Japan Eats

What We’re Drinking: Sapporo x Royce Chocolat Brewery

Oh my, they certainly weren’t kidding when they named this one.

Normally in such a collaboration, the secondary or nominal ingredient is there for branding more than anything else and is sometimes barely even noticeable. Not so, in this case. While the beer, of course, contains no finished Royce product, it most certainly contains chocolate. I popped open the can, poured it into a frosty pilsner glass, started to raise it towards my face and WHAM!

From nearly a foot away, the chocolate fragrance was almost overwhelming – certainly much stronger than I anticipated, even though cocoa beans outrank only yeast in terms of listed content by volume among the ingredients.

Despite, or perhaps because of its third or fourth place out of four ranking among Japan’s major brewers, Sapporo has turned to some novelty products in addition to the normal same-beer-different-packaging gambit of all the brewers. Space Malt Beer, anyone?

Impressively, given the obvious novelty and probable brief life of Chocolat Brewery, it is made in the “pure” way – of malt, hops, yeast, and water, sans rice malt and corn starch – a recipe to which Kirin, following Suntory’s Malt’s, switched its market leader, Ichiban Shibori, but which Sapporo has not yet adopted for its declining flagship, Sapporo Black Label.

Well, it’s made in the “pure” way plus cocoa beans.

Those cocoa beans and their aroma are what this beverage is all about. It smells like chocolate, nothing else. It tastes like what it is meant to be: chocolate beer, but I cannot honestly say how much of that is taste divorced from scent alone. I’m no scientist, but like all of you reading this, I’ve heard that most of taste is smell. In this case, they are one and the same.

The taste is nowhere near as strong as the aroma of this black lager, but it still exhibits distinct chocolatey flavors. I’d even say there’s a bit of a smoothness, a creaminess to it, but I’m doubting myself, thinking that may just be the smell making me think it even feels like chocolate.

All of this passes quickly, though. For all of its force up front, Sapporo x Royce Chocolat Brewery has even less head retention that most mass-produced Japanese lagers and has an aftertaste that passes so quickly from the tongue that I’d almost recommend drinking it as a palate cleanser. (I’m kidding, of course.)

Don’t let the smell or the transient taste fool you, though, as the can (in the manner of a Chu-Hi can) prominently displays, this is an alcoholic beverage, weighing in at about the same ABV as other Japanese lagers.

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