Saturday, January 19, 2019

New Beers from the Japanese Major Brewing Companies in 2018: Sapporo / 日本の大手企業からの新しいビール 2018: サッポロビール

We’re into 2019 now. It's time to take stock of new beers brought out in 2018 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 the current RateBeer weighted average score and my own rating score (both scores out of a possible total of five), keeping in mind that most of these newer brews have fewer than ten ratings

In two previous posts we discussed the offerings from Asahi Breweries (See HERE) and Kirin Brewery Company (See HERE).

Now here’s what we got from Sapporo in 2018:

Three in the Yebisu line:
Sapporo Yebisu The Hop 2018

Sapporo Yebisu The Hop 2018
Pilsener / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 3.09 / My Rating 3.2
Earthy hops (slightly dank) in the aroma, along with some citrus and grass. Medium gold color. Mild sweet malt, goes grassy/weedy in mid palate, with a slightly rough bitterness, and mild malty finish. Thin-medium body, and a touch over carbonated. Seems similar to previous years' versions. Nice enough, but certainly nothing very special.

Sapporo Yebisu Joël Robuchon Kakubetsu no Kampai (2018)
Pilsener / 5% / RateBeer Avg. 3.04 / My Rating 3.3
Spritzy floral nose, light citrus, and some white bread. Clear bright gold color, with delicate carbonation streaming up. Flavors of breads 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 Kaoru Rouge
Amber Lager / Vienna / 6% / RateBeer Avg. 3.04 / My Rating 3.4
Aromas of caramel, light roast, dark fruit, grape, a little bit of cherry. Medium amber gold color. Roast, grain, caramel, moderately tangy hops, and sweet and malty through mid and final. Not really "wine-like," as they claim. But the Mosaic hops do work pretty well here.

Sapporo Ginza Lion Beer Hall Special
Pale Lager / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 3 / My Rating 3.3           
Fruity nose, with apple peels, and a hint of dark fruit. Deep copper/gold color. Gentle roast malt, slick and sweetish mid palate, moderate bitterness, lightly peppery hops, and a thin fizzy balanced finish. Thin-medium body. This is not a pale lager but something with more character. Maybe a Dortmunder?

Sapporo Mugi to Hoppu Fuyu Komugi
Wheat Ale / 6% / RateBeer Avg. 2.87 / My Rating 2.7       
Stinky fruit aroma, with sewerish spirits. Clear medium gold color, thin white head. Mild initial maltiness, a hit of sweet wheat, some overripe fruit, and thin bitterness. Thin-medium body. Wheat is evident in flavor but not so much in aroma. The added spirits are masked more or less ... if that's a plus ... for this minus beer.

Sapporo Beer Surprise Shifuku no Fukami
Pale Lager / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 2.94 / My Rating 2.7
Medium malty aroma, with some sharp stink, and something like spirits (tho' none are listed on the label). Clear medium gold. Fairly fruity initial, and a deep inky hoppiness digs in and coats the tongue, with a slightly rough finish. Medium body, with a bit of hop burn. Smells like third category stuff. Has both Hercules and Hallertauer hops. Rare to have an overhopped beer from one of the major Japanese brewers.

Sapporo Baisen (2018- )
Oktoberfest / Märzen / 6% / RateBeer Avg. 3.09/ My Rating 3.1
First of all, this one is completely different from the other Sapporo Baisen, which has been retired since 2009. It's an Oktoberfest/Marzen at 6%. Aromas of light roast malt, caramel, sugar, dates. Clear coppery/orange color, off-white head. Somewhat rich caramel initial flavor, light roast malt, thin bitterness, and a little metallic from mid palate onward. Thin-medium body. Not as bad as it could be (considering the typical adjuncts used: rice, corn, and starch).

Sapporo Level 9 Zeitaku Strong
Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager / 9% / RateBeer Avg. 2.33 / My Rating 2.4
Sapporo wants to take you higher! Nose of weeds, thin fruit, some spirits as well (surprisingly mild for the high alc. level). Medium pale straw color. Weird heavy fruitiness from the start, rather sweet, very clear alcohol presence, but not too rasty. Medium body, and quite warming. They seem to have found a way to blend in the spirits without making it too repulsive. But it's not terribly beer like. Crackbooze in beer form (though it is clearly shin-genre stuff). I hope that high-alc. sort of thing doesn't become a trend -- as it has with chu-hai.

Three beers in the “Innovative Brewer” series (which seems to want to hide its connection to Sapporo):

Sapporo Innovative Brewer Gourmet Beer
Spice / Herb / Vegetable / 5% / RateBeer Avg. 3.02 / My Rating 3.1  
Salt & pepper beer. Mild malty nose, some wheat, and a clear peppery note. Light gold color. Thin, but decent, malty initial flavor. Don't get much wheat. The pepper emerges after a swirl of the glass. Salt less so -- not until very late. The citrus peel, almost none at all. Thin-medium body. The salt and pepper remain on the tongue in the aftertaste, and this has the strange effect of creating thirst rather than slaking it. Not entirely unpleasant. Unusual, and..... also innovative, I guess.

Sapporo Innovative Brewer Beer Cello
Pale Ale – American / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 3.01 / My Rating 3.3
Aroma of citrus, citrus zest, and stone fruit. Deep straw color. Flavors of stone fruit, citrus oil, and thin malt, with a mild bitter finish. Thin-medium body. Pleasant enough, but it goes a bit dull after mid palate.

Sapporo Innovative Brewer That's Hop Polaris & Apollo no Maho
IPA / 6% / RateBeer Avg. 3.19 / My Rating 3.5
Nose of light grapes, ripe apples, tropical fruit, and citrus. Medium gold color. Light sourish stone fruit, peppery hop note in mid palate, and fruitiness returns. Fairly bitter finish. Medium body, a bit foamy on the tongue. An unusual IPA -- sort of edging into saison territory. These are two supercharged bittering hops, and the brewers used them in a very restrained manner. But they are certainly offering us something new and different.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

New Beers from the Japanese Major Brewing Companies in 2018: Kirin / 日本の大手企業からの新しいビール 2018: キリン

We’re into 2019 now. It's time to take stock of new beers brought out in 2018 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 the current RateBeer weighted average score and my own rating score (both scores out of a possible total of five), keeping in mind that most of these newer brews have fewer than ten ratings.

In the previous post we discussed the new offerings from Asahi Breweries (here). 

Here’s what Kirin offered us in 2018:

Two new ones in the Grand Kirin series:


Kirin Grand Kirin Ame nochi Taiyo Belgian no Shiro

Witbier / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 3.08 / My Rating 3.2

Can from Family Mart. Nose has some citrus zest, wheat, yeast, and two-day old sweat. Clear bright gold color. Mild sweetish citrus initial flavor, hint of orange peel, decent mid-palate bitterness, minuscule amount of coriander, and thin finish. Thin-medium. Body. Not bad. But it seems more like a blond or a sweetish saison (especially in the yeast and the bittering) than a wit.

Kirin Grand Kirin Hikoukigumo to Watashi Lemon-hen (Lemon Beer)

Saison / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 3.12 / My Rating 3.4

Aromas of generous spritzy citrus, yeast, and decent but thin malt. Medium dark gold color. Flavors of sweetish malt, gentle citrus, saison yeastiness, touch of grass. Finish is very nicely balanced. Thin-medium body. This would be pleasant either looking down on the clouds from a plane or on the ground looking up. Flavors are well integrated. It could use a bit more saison zip and crispness, but overall it is well made.

Two in the Ichiban Shibori series:

Kirin Ichiban Shibori Cho Hojun

Premium Lager / 6% / RateBeer Avg. 3.09 / My Rating 3.4

Nose of sweetish stone fruit, quite floral and rich. Deep coppery straw color, with a creamy white head. Fairly sweet and malty, then a slight turn to overripe fruit and bitterness in mid palate. Bitterness increases in late mid palate. Quite tasty, overall. Seems sort of like an ale. A richer and thicker version of the more refreshing regular Ichiban Shibori. Given the process involved, it might be called Ichiban”han” Shibori.


Kirin Ichiban Shibori Takumi no Sae

Pale Lager / 5% / RateBeer Avg. 2.96 / My Rating 2.9

Bready malt nose, with light grass, and a hint of spirits (which is not an ingredient here). Clear bright gold color. Malty initial, a light somewhat sour fruitiness, and bready malt from mid palate onwards. Thin-medium body. Seems like noble hops. The spirit-like nose make it seem as if it were channeling happoshu. Yet, overall, not unpleasant.


Two in the, normally undrinkable, Nodogoshi seriess

Kirin Koi Nodogoshi

Pale Lager / 6% / RateBeer Avg. 2.42 / My Rating 1.6

Mild but lightly pungent stone fruit, with spirits and grapes. Deep gold color, thin white head. Foul overripe fruitiness, sick bitterness, some mint or spiciness in mid palate. Medium body. Ughhh! Pretty bad. Spirits not listed among the ingredients, but it sure tastes like a fortified beer. Junk.

Kirin Nodogoshi Strong

Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager / 7% / RateBeer Avg. 2.33 / My Rating 2.2

Ah, here we go again. This series! Nose of artificial stone fruit, light citrus. Bright clear gold color, and a fine white head which eventually develops into fat bubbles. Sweet thick fruity flavor, with grain, cereal, grain spirits, and some bitterness. Just barely passable. Yet I wouldn’t want to drink unless it were very cold.

Kirin Hon Kirin

Pale Lager / 6% / RateBeer Avg. 2.78 / 2.8

Medium-strength fruity nose, bit of citrus, sugar, cake frosting, laundry detergent. Bright clean gold color. Thin fruity initial, very light spirits in evidence, mild bitterness, thin flat finish. Thin- medium body. Just a bit of alcohol punchiness. Not too bad for this sort of thing. The Hersbrucker hops probably help.

Clear Malt

Pale Lager / 6% / RateBeer Avg. 2.76 / My Rating 2.6

Thick, prickly sort of fruity aroma, light peach, and some spirits. Medium gold straw color. Concentrated peach initial, maybe kiwi or something a bit more delicate, light citrus, and a small touch of spirits. Medium body, and actually a bit heavy for a lager. You need not search out this one.

Clear Malt Toshitsu 70% Off

Pale Lager / 4% / RateBeer Avg. 2.65 / My Rating 2.1

Nose of very mild indeterminate fruit, light grain spirits. Medium gold color. Rough malt initial, with grapes or maybe grape juice, spirits, and a somewhat rough aftertaste. Thin-medium body. Fairly typical aroma and flavors for low-carbohydrate beer. Gets worse throughout palate stages.

Three from the Spring Valley subsidiary of Kirin, each of which employs a local ingredient:

Spring Valley Brewery Kyoto Yosano IPA

IPA 7% / RateBeer Avg. 3.02 / No chance to try this one


Spring Valley Brewery Misansho Weiss

Spice / Herb / Vegetable / 5.5% / RateBeer Avg. 2.98 / No chance to try this one

Spring Valley Hojicha Brown Ale

Spice / Herb / Vegetable / 4.5% / RateBeer Avg. 3.04