Americans do bourbon and burgers. Jamaicans do rum and meat patties. The French do wine and cheese. And the Japanese do sake and giant yellow fin tuna. Few people, however, would associate brewing with the Japanese.
There’s Japanese beer out there that rivals many of the inexpensive beers that can be bought in the “tallboy” or “bomber” size. Those readily available in town are Kirin Ichiban, Sapporo and Asahi.
As I did last week, I painstakingly sampled all three to determine which is best. After several hours of research, I determined that Kirin Ichiban wins best taste, body and aroma. The soft aroma is pleasant, but difficult to point out. It smells a bit creamy and sweet. The barley is slightly noticeable, but I couldn’t put my finger on the exact smell.
I did a bit of research and found that Kirin Ichiban uses a process they call “Premium First Press.” Ok, now it’s time for some nerd jargon. The only way I could explain this is that they don’t sparge their wort. This means that, after they boil the barley (mash) they filter out the sugary water (wort). Many recipes call for about 50 percent more water to be filtered through the mash in order to completely remove all of the sugars from the grain and increase yield. This process is known as “sparging.”
Kirin apparently doesn’t do this and, according to them, it results in a more flavorful beer. Although sparging is an important step in many fine breweries, it is also done to cut alcohol content (gravity) and increase yield. So many bad, watery beers take this step too far.
My second choice was Sapporo. You’ve certainly tried this one if you’re a fan of the Fin Sake Bombs in town. There’s not too much to say about this one except for, “Sweet can!” It’s shaped like a Guinness “tulip” pint glass. A+ to the packaging and marketing people. Other than that, it’s just beer. Not bad beer, but nothing different or spectacular. It’s certainly better than most other inexpensive tall boys though.
Last and definitely least is Asahi. The bottle says, “Super dry” and, “The beer for all seasons.” I’m not too sure about the second claim, although I do agree that it is extremely dry. The taste is gone as soon as you’re done with your sip. I like to savor my beer, not struggle to remember what it tastes like. This beer is great with delicate-tasting food. I had this one with a thick yellow fin tuna steak. I cooked it rare and rubbed it with sesame seeds and pepper corns. It didn’t overpower the fish, so I was happy.
Interestingly enough, Kirin is owned by Anheuser-Busch and brewed in California. Sapporo is brewed in Ontario so they can deceivingly label it as an import. Asahi is owned by Molson and is brewed in Toronto. This, however, is not uncommon amongst many “imports.” Just to name one, the Becks we buy here is brewed in the States.
All in all, these beers are not a bad choice when it comes to tallboys. The price is right, the size is ample, and the taste isn’t bad. Why not try something different next time you grab something from the singles and 40s fridge at the liquor store?