Kirin Lager (the real stuff from Japan)

Total Score: 6.15/10 Barley1Corn1CutGrass1Stein1

This is it: The real Kirin, made in Japan with malt, rice and corn, in all its 334mls of glory. If you’ve ever had that other crap they sell here in Australia – Kirin Megumi or whatever it’s called – you might think that you’re not missing out on anything. But you are: Real Japanese Lagers are a delightful crispy treat – like Peking duck. Problem is if want a real Japanese Lager you need to shop at a Japanese boutique grocery store, and they’re few and far between. I shop at Genki Mart Alderley, they have a small but decent selection of real Japanese beers… it’s a shame the powers that be at Kirin feel that they have to brew their Lager as a crappy Aussie Macro Lager under licence – there’s got to be a real market for authentic Japanese Lagers now.

Poured from a 334ml bottle into a stein.

A: Hazed light golden body with a 1 centimetre white head that compacts down to a lace blanket. Looks fairly good as far as Lagers go, not sure about the haze though – a bit uncommon with this style. 7/10.

S: Aroma is quite Sake forward, which is to be expected whenever rice is on the malt bill. Grainy notes, along with a touch of sweet corn round out a brew that is almost entirely malt-driven, again: to be expected. Overall the aroma is nothing remarkable, however real Japanese Rice Lagers tend to be average in this department. 5/10.

T: Dryyyy, malty/grainy/Sake from the get-go. Mid palate accentuates that dryness with – you guessed it: more dryness, hint of sweet corn as well. Finish is like a crisp winters day in the Sahara – long and dry. Did I mention dry? Yes? Ok, glad I covered that off. Taste couldn’t be further from the crap that’s brewed under licence that I’m starting to wonder if they even try to follow the original recipe. 6/10.

M: Mid to light bodied, none of the wateriness of the Australian brewed version, and a thin but active carbonation. Heaps better than expected. 7/10.

D: This is not a bad beer at all, not Yebisu Premium good, not Koshihikari Echigo good either, but a nonetheless decent example of a real Japanese Rice Lager which has been completely distorted by this “brewed under licence” crap. Why not just come out and say it – we Kirin brew under licence because we can trick consumers into thinking that they’re actually drinking a Japanese Lager when they’re really just drinking an [insert country name] Lager instead? #drinkrealjapaneselagersnotcrap 7/10.

Food match: Get some salted edamame beans and go for gold(en beer).

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Kirin Ichiban

Total Score: 4.05/10 Corn1Barley1CutGrass1Stein1

Kirin Ichiban, or Kirin first-best, is #2 on my Mini-Japanese-Macro-Journey (or MJMJ for short). Named after a mythical chimerical (i.e. a fictional animal composed of parts of various animals) Chinese creature known as the “Qilin”. This creature was based on two giraffes which caused quite a stir in the Ming dynasty courts, the Emperor at the time used the captured animals as a publicity stunt to proclaim them as magical creatures which, after being captured by his men, proved how bitchen he truly was. I’m not making this stuff up – seriously. Fact: Kirin now owns Lion Nathan (one of the two biggest Australasian distributors). Expectations set to macro disappointment levels.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Sapporo stein [no brand bias there].

A: Much the same as Asahi: a clear golden body, however the white head of Kirin sits pretty firm at around 1 centimetre – which earns it at least an extra point over Asahi (now that we’re dealing in absolutes). 7/10.

S: Aroma has a decent whiff of DMS (Dimethyl sulfide), which is obviously due to this beer being package in a green bottle (when will brewers learn?!?). So yeah, those pleasant [sarcasm intended] notes of corn and cabbage which detract immensely from the overall drinking experience. In fact this brew is so riddled with DMS, and being a Japanese Lager means it was never going to be a bold aroma in the first place, I can’t really detect anything else. Great work Kirin! 3/10.

T: More like an Aussie macro Lager than a Japanese one – grainy, corn, hint of stewed vegetables, cabbage (DMS affecting the flavour). Finish is slightly crisp but more malt syrupy (read: inferior) than Asahi. Terrible effort for a Japanese Lager. 4/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a bit of a fizzy carbonation – another area where this is more like an Aussie macro Lager. 5/10.

D: Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve had a skunked beer due to me reviewing nice craft brews, but this really has reminded me of the bad old days of drinking Heineken/Carlsberg/Becks/anything in a green bottle – because hey there is a science behind this stuff people and any beer that contains hops undergoes a chemical reaction as soon as UV light hits it (unless it’s hopped with tetra-hop extract) it’s called “lightstruck” and it’s bad yo. In any case – green beer bottles: My goat, got. 4/10.

Food match: The drain when you get a skunked one, otherwise: Sushi.

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Asahi Super Dry

Total Score: 5.45/10 Barley1CutGrass1Honeycomb1Stein1

I’ve decided that even though I’ve tried the 3 biggest Japanese macro Lagers before I’ve yet to actually review them (not entirely true as I’ve reviewed Sapporo in the bottle, but not in the 650ml can – which is what I have today). Don’t expect any massive scores: Asahi, Kirin & Sapporo are the very definition of macro brewers which will mean – taste, body, quality 👎 and blandness, cheapness, quantity 👍. Interestingly Asahi Super Dry was the beer that kicked off the Dry Senso (ドライ戦争) otherwise known as the “Dry Wars” in Japan over which macro could brew the driest Lager… obviously this was the Japanese version of the US Cola Wars, less family-friendly but just as preposterous.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Sapporo stein [no brand bias there].

A: Well I’m expecting it to be a 3-way tie here because let’s face it: All macro Lagers have basically the same colour/clarity/head retention. Asahi has a clear golden body with a thin white head that sticks around for about 20 secs before departing. 6/10.

S: Adjuncts give off a fairly grainy nose, hints of honey and a very light floral note in the background which adds a lovely overtone that makes you forget for a moment that this is a macro Lager… compared to Aussie macro fare this is rather pleasant hey. 6/10.

T: Cracker dryness hits from the off and comes back in the finish. Grainy malt base, a touch of sake rice, the lightest smidgen of honey and a cut grass mild hop hint towards the end. Crisp and dry, dry and crisp, yep, aha, great. 5/10.

M: Mid to light bodied, carbonation almost non-existent (probably because I was drinking too slow) but nope – it’s the beers fault, not mine. 5/10.

D: Overall though the story of Asahi Super Dry is that of a beer trying its best to be crisp and dry [DRY AND CRISP!!!]. This all works well with delicate sushi flavours, which is the reason why Japanese macro brewers fought so fastidiously over creating the driest beer. As far Asahi goes – it’s not terrible at what it does, it’s just a bit meh… and dry (I drank a pint of water between each of these reviews – stay hydrated people!). Am I looking forward to reviewing Kirin Ichiban next? Not a hell of a lot but I’ll take one for the team regardless. Chin chin!* 6/10.

Food match: Nigiri sushi it up yo!

*Ask a Japanese person why this is funny.

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