You’ve had Japanese beer with your sushi, I’m sure. But have you ever really thought about it? Like electronics, Japanese beer is an innovation, not an invention. The Dutch brought beer to Japan when they established beer halls for their sailors. Later, the Germans brought their beer and cemented its popularity.
The Japanese started brewing their own version of beer shortly after the Meiji Era. A lot of Japanese people brew their own beer, and Japan also has three major breweries. The three breweries are Sapporo, Asahi and Kirin. The main product of all three companies is a lager beer.
The Japanese also have their own version of a wine cooler. They called this happoshu, and it is it low malt sparkling alcoholic beverage. Because of the low malt content, they can avoid paying the high tax rate of beer. This means they can sell it in places more easily accessible to the public.
The three main breweries in Japan are nationally recognized as beer. Even though many towns make their own beer, most establishments are restricted to serving the nationally recognized brands. To become nationally recognized as a beer in Japan, your beverage has to have at least 67 percent malt.
Japan is well-known for its liberal laws on where alcohol can be sold. The fact that you can find beer in kiosks and vending machines is much talked about by tourists who visit. What is overlooked are the stricter laws about conduct after alcohol consumption. Even though you can buy your beer from a vending machine in Japan, you don’t want to drive or even ride a bike after drinking. The punishment for such an offense is severe.
There are two new breweries there up and coming in the Japanese market is well. One is Orion, and one is Suntory. The increasing popularity of sushi and Japanese restaurant and culture in general all over the world has increased the availability of Japanese beer world-wide. Now you can get most brands of Japanese beer any place beer is sold.
The available brands of Japanese beer include: Asahi Super Dry, Asahi Black, Asahi Hon-nama (happoshu), Kirin Lager Beer, Kirin Ichiban Shibori, Kirin Tanrei (happoshu), Sapporo Black Label, Sapporo Yebisu, Hokkaido Nama-shibori (happoshu), Suntory Malt’s, Suntory Super Magnum Dry (happoshu), Orion Draft Beer and Orion Special. It may be harder to find Orion and Suntory, because they are new. Most restaurants in the United States offer Kirin or Asahi.
Just like in America, people in Japan enjoy salty snacks with their beer. The most popular of these salty snacks is salted edamame beans. Edamame beans are soybeans, and are recently available in the United States. You might want to try them the next time you have Japanese beer. Most grocery stores carry them in the International food aisle.
Japan is the country of custom. Beer is no exception. If you find yourself fortunate enough to have a Japanese beer while visiting Japan, be sure to follow custom. For example, it is considered customary when drinking with a friend or colleague to pour some of your beer for them first. It is also customary to socialize with friends or colleagues in one of Japan’s many outdoor beer gardens. Throughout the spring and summer these beer gardens are the place to be in Japan.
Another custom in Japan has to do with the beer itself. All of Japan’s breweries traditionally brew seasonal beers. In fall, for example, they brew a heavier beer with higher alcohol content and advertise it as going well with one pot meals. The summer beers are lighter. They take great pride in pairing beer with food.
One thing that’s nice about Japanese beer is it’s light texture and great flavor. If you enjoy light beer you might find some of the Japanese beers to be a good substitute for the less flavorful American beers like Bud Light. Many of them even win taste tests against such heavy hitters as Amstel Light and Heineken.
No matter what your preference in American beer, you shouldn’t overlook Japanese beer when you decide to try something new. You might be pleasantly surprised that the light flavorful taste. You will also be happy to know that many Japanese beers are less expensive than other imported beers.