Japanese beer

22 Feb

Do you like beer?
Have you ever tried Japanese beer?

I beer!

「麒麟ビール」 (Kirin Beer) is my favorite…but I’ll take any cold lager!

Kirin Tanrei Double

Kirin Tanrei Double

Japan has five major brewers:

  • Kirin Beer – This beer began in the late nineteenth-century in 横浜 (Yokohama, Japan). It’s named after a mythological creature called a 「麒麟」 (kirin) that looks like a dragon (it’s featured on the beer cans)…not named after a giraffe (which is 「キリン」 (kirin), also).
  • A mythological "kirin".

    A mythological "kirin".

    Many people don’t know that hidden in the creature on Kirin Beer cans is the word 「キリン」 (kirin):

    「キ・リ・ン」 (Ki-ri-n) written in the creature's mane.

    「キ・リ・ン」 (Ki-ri-n) written in the creature's mane.

    (I wrote another post that mentions Kirin Beer. Click here to see it.)

  • Asahi Beer -Started in 大阪 (Osaka, Japan).
  • asahibeer_logo1

    The Asahi Beer brewery is a Tokyo landmark.

    The Asahi Beer brewery is a Tokyo landmark.

    (I have pictures of old Asahi Beer posters on the end of another post. Click here to see it.)

  • Suntory Beer – Also started in 大阪 (Osaka, Japan).
    Suntory Beer got it’s name because the founder’s name was Mr. Torii…or Torii-san. So, he took the words Torii and san and reversed them into San-torii and changed the spelling to Suntory.
  • (Another famous Japanese company got their name in a similar manner. The Bridgestone company was founded by Mr. Ishibashi…which translates into Stone bridge, which he reversed to Bridgestone.)

    Suntory Beer

    Suntory Beer

  • Sapporo Beer – Started in 北海道札幌 (Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan).
  • Sapporo Beer

    Sapporo Beer

    Sapporo Beer bought the Yebisu Beer brewery (which was from Tokyo), so they make that beer as well.

    Yebisu Beer (pronounced "Ebisu")

    Yebisu Beer (pronounced "Ebisu")

  • Orion Beer – From 沖縄 (Okinawa, Japan)
  • Orion Beer

    Orion Beer

Have you ever tried Japanese beer? Which ones have you tried? Did you like them?
What’s your favorite beer in the world?

As I said above, I like 「麒麟ビール」 (Kirin Beer) best…and probably オリオンビール (Orion Beer) as my next favorite.

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42 Responses to “Japanese beer”

  1. Jake in Houston Texas October 19, 2011 at 6:02 am #

    I was in Japan in the late nineties. I think i was paying 300 yen for Sapporo. I still think that is a really great beer, but I prefer Mexican brews. My favorite being Modelo Especial when it is warm and Victoria when the weather is cool. Sapporo has the best can ever though!

    Jake

    Like

    • tokyo5 October 20, 2011 at 2:00 am #

      >I was in Japan in the late nineties.

      In Tokyo? How long were you here?

      >I prefer Mexican brews. My favorite being Modelo Especial…and Victoria

      I have never tried either of those. The only Mexican beer I know is Corona…it’s pretty good but a little bit pricey in Japan.

      Like

  2. Wendy February 13, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    I went to Okinawa with my mom back in 2002. We stayed with my grandparents for 11 days and I had the pleasure of eating mostly home-cooked meals. Best fresh sashimi and every morning my Obaasan would make rice, tea and a fish based soup with daikon, tofu and cabbage. Oishi! I enjoyed the Okinawan soba the best – and I refered to the meat in there as “big bacon” LOL.

    I definately would enjoy living there – living the simple life! My mother and father met there when he was in the airforce stationed at Kadena. I didn’t get a chance to visit the base though 😦 They met at a bowling alley there and the rest is history. All of my mom’s side of the family lives in Okinawa.

    And you are right the beaches are beautiful. I got a kick out of the vending machines on the side of the streets, the tiny cars and the huge cockroaches! Anyways, thanks for letting me share, and thanks for running this blog site. Enjoy life!

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 13, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

      Eleven days. It must have been a nice vacation for you.

      I agree that Okinawan noodles are excellent.
      Did you try Goya, or Mimiga?

      So your father was in the U.S. military and stationed in Okinawa?
      There are many U.S. bases on that island.

      Very few Japanese know what “root-beer” or “Spam” meat is, let alone ever tried it…except in Okinawa.
      Due to the U.S. military, both root-beer and Spam meat are popular in Okinawa.

      Like

  3. wendy February 12, 2010 at 10:27 am #

    I like Orion! I first tried it when I went to Okinawa to meet my other half of family for the first time. It’s so crisp and clean, with not much after taste. Could drink that all day! It’s just hard to find her in San Diego. They only sell them at the Japanese markets in the 22oz bottles on average $3.50 – $4.00 a bottle. Haven’t found a 6 pack or 12 pack anywhere!
    :(… If anyone knows where I can find some let me know! Kampai!

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 12, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

      I don’t have any idea where you might find Orion Beer in America (besides a Japanese store or restaurant).

      When did you visit Okinawa?
      The beaches are beautiful there…and the food is delicious!
      Did you enjoy Okinawan cuisine?

      Like

  4. akira January 3, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    did anyone taste this limited edition Space beer? wonder how it tastes
    http://www.japansugoi.com/wordpress/space-barley-beer-from-sapporo-japan/

    Like

    • tokyo5 January 3, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

      Your link doesn’t seem to work.

      But it’s OK.
      I wrote a post about the “Space Beer” too.
      Click here to read it.

      And, no I didn’t try it. It’s too expensive.

      Like

  5. Carl October 25, 2009 at 1:16 am #

    I drink Japanese beer because they are lighter and sweeter than the standard non-Japanese beers.
    Yebisu is my favourite. It has a wonderful rich taste that just grabs your heart from the start.
    Sapporo is nice, decent, but nothing really special about it.
    Kirin is too bitter for me. Too much like Tiger beer.
    Orion has a very unique taste, quite mild, sweet, and overall delightful.

    I don’t mind drinking Sapporo or Orion as standard fare, and a Yebisu once in a while!

    Like

    • tokyo5 October 25, 2009 at 1:26 am #

      >Yebisu is my favourite…Kirin is too bitter for me.

      I’m the other way.
      I like Ebisu Beer…but it’s my least favorite Japanese beer. Kirin Beer is the best!

      Like

  6. ray July 7, 2009 at 7:24 pm #

    I love Suntory’s summer beer campaign with Yukie and Mikie
    http://japansugoi.com/wordpress/suntory-beer-commercial-with-mikie-hara-and-yukie-kawamura/

    Like

    • tokyo5 July 7, 2009 at 10:01 pm #

      I have seen that commercial on TV a number of times.

      They’re not so common these days anymore…but in the 90s, Japanese beer ads almost always featured “beer girls”.

      Like

  7. eric May 29, 2009 at 9:20 pm #

    tokyo5 said>Did you visit Japan? How long did you stay? What cities did you visit?

    i stayed 3 weeks. i was in:
    Tokyo (GREAT city. Found it very easy to get around. Did a lot of shopping, saw some kabuki, wandering around, ate a lot of great food, went to Tokyo Disney…)

    Kamakura (Nice little town. A little touristy but still nice. Saw the big Buddha of course.)

    Hakone (Stayed at a great ryokan. Went to the lake… had a so-so view of Fuji-san.)

    Osaka (Another great city. Might be the one that I would live in if I ever was lucky enough to live in Japan. Like a smaller Tokyo.)

    Kyoto (Can’t remember what I did there but know I was there. Think I basically wandered around, went to a museum, and maybe hit a sake place.)

    Kamikochi (Relaxed in the mountains in a cabin. Saw monkies.)

    Was a wonderful trip. (I’m from the US and) I went as part of British tour group, Inside Japan. Really great because it was loosely structured so you could go off on your own whenever you wanted. And I had a lot of fun drinking beer at the end of a long day of sight-seeing with the Brits!

    It’s 6 years later and I’m married and have a 1 year old kid, and hope to bring them both back to Nihon some day because it was one of the best trips of my life.

    Like

    • tokyo5 May 29, 2009 at 10:03 pm #

      So, you had a nice holiday here and you saw many sights.

      Personally, I wouldn’t say Kamakura is overly touristy…and I think Osaka is quite different from Tokyo.

      Like

      • eric May 30, 2009 at 12:26 am #

        Agreed… “Touristy” might be the wrong word. I just recall that the Big Buddha is a known big attraction so was very crowded, whereas other places I went (e.g. the ryokan area I was at in Hakone, and Kamikochi) might’ve been more off the beaten path.

        And I’d also agree Osaka is different than Tokyo, but is similar to me in that there are a lot of modern buildings (e.g. Umeda Sky Building) etc. Those two seem more similar to me than, for example, Kyoto which had an older, more traditional feel to me. I almost equate it to how Portland is a mini similar but different version of Seattle, or Philadelphia is a different but comparable version of NYC.

        Of course, I was only there for 3 weeks, so my memories may be a bit distorted, but I do know I loved the whole country.

        Like

      • tokyo5 May 30, 2009 at 1:23 am #

        >I just recall that the Big Buddha is a known big attraction so was very crowded

        Yes, the 大仏 (Great Buddah) statue in Kamakura is often crowded…and it’s a must-see.
        But there are other excellent sights in Kamakura too.

        (BTW, the photo on the left-side of my header image on this blog shows the band KISS near Kamakura in 1977).

        >And I’d also agree Osaka is different than Tokyo, but is similar to me in that there are a lot of modern buildings

        Yes, Osaka is a big city too.
        I’d say, though, that Yokohama has more similarities to Tokyo than Osaka.
        All three cities are unique and have their own style…but as Yokohama is geographically near Tokyo, they have more similarities.

        Like

  8. eric May 29, 2009 at 4:02 am #

    Kirin Ichiban is my favorite when having sushi, and my preferred mass produced Japanase beer over Sapporo and Asahi.

    When visiting Japan around 5-6 years ago though, Yebisu was what I mostly drank.

    Hitachino Nest is the best beer I’ve had from Japan though. They are making really interesting and unique biru.

    Like

    • tokyo5 May 29, 2009 at 6:31 pm #

      >Kirin Ichiban is my favorite when having sushi

      Kirin is my favorite beer!

      >When visiting Japan around 5-6 years ago though, Yebisu was what I mostly drank.

      Did you visit Japan? How long did you stay? What cities did you visit?

      Yebisu is good…but I seldom drink it.
      I prefer the other Japanese beers over Yebisu.

      >Hitachino Nest is the best beer I’ve had from Japan though.

      From Ibaraki. I’ve had that beer once. It is good.
      There are many local Japanese beers. Whenever I go to 鎌倉 (Kamakura), I drink a Kamakura Beer.

      Like

  9. Tsukareru March 5, 2009 at 3:39 am #

    Asahi Super Dry or Sapporo is good.
    As for American beer… Miller High Life or MGD.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 5, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

      Thanks for writing.
      I see your comments on Naokoさん’s blog often.

      I’ve never tried Miller beer. And I’m not sure what MGD stands for.

      Like

      • Tsukareru March 6, 2009 at 8:15 am #

        Naoko-san and I talk on Skype.

        >I’ve never tried Miller beer. And I’m not sure what MGD stands for.

        Really?! You have been out of the states too long!
        MGD stands for Miller Genuine Draft. Its just a standard pale lager.

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 6, 2009 at 10:19 pm #

        Miller Genuine Draft, I see.
        I’ll try it if I get a chance.

        Like

  10. Sir Pent February 23, 2009 at 4:34 am #

    It doesn’t have to do with cost…although I sometimes drink really cheap beer for a lark.

    I drink Coors Light when I know I’m going to be drinking for a while. (Out with a group for a few hours or drinking with the guys for the evening.) It’s not very filling, so I can drink a lot without feeling bloated. I also find I don’t really get a hangover when I drink Coors. I don’t know WHY that is, but I am glad I found it out.

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 23, 2009 at 10:24 am #

      >I also find I don’t really get a hangover when I drink Coors.

      Maybe it’s watered-down! 😀

      Like

  11. gigihawaii February 23, 2009 at 3:00 am #

    A case of 24 bottles of BECK’S BEER costs $21.70 at Costco.

    Cheap for an import!

    Like

    • crazynoble24 March 5, 2011 at 7:37 am #

      Beck’s and almost every other foriegn beer sold in the US is not actually imported but it is bottled and sold in the US. A common misnomer. This includes the Japanese beers you buy in the US. Look at the label sometime, it will say “bottled by so and so under supervision of Beck’s.”

      Like

      • tokyo5 March 5, 2011 at 10:48 am #

        >foriegn beer sold in the US is not actually imported but it is bottled and sold in the US.

        I guess that’s probably more common now than actually importing it. Saves money.

        Actually “Budweiser Beer” in Japan is bottled by Japan’s “Kirin Beer”…and I think it’s the other way around in the U.S.

        I think Japanese cars and TVs sold in the U.S. are made there too.

        Like

  12. Sir Pent February 22, 2009 at 11:20 pm #

    I was joking about “next time”…but I’d love to go someday.

    What do I drink today? My standards are:
    Heavy Drinking = Coors Light
    Moderate Drinking = Sam Adams Light
    Light Drinking = Guinness

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 23, 2009 at 12:00 am #

      >I was joking about “next time”…but I’d love to go someday.

      I thought that you were probably either joking or mistyped.
      Anyways…you should still come to visit Tokyo one day!

      >My standards are…

      I see. So, it looks like if you’re gonna drink alot, then low-price is more important than quality…but if you’re gonna drink less, then you go for taste.
      Makes sense.

      Like

  13. bartman905 February 22, 2009 at 8:18 pm #

    > Have you ever tried Japanese beer? Which ones have you tried? Did you like them?

    Yes, of course – I have tried Asahi, Sapporo, Yebisu and Kirin. I like them all, but I guess Yebisu is my favorite Japanese beer because it’s what I have currently in my fridge ^-^

    > What’s your favorite beer in the world?

    Guiness

    PS. Great post, great subject – beer. Is the next one about Japanese whiskey, maybe sake?

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 22, 2009 at 8:56 pm #

      >I have tried Asahi, Sapporo, Yebisu and Kirin.

      Not Suntory or Orion?

      >I guess Yebisu is my favorite

      Yebisu is good. (Kirin is best, though…to me.)

      BTW, Yebisu beer is named after the Japanese god called Ebisu (one of the 七福神 (Seven Gods of Fortune))—he’s on their logo…and the area of Tokyo called 恵比寿 (Ebisu) is where Yebisu Beer used to be brewed.

      Yebisu is actually the old spelling of Ebisu…they’re pronounced the same. Japan no longer has a ye character in the Japanese “alphabet“.

      Japanese money is called Yen overseas…but here in Japan, it’s called “En“. Because it also used to be spelled with the old ye character.

      >Guiness

      I’ll have to give that beer another try, due to your and “Eric In Sendai”‘s (http://insendai.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/chocolate-beer/#comments ) recommendation.

      >Great post, great subject

      Thanks.

      >Is the next one about Japanese whiskey, maybe sake?

      Good idea. Maybe.
      Why don’t you write one?

      Like

  14. tokyo5 February 22, 2009 at 5:58 pm #

    Eric & Tom…

    Yeah, that 「キリン」 (Kirin) name is written very small.

    But, I dare say, most Japanese people know about it.

    Like

  15. Tom February 22, 2009 at 5:02 pm #

    I didn’t know that Kirin was spelled on the can either! I guess that my vision gets blurry whenever I have a can for some reason.

    Like

  16. Bill February 22, 2009 at 11:59 am #

    I do love the Asahi Super Dry. Very good. But after a night of too many, the next day isn’t so good.

    We toured the Sapporo Brewery and they had some very, very nice dark beers there.

    Orion is good, but a bit too malty for my taste, much like the Suntory Malts.

    But our favorite ramen shop had Kirin on draft for 500 yen, so it was my favorite every time we went there.

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 22, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

      >I do love the Asahi Super Dry.

      Most foreigners like Asahi best. I guess that beer’s taste is similar to foreign lagers.

      You’ve been in Japan for three years a few years ago. Is that right?
      What brought you to Japan for that long?

      Like

  17. Eric February 22, 2009 at 10:24 am #

    I think the most shocking piece of information in this post was that Bridgestone is Japanese! Blew my mind. I always thought they were American. Also the katakana in the Kirin was really cool too.

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 22, 2009 at 2:39 pm #

      Bridgestone is a Japanese company.

      The American tire company “Firestone” is a subsidiary of Bridgestone. (Hence the similar company names).

      And haven’t you seen the 「キリン」 (Kirin) name in the creature’s mane before?

      Like

      • Eric February 22, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

        No I never noticed it before. It’s so tiny!

        Like

  18. Sir Pent February 22, 2009 at 6:52 am #

    I went through a phase in my life where I was trying all kinds of different beers and lagers. I tried Sapporo and probably a few other Japanese beers.
    I think like anything…some were good, some were not so good.
    I’d have to do a taste test.
    Next time I’m in Japan you and I can hit a bar, have some beers and talk KISS.

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 22, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

      Sir Pent…

      So which beer do you usually drink now?

      >Next time I’m in Japan you and I can hit a bar, have some beers and talk KISS.

      “Next time” you’re in Japan? Have you been here before?
      But, anyways, yes…come to Tokyo. I’ll show you around!

      Like

  19. gigihawaii February 22, 2009 at 3:01 am #

    David and I always drink BECK’S BEER imported from Germany. Just 140 calories.

    Isn’t the water in Germany purer than that in Japan? I always associate Japan water with mercury poisoning.

    Like

    • tokyo5 February 22, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

      Isn’t imported beer expensive?
      I usually just drink domestic (Japanese).

      And I don’t think the mercury level is higher in Japan than any where else. It may be more of a concern here because Japanese people eat alot of fish…not really because of the water, I’m sure.

      Like

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