business.

Japas, has in Brazil, been used to describe Japanese descendants, often without their consent. Japas Cervejaria aims to reappropriate that word and has crafted a business around the union of Japanese and Brazillian influences.

The founders explained, “The term ''Japa” or ''Japas” should never be used outside the context of our brand name. Remember to always call people by a name. In our case, we want to resignify this term so that we can use it with pride and show who we are: Japanese-Brazilians.”

“Women can and should participate in environments generally considered to be masculine.”

It is, in fact, Brazil that has the largest community of Japanese descendants outside of Japan itself, with around 1.6 million Japanese-Brazilian people living in São Paulo alone, largely due to a treaty signed by the two respective countries with Brazil permitting Japanese migration in the early 1900s.

Crafting formulations and a brand identity with a truly authentic narrative voice, inspired by the past, of heritage and of tradition but very much brewing for a contemporary customer. “This is something we love to do, discovering our history and to share and learn about Japanese culture together with our customers - because we are not Japanese right, we are Brazillian and we make sure people know that because it is a journey of discovery for us too.” says Fernanda. “Each product that we create, we speak about the history, the connection between Brazil and Japan and this happens authentically at the start of each product, never afterwards,” adds Yumi.

Yumi’s design principles mirror the ethos of the company at large, collecting vintage paper cuttings and creating the product designs physically before digitising them giving the graphic and visual identity a stunning sense of authenticity.

Working deftly to create the brand's logo and tags which is representative of both the Japanese and Brazilian flags, which help the three founders to explain their “origins and purpose, propagating Japenese-Brazilian culture within a feminist context.”

The first beer brewed by Japas Cervejaria continues to be their best seller, formulating the ever popular wasabi infused Wasabiru IPA in 2014.
Image by @japascervejaria

Pulling The Pint - Formulating A Best Seller

In 2014 the first steps were taken towards creating their early recipes: playing with home brewing kits “we made 40L batches and tried different ingredients, then we met again in São Paulo to try them and our favourite was the wasabi flavour. So we brewed an even bigger batch of 700L and it sold out in two days” Says Fernanda. Establishing a distinctive USP that made the brand instantly recognisable and it was from here that the trio began to expand their product offering.

Starting with Matsurika, a bohemian pilsner that is infused with Jasmine flowers which alongside the wasabi flavoured IPA Wasabiru and the ginger and orange peel infused wheat based beer Oishi, quickly became the brand's hero products. Working from a brewery just outside of São Paulo, the team devises at least one new beer on a monthly basis “we work with seasonal ingredients so we like to play with different flavours, styles and concepts” explains Yumi.

Tall Orders - Distribution On An International Scale

Japas Cervejaria has been consumed across three continents. In their native South America the brand is a cult favourite and having recently just introduced the first highball beverage (premixed cocktail), to the Brazilian market, they are quickly establishing themselves as game changers with their products stocked in over 180 bars across Brazil alone. In the US, their beers can be found in 8 states. “We could have been in 12 States but we are selling so quickly we can't keep up with demand, so it's a problem but it is a good one and we are working to fix it.”

Recently in the UK, the ever popular Matsurika featured as a part of the BrewDog monthly subscription package and symbolises the start to Japas’ entrance into the European market, currently distributing on a full time basis in The Netherlands. “What we are doing is getting European exposure because the plan is to start brewing in Europe.”

Setting The Bar - Working Towards A Better Future

Whilst the brewing industry finds itself in the midst of its very own reckoning, the attitude and business model of Japas Cervejaria is setting the tone for a progressive approach to forging networks of support for women-helmed businesses.

In the company's handbook, Maíra, Yumi and Fernanda detail the ethos of their brand declaring a commitment to support small businesses embodying the understanding that: “together we are more” and vow to never “demote competitors” or utilise any terms that exclude any group or individual.

“It's not been easy. People still sometimes don't trust that we do good beer as women. They don't think we do things behind the brand" said Fernanda. “It's their problem not ours, if they want to judge we will just prove them wrong” adds Maíra. Yet, collaboration with other small businesses and their commitment with working with a women-helmed brewery premise means Japas Cervejaria are only continuing to go from strength to strength. "We make sure that we always support other companies like us, the brewery we work with in Brazil is owned by a woman and they hire women in every department - that's why we work with them and that's why we work so well together" explains Fernanda.

As the founders of Japas Cerverjaria shine as beacons within their fields there is much that still needs to be done to further womens' careers within the brewing industry.

The name of this beer means "yummy" in Japanese - the Oishii Whitbier is amongst the baseline offering of Japas Cervejaria
Image by @japascervejaria

The Short Stack

As the beer industry finds itself in the midst of its own #MeToo movement, The Stack catches up with the founders of Japas Cervejaria and finds out how they are tackling the beer bias through their plans for international expansion

By Hannah Connolly

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