Abstract: The Brewery as Laboratory: Asians in the Beer Brewing Profession, Early Twentieth Century

Jeffrey Pilcher


The European brewing industry has been one of the driving forces in the rise of consumer cultures around the world in the past two centuries. A bottle of lager beer is simultaneously exotic enough to evoke desire in non-western societies yet affordable enough for regular consumption, at least by the middle classes. This paper uses actor-network theory to examine the brewery as a ''laboratory'' of science, commerce, and modernity in early twentieth-century Asia. Harald Fuess has demonstrated the importance of German professionals in shaping the development of the Japanese brewing industry, which in turn exerted a colonial influence over beer production in neighboring countries, including China, Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines. The influence of lager beer and German technology is indisputable, yet Japanese and Filipino brewers also made considerable strides in acquiring brewing skills and science and even in making independent contributions to the transnational brewing profession. By examining the networks of migration and technical communication among brewing professionals and plant breeders connecting Asia with Europe and North America, this paper looks for evidence of the localization of European beer in Asia.