Japan has recently experienced a boom in craft beers over the past few years as a result of a law-change that made it easier to produce beer on a smaller scale. Since that legislation was passed, hundreds of microbreweries have popped up along the length and breadth of the country producing beers with mixed results.
Some of the breweries such as Kiuchi Brewery, Yo-Ho Brewing and Minoh Brewery have become fairly well recognized internationally for their quality beers, however, there are also some interesting smaller companies that are doing well domestically.
Anyway, the title of this article is ‘Japan’s Strangest Beers’, so below is a list of just five interesting beers that the country has produced in the last few years – some good, some bad!
Okhotsk Blue Ryuhyo Draft
Okhotsk Blue Ryuhyo Draft is a beer from Abashiri Brewery which is located on the northern coast of Hokkaido in the coldest part of Japan.
Although this 5% beer is not my favourites in terms of taste, Okhotsk Blue Ryuhyo Draft is a winner for its novelty value. The beer stands out for its electric blue colour (although not so electric in real life) and interesting ingredients.
Okhotsk Blue Ryuhyo Draft Beer
Photo: Rog01 on Flickr
The beer is made using melt-water from icebergs that float to Hokkaido from the icy Sea of Okhotsk, a part of the North Pacific Ocean that separates Japan and Russia. The brewery also claims that it also uses seaweed to give the beer its icy blue tint.
A truly unique beer that is well worth a try if you visit the North of Japan.
Niigata Sparkling Mango
Sparkling Mango is a beer from Niigata Beer and yes, you guessed it, it is indeed Mango Beer. The idea of Mango and Beer together is possibly good in principle, but this particular combination isn’t for the faint hearted – I wasn’t its biggest fan.
Niigata Sparkling Mango
Photo: kimishowota on Flickr
At 3%, Niigata Sparkling Mango isn’t going to get you drunk never mind tipsy, but this one should be on the list to try if you are a fan of the fruit – it is more fruit juice with a beer mixed in rather than a mango beer. I’ll let your tastebuds decide!
Kinshachi Matcha Draft
Kinshachi Matcha Draft is a beer that was created by the Nagoya based Kinshachi Brewery which was established 1996 although has a history tracing back as far as 1877.
Kinshachi Matcha Draft is a 5% beer which is flavoured with a Japanese classic – Green Tea! The inclusion of the Japanese staple gives the beer a distinct greeny colour and taste that has a clear hint of Green tea when drunk.
Arnie Kim on Flickr
Although this beer seems to have been discontinued, I tried this a few years back and it was pretty good. However, I think the highlight was the delightfully designed bottle that it came in – a work of art indeed.
Sankt Gallen Sakura
This Sakura Mochi flavoured beer is a spring 2016 seasonal limited edition from Sankt Gallen Brewery which is located in Atusgi, Kanagawa Prefecture. Sakura Mochi is Cherry blossom pounded rice and is a favourite sweet amongst the Japanese at this time of year – you will agree that it is a bizarre flavour for a beer!
Sakura flavours dominate this time of year and is considered a seasonal must with huge amounts of products being released. This year McDonald’s have released a seasonal Sakura flavouring that you can sprinkle over your fries as well as Baskin Robbins re-releasing a Sakura flavoured ice-cream – something the Japanese haven’t seen for 24 years!
Sankt Gallen Sakura flavoured beer
Photo: yutacar on Flickr
Sankt Gallen Sakura’s colour is a normal golden brown with an alcohol content of 5%. A uniquely Japanese, awesome beer to try should you be in the country any tie soon!
Unfortunately I never got the chance to try this one as Bilk was ‘surprisingly’ only brewed one time with a very limited stock available in Nakashibetsu, Hokkaido.
Beer + Milk = Bilk! The delightful beverage was 70% beer and 30% milk and marketed toward the female population to try and interest them in the traditionally male drink.
Photo: 4563_pic on Flickr
The idea for Bilk was conceived when dairy farmers in the region had to throw away a huge surplus of milk in the spring of 2006.
Bilk which has an alcohol content of 5%, reportedly had a very fruity taste with a cloudy finish – it’s a shame I’ll never be able to try one of Japan’s oddest creations!