Posts Tagged ‘japan’

Beer Review: Kirin Ichiban

6 April, 2009

Asahi Super Dry was my favourite Japanese beer. Until I discovered that it wasn’t Japanese at all, but was brewed here in Britain. So I was thrilled to find another Japanese-looking beer at a shop in Dalston. Here it is: Kirin Ichiban, “Japan’s Prime Brew”. It must be Japanese. Surely.

Kirin Ichiban bottle

It reminds me of Erdinger Weisbier. What do you think?

It’s almost impossible to read, but the neck-label has writing either side of the “Kirin Ichiban” logo.

Kirin Ichiban neck label leftKirin Ichiban neck label centreKirin Ichiban neck label right

Careful squinting at the left-hand-side of the neck-label has them describe it as a “unique premium beer”. That’s welcome for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they didn’t say “lager”. Secondly, anything that makes a beer unique is very warmly welcome. The last thing the market needs is another generic lager pretending to be Oriental.

What makes it unique? The other side of the neck-label says something about a process and only using “the most flavourful portion of the finest ingredients”. I don’t know about you, but that explained nothing.

The front-label does away with the traditional roundel, yet still manages to be conservative and conventional.

Kirin Ichiban front label

All the important details are there. That this is a regular 330ml bottle. And that it has an equally regular 5% alcoholic volume. As out of the ordinary as rain. But right at the bottom of the label is another mention of “The Authentic Ichiban Shibori Process”. What is a “Shibori Process”? Why is it unique. I’m hoping for some answers on the back label.

Kirin Ichiban back label

First impressions are not good. Shiny golden text is not readable when there’s a light bulb switched on in the room. Or any illumination at all for that matter.

After much squinting, I’ve deciphered this. They describe the character as “pure, crisp and intensely satisfying”. And that the Ichiban Shibori process has something to do with pressing the ingredients once and then throwing them away instead of using them over and over. Sounds interesting. I’m looking forward to trying this one.

Then comes the bad news. This hasn’t been imported from Japan. Instead, it was brewed under license from Kirin Holdings by Wells & Young’s Brewing Co in Bedford. They even have a European web site at www.kirineurope.com. Surprisingly, it’s not bad. There’s lots of history and background if you prefer to read about beer instead of imbibing it.

The last little detail to mention is the UK units of alcohol. It’s nearly impossible to read, but that doesn’t matter. It’s only 1.7 UK units of alcohol.

What does Kirin Ichiban taste like? Is the Ichiban Shibori process just marketing guff? Should you buy it? I can hardly wait to find out…

Kirin Ichiban poured into a glass

Watch out for that head. It froths up a treat. A couple of minutes later, it has settled down, but it’s still bigger than most I’ve seen recently. On the surface at least, it looks like a lager. Fizzy and pale in colour. I was rather hoping that the famed “Ichiban Shibori” process would do something about that. Apparently not.

How does it smell? It smells a bit lagery. Again, I was hoping the “Ichiban Shibori” process would change that too. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t smell bad. It smells of a rich blend of malted barley. Not like many lagers out there at all. But still a little lagery.

Does it taste like a lager too? Sort of. But not in a bad way. A couple of gulps in, and I’m liking Kiribn Ichiban. Or at least this Wells & Young’s version. The flavour and taste won’t really impress you. Unless you love lager. It has much the same taste of malted barley that most lager style beers have. It’s the way it does it that impresses me. It is so rich and smooth, it’s like drinking Leslie Philips. The bitter “bite” that lager drinkers seem to love, and that I hate, isn’t there. In it’s place, is a pleasantly mild bitter taste that you barely notice.

What am I enjoying about Kirin Ichiban? I love how easy it is to drink. It is so gentle and so smooth, no one will object if you offer then a bottle. I’ve had a few other good lagers like this, that are this smooth and easy to drink. I’ll happily add Kirin Ichiban to the good lager list for these reasons. The drinkability also speaks about the quality of ingredients. It doesn’t taste like you’re drinking preservatives and flavourings, like with some. It also has that crisp, clean and refreshing quality that this type of beer should have.

What don’t I like about Kirin Ichiban? For a start, I don’t like the whole idea of licensed beers. I’d be much happier if this were a little bit more expensive, but imported from Japan. Beer from Bedford is never going to be as exciting, even when it pretends to be Japanese. Besides that, the head could be a handful. It’s so easy to drink that you could be mistaken for thinking that you’re drinking water. And, disappointingly, it’s not as unique as the label promised. The special process has made a very good lagery style beer, but there are others like it.

To sum up, Kirin Ichiban is a very good lagery style beer. I’m not sure if it really is a pilsner style lager, but it shares a lot in common. As such, there’s no flavour and very little taste. But it is very easy to drink. And I think it would be brilliantly well with a spicy meal. I really would like to try the genuine Japanese version though.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Kirin Ichiban? What did you think of it? Do please leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

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Beer Review: Asahi Super Dry

5 May, 2008

THIS week, I feel like trying some of the growing number of Asian beers on our shop shelves. The big names like Cobra and Tiger will follow shortly, but I wanted to start this round-up with this: Asahi Super Dry.

Asahi Super Dry bottle

Just one corner shop on my local Bethnal Green Road stocks this Oriental oddity. Curiosity took over and I just had to see what this would be like. The closest I’ve had, have been Chinese beers like Tsingtao during my gap-year. Whether this Japanese beer will be anything like that legendary Chinese beer, I’m looking forward to finding out.

The bottle top has a very stylised “Asahi” name. Plus the Japanese calligraphy for what I presume is the same name. If you can translate the Japanese text, I’d be very interested to hear from you, so leave a comment at the end of this post.

Asahi Super Dry bottle top

The neck label is the first time we see Asahi’s unique look. The black and red print on a shiny silver background is excellent. The text on the neck label tells us that Asahi is Japan’s number one beer. A fact that must count for something. The word “Premium” is on their too. Whether that means that this is “Asahi Premium” or if the “Premium” refers to something else, I’m not sure.

Asahi Super Dry neck label

The front label is somewhat overcrowded. There’s definitely a lot on there to get through.

Asahi Super Dry front label

At the very top and outside the octagonal border are the words “Asahi Beer”. Also outside the border, and in equally small lettering, it tells us that this has been brewed under licence from Asahi Breweries Ltd, Japan. And again, outside the border, but this time at the bottom of the label, we’re told that this is a 330 millilitre bottle. And that it has a volume of 5%. Not outstandingly strong, but far from weak. And that’s a promising sign.

In the bordered area of the label are all sorts of text and Japanese text. It’s hard to know where to begin. Under the Asahi Breweries Limited logo is the slogan “A Beer For All Seasons”. As slogans go, it’s not what I’d call memorable.

The Super Dry description is amusing. For reasons know only to themselves, only the word “Dry” has quotation marks. Not the word “Super”. So it reads as Super “Dry”. As if the characteristic of dryness is ironic. Has something been lost in translation here?

Under the large, stylised Asahi name is an unusually big block of text. And that block is split and underlined by some Japanese text. If you can translate what it says, do please leave a comment at the end of this post.

The English text however, starts off with the usual mentions of quality ingredients. It then describes what to expect with words including “Richness”, “Refreshing” and “Smoothness”. And an extended version of their slogan: “All Year Round You Can Enjoy the Great Taste of Asahi Beer”. Not if you live in London. It’s not exactly widely available yet.

Over on the back label, and everything is cleaner and neater.

Asahi Super Dry back label

It opens by telling us that Asahi is pronounced “Ah-Sah-Hee”. Also that it’s Japan’s number one premium beer. And that it is known for being “clean”, “crisp” and “refreshing”. All good, if vague stuff in my opinion.

Under where it says that it contains barley malt is a disappointing piece of news. Asahi Super Dry hasn’t been imported. Instead, it’s been brewed and bottled in the UK. Still, at least you can write to their European headquarters in London using the postal address given. Or visit their website at http://www.asahibeer.co.uk/. Finally, tucked away in the corner is the familiar UK units of alcohol symbol. All of 1.6 for this little bottle.

In the glass, everything looks fine.

Asahi Super Dry poured into a glass

There’s a thick head, which dies down a little over a minute or two. And the colour is a light yellow with a lot of bubbles. This is going to be a fizzy and gassy experience by the look of things.

The smell is… not sophisticated. It’s of malted barley and possibly hops. But it’s not overpowering either.

Just a couple of gulps confirm just how gassy this is. It is one of the most gas filled beers I’ve tried. Asahi Super “Dry” tastes much as you’d expect. An indistinctive blend of malted barley and hops. It reminds me of lager rather too much.

But it’s not all bad. It is “clean”, “crisp” and “refreshing”. And quite a fun, drinkable beer. But the “richness” and “smoothness” it promised are hard to find. And what’s “Super “Dry”” about it, I’m not certain.

To sum up Asahi Super Dry, this is a decent, if unsophisticated beer. It’s not got complex flavours or aromas, but then it never promised that. Instead, it provides a simple, straightforward and refreshing beer. Not bad, but I want something more. I will though, be looking out for Asahi’s other beers. If they have a Super “Wet” to compliment their Super “Dry”, I’d be interested in sampling it.

Rating: 2.5

Have you tried Asahi Super “Dry” or any other Asahi beers? Where did you find them on sale? Can you translate any of it? Is the authentic Japanese version better than the one brewed here in the UK? If you can answer any of these questions. Or just want to leave a rant, comment, suggestion or correction, then do so now.


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