Being a country that is ever enthusiastic about the turning of the seasons, there are many Japanese cuisines that are strongly tied to each and beers are no exception.
With the coming of Aki 秋 (Autumn) three of the largest breweries Kirin, Asahi and Suntory released seasonal variants of their flagship beers.
Kirin Aki Aji 秋味 (Autumn Flavour)
Compared to many other Japanese beers which tend to be weak, inoffensive and forgettable. Kirin Aki Aji 秋味 (Autumn Flavour) was a nice change, being a lager it tasted like something akin to an Asahi dry, the mouth-feel quite strong and dominating. Was quite a full bodied beer, with a deep golden colour and a good amount of head, leaving the mouth with a slightly bitter after-taste. At 6% alcohol the content is slightly noticeable and lets just say I can’t imagine the average Japanese businessman being able to throw back too many.
Compared to the other autumn seasonal beers, the Kirin offering was about 35% more expensive at 217¥ a can since it is real beer. Would I be drinking it again through the autumn season though? Well probably not as it’s a tad expensive and calorie ridden, also I have lived in Japan long enough to become accustomed to bland tasteless beers so this is a bit too strong for my palate.
Asahi Akiyoi 秋宵 (Autumn Evening)
Asahi Akiyoi 秋宵 (Autumn Evening) is the autumn offering from the ever popular Asahi brewery, like the other Japanese Autumn brews it too comes in themed packaging with the seasonal slightly elevated alcohol content of 6%.
At only 141¥ a can as opposed to the somewhat pricey Kirin Autumn Brew, Asahi Akiyoi scored points in my books from the get-go! However the cheaper price is actually because this is a ‘third-category beer’ know in Japan as dai-san no biru 第三のビール第三のビール (or Daisan for short).
Basically alcoholic beverages in Japan are taxed on a sliding scale not according to alcoholic content but in fact the malt content! ‘Second category’ Japanese beer known as happoshu 発泡酒, which is a term referring to a beer-like beverage with less than 67% malt content, these beverages fall into the lower tax category and are priced accordingly. The ‘third-category beer’ or ‘dai-san no biru’ has no malth malt at all and is instead made using substitute ingredients such as peas, corn and soy beans. Unfortunately more often than not happoshu and dai-san no biru beverages are less than tasty sporting an unpleasant metallic like taste.
Anyhow the beer itself was a light straw colour, smooth and refreshing with a very strong carbonation that said nothing amazing. Its kind of worrying how a beer with a 6% alcohol content can be so easy drinking however so if you cross paths with this one go easy 😛
Suntory Akiraku 秋楽 (Easy Autumn)
Last and possibly least is Suntory’s Akiraku 秋楽 (Easy Autumn), despite the alluring packaging, dark maple colouring and short lived creamy head, shortly after cracking it open it quickly went flat leaving it unappealing and tasteless.
Similar to the Asahi Akiyoi it was priced at ¥141, as this is in fact once again not real beer but another Daisan (third-category beer) being made from roasted malt. Along with the other Autumn beers it sports an alcohol content of 6%, although not entirely undrinkable its hardly worth the yennies, would be best to give this one a miss.