If you’re a true beer lover, you probably think that the very idea of non-alcoholic beer is ludicrous at best, blasphemous at worst. However, in Japan right now the major brewers are actually propping up their businesses with non-alcoholic beers, which means that the relatively low price you pay for your suds is being subsidized by consumers who, for whatever reasons, prefer their grog without the high.
There are two main aspects of beer that contains no alcohol. The first, more obvious one is that people who drink it don’t get drunk, so after pounding a few they can drive (supposedly the reason it was developed), operate heavy machinery, have babies and meet the in-laws without making fools of themselves. The other, less obvious aspect is that if a beverage ‘s alcohol content is less than one percent, no alcohol tax is imposed. The three types of malt liquor — beer, happoshu, and so-called daisan (type 3) — all have taxes attached, with the amount depending on the malt content. Daisan has the least malt content and thus the lowest tax. The average price of a 350 ml can of daisan beverage is between ¥130 and ¥150. About ¥28 of that price is tax.
Right now, alcohol-free beer is selling for about the same price as daisan beer, but since there is no tax, the manufacturer makes theoretically ¥28 per can more than they do for daisan. What needs to be remembered is that production costs for all these beverages, whether they have alcohol or not, is about the same.