Tag Archives: Japan

172. Sapporo Yebisu

This was a surprise. After nearly nine years of pursuing this ridiculous project, I had never, ever seen this beer. I’d scoured the Asian markets of Chinatown and beyond to no avail. And then you move to a nondescript provincial town, and there it is. In a Chinese supermarket vertically below my own sofa.

And of course, after a nine year wait, two come along at once.

Sapporo Yebisu

Sapporo Yebisu is listed in The Book as a Dortmunder Export, which is apparently a German style, although this particular example is from Japan, and the only previous one we’ve come across was Švyturys Ekstra from Lithuania. The one in the gold can—weighing in at 5.0% ABV—is what I believe to be the beer included in The Book.

It’s basically just…OK. It’s a can of lager. It wouldn’t be worth the £6.65 I paid for it if I didn’t have a stupid project on the go. But in defence of Starry Mart, they import it themselves and you’ll struggle to find it elsewhere, unless you fancy a round-trip to Tokyo. I really do, but then I also want a solid gold toilet, and it’s just not on the cards now, is it.

There is little to say about this beer. You know what lager tastes like. This one isn’t the worst I’ve had, which is damning with faint praise. Apparently the brewery take pride in the fact that this is made with all malt in the mash, eschewing adjuncts like rice. Which is, again, a fairly low bar to set.

I’ll try the blue one a bit later. I think it’s an ale, but I fully expect it to taste like another £6.65 I’ll never have back.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Sapporo, Tokyo, Japan
Style: Dortmunder Export
Strength: 5.0% ABV
Found at: Starry Mart, Colchester, Essex
Serving: Can, 350ml

27. Kirin Ichiban

Now then. Finally an actual bottle of pale lager that has no pretensions of being anything else. There are—perhaps unsurprisingly—very few of these in The Book, and whilst I’m by no means a lager drinker, I’m willing to consider that the handful that are in there are chosen for a reason.

Apparently Ichiban (meaning “the first”) is made with the single, first pressing of the wort in the mash tun. The finer points of the mechanics of brewing are lost on me, but I suppose that must be the beery equivalent of making extra virgin olive oil.

Kirin Ichiban

Kirin Ichiban certainly looks the part, with its very smart silver and gold embossed label featuring Japanese text and an ornate depiction of what seems to be a horse/dragon hybrid creature.

It’s pretty fizzy and pale, as befits a lager, with a generous frothy white head. There’s a nice malty whiff to it that I’m starting to learn is typical of the better quality examples of the style.

Ichiban is actually rather tasty. It’s fuller-bodied than expected, and very refreshing, but with enough of bitter finish to make this really quite a satisfying bottle of beer. Not bad at all.

Incidentally, I note that my bottle is actually brewed under licence in the UK, by Wells & Young’s of all people. It would be interesting to see how the original Japanese version compares.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Wells and Young’s, Bedford, England
Style: Pale Lagers
ABV: 5.0%
Found at: Bossman Wines, Lordship Lane, London SE22
Dispense: 330ml Bottle