Ai Nihon 愛日本: Japanese Beer

Posted by Farmofminds - July 23, 2012 - 0
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Alcoholism in Japan isn’t an addiction; it’s a culture. Japanese love beer more than any other beverage. It is beer first before food at any izakaya or Japanese pubs; shout out Toriaezu nama (draft beer please) for your first round.

Photo by KmrksY

Walk into any convenience store or supermarket in Japan and you’ll notice a wide range of beer to choose from. At first glance, the big difference between beers lies in the price. For example, a six-pack of Sappora Darft One might be selling at 800 yen while Asahi Super Dry is going at 1200 yen. Your instinct or perhaps your wallet tells you to choose the cheaper option but curiosity for no reasons prefers the other. Not much of a difference if you think Japanese beer is cheap. But what’s behind the price tag, let’s get to the brim of it.

Photo by Eric Flexyourhead

Unless you are able to read Japanese, you wouldn’t be able to distinguish a real beer and a beer-like drink until you take the first sip. Due to taxation system, all beers in Japan are categorized into three groups, namma biiru, happoshu and happousei.

Photo from Adventures in Photography

Real beer in Japan containing more than 67% malt is known as namma biiru, which translates as raw beer or draught beer (otherwise spot for ビール on the can). Well-known brands in this group include Yebisu Premium, Kirin Grand Ale and of Asahi Super Dry. Namma biiru alcohol content is usually at 5% and it has a rich yet smooth malt flavor.

All other beer-like beverages are grouped into either happoshu or happousei. Low malt brews are grouped as happoshu while non-malt brews made from other ingredients such as soybeans are grouped as happousei. Examples of happoshu and happousei are Asahi Clear, Asahi Honnama Red and Kirin Tanrei. Beers that fall into these groups are usually cheap, light and watery with lower alcohol content. Beers that contain fewer calories also fall into these groups.

Photo by Atsushi Yokoyama

Don’t worry about choosing the wrong beer, there’s always another round- it is unlikely to accidentally buy water instead of beer.

  • BlueSlug

    I love these little articles! I know a pretty hefty amount about japan already, but it always helps to know more! keep up the good work (and of course the car stuff ;))

  • jmcn R

    Agreeing with Blue, loving these food and culture posts. Awesome! Thanks and please keep them coming

  • Farmofminds

    Thank you guys! I’ll try my best to keep up with these Japanese culture posts. I am really glad that you like them!

  • monkeymagic86

    Thanks for this post. Always enjoy learning something new about Japan!

  • NINE

    One that I can by locally (Minnesota) is HITACHINO NEST and it is really good but cost $5 a bottal 🙁

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