Over the past four posts, we have reviewed the majority of new beers brought out by the four major Japanese breweries. If you like, have a look at the posts for Asahi (HERE), Kirin (HERE), Sapporo (HERE), and Suntory (HERE).
The four major Japanese brewers produced 73 different beers, which is slightly fewer than last year's 79. They made 17 different styles of beer, down from the 28 produced in 2015.
Sapporo released 25 new beers in 10 different styles, followed by Kirin with 20 (in nine styles), Suntory with 14 (in 10 styles), and Asahi trailed the pack with 14 beers (in only four styles).
The most common style (34 / 47%) was, of course, pale lager, with Kirin producing 12, Sapporo ten, Asahi eight, and Suntory four. The second-most popular style (6 / 8%) was premium lager, with Sapporo offering four new ones in their Yebisu line, while Kirin and Suntory made one each.
Asahi produced only four styles: Pale Lager (8), Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager (2), Fruit Beer (3), and one Dunkel/Tmavý.
Kirin produced more beers (20) in more styles (9) than last year, including Pale Lager
(12), and one each of Premium Lager, Saison, Imperial Pils/Strong Lager, Weizen Bock, India Pale Ale, Wheat Ale, Amber Ale/, and Oktoberfest/Märzen
Sapporo offered up 10 different styles, including Pale Lager (10), Premium Lager (4), Pilsener (3), Golden Ale/Blonde Ale (2), and one each of Dortmunder/Helles, Oktoberfest/Märzen, Amber Lager/Vienna, German Kristallweizen, India Pale Ale, and Saison.
Suntory gave us ten styles, including Pale Lager (4), Golden Ale/Blonde Ale (2), and one each of the following: Amber Lager/Vienna, Amber Ale, English Pale Ale, Pilsener, Premium Lager, Wheat Ale, German Kristallweizen, and Saison. This is quite a cut back from last's year's 25 beers in 17 different styles.
All except Asahi produced one Saison, and both Kirin and Sapporo attempted IPAs.
So, after the past two years of experimenting with style ranges, 2016 seems to have
been a year of retrenchment.
Judging from average rating scores and my own ratings (out of a possible top score of 5.0) from RateBeer, and admittedly a limited sample, for all 73 new beers, Suntory, Sapporo, and Kirin produced somewhat more interesting and tastier beers than Asahi. I feel that Kirin's Grand Kirin series is the best of the "crafty" brews being produced in Japan.
Suntory: 14 new beers
RateBeer Avg. 2.86 My Avg. 2.88
Sapporo: 25 new beers
RateBeer Avg. 2.82 My Avg. 2.82
Kirin: 20 new beers
RateBeer Avg. 2.70 My Avg. 2.89
Asahi: 14 new beers
RateBeer Avg. 2.70 My Avg. 2.31
What 2017 will bring is anybody's guess. Beer consumption in Japan has been declining for the past 11 years, and the majors' attempts to woo younger drinkers do not appear to have much spirit. Their "crafty" sideline beers, designed and promoted to draw craft beer drinkers, have been mostly lackluster imitations of true craft beer styles. Some brewers, most notably Asahi, are expanding their purchases of beer (and other drinks) businesses abroad, in a move to increase their percentage of sales coming from outside of Japan.