Japanese Name: アサヒスーパードライ ドライプレミアム
Release: June 2013
Type: Japanese Beer (ビール)
Purchase Price: Free trial
Last summer saw Asahi releasing a premium beer that was exclusively sold for the summer gift giving season called ochugen. Asahi Dry Premium could be purchased in special boxed gift packs for a few thousand yen. Fortunately, Asahi also sent out sample packages each quarter to a few lucky drawing winners. After months of entries, I finally won my trial package last December. Dry Premium has its roots in Super Dry’s lineage, utilizing Super Dry’s special yeast in addition to Japanese Golden barley malt, and adding a little bit of Amarillo hops from my home of Washington State. Interestingly, as a premium beer, Dry Premium is not an all-malt beer, but rather incorporates rice as common to the standard Japanese lager.
Unlike your standard Super Dry, Asahi Dry Premium shows off a deep golden color and sports notes of tangy malt on the nose, while tens of thousands of tiny bubbles combine to form a tempting creamy head. As you take in your first gulp, you’ll find an unexpected lightness on the front end. Towards the mid-palate is where the malt and hops kick in, leaving a nice rich bitter finish going down the throat. In the end the faint acidic tart of malt vinegar tightens up your tongue and cheeks, as you reach for your second gulp.
As Asahi’s first foray into the premium beer market, Dry Premium hits a sweet spot. I think that the keyword here is balance. Whereas other premium beers tend to be on the bitter side, Dry Premium manages to keep bitterness toned down while maintaining a full bodied flavor and thick creamy mouthfeel. It has a very well rounded flavor not going overboard in any one direction, and I think that will appeal to the majority Japanese beer drinkers. On Feb. 18th, Asahi Dry Premium will be released in a 6% ABV version to compete on the top shelf with Suntory’s The Premium Malts, Sapporo’s Yebisu, and Grand Kirin.
Japanese Name: アサヒ クリスタルゴールド
Release: Jan. 15, 2014
Type: Happousei （発泡性）
Purchase Price: ￥116 @Aeon (6-Pack)
Once again, Asahi has produced another new genre brew to celebrate the Olympics. This time they’ve envisioned a brew crafted to represent figure skating. Let’s see if Asahi Crystal Gold deserves to be on the winner’s platform.
I’m quite certain no athletes were involved in the brewing process, but I couldn’t help notice the aroma of sweaty socks as I popped the top and poured my glass, no joke! Fortunately, that same aroma does not transfer to you first gulp, where you’ll find a little malt, a touch of bitterness, and a slight tart acidic finish.
In the end, Asahi Crystal Gold is not terribly impressive. It’s not bad, but is just your standard new genre brew. However, at 6% ABV it may just provide a kick to make the Sochi Winter Olympics a tad more enjoyable.
Japanese Name: グランド キリン ジ・アロマ
Release: Nov. 12, 2013
Type: Japanese Beer
Purchase Price: ￥238 @7-eleven (330 mL bottle)
7-11, the first to bring Grand Kirin to market, has upped the bar with the next level in expensive brews, Specialty Premium Grand Kirin The Aroma. Crafted from American bravo hops with Kirin’s dip hop brewing method, its ingredient list is quite interesting, listing both malted barley as well as malted wheat, in addition to lactose. In any case, on to the show!
This ultra premium beer pours out into the glass with a deep golden hue. Immediately present is a very fruity aroma, a strong presence of lychee fruit along with a hefty serving of malt. In the mouth The Aroma has a very creamy thick feel on the tongue. Its bitterness puckers the cheeks and tingles the tip of the tongue, although the hoppy bitterness eases up its grasp as the beer goes down the throat. It leaves in its wake only full bodied beer flavor and just a hint of fruity sweetness.
Grand Kirin The Aroma leaves you wanting to reach for another bottle, only to find sadness as you realize you only bought one. With complexities not found in your everyday Japanese lager, The Aroma is a must try. Find yours at any 7-eleven convenience store across Japan. Cheers!
Japanese Name: サッポロ 麦とホップ＜贅沢初摘み＞
Release: Nov. 13, 2013
Type: Happousei （発泡性）
Purchase Price: ￥100 @Valor (6-Pack)
The latest in Sapporo’s Mugi to Hop line is Zeitaku Hatsu Tsumami, meaning “luxurious first pick.” Zeitaku Hatsu Tsumami uses freshly harvested Saaz hops from the Czech Republic to create this new genre brew in a style that closely mimics fresh hop beer flavors at an affordable price.
Poured out into the glass, Zeitaku Hatsu Tsumami has a very pale straw color and a nicely formed head, giving off a flowery fragrant nose. In the mouth, your first gulp will envelop your taste buds in a lovely tart, transitioning to a nice bitterness in the back of the throat. As expected Hatsu Tsumami has a very fresh hoppy flavor, much like Kirin’s Toretate Hop.
At less than half the cost of Toretate Hop, this third tier beer is a definite winner. Sapporo Mugi to Hop Zeitaku Hatsu Tsumami is one of the tastiest new genre beers to date, and I ended up buying it by the case-full. Where I live, Zeitaku Hatsu Tsumami is long gone from the store shelves, although I do see it at some of the convenience stores. Do give this one a try if you’re into those fresh hop brews.
Japanese Name: 琥珀ヱビス
Release: Oct. 16, 2013
Type: Japanese Beer（ビール）
Purchase Price: ￥259 @Popula
You know holiday season is approaching when you spot that familiar red can gracing the cooler shelves. Yes, Kohaku Yebisu is back in town and has been for a while now. No doubt you Japanese beer lovers have purchased a few of these to quench your winter thirst. Readers of Beers of Japan know that Kohaku Yebisu is one of my favorite beers here in Japan, so I am quite biased in my review. However, it’s been a while since I’ve written about this one, so here goes.
As the name states, Kohaku pours out a brilliant red in the glass. Its head is very light and frothy displaying a wonderful contrast to that maroon color, while the roasted crystal malt shows off on the nose. Your first mouthful tingles the tongue with effervescence and the bitterness of the hops starts showing off on the mid palate. The full bodied earthiness of malt finishes the gulp, leaving a lingering bitterness that makes you reach for your second gulp.
Kohaku Yebisu never ceases to satisfy. Hurry up an start get yours while it’s still on the store shelves!
This is strong beer. We are using 100% malt. Enjoy the taste of a strong stimulus.
Japanese Name: サントリー フルボディビア
Release: Nov. 5, 2013
Type: Japanese Beer (ビール)
Purchase Price: ￥217 @Lawson
Being sold exclusively in convenience stores across Japan, Suntory Full Body Beer provides beer drinkers in Japan with an all malt beer clocking in at a powerful 7% ABV and is sure to get you in a good mood. Let’s see if this beer is really full bodied.
Even before popping the top, I could feel the alcohol seeping through the can into my hand, at 7% and tasting on an empty stomach I may have met my match. Pouring out with a lovely golden hue, Suntory Full Body Beer gives off a nice aroma with hints of yeast and apple. On the tip of the tongue these sweet flavors continue before turning into a more bitter rich malt on the mid-palate and down the throat. The presence of alcohol is definitely strong, but pleasant.
Well, I survived this tasting and not as terribly buzzed as I thought. Suntory Full Body Beer is a little heavier than some, but not as flavor rich as you might expect. It’s very fruity, like apple juice with the sweetness you might find in a third tier brew. All in all, Full Body Beer is a worthy effort from Suntory, but not as appealing to me as some of the other blended beers they’ve released of late. Still, if you’re looking for something to take the edge off a bad day at work, Suntory Full Body Beer might just be what the doctor ordered.
Japanese Name: グランド キリン
Release: June. 19, 2012
Type: Japanese Beer
Purchase Price: ￥238 @Popula (330 mL bottle)
Grand Kirin was first sold at 7-Eleven convenience stores across Japan last year. Although its exclusivity was stated to only be for short time, only recently did I come across Grand Kirin at another conbini chain, Popula. While picking up a few beers there, I had a hankering from some premium stuff. So here’s an updated tasting.
Pouring out Grand Kirin into my glass, I tried and get a nice head going. The bubbles are miniscule, leading to a uniformly smooth and creamy mouthfeel like you’d find off the tap. Your first mouthful will show off its malt, tons on the front almost bordering on malt vinegar notes without the vinegary acidity. Along with the malt the bitterness from the dip hops kick in right away with the bitterness transitioning through the mid-palate and down the throat. These flavors stick around through the whole glass of beer.
At its price point and limited availability, I’m sure that Grand Kirin isn’t a huge seller. However, it’s one of those beers you’d reach for along side Yebisu or Premium Malt’s. Grand Kirin continues to be an excellent Japanese beer, that’ll satisfy your craving for a more robust flavor than your average Japanese lager.