Japanese Autumn Beers 2012

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.


World Craft Beer Tasting – In Umeda, Osaka


Last Sunday a couple friends and I headed over to Nakazakicho Hall in Osaka’s Umeda area for a World Craft Beer Tasting event, that was on over the weekend of Sept 22/23 2012.


For 3000円 we each received 5 Drink Tickets and a commemorative glass, I for one was quite excited at the prospect of finally being able to drink some nice flavourful beers after spending the last couple months drinking the boring and flavourless watery swill Japanese seem to regard as beer.



Grapefruit IPA – North Island – Hokkaido ~6%

Very cloudy and orange in colour with little head. Hoppy bitter citrus, with a very distinctive sour grapefruit after-taste, almost Puckering. Smell is pleasant and fruity, made for a nice thirst quenching start to the day. 3.5/5



Tamamura-Honten – Shiga Kogen Miyama Blonde – Nagano ~6.5%

Mild, interesting and very easy drinking, sporting an almost non existent head. Thin mouthfeel, light bitter with notes of grains, hops and spices. That said it seemed quite similar to the Pure Blond beer brand I used to drink back in Australia so was a winner in my books. 4/5



Imperial Stout – Minoh Beer – Nagano ~8.5%
Not being a huge fan of stout in general I was quite impressed by this brew, with heavy roasted coffee, dark coco notes it almost tasted like a frothy frappé than a beer. Smooth and medium bodied, texture was very thick and oily, had a bitter chocolate malty finish. Bit heavy to down more than one or two however. 4/5



Racer 5 IPA – Bear Republic – USA ~7%
Very fruity and crisp. Easy to enjoy and a nice change of pace from a regular beer. Taste is sweet and light up front with a nicely balanced caramel hop bitterness in the middle. All in all clean, smooth and very easy to drink. Nice light carbonation. Finish is lingering bitterness with grapefruit and lemon. Perhaps the beer of the day and the only I tried brewed in the USA. No wonder it has sold out by the time I went together a second one! 4.5/5



Imperial Red Ale – Ise Kadoya Brewery – Ise ~6.3%

Reddish amber in colour and very cloudy. Had a nice amount of head, lots of caramel and toffee with a moderate bitterness, made for a nice final beer to finish the day up with.




Asahi Red Eye – Japanese Beer Review


Ok let’s just sat this beverage was omoshiroi to say the least, Asahi Red Eye is a tomato flavored beer that is currently being sold at select konbinis across Japan for a limited time.
I came across it for the first time this afternoon, curiosity getting the better of me and I ha to give it a try. At only 3.5% alcohol it consists of 20% tomato juice and 80% beer and requires shaking before consumption, but does it work????
Well despite how off putting the concept sounds believe it or not it really wasn’t that bad!

Written on the label it says ‘Asahi Red Eye’s silky flavor and refreshing aftertaste goes well with food’ and honestly I bet it does!
The taste was something akin to a Bloody Mary, followed with a subtle hoppy aftertaste, the alcohol however being completely unnoticeable.

Now at 198¥ for a 375ml can its in the upper end of conbini beer prices and although certainly a very different from the average plain inoffensive Japanese beer, I probably wouldn’t drink it again by choice.

As rare as they are, if you come across a conbini that sells them I would recommend giving one a taste 3/5.