Saturday, April 21, 2018

New Beers from the Japanese Major Brewing Companies in 2017: Sapporo / 日本の大手企業からの新しいビール 2017: サッポロビール

We’re well into 2018 now. It's time to take stock of new beers brought out in 2017 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 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 these newer brews have fewer than ten ratings.

In the two previous posts, we looked at Asahi Breweries’ (see HERE) and Kirin Brewing Company’s (see HERE) latest offerings. Now let's see what Sapporo Breweries came up with.

Sapporo Breweries – 22 new beers in 2017

First up, five varieties in the normally reliable Yebisu line: 

Sapporo Yebisu Joël Robuchon Kakubetsu no Kampai (2018)
Pilsener / 5.0% / RateBeer Avg. 3.04 / My Rating 3.3
This one starts with a pritzy floral nose, light citrus, and some white bread. Clear bright gold color, with delicate carbonation streaming up. Flavors of bready malt, citrus, maybe citrus peel, some grass, and a sneaky lingering bitterness. Thin-medium body, and quite effervescent. Not bad. Seems different from previous iterations.

Sapporo Yebisu Wa no Tsumugi
Sapporo Yebisu Wa no Tsumugi
Dortmunder/Helles / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. / My Rating 3.4
Nose of rich caramel, fuzzy grassy hops. Clear bright amber/gold color. Very malty initial, dried stone fruit, generous mid palate bitterness, and a full but balanced finish. Medium-full body. Flavors are quite a bit richer than many in the Yebisu line.

Sapporo Yebisu #127
Sapporo Yebisu #127
Premium Lager / 6.0% / RateBeer Avg. 3.07 / My Rating 3.5
Thick fruity nose, slightly sweet and bready, good hopping. Clear medium gold color, with curtains of lace. Citrus, somewhat grassy and peppery hops, thick rich bready maltiness, and a balanced finish. Medium body. Very much in the Yebisu line, but more full bodied and richer than most.

Sapporo Yebisu The Hop 2017
Sapporo Yebisu The Hop 2017
Premium Lager / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 2.98 / My Rating 3.2
Light citrusy initial, and also a bit sweaty and earthy. Deep dark gold straw color. Moderate sweetness, which ramps up a bit in mid palate to a kind of cake-like note, maybe pastry dough. Some sharp grassy bitterness. Medium body (a bit heavy for a lager). Fairly well balanced. As with last year’s version, the Saaz hops don’t really make their presence felt.

Sapporo Yebisu Hana Miyabi
Sapporo Yebisu Hana Miyabi
German Kristallweizen / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 3.06 / My Rating 3.3
Nose of banana, angel food cake, light coffee creamer, and some grassy hop. Bright pretty gold color. Wheaty initial flavor, banana, touch of clove, a little citrus, and small bittering in mid and final. Thin-medium body. Nice enough. More bittering than typical. Just a bit too thickly sweet. Seems like a wheat/blonde ale mix.

Two additions to Sapporo’s sometimes good and sometimes execrable” Belg” series

Sapporo Ruby Belg
Sapporo Ruby Belg
Fruit Beer / 4.0% / RateBeer Avg. 3.06 / My Rating 3.3
Nose of cherries, cough drops, aftershave, and a mild fuzzy lactic thing. Very pretty bright red color with a light pinkish head. Mild tart cherry, but it quickly becomes a fairly artificial, cherry candy flavor. Touch of sugar. The candy fruitiness remains through to the finish. Thin body, very low carbonation, and just a hint of astringency. Somewhat like a kriek. Yet the sweetness overwhelms the gentle initial tartness. Overall, it's lightly refreshing, but I don't need more than one can. Not sure why they debuted this one at the beginning of winter.

 Sapporo Peach Belg
Sapporo Peach Belg
Witbier / 5.0% / RateBeer Avg. 2.79 / My Rating 2.3
Nose of strong peach juice, some sweat, and not much else. Clear pale straw color, thin head. Flavors of peach candy, rather artificial and way sweet. Some strange seedy bitterness in mid palate and final, and very light spice. Thin-medium body. Weird stuff. The peach is quite overdone, leaving little that resembles a wit beer.

Five new ones in the Mugi to Hoppu series (this is normally the “best” happoshu series produced by any of the four majors):

Sapporo Mugi to Hoppu Miwaku no Hop Session
Sapporo Mugi to Hoppu Miwaku no Hop Session
Pale Lager / 4.5% / RateBeer Avg. 2.84 / My Rating 2.5
Light fruity nose, starchy. Clear medium straw color. Moderate fruit flavor and grain. Hops come out a little (which they didn’t in the aroma), light bit of spirits, gentle bitter finish. Thin-medium body. Not terrible, but where are the aroma hops?

Sapporo Mugi to Hoppu Irodori no Malt Session
Sapporo Mugi to Hoppu Irodori no Malt Session
Pale Lager / 5.0% / RateBeer Avg.2.85 / My Rating 2.6
Nose of earthy malt, brown sugar, light spirits. Dark red-tinted brown, beige head. Roast, caramel, some sweet dark fruit note, .... and, in the finish, what seems like black pepper! Thin-medium body. Hmmm.... not half bad. The final pepper note is weird, but the spirits are fairly well masked. Maybe this is really a brown ale.

Sapporo Mugi to Hoppu Natsuzora no Hop Session
Pale Lager / 5.0% / RateBeer Avg. 2.87 / My Rating 2.7
Light zesty nose, some citrus and spicy hop. Medium gold color, Moderate stone fruit, some spirits intrude in mid palate. It thins out and ends on some not entirely pleasant bitter tracks. Interesting nose (for happoshu). Flavors are more or less okay, except for the spirits peeking out.

Sapporo Mugi To Hoppu The gold Extra Rich
Sapporo Mugi To Hoppu The gold Extra Rich
Pale Lager / 5.0% / RateBeer Avg. 2.84 / My Rating 2.2
Thin malt nose, light sewer, grain, maybe some citrus. Clear dull gold color. Grain, some light tangy citrus, hint of added spirits, starch, and final bitterness. Thin-medium body, a bit rough on the tongue. Maybe this is a rebranding of the "Extra Malt" variant in the series?

Sapporo Mugi to Hoppu The gold Kaoru Natsu
Pale Lager / 5.0% /  No ratings on RateBeer

Sapporo Tsuki no Kireina Yoru ni
Witbier / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 2.92 / My Rating 2.9
Nose of thin malt, light citrus, and some small yeastiness. Clear straw color, lightly creamy white head. Mild malt, gentle bitterness, which increase a bit and then fades. Small sweet spices, but not much evidence of the coriander or orange peel. Thin-medium body. This is more like a lightly spiced wheat beer than a real wit.

Sapporo Ginza Lion Special
Oktoberfest/Märzen / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 3.11 / My Rating 3.5
Nose of grassy hops and smooth rich malt. Very pretty copper color, with a fine off-white head. Bright, rich maltiness from the outset, light tingling hops, a bit of grass, and long subtle bitter tracks. Thin-medium body, silky. Very malty initially, and then it balances nicely. Good stuff from a major. Hope they keep making this one.

Sapporo Wa no Ippin
Premium Lager / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 2.91 / My Rating 3.2
Bready nose, with grain, and some zesty hops. Bright gold color with a thin white head. Moderately malty initial, a bit sweet and then buttery. Bittering kicks in quite late and lingers a good long while. Sapporo calls this a pilsener, but it’s really more of a Japanese premium lager.

Sapporo Next Style
Sapporo Next Style
Fruit Beer / 5.0% / RateBeer Avg. 2.77 / My Rating 2.5
Nose of lime, a bit zesty. Clear gold color. Light malt, lime again. It goes a bit buttery in mid palate. Very mild bittering. Thin-medium body. Kind like a soda lime drink with a bit of malt. Maybe a half beer. A cheap summer refresher.

Sapporo Beer Surprise Shifuku no Koku
Sapporo Beer Surprise Shifuku no Koku
Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager / 6.5% / RateBeer Avg. 2.81 / My Rating 2.8
Sweetish pale malt nose, thin sugars. Medium gold straw color. Moderate pale maltiness, fair bittering, with noticeable alcohol presence. Flavors fade fast, except for the mild hop bitterness. Thin-medium body, a bit oily. Doesn’t have the severe bitterness of the previously released Shifuku no Nigami version. Kind of nondescript, but (at 6.5%) drinkable in the cold winter.

Sapporo Goku Zero Soukai Zero
Low Alcohol / 2.5 % / RateBeer Avg.             2.64 / My Rating 1.6
Thin sewer-like nose, and maybe rancid week-old pizza. Clear medium gold color, thin weak head. Flavors of spirits right off. Then maybe some grapes and steamed vegetable water. Thin body, and a bit harsh on the tongue. This is a truly bad one — and without the alcohol to make it “seem” worth drinking. Drain pour, really –and, you know, I worried about giving it to the drain, too.

Sapporo Kuro Label Kuro (Black Label Black)
Schwarzbier / 5.0% / RateBeer Avg. 2.86 / My Rating 2.8
Can. Aroma of cocoa, roast malt, a wisp of coffee, and light spritzy sort of weedy hop. Very dark brown, translucent at edges. Flavors of chocolate, cola, a hint of dark fruit, very light bitterness. Finish is mostly thin chocolate. Thin-medium body and a bit over-carbonated. I used to drink the old Sapporo Black Beer (the one Michael Jackson wrote about) some 20 years ago. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen: I knew Sapporo Black Beer. Sapporo Black Beer was a friend of mine. Sapporo Kuro Label Kuro (Black Label Black), you're no Sapporo Black Beer.

Sapporo 7i Premium Gold 100%
Pale Lager / RateBeer Avg. 2.94 / I did not rate this one

Finally, two beer featuring different hops. I had no chance to try them, as they were not distributed outside the Kanto region:

Image result for Sapporo Innovative Brewer That's Hop Nelson Sauvin no Shinzui 絶妙のモザイクシトラ
Sapporo Innovative Brewer That's Hop Nelson Sauvin no Shinzui
American Pale Ale / 5.0% / RateBeer Avg. 3.23 / I did not rate this one  

Sapporo Innovative Brewer That's Hop Zetsumyo no Mosaic & Citra
American Pale Ale / 4.5% / RateBeer Avg. 3.22 / I did not rate this one