One more month left to go until 2014. It's time to look around and take stock of new beers brought out in 2013 by the four major breweries in Japan: Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo, and Suntory. I'll discuss them each in a separate post. I'll also give the style, alcohol by volume, and the current RateBeer weighted average score followed by my rating score (out of a possible 5), keeping in mind that most of them have fewer than ten ratings.
We'll start with eight beers from Asahi.
Asahi Royal Pils (Pilsener 5%) 2.87 / 3.1
The tastiest new brew they made this year. It has a fresh and spirited nose -- grass, bitter lemon, and just a little cardboard. Medium sweet malt, some good bittering in the mid palate, and then it goes out single file in a decent balance. Well-mannered and smooth. The major beer-makers in Japan can make such clean and consistent brews.... just wish they’d give ’em more character.
Asahi Bitter Premium (Premium Lager 6%) 2.82 / 3
It has some decent hopping in the nose, and also a little cardboard (which really doesn’t belong here). Light, sweetish grainy maltiness / fair bittering in mid palate / creamy, balanced finish, with a touch of lingering hops. Thin-medium body. Not bad. Not as good as Asahi The Extra (which debuted late last year). A touch too grainy.
Asahi Dry Premium (Pale Lager 5.5%) 2.73 / 2.6
This was originally sold only in multi-can gift boxes, but recently some singles have appeared on shelves. The aroma is of ripe, moldy hay/grass, sewery spirits notes (but it doesn’t contain and spirits...). Light malty initial with moderate bitterness / a touch of rasty burn in mid palate / finishes "dry" and leaves some bitterness. Thin-medium body. Has quite a bit more body and character than the regular Super Dry but isn’t all that much better.
Asahi Panache (Fruit Beer 4.5%) 2.73 / 2.1
This is a mix of beer and lemon flavoring. The nose is artificial, perfumey light lemon juice. Fairly strong initial lemon hits / very mild lemon and some sweetness in mid palate / the finish is just gently carbonated soda water. Thin body, very tingly on the tongue. I thought that it might be something like a shandy, but there is almost no detectable maltiness. Has 10 (count ’em!) ingredients. Geez!
Asahi Creamy Premium (Premium Lager) 2.72 / 2.8
A sweetish aroma of cookies and light fruit. Yeah, the head is creamy, but it dissipates quickly. Mild maltiness (maybe too mild for a "premium" lager) with some decent hopping in the initial / doesn’t goes much further in any direction. Thin-medium body. Nothing really stands out, which is the way of the Japanese major companies, more often than not. Okay, if unexciting, stuff.
Asahi Clear Prime Rich (Pale Lager / Happoshu 6%) 2.53 / 2.3
Light JR toilet scent (just outside the entrance on a busy weekend night), some cardboard, and small fumes. Overripe pineapple and cabbage juice / mid palate holds the course and adds some harshness / finish is ... somewhat solid... but uninteresting. Medium body. More "there" than in the regular version of Clear Asahi -- but even though both are not quite bad, neither impresses in any way.
Asahi Winning Brew (Pale Lager / Happoshu 5%) 2.5 / 2.3
This one was brewed for the 2013 World Baseball Classic, held in March. Mostly cardboard aroma, with perhaps some hops peeking through. They tout the use of American Nugget hops in this one. Light sweetish malt initial / cardboard spirits notes in mid, with some slight sour tang / final levels out and leaves some hop traces. Thin body. Not too bad, for happoshu. Nugget hops or New Zealand hops (as in the "Sparkling Hop" brew), what does it matter? I mean, why do they bother to put these into happoshu, especially in such small amounts that they barely register? Japan won the first two WBC tournaments, but no one wins with this beer.
Asahi Funwari (Low Alcohol / Happoshu 2.5%) 2.46 / 2.3
Mild cardboardy, extract aroma, with some sourish stink, and lemon flowers.Very mild initial / mid brings a sharp edge of bitterness / finish is as mild as air. Thin and fizzy. Not offensive, for a happoshu, and more or less nondescript.