Japanese Name: トップバリュ バーリアル
Brewer: Unnamed Korean brewer in cooperation with TopValu
Release: June 23, 2010
Type: Happousei （発泡性）
Purchase Price: ￥88 @Jusco (Aeon Group supermarket)
Private brands have taken off in Japan, as they have in the US with their combination of high-quality and value, offering both lower prices to consumers while at the same time giving higher profit margins to the retailer. Aeon Group, a giant in the Japanese supermarket industry undercut the lowest price for happousei-type beers last summer when they introduced Barreal under their private label TopValu by almost ￥20 per can.
Barreal, the name was concocted from the words “barley” and “real,” the barley giving a true beer-like flavor. Every time I walk down the Jusco beer aisle, Barreal is staring me in the face, and up until now I’ve been able to stave off my curiosity, but no longer. It’s finally time to see if Barreal is my new value play, or just a waste of ￥88.
The first thing I noticed when opening the can was the flimsy aluminum; the can is one of the areas where they cut costs. Not only is it cheaper to manufacture, but a lighter can fractionally lowers the weight which in turn makes it cheaper to ship. While pouring the glass, I immediately noticed a pleasant malt-like aroma, but unfortunately this aroma does not transfer into flavor. I found the flavor quite light with a hint of sweetness, and tons of effervescence right off the bat. Also, there was a metallic tang constantly hanging around like an unwanted friend. If you were to visualize the flavor, imagine something like Keystone or Coors Light, with a half teaspoon of sugar and the bubbles of seltzer water finishing you off.
In the end, I was expecting a beverage much worse than what I got. For ￥88 you get what you pay for, cheap beer. If you’re trying to stretch out your yen, and need a alcohol laced thirst quencher, this might be for you. It’s definitely more palatable, than the malt liquor I drank in college. I wouldn’t call it a total waste of money, but there are some better options for a little more yen.