Grand Kirin Mild Rich

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Japanese Name: グランドキリン マイルドリッチ
Brewer: Kirin
Release: Aug. 5, 2014
Type: Japanese Beer (ビール)
Alcohol: 5.5%
Purchase Price: ¥245 @Lawson

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Tasting Notes:
The second in a recent series of Grand Kirin beers for the convenience stores is Grand Kirin Mild Rich, crafted especially for Lawson. Interestingly, Mild Rich was produced with the ladies in mind, who according to Kirin (and Lawson) want a smooth and mellow beer. Hence Mild Rich was created with wheat and Galaxy hops to impart citrusy-passion fruit flavors.

Possibly due to the wheat, Mild Rich pours out a lovely straw color, just slightly lighter than the standard Japanese lager. It has an incredible nose, much stronger than most Japanese beers on the market. Aromas of fresh wheat, yeast, and citrus create a very powerful image right off the bat. The first gulp is velvety yet has a “chewiness” that is unique, giving a full bodied – yet mellow flavor. Lots of fruity hop flavor comes on the front, but never overwhelms the tastebuds. Mild Rich finishes with a hint of bitterness, that sticks around to keep it interesting.

As with all the Grand Kirin beers, the one word sticks out in my mind is quality. Not only has Kirin created a great beer but they have created a Premium Japanese Beer with a completely unique flavor for Lawson. I find Mild Rich attractive for its smooth rich taste combined with a unique fruitiness that I’ve never come across in Japanese beers. Grand Kirin Mild Rich is a must try, and you’d better get to Lawson quickly as Mild Rich is getting to be quite difficult to find.

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Sapporo Sozai Ippin

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Japanese Name: サッポロ 素材逸品
Brewer: Sapporo
Release: May 20, 2014
Type: Happousei (発泡性)
Alcohol: 5%
Purchase Price: ¥100 @Aeon

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Tasting Notes:
Marking the 40th anniversary of grocery store conglomerate Aeon, Sapporo created this exclusive new genre brew called Sozai Ippin, loosely translated as “Choice Ingredients.” Sozai Ippin is brewed in part with Japanese grown barley and Fine Aroma Hops from the Czech Republic.

Sozai Ippin’s appearance is comparable to your standard Japanese brew. Malt and hop flavors are very light up front, but opens up mid-palate with a little sweetness. At the finish the bitterness kicks in ever so slightly.

At the purchase price of 100 yen per 350 mL can, tax included, Sozai Ippin offers a very nice value. While it doesn’t knock your stocks off with its flavor, it is a solid brew in the new genre category. Sozai Ippin was produced in limited quantities, but can still be found on the shelves of some Aeon stores.

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Suntory Aki no Zeitaku

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Japanese Name: サントリー 秋の贅沢
Brewer: Suntory
Release: Aug. 19, 2014
Type: Happousei (発泡性)
Alcohol: 6%
Purchase Price: ¥112?? @Aeon

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Tasting Notes:
Suntory, instead of brewing their usual Akiraku threw a curveball this year and unleashed Aki no Zeitaku on the masses. Aki no Zeitaku also uses roasted malt, but given Asahi’s disappointment, I have to keep my hopes toned down. Suntory Aki no Zeitaku does win my vote for best package design this fall. Now all I have to do is figure out how to cross my fingers while popping the top. Wish me luck!

Imparted with roasted malt, Aki no Zeitaku pours out a deep amber. The head is has a very yeasty aroma along with a tinge of char. The first gulp is very smooth, the effervescence is not very strong giving a more full-bodied mouth feel. For a darker brew, Aki no Zeitaku is not heavy at all, it has a lot of fruitiness and a reasonable amount of bitterness on the finish.

Suntory has always done a wonderful job of brewing a great tasting new genre beverage for fall, and Aki no Zeitaku is no slouch. While it doesn’t have the total package you’d get with Kirin’s Aki-Aji, Aki no Zeitaku is about 40% cheaper per 350 mL can. If you’re on a budget like me, you can drink an enjoyable beverage without breaking the bank. Suntory Aki no Zeitaku is my pick for this fall season.

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Asahi Fukairi no Aki

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Japanese Name: アサヒ 深煎りの秋
Brewer: Asahi
Release: Aug. 19, 2014
Type: Happousei (発泡性)
Alcohol: 6%
Purchase Price: ¥112?? @Aeon

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Tasting Notes:
For the fall of 2014, Asahi has produced a brand new third tier brew entitled Fuka-iri no Aki. The name stems from the use of fuka-iri malt, meaning deep roasted malt. Even before popping the top, I’m expecting a darker brew with lots of flavor.

Pouring Fukairi no Aki into the glass, its malty aroma permeates the surrounding air. There’s also a strong tang with hints of alcohol present. As expected, it does have a deep amber color. The first gulp fills the mouth with tongue tickling effervescence, it has a very sharp front with acidity immediately puckering the cheeks and numbing the mouth. As for flavor, Fukairi is surprisingly light. The roasted malt, caramel, or other flavors you might expect just are not here. The finish has lots of tang and a slight bitterness.

For a low cost new genre beverage, Fukairi no Aki is not bad, but I can’t say it’s good either. Aside from the color of the roasted malt, little flavor is imparted. And I guess I was expecting a tad bit much from this autumn limited brew, and in the end Fukairi is just too bland to make me want to drink over my daily brew this fall.

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Kirin Akiaji (2014)

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Japanese Name: キリン 秋味
Brewer: Kirin
Release: Aug. 19, 2014
Type: Japanese Beer (ビール)
Alcohol: 6%
Purchase Price: ¥189 @Aeon

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Tasting Notes:
Although it’s still summer, the “Big 4″ Japanese brewers feel the need to bring autumn early each and every year. Keeping with tradition, Kirin released Aki-Aji a few weeks ago for 2014. Aside from a different package design, the flavor of this autumn classic has not changed. Expect a higher alcohol content, a touch more malt, and hefty amount of bitterness.

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Grand Kirin Browny

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Japanese Name: グランドキリン ブラウニー
Brewer: Kirin
Release: Jul. 29, 2014
Type: Japanese Beer (ビール)
Alcohol: 6.5%
Purchase Price: ¥245 @Sankus

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Tasting Notes:
Limited production Browny is the third release in the Grand Kirin line-up, this time produced for the Circle-K Sankus convenience store chain here in Japan. This beer targets the sophisticated tastes of Japanese men in their 40’s and 50’s, aiming to quench their beer drinking desires in just one bottle.

Out of the short 330mL bottle, a gorgeous liquid amber pours into the glass. Its malty aroma flows off the thick head. Your first gulp will entail a full-bodied heartiness from the start, sliding down the throat with a wonderful creaminess and cheek puckering acidity. Flavors of malt and hops stand out, with burnt caramel and a nutty sweetness on the back.

Grand Kirin Browny definitely shows off its “ultra premium” label in its use of quality ingredients and superior brewing technique. And with all of the Grand Kirin beers, Browny is also a winner. As far as full bodied-ness and bitterness are concerned, Browny is a step above most anything on the store shelves. Even while lacking some of the flavors you might find in the macro brew scene, I think it’s safe to say that Grand Kirin Browny will even satisfy the hipster crowd. You can find Grand Kirin Browny exclusively at your nearest Circle-K or Sankus convenience stores in Japan, while supplies last. And a word of caution, don’t drink this one on an empty stomach like I did.

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Sapporo Hyakunin no Kiseki | Shifuku no Brown Ale

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Japanese Name: サッポロ 百人のキセキ 至福のブラウンエール
Brewer: Sapporo
Release: Aug. 5, 2014
Type: Japanese Beer (ビール)
Alcohol: 7%
Purchase Price: ¥237 @Sankus

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Tasting Notes:
Utilizing Facebook and limited online product sales, Sapporo created Hyakunin Biru Labo which means something like, “Beer Laboratory of the People.” With this project, every aspect of the beer from flavor to package design had input from thousands of beer lovers in Japan. From this collaboration was born Hyakunin no Kiseki Shifuku no Buraun Eeru, the name meaning “miracle of the masses, a euphoric brown ale.” It is an all malt ale crafted with aroma hops from Hallertau, Germany and American flavor hops. This beer clocks in at 7% ABV, which is unusual for Japanese beers outside of the new genre brews.

Pouring out Shifuku, you’ll notice the amber color and immediately get a waft of malt coming off the head. Your first gulp will be nutty and chewy, it’s definitely a full bodied beer. The bitterness starts up front and sticks around to the finish. You may notice some citrus and cinnamon notes on the back with well balanced acidity and tartiness grasping the throat.

I think that Hyakunin no Kiseki Shifuku no Brown Ale is proof that the bold flavors of craft beer are not just a one-off fad in the Japanese market place. You’re going to see a lot more full bodied beers from the Big 4 with bold flavors that to date have not been on the store shelves. Sapporo has done a wonderful job brewing Shifuku. It has incredible depth and complexity; it is a huge ale that really puts you in your place. If you find yourself in Japan, head to the nearest convenience store and pick this one up, it is a must drink. Shifuku no Brown Ale is quite possibly the finest macro beer ever to hit store shelves in Japan.

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