We’re into the new year now. It's time to look around and take stock of new beers brought out in 2015 by the four major breweries in Japan: Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo, and Suntory. I'll discuss them each in a separate post. I'll also give the style, alcohol percentage, my rating score, and the current RateBeer weighted average score (both scores out of a possible total of 5), keeping in mind that most of them have fewer than ten ratings.
In the two previous posts, we looked at Kirin and Asahi.
Now let's see what Sapporo Brewries Ltd brought to beer drinkers.
Sapporo Yebisu Crystal Amber
(Amber Lager/Vienna) 5.5% Rating: 3.3. RB Avg. Rating: 3.01
A moderately roasty nose, with some spiciness, burnt sugar, and a touch of a cake-like note. Medium reddish brown, thick lace. Good malty initial, light sugary sweetness, jujubes, and decent bittering in mid and final. Satisfying stuff. Good, well-put-together flavors.
Sapporo Yebisu Fukami Ajiwau Yebisu
(Oktoberfest/Märzen) 6% Rating: 3.2 RB Avg. Rating: 3.04
This one has a light fuzzy sort of roast malt aroma. Flavors start out with rough roast malt, then move through mild caramel, and finish with thin bittering. The bitter tracks hold on for a good while. Medium body, tingly and prickly with perhaps too much carbonation. An unusual and tasty new one, but not as clean-featured as most Yebisu beers.
The brewery also introduced a new series, the European Tradition:
Sapporo European Tradition Dortmunder
(Dortmunder/Helles) 6% Rating: 2.9 RB Avg. Rating: 2.77
A sweetish malty nose, some light cardboard -- overall a bit too rich and artificial. Very pretty, dark orange/amber color. Initial is quite malty, with some thin toasted notes. However, the faux-sweetness holds on through to final. Mild bitter finish. Not bad. Somehow it seems fortified with spirits (rather than 100% malt, which it is).
Sapporo European Tradition Munchner Dunkel
(Dunkel/Tmavý) 5.5% Rating: 3.2 RB Avg. Rating: 3.04
Soft roast malt nose, gentle caramel. Deep glowing reddish/copper, with ruby highlights. Mild, steady roast malt, some bittering for balance in mid palate, light sweetness in finish. Thin-medium body. Maybe just a little too much hopping for the style. Pleasant enough.
Sapporo European Tradition Vienna
(Amber Lager/Vienna) 5.5% Rating: 3.1 RB Avg. Rating: 3.09
Light roast malt nose, some decent fruitiness, but also rusty nails, and a definite metallic note. Dark reddish brown color, fat thick head. Delicate roast malt flavor, a bit of caramel, and thin bittering in mid palate and finish. Okay. A bit flat featured, but it does have some good maltiness.
There were also two new ones in Sapporo’s Belg line of beers:
Sapporo Brown Belg
(Belgian Ale) 6% Rating: 2.6 RB Avg. Rating: 2.6
A spicy nose, with yeast, spirits, and small fumes. Copper/amber color, thin fine head. Caramel, sugary and slightly spiced-infused, small hits of bittering, and a metallic presence. Medium body. Unusual. The spirits are fairly hidden in the flavor, masked by the rude maltiness.
Sapporo Gold Belg
(Belgian Ale) 6% Rating: 2.6 RB Avg. Rating: 2.74
Thin fruity nose, some powdered fruit juice, grain. Small fruit, a bit of spirits, and a touch of yeast. Medium gold straw color. Thin-medium body. Not a lot here. Seems a bit of a stretch to call this a Belgian ale. Didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much as last year’s White Belg.
With a bit of fanfare, Sapporo got into the craft (or some might say “crafty”) beer game with two new brews:
Sapporo Craft Label Kankitsu Kaoru Pale Ale
Sapporo Craft Label Kankitsu Kaoru Pale Ale
(American Pale Ale) 5.5% Rating: 3 RB Avg. Rating: 3.01
Very fruity nose, some caramel, and a small musty or dank note. Deep russet color, thin filmy head. Substantial fruitiness in the initial, caramel, fermenting peaches, mild hop presence in mid, and a light fruity harshness in late mid and final. Medium body. Unusual stuff. It seem like a mix of a pale ale and a Belgian ale – it’s not really an APA.
Sapporo Craft Label Sawayaka ni Kaoru Wheat Ale
(Wheat Ale ) 5% Rating: 3.2 RB Avg. Rating: 2.92
Light stinky hop nose (Nelson hops?). Clear straw color. Mild wheat, some citrus note, small tingling bitterness, light easy finish. Thin body. Wheat is fairly mild in this one.
Sapporo Nippon Pils
(Pilsener) 6% Rating: 2.8 RB Avg. Rating: 2.89
Grassy hop nose, pale malts. Amber/gold color, thin head. Grainy initial, very light toasted maltiness, unsettling and somewhat harsh hopping, and a rough dry finish. Medium body. A bit heavy. The very basic rudiments of a pilsener are intact, but the hop roughness really interferes with the overall flavor.
Sapporo Shizuoka Bakushu
(Pale Lager) 5% Rating: NR RB Avg. Rating: 2.76
I didn’t have this one, as it was released only in the Shizuoka area. There is only one rating on RateBeer, which stated that it is “very far from anything remarkable…” and there is “no reason to remember this.”
Sapporo Hyakunin no Kiseki Miwaku no Ougon Ale
(Golden Ale/Blond Ale) 7% Rating: 2.4 RB Avg. Rating: 2.74
Supposedly the “Hyakunin no Kiseki” series of beers are the result of a crowd-sourced recipe.
In other words, the production process incorporates suggestions from many trusted beer drinkers and. This beer has a stinky, somewhat vegetal nose, with some stale honey. A light fruity note precedes a small bitter shock in mid palate, and then flattens into a rough-edged sweetness, some citrus peel, and long bitter tracks. The alcohol is quite noticeable on the tongue. On the Sapporo website, this is the word “ale” romanized as "Yell" -- but it’s nothing to shout about.
New brews in the Mugi to Hoppu happoshu line…
Sapporo Mugi to Hoppu Aka Special
(Amber Ale) 5% Rating: 2.3 RB Avg. Rating: 2.7
Light toasty malt nose, with some brown sugar, gentle spicy hop, and a considerable metallic note. Deep reddish-brown color, thin filmy head. Light roast malt initial, some indeterminate fruitiness, and a bit of roughness from the added spirits. Thin-medium body. Not the worst one around. Malt flavor almost malt the spirits.
Sapporo Mugi To Hoppu The gold Kaoru Koku
(Pale Lager) 5% Rating: 2.5 RB Avg. Rating: 2.74
Light malt, some sort of jacked-up fruitiness, and a light spirit-like aroma. Bright medium straw color. Small rude fruity initial, fizzes up and offers some bitterness, small cardboard note, and a slick, light sweet finish, Thin-medium body. This Mugi to Hoppu series from Sapporo is the best at disguising the more unpleasant elements of these faux-beers.
Sapporo Mugi To Hoppu The gold Kinu no Koku
(Pale Lager) 6% Rating: 2.4 RB Avg. Rating: 2.57
Light sugary and fruity nose, with a small bit of spirits, and spikes of grassiness. Clear bright gold straw color, thin off-white head. Light punches of peach and apples, spirits somewhat evident in mid palate, and just a little bittering in the end. Thin-medium body. Not really as smooth as "silk," but tolerable for this kind of thing.
Sapporo Mugi To Hoppu The gold Koku no Kiwami
(Pale Lager) 6% Rating: 2.2 RB Avg. Rating: 2.55
Light sewer aroma, with fresh spritzy citrus, and sour vegetables. Medium amber/gold color. Light sweetish fruity initial, and spirits are very evident here. Small tangy hopping, and a slight rasty bitter finish. Thin-medium body. Maybe not the worst in this series, but close.
(Pale Lager) 5% Rating: 2.3 RB Avg. Rating: 2.4
Light sewery nose, some cardboard. Medium straw color, frothy head. Small cardboardy initial, a tinge of sourish fruit in mid, light bittering, and a very thin finish. Thin body. Nothing special here, but at least it is not offensive.
Sapporo Green Aroma
(Pale Lager) 4% Rating: 1.6 RB Avg. Rating: 2.18
Serious chemical & sewage treatment plant aromas. Clear light straw color, thin frothy head. Harsh prickly graininess, fairly rough, and then the bad adjunct sweetness emerges. Stretches out into nearly nothing in finish. Thin body. 80% carbohydrate reduced. Pretty bad.
Sapporo Lager’s High
(Pale Lager) 7% Rating: 1.9 RB Avg. Rating: 2.16
Light extract nose, small sewer note, dusty sugar sweetness. Bright gold straw color, filmy head, some lace. Thin malt, small bittering, and then the alcohol hits in mid palate and burns for a short while. Thin body. Inoffensive nose for this sort of stuff. Three types of hops... and who cares? The alcohol is way too noticeable.
Sapporo Lager’s High Hanayaka Hoppu
(Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager) 7% Rating: 2 RB Avg Rating: 2.48
Peppery nose, with light spirits notes. Clear medium yellow. Grainy initial, mild spirits, melds into a sort of harsh fruity sweetness. Medium body. Kind of thick for the style. Yeah, yeah, yeah...
Sapporo Aki no Honjuku
(Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager) 6% Rating: 2.1 RB Avg. Rating: 2.55
Nose of plastic-wrapped peaches, light roast malt, something sewery and spirity. Bright copper color. Brown sugar, small spirit-like note, and a bit of spicy hopping. Thin-medium body. Not bad for a daisan..... but pretty bad.
Sapporo Migaki Kölsch (Kölsch Style)
(Kölsch) 5% Rating: RB Avg. Rating: 2.9
This is one more beer I did not get around to … but the ratings for it are not so bad.