It was supported by the Government of the Ryukyu Islands and the U.S. Civil Administration, which helped to initially introduce Orion beer into the local market. Although total beer sales during that first year in 1959 amounted to a dismal 797 kiloliters, hard work mixed together with an intense sales campaign gradually achieved a loyal following among local beer drinkers.
Researchers were able to develop a smooth tasting beer that suited Okinawa's hot and humid climate, and consumer demand began to increase year after year.
The plant produced 180,000 units of 12-ounce bottles per day – or 5,000,000 gallons of beer per year! His enterprise set the pace for advertising and promotion – the naming contest, baseball caps, billboards, and spot ads on Radio Okinawa.
In 1997 sales topped the 63,000 kiloliter mark, making the 40-year anniversary of Orion Breweries Ltd a true success story.
The brewing process begins with fine, imported malt from Germany and Australia, which is carefully boiled and made into a malt base. Later, imported hops from Hallertau, Germany and the Saaz area of the Czech Republic are added. Orion's cereal agents are rice, corn grits, and corn starch. A computer controlled system blends these main ingredients through a series of machines, before the fermentation process begins.
Fermentation occurs with the addition of yeast and takes place in two phases. The first stage lasts for seven days, while the second maturation period takes from 50 to 60 days. After filtration and quality control, the end result is Orion's renowned draft beer.
Over the years Orion has expanded its product line to include Orion Lager, Pils, Dry Draft, and Black Beer. Aroma Tone, which contains a lower percentage of malt, was released to compete with less expensive imports and cheaper mainland beers. Orion Draft, however, still holds its place as the favorite among islanders.
In order to meet one of the highest per capita beer consumption rates of all prefectures in Japan, the Orion plant brews approximately 45 kiloliters of beer eight times a day. It fills up to 200,000 bottles of beer daily, and its canning machine can fill 84,000 cans per hour.
Since its formation, Orion Breweries has employed thousands of workers, and has also supported countless jobs in the distribution sector. It sponsors many large events on the island, and has contributed to the development of the Okinawan economy. Amazingly, it has been able to continue as one of the most widely consumed local products on the market today.
While Orion continues to do business and remains an entirely Okinawan enterprise it does distribute its beer to the rest of the world through the Asahi company. In return the Asahi beer is produced by the Orion brewery.