Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Beers from the Japanese Major Brewing Companies in 2016: Asahi / 日本の大手企業からの新しいビール 2016: アサヒビール

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.

Let’s start with Asahi Breweries:

Asahi Breweries – 14 new beers


Asahi The Dream
Pale Lager           5.0%      My Rating: 2.5   RB Avg. Rating: 2.47
This ‘dream” has a starchy and mildly fruity nose. The flavors are mostly of grain and a thin flat maltiness. It seems to be edging onto the territory of a happoshu (low-malt beer) and has typical low-carbohydrate beer character (maybe just a bit better than most of those). The body is quite thin. Somehow this beer won a silver medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup in the light lager category…

Asahi offered five new Dry Premium beers. Most of the beers in this series have a similar starchy sweet flavor, and they do not really seem like premium beers, despite the name.

Asahi Dry Premium Houjou
Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager   6.5%      My Rating: 2.7   RB Avg. Rating: 2.79
A thin sweetish malty nose. Clear dark orange/amber color, thin head, fat bubbles. Light sweet fruity initial flavor with some citrus. Bittering hits rather quickly, along with the alcohol. The finish is somewhat dry and bitter. Medium body. This one a bit rough overall.

Asahi Dry Premium Houjou Hanayagu 6 Hop 
Pale Lager           6.0%      My Rating: 2.8   RB Avg. Rating: 3.0
A gentle hop nose, with citrus, sugar, and starchiness. Gold straw color, thin head, and fat-bubbles sitting strangely on the bottom of the glass. The initial flavor is of a thin pale maltiness and then it fizzes up into some fruitiness, citrus. A lightly bitter finish. Thin-medium body. Okay. But the six hops touted in the name barely make an appearance.

Asahi Dry Premium Houjou Kohaku no Yoin
Dunkel/Tmavý  5.5%      My Rating: 3.1   RB Avg. Rating: 2.97
Light roast malt nose, with caramel, light sweet dark fruit, and cola notes. Thin copper-brown color. Very mild roast malt flavor, with chocolate, grain, small streams of bitterness, and a simple sweetish finish. Thin-medium body. Gentle flavors. Okay.

Asahi Dry Premium Houjou Suzumi no Kaori
Pale Lager           6.0%      My Rating: 2.7   RB Avg. Rating: 2.91
Mild hop nose, starchy and sugary, along with some wet concrete notes. Medium dark gold color. Thin pale malt initial flavor, which goes a bit rough when the five-hop blend emerges, and then it settles back into a light fruity sweetness. The finish is fairly clean. Thin-medium body. Okay... barely.


Asahi Dry Premium Houjou Zeitaku Hatsu Shikomi
Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager   6.5%      My Rating: 3.0   RB Avg. Rating: 2.95
Starchy nose, with some sourish citrusy notes, and gentle stinky hopping. Clear dark amber/gold color. Thin malt flavor. The hops jump up right away (and not entirely pleasantly). Mild fruitiness and a slight alcohol presence. Light note of bread and butter. Thin-medium body. Not bad.


Asahi Clear Ginjo
Pale Lager           6.0%      My Rating: 2.2   RB Avg. Rating: 2.51

Aroma of powdered sugar, with light sewer and some pickles. Clear bright yellow color with a thick white head. Thin malt, spirits, light stone fruit, with a peppery note in mid and final. Thin body. Not as rude or unpleasant as others in the Asahi Clear series. It is ramped up by an extra amount of barley (1.5x normal), but there is no added rice (despite of the sake-related name).

Asahi Clear Kansai Jitate
Pale Lager           6.0%      My Rating: 2.2   RB Avg. Rating: 2.77
Medium strength malty nose, with spirits, grass, and a small cardboardy note. Clear dark gold color. Sweetish and thin fruity flavors, and .... of course, barley spirits. Thin-medium body. Not as bad as most in this series. Or maybe the amped-up alcohol clouded my judgment? Supposedly made to match the flavors of the Kansai food specialties, takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Hmm....

Asahi Clear Sakura no Utage
Pale Lager           5.0%      My Rating: 1.8   RB Avg. Rating: 2.42
Rusty, musty nose, with a touch of spirits. Flavors of grain, spirits, and a lousy touch of bittering. Thin body, and it leaves a dry bitter raspiness on the tongue. Like a crude medicinal tonic.

Three new fruit beers:

Asahi Style Free Fruits Beer Cocktail Berry Mix
Fruit Beer            3.5%      My Rating: 2.0   RB Avg. Rating: 2.74
Nose of crème soda and light berries. Pale rosé  wine color. Thin strawberry soda flavor. The berries emerge and intensify a bit, along with a slight harshness. Flavors flatten out and diminish in final, leaving a starchy coating on the tongue. Thin and quite watery. Low-carb, low-flavor stuff, with eleven ingredients. Not as repulsive as it ought to be … but still not enjoyable.


Asahi Style Free Fruits Beer Cocktail Kiwi
Fruit Beer            3.5%      My Rating: 1.8   RB Avg. Rating: 2.56
Perfumey nose, with a sweet fruitiness and some cucumber peel. Light pale straw color, almost no head, and a strange slippery lacing. Very artificial tasting, with thin sweet fruit, cough syrup, some kiwi (I imagine), and a tiny bitterness. Thin body and quite sticky. Bad summer swill.

Asahi Cassis Beer Cocktail
Fruit Beer            4.0%      My Rating: 2.2   RB Avg. Rating: 2.75
Somewhat sharp berry nose, something kind of funky, cassis, and all quite sugary. Clear medium rose wine color, nearly flat. Mild bitter jammy initial, with strawberry and cassis, light spirits and bittering in mid palate, and a lightly harsh finish. Thin-medium body. Not completely as horrible as I had expected. But very sweet, with sugar and spirits dominating the flavor.

Asahi brought out two different beers to capitalize on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Asahi Gold Rush
Pale Lager           4.5%      My Rating: 1.7   RB Avg. Rating: 2.53
Nose of light grain, grass/weeds, and powdered sugar. Clear pale straw color. Grain, spirits, and minimal hopping. Thin body, rough on the tongue. This beer it ain’t gonna win no medals. In fact, it should probably be disqualified.

Asahi Victory Road
Pale Lager           5.0%      My Rating: 1.7   RB Avg. Rating: 2.46
Industrial cleaner chemical nose, with a bit of sewer. Clear bright straw color, with a thin film of head. Flavors of cardboard, wet paper, a touch of harsh spirits, and then it fizzes up and away into a light sugary finish. Thin-medium body. No victory laps for this one. In fact, it should go down the locker room sink.


  1. Asahi seems to win often at beer contests. The Super Dry also won at World beer cup and Brussels Beer Challenge recently. Are the beers they send to the judges really the same as the ones we buy at the supermarket? I wonder if they don't brew some kind of "special batch" for these contests.

  2. That's a good question, and it's one which we probably cannot answer. I would imagine that breweries would be very careful to test the batches before they send off bottles to competitions. Yes, I recall Super Dry winning at the WBC a couple of years ago. Hmmm...