Japan is not a nation that is generally renowned for its brewing. This is not necessarily due to any particularly poor products to emerge from the island nation, but rather simply due to it not being a staple export that we in the west can readily identify as being a major industrial or cultural interest. However there are a couple of notable exceptions here in the states (at least, in the east as in Pacific states, there is more than merely the examples I plan to offer) which are Sapporo and Kirin Ichiban.
From both of these breweries come beers which many of us in the U.S., particularly those of us who enjoy going out for sushi, find on offer at most Japanese and more broadly Asian restaurants. Between them, the most common offering we find are crisp, yellow, fizzy lagers which seek to one degree or another to mimic the standard domestic fare which comes out of our own larger multinational breweries. So with this beer we have something quite a bit different and quite a bit unexpected, honestly.
Before me I have the Sapporo Black. A dark lager, the beer pours as dark as your average porter or stout and maintains its opaque coloring beneath a firm and resilient off white head. At a smell, the nose comes through in a manner which makes complete sense given the appearance, yet still surprises due largely to the set expectations of the brewer. In this, we find the scents of roasted grains, bolder malts and the suggestion of a much weightier disposition than I’d expected when opening it.
In truth this beer actually drinks more like many stouts I’ve had before, than it does a simple dark lager. This in my mind is naturally a credit to the beer, as between the malt forward flavors of roasted grains and the hints of smoke to it, the smooth texture and easy sipping offered up here is a welcomed overall drinking profile in these days of cooler temperatures and hints of cold to come. With its own notable yet not too prominent hoppy bitterness, the overall experience of the sip is nicely rounded out towards the finish, with the bitter-sweetness of hops and malt both lingering just long enough to create a final impression.
All told, though by no means a mind blowing crafty of some sort, it is both a respectable creation on its own, while also something of a signifier which pleases the craft enthusiast within me. Just as Budweiser is both buying up craft breweries and redesigning their images and logos to present a more “hand crafted” feel, so too are other larger breweries beginning to expand in terms of the scope of their actual beer making. It is a slow process, but to my best estimation, now realizing that the public’s beer appetites seek more than merely fizzy yellow drink with a marginal alcohol content, many are beginning to diversify.
Isn’t diversity a wonderful thing?
So to Sapporo, to toying with recipes and of course to you, the readers and drinkers who make this column happens, I say as always…
While the brewery may have provided the product mentioned above for free, I was not required to write a positive review, I did not receive any monetary compensation, and the honest opinions I have expressed are my own.
Nicholas Goroff is an actor, writer and craft beer reviewer at EveryJoe.com. Certified as a Cicerone beer server, he is working towards obtaining certification as a beer judge while employed at Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett, NH. When not reviewing beer, wine and spirits, he is typically writing political essays, screenplays and short fiction. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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