Tohoku Update: Firsthand Reports by Americans
• This year, the event focused on Rob LoBreglio, Co-Founder
and Vice President of Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. in Madison, Wisconsin,
and Michelle Beshaw, Buyer and Merchandise Manager for the Brooklyn Museum.
LoBreglio to Bring His Craft Beer to Miyagi
About Rob LoBreglio
• Rob LoBreglio was making craft beer in his college years in New York as a hobby. According to Great Dane Pub’s website, he apprenticed at Triple Rock Brewery in California after completing his college education. Then he attended the Siebel Institute of Brewing Sciences in Chicago and ventured as far away as Siberia to find inspiration and beer enlightenment. Years of brewing experience has made him Brewmaster.
• LoBreglio and his co-founder opened Great Dane Pub in Madison, Wisconsin in 1994 and have expanded it to five locations. He said that necessities to a successful business were passion, friendships, and community. He has devoted himself giving back to communities.
Relation with Japan
• LoBreglio’s relation with Japan started through his
brother John LoBreglio, who lived in Kyoto in the 1980s and 1990s and
became Professor of Japanese studies at Oxford University in the UK.
Mulling Business in Japan
• After Kiyosawa returned to Japan, LoBreglio and Kiyosawa
had discussed possibility of doing some types of project together. As
popularity of craft beer grew in Japan, they decided to think of the project
• Just about a year ago, LoBreglio was contacted by JETRO, with whom he had connections since his 2014 visit to Japan. JETRO said that a delegation form Miyagi prefectural government would visit Great Dane Pub & Brewing. He met official from Miyagi and was told that certain subsidies would be available for foreign investments. He was interested in the incentives; however, there were significant challenges such as high taxes on beer, aggressive competition from large breweries, financial difficulties for a young business, and lack of good distribution system, especially, into Tokyo. But Miyagi’s incentives were still interesting for him.
• He went to Miyagi last year. Before he went there, Kiyozawa and he helped consult Matsumoto Brewery Co., whose size was similar to his plan in Miyagi. After finishing the work at Matsumoto, they went to Sendai City, capital of Miyagi. “I was very, very pleased to feel, it was a lot like Madison to me. It was young vibrant community that I saw was ready for our style of craft beer,” LoBreglio said. He thanked JETRO for introducing attorneys, accountants, realtors, and other people who would help him.
• One of the most important encounters was Chicafusa
Mohri, owner of the Akiu Winery
• LoBreglio is going to make Miyagi brand of craft beer and wants to expand his beer to Tokyo first, then other cities as long as everything goes well.
Washed Beer Shrine
• LoBreglio met many people in Miyagi and now feels Miyagi
as one of his communities.
Visits of Michelle Beshaw
• Michelle Beshaw was invited to the Tohoku area last September and visited 10 artisans’ places including Ishinomaki Laboratory, Okurayama Studio, and Nitta Textile Arts.
• Only four months after the great tsunami in 2011, local
artisans and designers got together and opened Ishinomaki Laboratory in
the center of devastated area to offer a place where the residents come
together to talk to each other and could learn how to make furniture by
• Okurayama Studio was opened in a mountain about 100
years ago for stone mining that offered jobs for local people when they
were out of farming season. The stones were used for constructions and
grave stones, but the unique feature of the stone, called Date Kan seki
(stone), has attracted artists and sculptors for those decades.
Nitta Textile Arts
• Nitta was opened in 1884 and has provided traditional
safflower dyeing and textiles. The feature of Nitta safflower dyeing is
its abundance of color from bright red to light pink. With combination
of other dyestuff, Nitta produces more than 100 colors. Nitta also offers
handloomed textiles even today.
• After touring 10 artisan places, Beshaw said that traditional
Japan’s art is also very modern. She saw the artisans’ works during the
long recovery process and their creative inspirations, “with their hands,
with their hearts, with their passion, and it was extraordinary experiences,”
About Miyagi Prefecture
• Yoshiyuki Koyano, Director-General for International Affairs, Business and Tourism Commerce, Industry and Tourism Department for Miyagi Prefecture Government, spoke about Miyagi.
• Miyagi is located in the northeast of Tokyo, about
90 minutes from Tokyo by bullet train.
• Miyagi has entered its Development Stage from Reconstruction
Stage (2014-2017) and aims to
• Miyagi’s Prosperous Vision is to make a GDP of $100
billion increased by foreign investment.
A delegation from Miyagi Prefectural Government visits Great Dane Pub & Brewing in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo from LoBreglio's presentation)
Kashima Shrine near a beach of Ishinomaki City (Photo from LoBreglio''s presentation)
A wooden bench made by a team of high school students. (Photo from Beshaw's presentation)
Japanese sake from the Tohoku area was introduced after the presentations.