Kirin Ichiban Shibori Premium

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Japanese Name: 一番搾り プレミアム
Brewer: Kirin
Release: June, 2014
Type: Japanese Beer (ビール)
Alcohol: 5.5%
Purchase Price: ¥280 (330mL bottle) @Aeon Liquor

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Tasting Notes:
June of 2014 saw the release of the first “premium” beer from the Ichiban Shibori line, however it was only sold in their Ochugen gift sets in 330mL bottles. Since I do not purchase these gift sets, it was a beer I never thought I’d get my hands on. But by chance, I snagged a single bottle being sold at my local grocery store the other day. Ichiban Shibori Premium was brewed under the supervision of Kirin’s Braumeister Takamasa Kurokui, and is made with a generous amount of Kaikogane hops from Yaiyu, Akita Prefecture. In addition to its gift sets, Kirin will be releasing Ichiban Premium to restaurants starting May 13th.

Ichiban Premium pours out a standard straw color, with a decent layer of foam. Immediately noticeable is the fragrant hoppy and cider-like aroma that comes off the head. It is quite flavorful up front, but quickly lightens up leaving a smooth, clean malty finish with a round bitterness. The flavors are quite light, but do build somewhat throughout the glass, evening across the palate. The overall taste is a little sweet, with hints of red apple with some kiwi like acidity.

This beer travels down a completely different path than the standard Ichiban. Kirin’s brew master did a wonderful job of putting a completely different spin on the Japanese lager. The flavors are very complex, building with each sip, yet this beer remains very easy drinking. I would love to try this one on tap and would not hesitate to purchase Ichiban Premium as a seasonal gift pack for a coworker. Cheers!

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Hokkaido Brewing | Otaru Bakusyu Pilsner

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Japanese Name: 北海道麦酒醸造株式会社 小樽麦酒ピルスナー
Brewer: Hokkaido Brewing
Type: Japanese Beer (ビール)
Alcohol: 5%

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Tasting Notes:
On the coast of the Sea of Japan in Hokkaido is the port town of Otaru, home to Hokkaido Brewing Company. In addition to its beer line-up, they also produce chuhi and high ball bottled beverages. Tonight, I’ll be tasting their canned pilsner which is made from organic malt and hops.

This pilsner pours out a deep orange color in the glass with a superbly creamy head. The fragrance of yeast and malt come off the pour and give off a “chewy” bread like quality that is quite nice. Otaru Bakusyu has a thick mouth feel and boarders on the sweet side. It does pack a ton of flavor from the malt up front, which slowly dissipates across the palate leaving a clean, light finish with hints of honey and a touch of bitterness.

Otaru Bakusyu is a very easy drinking pilsner. For my personal tastes, it is a tad sweet, but I like its flavorful start and the hoppy bitterness that sticks around from gulp to gulp.

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Susukino Brewery | Sapporo Susukino Biru

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Japanese Name: ススキノビール ピルスナー/缶
Brewer: Susukino Brewery
Type: Japanese Beer (ビール)
Alcohol: 5%

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Tasting Notes:
Microbrews are a rarity here at Beers of Japan, so it’s nice to sample what’s going on in Japan’s craft brew scene. Tonight we have an all malt pilsner from Susukino Brewery in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Here’s the lowdown.

This pilsner pours out a very light straw in the glass and has a wonderful creamy head that sticks around throughout the glass. It’s a lighter, smoother beer, yet has some complexities not found in the regular store shelf varieties. Susukino has a hearty mouthfeel with an acidic maltiness combined with bitterness from the hops. The finish is not terribly clean as to keep all the flavors of malt and hops on the palate.

Susukino no Biru is a very nice brew targeting the larger audience. I imagine this is a transition beer for the brewery. For customers venturing into the craft beer scene, you don’t want something that’s gonna knock their socks off with a over the top flavor profile. This one gives a very nice starting point, that will make their customers want to sample their other flavors.

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Asahi Craftsmanship Dry Pale Ale

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Japanese Name: アサヒ クラフトマンシップ ドライペールエール
Brewer: Asahi
Release: Mar. 24, 2015
Type: Japanese Beer (ビール)
Alcohol: 5.5%
Purchase Price: ¥249 @Popula

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Tasting Notes:
Placed on convenience store shelves just last month was Asahi’s second brew in its Craftsmanship series, Dry Pale Ale. It is an all malt beer using Cascade hops, top fermenting yeast and additional select hops, of which a portion is added by hand.

Dry Pale Ale is a fiery burnt orange color in the glass. It pours to a thick creamy head, which gives off a wonderful fruity aroma. The hops envelop the mouth in flavor right off the bat, slowly spreading across the mouth and down the throat, leaving a perfect amount of bitterness on the tongue.

This medium bodied beer is one of the better beers I’ve come across recently. Usually, pale ales are strongly hopped but Asahi’s take on the pale ale is a more laid back approach. I think they give this ale just the right amount of hoppy goodness to not over power the taste buds. And that makes for a truly flavorful beer that makes me wish I’d bought another can yesterday. Dry Pale Ale is delicious!

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Sapporo Lager’s High

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Japanese Name: サッポロ ラガーズハイ
Brewer: Sapporo
Release: Apr. 21, 2015
Type: Happousei (発泡性)
Alcohol: 7%
Purchase Price: ¥102 @Aeon

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Tasting Notes:
Just released today is Lager’s High from Sapporo. Brewed exclusively for the Aeon Group for a limited production run, Lager’s High features the use of three types of select hops and a seven percent alcohol by volume that will surely make the walls spin after a few.

This new genre brew pours out a fairly deep gold in the glass, with a generous amount of creamy foam. Lager’s High sports a malty aroma that does not come with an overpowering alcohol odor. The first mouthful contains a hearty body with a round malt flavor and a decent amount of bitterness. The 7% ABV is a bit overpowering, and you can really taste the alcohol across the palate, especially on the backend.

Sadly to say, I’m not a huge fan of the third tier brews with their 7% ABV. The alcohol completely takes over and masks any of the decent ingredients used. Lager’s High’s front to mid flavors are very nice, being full-bodied and well-rounded. However, the back end’s hoppy bitterness is overridden by the alcohol content. The finishing flavor is just acrid bitterness. Sapporo usually does well in the new genre category, but I’ll have to pass on Lager’s High. There are better fish in the sea.

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Kirin Nodogoshi All Light

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Japanese Name: キリン のどごし オールライト
Brewer: Kirin
Release: Jan. 27, 2015
Type: Happousei (発泡性)
Alcohol: 2.5~3.5%
Purchase Price: ¥105 @Aeon

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Tasting Notes:
For those of you in Japan who have been hitting the bottle a little too hard and your body has paid the price, Kirin may have just brewed up the solution. Nodogoshi All Free features reduced calories, zero purine bodies, and zero carbs. It also possesses an ingredient list that includes red wine extract, soy proteins, and other delicious goodness.

Pours out a nice golden color in the glass, yet gives off an unappealing sweet aroma standard to these “diet” style beers. The first gulp reminds me of the many non-alcoholic beers on the market. Its got a full bodied somewhat malty flavor with a bit of sweetness up front. Everything normalizes mid-palate showing off some malt and a little bitterness. On the back end, there are hints of apple and grape-like fruitiness, and interestingly… tootsie roll?!?

Quite frankly, Nodogoshi All Light is not something the average person should be drinking. However, for those people who have dietary restrictions it is a worthwhile option. In comparison to some of the similar brews on the market, All Light is one of the more drinkable ones.

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Suntory The Premium Malt’s Hatsu-Jikomi

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Japanese Name: サントリー ザ・プレミアム・モルツ〈初仕込〉
Brewer: Suntory
Release: Jan. 20, 2015
Type: Japanese Beer (ビール)
Alcohol: 5.5%
Purchase Price: ¥205 @Aeon

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Tasting Notes:
Receiving a lot of interest off of its 2013 Hatsu-Jikomi limited campaign, Suntory decided to bring their Premium Malt’s Hatsu-Jikomi beer to market. It is brewed with Saaz Fine Aroma hops and Eastern European (Czech) Diamond Malt… hey just like the new version of Premium Malt’s. Let’s see if there’s anything different!

Pour Hatsu-Jikomi out in standard Suntory fashion to get a perfect head, and bring out all the flavors (or so they say). It has a nice malty aroma, nothing special though. This beer is quite light, almost like a doughnut. The center is a little watery, but the ring going around the inside of the mouth has hints of malt and a nice crisp bitterness. Aside from the bitterness, I can’t really pick out any flavors.

The Premium Malt’s Hatsu-Jikomi is a very straight forward beer; it’s a very good easy drinking pilsner. However, I must call out its blandness. There isn’t anything in its flavor profile that stands out, and to be perfectly honest, this one from Suntory is just boring. If you’re gonna pay top dollar for a premium beer, there needs to be something special. I just don’t think Hatsu-jikomi lives up to its price point.

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