Japan Eats

Japan Booze Blind: Kyushu (Part II)

Christopher Pellegrini samples an Alt and a Kölsch from Miyazaki’s Aya Brewery

Back in Kagoshima City after a wonderful trip to Miyazaki Prefecture to visit the good people at Kuroki Honten Distillery, we found ourselves a nice place under the cherry blossoms and cracked open a couple of souvenirs that we brought back with us.

Watch Part I.

Watch Part III.

Japan Booze Blind: Baird Fall Beers

Host Christopher Pellegrini discusses fall beers with the Baird Nakameguro Taproom’s Marco McFarren.

Following up on our Summer Beers episode shot earlier this year at the Nakameguro Taproom, Baird’s Marco McFarren kindly invited us back for a quick run-through some of their maltier selections.

In this video Marco introduces Christopher to Big Red Machine, Angry Boy Brown Ale and their Baltic Porter, all of which are currently on tap at the Nakameguro and Harajuku Taprooms. As the mercury continues to fall in Tokyo, these richer ales match the weather outside as perfectly as the summer ales did back in July. Read more

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! Read more

What we’re drinking: Asahi Super Dry

It's dry, but I don't know if it's 'super' dry...

It's dry, but I don't know if it's 'super' dry...

Now here’s an example of a beer that can be found everywhere in Tokyo. It’s in every alcohol-selling convenience store, supermarket, and mom-and-pop liquor shop. The only places you can’t find it is at hyper-discounted grocers such as “Lawson 100” where’s it’s just a bit too expensive to fit into that price range. Otherwise, rest assured–you’ll find it.

Which is, of course, a reasonable indication of what you’re in for. Easy-drinking and crisp it is. Complex and worth writing home about it is not. This is a session beer, a BBQ-lover’s beer, a vending machine beer.

And to make sure that I don’t get too negative here, I’d like to reiterate that it’s easy to drink. The carbonation and dry finish are refreshing and (obviously) bring people back for more.

We’re definitely going to have to do a few Japanese rice lagers on an upcoming JBB show though. They are just as similar to each other as the light beers in North America can often be. I’d be very surprised if I could identify one out of three correctly in a blind taste testing.

That said, I’m a huge fan of the Kirin Beer facilities near Namamugi station down towards Yokohama. I’ve been on that brewery tour no less than three times. Several good brews can be had both in the tasting room and in the small-scale brewpubs located on the vast premises.

What we’re drinking: The Premium Malt’s (Suntory)

The gold can excites me.

The gold can excites me.

Why does it have a possessive apostrophe in the name of the beer? What is it possessing exactly? Me? Well, maybe.

This is definitely one of my favorite Japanese lagers, of the German Pilsener persuasion to be exact, and I drink more than my fair share of it each week. It also accompanies me on any occasion where BYOB is in order: picnics, ball games, work, etc.

From front to back, this beer doesn’t disappoint. It sports a good balance of hops, malt, and carbonated burn, and it doesn’t get too nasty if it warms while drinking pensively. This beer, to my knowledge, can’t be purchased in Japan for less than 200 yen, and the best price in my neck of the woods at the moment is 218 yen at the Seiyu on the corner.

And it can be found everywhere. It’s a staple in restaurants where it can frequently be had in draft version, and nearly every convenience store in the Tokyo metropolitan area carries it. It’s my recommended choice of brew if you’re going to a friend’s house for a party and you want to look like you care.

Boozehound: rice lager for US$13 per sixer

I’m not gonna lie: I love beer. I’m just as prone as the next guy to losing a night on whiskey or wine, but beer is my first love.

And I like the beers that are generally on offer in this part of the world. The mass-produced stuff is OK, easy to drink and all that, so long as you stay away from Happoshu and the third level beer imitator that we perused in the pilot episode of Japan Booze Blind.

But I’m not gonna lie: the supermarket variety of beer in Japan, I’m talking about the Asahi’s, Kirin’s, Sapporo’s, Ebisu’s, Suntory’s, and Orion’s of the world, ain’t worth what you pay for it.

It costs between 220 and 260 yen for a decent can of beer over here. ‘Decent’, in this case, means that it’s better than everything else on the shelf. Not a very helpful explanation, I know. If I had to make a comparison in terms of quality, which is obviously an exercise in extreme subjectivity, then I’d say that the best mass-produced beers are on par with Michelob Amber Bock or one of the other craftesque macrobrews. In other words, it’s drinkable, but it’s not something to write home about.

Now here’s the big question: would you pay US$2.50 for a bottle of Amber Bock? Didn’t think so. I might pay that amount for two bottles, but not one. But that’s basically what you have to fork over for a single can of OK beer over here.

Where I’m from in the states (Vermont), you can often get a sixer of Otter Creek or some other quality microbrew for US$6.30 (including the deposit). That works out to about 100 yen per bottle.

Crazy.

So it’s not that Japanese beer is bad; it’s just that it’s flagrantly overpriced considering the quality. You can blame taxes for that, but the beer would likely still be overpriced even without them.

Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there. It’s just an important thing to remember when watching the JBB videos on this site. The folks on camera may not always have good things to say about what they’re drinking, but they sure as hell paid good money for it.