Monday, January 30, 2017

New Beers from the Japanese Major Brewing Companies in 2016: Suntory Liquors Limited / 日本の大手企業からの新しいビール 2016: サントリー

We’re well into 2017 now. It's time to take stock of new beers brought out in 2016 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 three previous posts, we looked at new beers from Asahi Breweries (see HERE), Kirin Brewing Company (see HERE), and Sapporo Breweries (see HERE). Now let's see what Suntory Liquors Limited came up with.

Suntory Liquors Limited – 14 beers

Suntory Aki no Shun Aji
Amber Lager/Vienna  6.0%    Rating: 0   RB Avg. Rating: 2.72
No chance to sample this one

Suntory Fuyu no Shun Aji
Pale Lager       6.0%    Rating: 2.4   RB Avg. Rating: 2.72
Spirits in the nose right off, along with a little citrus, and wet cement. Thin pale straw color, sloppy head. Flavors of grain, thin peach, sugar, added spirits, and very mild bitterness. Thin body. The alcohol is hidden; the wheat grain spirit component is not. Not as rude as most of these things usually are, but anyway …..

 Suntory Haru no Shun Aji
Pale Lager       5.0%    Rating: 2.4   RB Avg. Rating: 2.66
Grain, fresh concrete, touch of grass. Pale straw color. Some malty sweetness, light mid palate bitterness, some spirits in mid and final (but not too much). Thin body. Fairly inoffensive and cheap stuff marketed for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties.

Suntory The Premium Malt’s Kaoru Ale
Golden Ale/Blond Ale     6.0%      Rating: 2.8   RB Avg. Rating: 2.96
Light floral nose, grain, corn, some fumes. Clear gold straw color. Thin sweetish maltiness, apples, some light citrus, moderate hopping. Thin body. Really nothing very special or "premium" about it. Not as good as the Kaoru Premium from 2014.

Suntory The Premium Malt’s Aki Kaoru Ale
Amber Ale       6.0%    Rating: 3.5   RB Avg. Rating: 3.17
Fresh, malty nose, light toasted malt, and ripe stone fruit. Deep copper color, with a beige head. Mild dark fruit flavors which begin gently and then increase in richness from initial to mid and through final. Some caramel. Approaches the edge of being overly sweet but pulls back politely. Full flavors, light body, and very drinkable.

Suntory The Premium Malt’s Master’s Dream Muroka
Pilsener           5.0%    Rating: 3.4   RB Avg. Rating: 3.24
        Nose of Saaz hops (or something similar), peaches, and pears. Dark gold straw color. Grain, pale malt, Saaz-like hopping, and a small touch of cardboard in mid palate. Some slightly overripe fruitiness and a nicely bitter finish. Thin-medium body. Quite serious with the bitterness from mid palate onwards. Very nice stuff.

Suntory The Premium Malt’s Natsu Kaoru Ale
Golden Ale/Blond Ale    6.0%    Rating: 3.1   RB Avg. Rating: 2.91
Creamy malty nose, with noble hops and apple fruitiness. Light pale straw color. Mild tangy initial flavor, moves on to some peachy notes, bread, crackers, and a light fruity finish. Thin-medium body. Okay. The Hallertauer hops come through in the aroma. Surprised that they made it 6% (for summer).

Suntory The Premium Malt’s Sparkling Gold
Premium Lager           5.5%    Rating: 3.4   RB Avg. Rating: 2.97
Sweet malty nose, with floral hops, and a mild musty fruitiness. Unusually sharp, clear pale yellow/gold color. Mild crackery malt, gets fruitier and deeper in mid palate, with a burst of bitterness and carbonation just before finish. Lengthy mild bitter tracks. Thin-medium body. Certainly a very unusual variant of Premium Malt’s. Interesting and delicate nose. Flavors develop some complexity throughout palate.

Suntory Craft Select Bitter Ale
English Pale Ale          5.5%    Rating: 3.1   RB Avg. Rating: 2.88
Moderately sweet nose, caramel, thin light citrus, and light hops. Bright orange/amber (very pretty), thick head, fine-beaded lace. Thin caramel initial, some decent hopping in mid palate, a small citrus note, and then faint bitterness in finish. Thin-medium body. Okay. It does have some back-end bitterness, but not really a special brew. Trades on its looks, really.

Suntory Craft Select Saison
Saison      5.5%     Rating: 2.9    RB Avg. Rating: 2.72
Sweet nose, with apples, peach, fruit gummy candy, and light fruity yeast. Thin pale straw color, and small head. Sweet fruity initial, small citrus, mild mid-palate bittering. The sweet fruit returns in late mid palate. Some light tartness. Aroma is interesting, but it falls down in flavors. Seems to be a light Belgian ale yearning to become a saison.


Suntory Craft Select Weizen
German Kristallweizen           5.5%    Rating: 2.9   RB Avg. Rating: 2.86
Medium-strength banana nose, with yeast and some clove. Clear (and not cloudy as a weizen typically should be) bright straw color, thin head, and sticky lace. Sweet and wheaty flavors and quite fruity. Moves straight along a single flavor note. Medium body. Sweet banana and no more. Little complexity. Okay -- but it is a really ordinary, tidied-up sort of weizen.

Suntory Craft Select Wheat Ale
Wheat Ale       5.5%    Rating: 2.6   RB Avg. Rating: 2.65
Light sweet wheaty nose, some citrus, grain, and some mild hop punch. Clear medium straw color. Flavors of wheat, thin malt, and light hops in mid and final. Light body, quite carbonated. The hopping, both aroma and flavor, resembles the nose and flavor of barley spirits, and this makes the beer seem like a cheap daisan. Not terrible, though.

Suntory Hop Time 6:00 PM
Pale Lager       5.9%    Rating: 2.1   RB Avg. Rating: 2.75
Mild spirits in the nose, along with some grass and something like disinfectant. Clear dark gold straw color. Rude maltiness, sugary flavor, and then a harsh spirits-infused mid palate, and some bitterness in late mid palate. It all fades out in the finish. Thin-medium body. The Hallertauer hops can’t compete with the spirits in either aroma or flavor. I drank this at 5:30pm; maybe something magical happens if you have it at 6pm....

Suntory Hop Time 9:00 PM
Pale Lager       5.0%    Rating: 2.8   RB Avg. Rating: 2.88
Small bit of spirits in aroma, and some fruitiness, a hint of Citra hops, cat pissy, and a light tropical fruit notes. Clear gold straw color. Flavors of pale malt, grass, thin fruit, and just a touch of spirits in mid palate. Thin-medium body. Certainly better than the Hop Time 6:00PM version.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

New Beers from the Japanese Major Brewing Companies in 2016: Sapporo / 日本の大手企業からの新しいビール 2016: サッポロビール

We’re well into 2017 now. It's time to take stock of new beers brought out in 2016 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 the 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 – 25 beers

Sapporo offered seven new beers in their premium Yebisu line:

Sapporo Yebisu #126
Premium Lager           6.0%    Rating: 3.0   RB Avg. Rating: 3.01
Can. Small grassy hop nose, also quite malty, ripe apples, and yeast. Slightly sourish initial, and then moves to rather high sugary sweetness, sugar crackers, bit of citrus, and a mild sweet finish. Medium body (a bit heavy for style). Drinkable, to be sure. But certainly too sweet. Has a kind of cheap feeling to it.

Sapporo Yebisu Fuyu no Koku
Premium Lager           5.5%    Rating: 3.4   RB Avg. Rating: 3.09
Sweet unusual floral nose of cherries, peach skin, grass, and what seems like a little touch of smoke. Brilliant orange/amber color. Sweet malty initial favors, caramel, grass, and moderate bittering in mid and final. Thin-medium body, and quite clean. The nose is intriguing. Wondering if this is really an amber lager.


Sapporo Yebisu Meister
Dortmunder/Helles     5.5%    Rating:  3.3   RB Avg. Rating: 3.03
Somewhat stinky nose - a bit vegetal, actually, with a bit of spice -- but kind of happoshu-like. Medium copper/ gold color, thin head. Thick malty initial flavor, hits of spicy hopping, then the malt reasserts itself, and it finishes with solid bitter tracks. Medium body. I don’t really care for the nose on this one. But it has an intriguing malt/hop interaction in the flavor.

Sapporo Yebisu The Hop 2016
Premium Lager           5.5%    Rating: 3.2   RB Avg. Rating: 3.0
Mild sewery nose, a bit of prickly hoppiness, and a light grassy note. Pretty deep gold straw color, thin head, some good lacing. Sweetish malty initial, fruity with hopping, grassy in mid palate, and a rich malty finish. Thin-medium body, well balanced. The label touts the fresh Saaz hops, but they are not very evident in the nose.

Sapporo Yebisu Wa no Houjun
Premium Lager           5.0%    Rating: 3.1   RB Avg. Rating: 3.0
Fruity nose, with a rather rough grainy and hoppy edge. Bright pale straw color. Solid malt/hop balance right off, biscuity, a bit earthy, sweet, and then mildly bitter. Balanced again in finish. Thin-medium body. Nose doesn’t offer up much; flavors are better. Not my favorite among these new Yebisu variations.


Sapporo Yebisu Joël Robuchon Hanayagi no Jikan (2016)
Pilsener            5.0%    Rating: 3.2   RB Avg. Rating: 2.87
Gentle fresh citrusy nose, with some light cat piss, and grass. Gold straw color, thin white head. Generous fruity initial, which slips into slightly rude and dark hopping, and a thin bitter finish. Thin-medium. The Nelson Sauvin hops don’t stand out, as they definitely did in last year’s version. Pleasant enough.

Sapporo Yebisu Joël Robuchon Yoin no Jikan (2016)
Pilsener               5.5%    Rating: 3.4   RB Avg. Rating: 3.24
Grainy, grassy, and a mild tropical note in the aroma -- quite full and deep. Bright gold straw color. Grain and apples in the initial flavor. Rounded mild fruity hopping in mid palate. Thins out in finish. Thin-medium body, a touch heavy for style. Very unusual hopping for a pilsener (it did not really seem to be Mosaic hops). Fat flavors. Nice.

Sapporo added four new beers to their “Mugi to Hoppu” line:

Sapporo Mugi to Hoppu Aka Fest Style
Oktoberfest/Märzen   6.0%    Rating: 2.5   RB Avg. Rating: 2.81
A sugary aroma, with toasted malt, and some chicken vegetable soup notes. Copper/amber color. Mild roast malt initial flavor, a light touch of barley spirits in mid palate, and a bit of gentle sweet dark fruitiness in mid and final. Has a bit of märzen character, but it doesn’t really feel so close to the style. Some roasty/toasty malt and the added spirits are fairly restrained and covered up.

Sapporo Mugi to Hoppu Aki no Kaori Mugi
Amber Lager/Vienna  5.0%    Rating: 2.4   RB Avg. Rating: 2.46
A light fruity nose, with a bit of caramel, and some spirits. Medium copper/amber color. Thin dark fruit flavor, light roast malt. The mid palate features a rather rough spike in spirits. Mild, flattish finish. Thin-medium body. Not much of an amber or a Vienna. The added spirits are too evident here for it to be pleasant.

Sapporo Mugi to Hoppu Platinum Clear
Pale Lager       5.0%    Rating: 2.3   RB Avg. Rating: 2.58
Thin fruit/vegetable aroma, small citrus, but mostly light stinky sewer. Medium pale straw color. Very mild malty initial, gentle and sort of sweet through mid palate, with very low hop presence. Thin, watery body. Innocuous, mild stuff. This series definitely has a less noticeable spirits character than the average daisan beer or happoshu.

Sapporo Mugi To Hoppu The gold Extra Malt
Pale Lager       5.0%    Rating: 2.4   RB Avg. Rating: 2.64
Fruity nose, with peaches, light stinky spirits, and some small citrus notes. Flavors are simple, with light artificial sweeteners. Moderate hopping, which intensifies a bit in mid palate and then trails off. Thin-medium body. Spirits are obvious in the aroma, not so much in flavor. Tolerable, but there’s not really much here.

Sapporo Beer Surprise Shifuku no Nigami
Pilsener                       5.0%    Rating:  3.2   RB Avg. Rating: 2.96
Light malty aroma, with moderate pleasant fruitiness, grass, and noble hops. Bright gold straw color. Flavors of pale malt, bread, and crackers. The hops (Hallertauer, I think) really intensify in mid palate ... almost to the point of unpleasantness. Thin-medium body. Interesting, and very highly-hopped-up, beer from a Japanese major.

Sapporo Lager’s High Hojun no Nodogoshi
Pale Lager       7.0%    Rating: 2.1   RB Avg. Rating: 2.63
Nose of grass, stinky weeds, sewer, and small alcohol fumes. Clear gold amber color. Thin rasty maltiness (extract?), a rude chemical-tasting mid palate with spirits somewhat evident, and prickly light bitterness in finish. Thin-medium body. Junk.... but just a little less junky than the other two in this “Lager’s High” series.

Sapporo Kanpai Ale
Golden Ale/Blond Ale 5.5%    Rating: 2.9   RB Avg. Rating: 2.65
A light sweet fruity nose, with some vegetal notes and a starchy malt powder mix. Medium straw color, with a frothy head. Thin fruity initial, peach maybe, starchy light sweetness in mid palate, small rough hit of bitterness in late mid, and an innocuous mild finish. Thin-medium body, a bit thick perhaps. This one is lightened up with the Japanese majors’ favorite combo: rice, corn, and starch. Not too bad, though....really.

Sapporo Kuro Label Hokkaido & Tohoku Selection
Pale Lager       5.0%    Rating: 0   RB Avg. Rating: 2.85
No chance to rate this one

Sapporo Kuro Label The Hokkaido
Pale Lager       5.0%    Rating: 0   RB Avg. Rating: 2.92
No chance to rate this one

Sapporo Hokkaido Namashibori
Pale Lager       5.5%    Rating: 0   RB Avg. Rating: 2.64
No chance to rate this one, either

Sapporo Crystal Belg
Saison  4.0%    Rating: 2.6   RB Avg. Rating: 2.88
Light citrus aroma, with (yes, and it’s unusual) strawberries, and a small bit of spirits. Clear bright gold amber, thin filmy head. Mild indeterminate fruitiness, spirits intrude a little in mid palate, and it floats away to nothing. Thin-medium body. Well, what do you know?.... a "daisan saison." I suppose it had to happen at some point.

Sapporo Classic Haru no Kaori
Pale Lager       5.0%    Rating: 0   RB Avg. Rating: 2.96
No chance to rate this one

Sapporo Classic Natsu no Soukai
Pale Lager       5.5%    Rating: 0   RB Avg. Rating: 2.92
No chance to rate this one

Sapporo Draft Beer Kuro Label Extra Brew
Pale Lager       5.5%    Rating: 3.2   RB Avg. Rating: 2.67
A grainy aroma, which sweetens up with light cake notes and powdered sugar. Clear straw color. Flavors of grain, sweetish malt, very gentle hopping, and a lightly sweet finish. Medium body, a bit thicker than typical for the style. Nice enough. More body and flavors than most Japanese major lagers. Very drinkable.

Sapporo Kaori no Goku Zero
Pale Lager       6.0%    Rating: 2.2   RB Avg. Rating: 2.29
Large sugary, fruity nose, with some pineapple and apple notes, and a small bit of spirits. Clear medium amber color. Thick fruity initial flavor, kind of like fruit juice and light wine, which flattens out quickly. Mild alcohol warmth in finish. Thin-medium body. Weird stuff. Not entirely unpleasant, but so artificial in flavor.

Sapporo added three more beers to their “Craft Label” series:

Sapporo Craft Label Hello! Weizen
German Kristallweizen           5.0%    Rating: 2.5   RB Avg. Rating: 2.68
Light banana nose, with a small chemical spice-like note. Medium gold straw color and not very much head (for a weizen). Sweetish banana initial flavor, and it becomes a bit harsh in mid palate with some unusual bittering. The harshness continues through to the finish. Thin-medium body. Seems very thin. That mid and final roughness doesn’t help things much. They really didn’t get this one right. Goodbye! Weizen.

Sapporo Craft Label Kaori Odoru Juggling IPA
India Pale Ale (IPA)     6.0%    Rating: 2.6   RB Avg. Rating: 2.82
Nose of caramel and mild piney hop. Reddish/amber color and a fast-failing head. Sweet initial flavors, with artificial sweetener, cookie-ish, mild citrus. Thin-medium body. It sort of improves through palate stages ... but it’s not really much of an IPA. Quite weird, actually... but drinkable.

Sapporo Craft Label That’s Hop Sorachi Ace
Golden Ale/Blond Ale 5.5%    Rating: 0   RB Avg. Rating: 3/02
No chance to rate this one