I’ve written before about my off again on again ambivalence to beer. I’ll drink it, but it’s not my first choice. Japan, though, makes great beer. The big four brewers, Kirin, Asahi, Suntory and Sapporo all make great mass market beer and the latter also owns Yebisu, a small brewery that makes the best mass market beer in Japan.
Partly as a result of this, the Japanese consume a lot of beer. It’s common for adult students to ask how much beer I drink every night and I’ve shocked them by saying that I usually don’t drink that much. Even my in-laws don’t always get that I don’t need alcohol with every meal. (Yes, even for breakfast. On New Year’s Day, it’s tradition to drink sake with breakfast.) Every now and then She Who Must Be Obeyed or I get a craving for beer and buy a couple cans. (Pizza and curry are usually involved.) We also occasionally get a craving for wine. Some of my former students would be shocked to know that there is currently no beer in our house (and as of an hour ago, there’s no bourbon either).
However, thanks to government intervention, drinking beer in Japan is rather complicated and one should be aware that all that’s golden is not beer. The first category to be aware of is happoshu (発泡酒) or low-malt beer. This was created based on a loophole that anything made of 67% malt or more was classified as beer and taxed accordingly. The market responded by making low-malt beer that, at first, was reasonably tasty. The government responded by taxing happoshu and the brewers responded by lowering the malt content to 25% and below. As result, Happoshu flavors run the gamut from “Yeah, this is Budweiser” to “Dude, who pissed in my mouth?”
To further defeat the tax man, Japanese brewers lost their minds and created Third Type Beer from soybeans, corn and peas. The result is beer-flavored beverages classified as liqueur rather than beer and which serve as little more than alcohol delivery systems. They maintain the alcohol content, though, and are cheap. They therefore serve well as the “beer” you serve after your guests are a bit drunk and their taste buds have gone numb. (Not that anyone would ever be so, well, actually, yeah, I would totally do that.)
For me, though, this is mostly moot. Because we rarely drink, when we do have beer in the house, we usually only drink it with supper. If I’m having an after dinner drink I prefer bourbon or scotch.
But I’m weird that way. My former students would definitely concur.