Clubs at Mercari, Vol.2: How #z-jp-brewery (Japanese Craft Beer Club) Is Connecting Members and Unleashing Their Potential Through Brews

At Mercari, we’ve created a company club system as a part of our efforts to foster communication between our members. Under this system, members of Mercari Group who share the same interests congregate on Slack to chat about their hobbies, hold online and offline events, and interact on a level that erases the lines between teams and job descriptions. Introduced in 2015, our company club system continues to go strong with multiple new clubs being created each month for a total of more than 400 separate clubs (as of June 2023).

Here at Mercan, we are running a series to showcase the color and variety of Mercari’s club activities. In the second article of this series, we’ll be looking at a relatively new club that was formed in April 2023, “#z-jp-brewery” (Japanese craft beer club). Currently one of Mercari’s most beloved clubs, what makes z-jp-brewery so popular? Let’s get into it with four of its members!

Featured in this article

  • Yoshiko Yokozeki (@zeki)

    Yoshiko loves eating, drinking, and traveling. Recently, she has been making her way around Japan to look for new craft beers to try.

  • Martin Pfundmair(@martin)

    Martin has gotten into the world of craft beers over the past few years. He enjoys trying out new brews and has more than 1,000 types logged on his craft beer app!

  • Kana Akiyama (@Kana_san)

    Kana is a big fan of brewed liquors. In her university days, she worked part-time in an area with lots of nice bars, and that’s when she first discovered the fun of bar hopping. Nowadays, Kana is having even more fun visiting all the new dog-friendly bars popping up around Tokyo.

  • Yoshikazu Saito (@yoshikazu)

    Cats, beer, lemon sours, and coffee are some of Yoshikazu’s favorite things. Lately, he’s started to go on walks to try to get healthy, but the highlight of his walks is picking out a snack on the way home to enjoy with a drink. Oops.

With over 70 members in just 3 months, what draws people to z-jp-brewery?

——Hi, everyone!

@yoshikazu: Hello! You know, this might be our first time talking without any drinks in hand. (laughs)

@Kana-san: You’re right! It feels a little awkward. (laughs)

@martin: I know what you mean.

@zeki: Beer or no beer, let’s just keep it fun and casual. Like usual!

——Casual sounds good to me! So, @zeki, I heard you are the original “founder” of the z-jp-brewery club, which was formed in April of this year. What made you want to create a Japanese craft beer club?

@zeki: Before making z-jp-brewery, I had a get-together with a few other members who like beer as a team-building activity. It was so much fun that we wanted to do something similar again, so they asked me to make a beer-related club. At Mercari, there are already some similar clubs like z-beer and z-craft-beer—we thought about joining those existing clubs together, but we figured creating a brand-new club would allow us to start fresh and give us more freedom to hold the kind of events we want. I actually have always been into Japanese craft beers, so that’s when I had the idea to start a club specifically for craft beers brewed in Japan. It’s a bit more of a niche in the beer industry, so I thought I could make it interesting and distinct from the others.

——Fast forward three months, and there are already 70 members! Can I ask the other three of you here what drew you to join z-jp-brewery?

@martin: I’m originally from Germany, so beer is in my blood. Now, I’m especially into craft beer, but there actually aren’t that many kinds in Germany, so it wasn’t until I moved to Japan that I discovered the charm of craft beer. Recently, I’ve been traveling around Japan and trying different brands, so I’ve become quite the expert if I say so myself! That’s why when I saw the z-jp-brewery club, it sounded right up my alley, and I knew I had to join.

——Nice! Can you give us a beer recommendation?

@martin: One of my favorites is Hideji Beer from Miyazaki Prefecture. I especially recommend their dark beer that’s made from chestnuts grown locally in Miyazaki. The beer is extremely rich in flavor, and apparently, it tastes better and better with age. I’ve had a bottle in my fridge for about four years now, which I’m excited about, but my current dilemma is deciding when to finally crack it open. (laughs)

@Kana-san: I’ve never heard of Hideji Beer before! I’ll need to check it out.

I first found out about z-jp-brewery when I saw a Slack post with pictures from their first event. It looked like fun, so I joined the channel. It was one of the first clubs I participated in, since I joined Mercari in July 2022, when we were still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were almost no club activities being held in person during that time, so I didn’t have many chances to meet people outside my own team, and I was feeling a little lonely. Then, in 2023, COVID got recategorized as a Class 5 disease, and it became much easier to go to the office and have in-person events. I wanted to meet and communicate with more people, so I started joining different clubs. However, I still felt a little anxious about joining a club that has existed for a long time, since they might already have an established community or culture. As a newcomer, I felt more comfortable joining a club like z-jp-brewery that was rather new.

@yoshikazu: For me, I had met @zeki from a different club called “z-yanesen,” which is a gathering of fans of the so-called “Yanesen” area (a northeastern region of Tokyo comprising the areas of Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi). At one of the z-yanesen events, @zeki told me about this new club she started, and it sounded like fun. I’m not that knowledgeable about beer, but I enjoy the casual feel of getting to know someone over drinks, so I thought I’d join z-jp-brewery as well. I’m glad I did!

An opportunity to communicate with more people and learn more about Mercari

——So in addition to exploring the world of Japanese craft beers, it seems like one of the appeals is getting to meet other Mercari members. What kind of events have you had so far?

@zeki: For our first event, we had dinner at a restaurant that is run by a brewery near the office. Something I thought was great was how it was a group of members from very different teams and job types, including new-grad hires that had just joined the company. Martin was there, too!

@martin: Yup! I think for most of us, it was our first time meeting, but it didn’t feel weird or awkward, perhaps because of our shared interests. Since most people are mainly working from home, it can be difficult to communicate with people in different teams, so it’s really nice to have opportunities like this through the club system. It was a fun dinner with beer and conversations flowing! I remember it was on a Monday, but it totally felt like a Friday. I completely forgot I had work the next day. (laughs)

@zeki: You’re right, we did bring our Friday-night energy. (laughs) It was a great first event!

For the second event, it was right around Golden Week when many members were traveling around Japan. So, I thought it would be fun to ask everyone to buy some local craft beers from wherever they went, and we could have a tasting party at the office. I announced the event on Slack in April, right before Golden Week, and people started sharing their travel plans and what kind of beers they planned on getting in the thread. I was happy to see other people just as excited as me about it! This one was also a casual event where people were free to come and go. Since it was at the office, I even grabbed a few people who were in the vicinity and (half-forcibly) recruited them to join the club. (laughs)

@yoshikazu: I know from experience, @zeki is very good at promoting this club. (laughs) This tasting party was the first z-jp-brewery event I attended. During Golden Week, I went to visit my family in the Izu Peninsula. I was planning on bringing some bottles of Izu No Kuni Beer, but I ended up drinking them all myself before the event…so I brought some other beers instead.

Putting my lack of self-control aside, I had a great time at the event, including the prep beforehand like going to the supermarket and setting up the event space. As @Kana-san mentioned, there were not many events like this over the past three years due to the pandemic, so it was nice to see the office get back to its lively self again!

@Kana-san: The tasting party was also my first z-jp-brewery event. I thought the theme made it extra fun—I loved hearing about people’s trips and then trying the accompanying beers and snacks that they brought back with them. For me, the best part about it was forming all of these new connections—I think there were about 20 of us—so the next time I see them at the office, I can say hi!

I work in the CS Division as an analyst, but because we handle the personal information of our users, we do not often work with people outside of our own team. In the beginning, even when I would join company-wide All Hands meetings, there were a lot of faces I didn’t know, and it was hard to see where I fit in. As I said earlier, it felt lonely at times. However, thanks to the club system, I’m now able to meet people from various teams and job functions. There are more familiar faces and names, so I feel a stronger sense of belonging in the company.

@martin: I feel the same way. To share a little anecdote from the tasting event, the director of the division I belong to was also there, so I got the chance to speak with him a lot. It was my first time having a proper conversation with him beyond just our usual “hello,” and because it was a casual setting, we ended up talking about a bunch of things, work- and non-work-related. After the event, I reached out to him on Slack and was able to share my ideas for a project I am in charge of. That was actually something I’ve always wanted to do, but up until that point, I felt a little uncomfortable sending my ideas to someone I barely knew, out of the blue. So, I’m glad that I was able to break the ice and form this connection through z-jp-brewery.
An array of dozens of craft beer bottles from all around Japan

Kanpai with members from different teams and job functions

——Is there anything you want to try in z-jp-brewery in the future?

@zeki: We’ve been talking about wanting to do a field trip soon. For example, I know there are some famous craft beer breweries around Okutama and Hon-Atsugi, so I’d love to plan a day trip there.

@yoshikazu: A day trip sounds fun! Personally, I want to try making our own z-jp-brewery beer. I’m actually certified as a “Kirin Draft Master,” which is a certification given to people who acquire the know-how necessary to serve a delicious glass of draft beer. At my previous company, there was a beer server that I was in charge of managing, so one day, I decided to take classes at the Kirin Draft Masters School and get certified. I want to make use of this certification and craft our own original beer!

@Kana-san: I love that. And wouldn’t it be cool to design our own beer glasses to pour our own beer in? Let’s get someone from the Creative Team to join the club and make it happen!

@martin: Nice! One vote for a pint glass shape.

——Endless possibilities! (laughs) And lastly, what kind of club do you want to make z-jp-brewery?

@zeki: I want to make it a club that everyone feels comfortable joining—you know, keep it casual with a low barrier to entry. I don’t want anyone to feel like the club is exclusive or that they can’t participate. As the club manager, I’m going to do my best to maintain this kind of welcoming vibe.

@martin: I’m with @zeki. I want the club to continue being a space for people to enjoy chatting and getting to know each other better.

@yoshikazu: Right—the more people and the more diversity, the better! Lately, there have been a lot of members who just joined the company, and I feel that more and more people are hearing about the club through word of mouth. I think the biggest appeal about z-jp-brewery is the people and the opportunity to expand your network.

@Kana-san: I agree. In z-jp-brewery, there are people from diverse teams and backgrounds of expertise. Through all of us connecting, I can imagine a scenario where someone is facing a difficult work challenge, but with this newly formed network, they are able to join forces with other teams and overcome the issue with more ease. I’m excited to see the possibilities with this kind of collaboration.

@zeki: Wow, what I learned today is that we sound much better sober. (laughs) Jokes aside, as the club manager, it brought me lots of joy hearing all these lovely stories about the club. Again, we are always open to new members, and you also don’t need to know anything about beer—anyone is welcome! If you join Mercari, come hang out with us!

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