Monday, April 30, 2018

Summing Up: New Beers from the Japanese Major Brewing Companies in 2017 /日本の大手企業からの新しいビール 2017: 結語

Over the past four posts, I 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 74 different beers, exactly the same number as in 2016. They made 22 different styles of beer, five more than the 17 styles produced the year before.

The most common style (28 / 39%) was, of course, pale lager, with Kirin producing 16, Sapporo six, Asahi ten, and Suntory two. The second-most popular style (6 / 8%) was Premium Lager. Adding the five Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager beers, we find that lager comprises more than half of all new offerings in 2017. No surprise, really.

Asahi produced only five styles: Pale Lager (10), Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager (1), Spice/Herb/Vegetable (1), Oktoberfest/ Märzen (1), and Dunkel/Tmavý (1).

Kirin produced more beers (26) in more styles (11) than last year, though the majority were Pale Lager (16). In addition, Kirin put out one each of Premium Lager, Saison, Imperial Pils/Strong Lager, India Pale Ale, Wheat Ale, AmberLager/Vienna, Belgian Ale, India Style Lager, German Hefeweizen, and Fruit Beer.

Sapporo offered up 12 different styles, including Pale Lager (6), Premium Lager (3), American Pale Ale (2), Fruit Beer (2), Witbier (2)and one each of Pilsener, Dortmunder/Helles, Oktoberfest/Märzen, German Kristallweizen, Imperial Pils/Strong Lager, Scwarzbier, and Wit.

Suntory gave us eight styles, including Pale Lager (2), AmberLager/Vienna (2), Imperial Pils/Strong Lager (2), Premium Lager (2), American Pale Ale, German Kristallweizen, Golden Ale/Blond Ale, and Saison.

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 74 new beers, Sapporo and Suntory produced somewhat more interesting and tastier beers than did Kirin or Asahi. I do still feel that Kirin's Grand Kirin series is the best of the "crafty" brews being produced in Japan. However, Sapporo is trying hard with its new Innovative Brewer beers, and Suntory’s Premium Malt’s line continues to be the best series of Premium Lager made in Japan (especially Master’s Dream, which is a sort of ultra-premium).

Sapporo: 22 new beers
RateBeer Avg. 2.94    My Avg. 2.86

Suntory:  12 new beers
RateBeer Avg. 2.92     My Avg. 2.80

Kirin:  26 new beers
RateBeer Avg. 2.83    My Avg. 2.68

Asahi:  14 new beers
RateBeer Avg. 2.77    My Avg. 2.64

Friday, April 27, 2018

New Beers from the Japanese Major Brewing Companies in 2017: Suntory Liquors Limited / 日本の大手企業からの新しいビール 2017: サントリー

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 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 – 12 new beers in 2017

First off, two new variations on the Premium Malts’ line:

Suntory The Premium Malt's Hojun Blend
Suntory The Premium Malt's Hojun Blend
Amber Lager/Vienna / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 2.96 / My Rating 2.6
Light roast nose, thin dark fruit, and raisins. Thin brown/ copper color. Sweetish roast malt, grain, touch of caramel, and watered-down dark fruit. Thin body and lightly metallic. I might be wrong, but I kind of suspect that this is a rebranding of the older Koku no Blend.

Suntory The Malt’s Winter Draft
Premium Lager / 5.0% / RateBeer Avg. 2.98 / My Rating 3.1
Mild Cascade nose, with thin citrus, lightly toasted malt. Clear medium gold color, quite a thick head of foam, and some lace. Citrus, sweetish malt, a bit of grass, and mild bitterness in the finish. Thin-medium body and substantial carbonation. Decent nose. Nothing particularly wintery about this one. Not bad.

Three new ones in Suntory’s Tokyo Craft line (which seems to have superseded their Craft Select series. or perhaps is a minor re-branding):

Suntory Tokyo Craft Pale Ale
Suntory Tokyo Craft Pale Ale
American Pale Ale / 5.0% / RateBeer Avg. 2.81 / My Rating 3.2
Bready nose, with fairly rich fruitiness. Dark copper/gold color. Moderate malt, sweetish but thin fruit, prickly hops, and some decent bitter tracks. Thin-medium body. Pleasant stuff.

 Suntory Tokyo Craft Saison
Suntory Tokyo Craft Saison
Saison / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 3.02 / My Rating 2.9
Nose of grain, slight bit of wheat, and a touch of esters. Clear bright gold straw, and a thin filmy white head. Mild stone fruit, bittering hits quickly, along with some yeasty bite. Thin body. Perhaps a bit too sweet and fruity in the initial flavor. Not as refreshing as a good saison should be. Okay.

Suntory Tokyo Craft Weizen
German Kristallweizen / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg.3.27 / My Rating 3.2
Aroma of wheat, banana, and cloves. Bright clear gold, moderate head. Gentle wheat sweetness, hint of citrus, a little touch of bitterness, and then back to sweet bready maltiness. Thin-medium body. Not a big wheat character, but okay. Refreshing and pretty well made.

Two in the Brewer’s Bar rotation:

Suntory Brewer's Bar Komugi no Lager
Premium Lager / 5.5 / RateBeer Avg.3.1 / My Rating 3.3
Light wheat nose with very mild banana. Medium-dark gold color. Some wheat in the initial with gentle bitterness. Thin stone fruit flavors in mid palate. Finish has light but persistent bitterness. Thin body. Balanced flavors. Nose ain't much, really. More like a regular lager than a wheat beer.

Suntory Brewer's Bar Kohakuiro no Lager
Suntory Brewer's Bar Kohakuiro no Lager
Amber Lager/Vienna / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 3.07 / My Rating 3.3
Light musty yeasty nose, with light caramel and a thin bit of raisins and berries. Dark amber color. Medium-strength roast, mild dark fruit, some gentle mid-palate bittering. From late mid palate, it goes sweet. Then a small bitter finish. Not bad at all, coming from a major brewer.

Suntory Craftsman's Beer Sento no Yume
Suntory Craftsman's Beer Sento no Yume
Golden Ale/Blond Ale / 6.0% / RateBeer Avg. 2.92 / My Rating 2.9
Nose of small sugary stone fruit, a bit starchy. Bright sparkling copper/orange color. Mild sweetish malt, intensifies to berries and maybe cherry, a bit bready, and small bitter tracks. Thin-medium body. Pleasant, mildly fruity stuff. I don’t catch the Hallertauer hops that they tout on the label.

Suntory Kyo no Zeitaku
Pale Lager / 6.0% / RateBeer Avg. 2.72 / My Rating 2.3
Candyish malt nose, spirits, and a hint of cardboard. Clear medium gold color. Thin sweet malt, light spirits, some alcohol presence, and it flattens out very quickly. Thin-medium body. This is some sort of attempt at a cheap spirit-infused version of Kirin's Aki Aji.,c_limit/beer_574987.jpg

Suntory Kyō no Zeitaku Fuyu no Hyōten Chozō
Pale Lager / 6.0% / RateBeer Avg. 2.85 / My Rating 2.6
Nose of light sweetish stone fruit and spirits. Clear gold color. Rough, rich maltiness, some stone fruit, apples, spirits, and a lightly bitter finish. Medium body, and a touch rough on the tongue. Not terrible. Somehow the spirits meld with the bittering hops. Could drink it in a pinch. But I don't find myself in that situation so often.

Suntory The Brew Strong
Strong Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager / 7.0% / RateBeer Avg.2.75 / My Rating 2.1
Nose of grain and light spirits. Clear gold color, fluffy white head. Flavors of grain, light stone fruit, grain spirits, a mild alcohol presence, a modicum of bitterness, and a dry but still fruity finish. Aftertaste of spirits. Medium body. Cheap stuff for a buzz on a winter evening. Don't need more than a third of a can.

Suntory Itadaki
Suntory Itadaki
Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager / 7.0% / RateBeer Avg. 2.61 / My Rating 2.1
Light sewery nose, with sugar, and a bit of citrus zest. Clear medium gold color. Thin starchy initial flavor, some insidious spirits creeping in, then a thin icky fruitiness, and tiny bitter tracks in the finish. Thin-medium body, mildly warming. They tout "high: this and "extra" that -- and what does it matter when the result is so much like those other daisan (third category) brews?