Keith Martinez and Jerrel Brantley, co-founders of the boutique beer company Maison Rococo, fell in love with Japan during a trip to Tokyo in 2015. Enchanted by the country's culture of hospitality and cuisine, the two friends, who had met at the University of Chicago, sensed an opportunity.

"Sometimes when you're an outsider it's easier to notice things about society," Martinez says. "We noticed people were drinking a lot of beer — not just men, but women also."

They began researching the Japanese drinks market. Eventually, they hit upon a problem that they believed they could solve: Despite the number of craft brewers in Japan, beer rarely showed up on menus at fine-dining restaurants.