Biiru – All about Japanese Beers

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Of course, there is no need for a rigorous presentation about beer, a super popular drink in the world, including Japan where it is called biiru [ビール]. In this article, we will talk all about Japanese beers.

The five main beer producers in Japan are Asahi, Kirin, Orion, Sapporo and Suntory, the most consumed in Japan, however, there is a type of beer called happoshu, which contains a percentage of malt in the drink.

Japan tries to make alcoholic drinks go well with popular Japanese dishes, so it is normal to find strange flavors of beers, of course they are made for those who want something new, but it is not something that will disappoint even the most exquisite palates.

Bars with common and craft beers have increased their popularity in major cities in Japan, such as Tokyo and Osaka, which have a focus and interest in local craft drinks and drinks imported from the USA.

The History of Beer in Japan

Beer in Japan began in the 17th century, when Dutch merchants parked in Japanese ports, and opened beer halls for sailors who worked on trade routes between Japan and the Netherlands.

As Japan reopened foreign trade during the Meiji period, imported beers such as Bass Pale Ale and Bass Stout were available in limited quantities in foreign settlements, but other brewers from Europe and elsewhere also contributed to the growth of the industry. Japanese location.

Biiru - all about Japanese beers

Happoshu - Japanese low-malt beer

While in Brazil we have Puro Malte, Japan goes the other way. Happoshu [発泡酒] is a low-malt beer, a Japanese category that most often refers to a drink with a malt content lower than 67%.

The name Happoshu it means something like bubbling spirits. The alcoholic beverage is popular with consumers because it has a lower tax rate than the drinks that Japanese law classifies as "beer".

The Japanese alcohol tax system separates malt beverages into four categories based on the amount of malt: 67% or more, 50% to 67%, from 25% to 50% and less than 25%.

A malt-based alcoholic beverage is classified as beer if the amount of malt exceeds 67% of fermentable ingredients.

Most happoshu have less than 25% of malt, so taxes are lower, so producers invest more in hashoppu, with advertisements announcing healthier drinks.

Japanese regulations prohibit speaking biiru [ビール] to describe beers containing less than 67% of malt (thus allowing up to 33% to be adjuncts, including rice, corn, sorghum, potatoes, starch and sugar).

Japanese Beer Trivia

Happoshu beer and beers are the most popular alcoholic beverages in Japan, accounting for almost two-thirds of the 9 billion liters of alcohol consumed in 2006. One of the most consumed liquids in Japan is beer, second only to water and alcohol. tea.

Artisanal beers that are produced locally represent less than 1% of national beer consumption, but are constantly growing along with imported beers.

According to data from local Japanese markets, in the first eight months of 2012, domestic craft beer shipments rose 7.7 percent, while sales from Japan's largest breweries continued to decline for a year.

As of January 2014, Asahi had a market share of 38%, being the largest of the top five beer producers in Japan, followed by Kirin with 35%.


Popular beers in Japan

Among the most popular beers in Japan we have the Asahi Super Dry (super dry) as it says in its name, it is super dry, made with a low fermentation. Its taste is bitter, the taste is extremely sharp and caused a great revolution in Japan when it was launched.

Kirin Ichiban it's a beer Premium with pure malt. Its aroma reveals the greater presence of the malt, which makes it more golden and slightly sweet. To counterbalance, more hops are used, which increases their bitterness. It has a striking and refreshing flavor, perfect to accompany Japanese food.

Another popular beer is Orion which is manufactured in Okinawa island. It has a fresh flavor that accompanies any type of food. The foam is velvety and increases the texture of the beer. There is also Yebisu which is considered the most traditional beer in the country. It has an intense and deep aroma.

Below is a list of the most popular beers launched by these 5 companies:

Asahi Breweries

  • Asahi Super Dry
  • Asahi BlanK
  • Asahi Premium Beer Jukusen
  • Asahi Hon-nama (happoshu)

Kirin Brewery Company

  • Kirin Ichiban Shibori
  • Kirin Lager Beer
  • Kirin Fukkoku Lager
  • Kirin Akiaji
  • Kirin Heartland Beer
  • Grand Kirin
  • Kirin Tanrei (happoshu)

Sapporo Brewery

  • Sapporo Lager Beer
  • Sapporo Black Label
  • Yebisu - The Hop
  • Yebisu Black
  • Sapporo Classic
  • Hokkaido Nama-shibori (happoshu)


  • Suntory Malts
  • Suntory - The Premium Malts
  • Super Magnum Dry (happoshu)


  • Orion Original
  • Orion Southern Star
  • Orion Draft Beer
  • Orion Special
  • Orion Cider
  • Orion Dry

Seasonal beers from Japan

Many breweries in Japan offer beers seasonal. In the fall, for example, beers are made with a higher alcohol content. Some beer cans are typically decorated with images of autumn leaves, and just like artisanal ones, beers with different flavors and ingredients are launched.


Beer distribution methods

The legal age for drinking alcoholic beverages in Japan is 20 years old. In addition to bars, beer can be purchased from a wide variety of stores, including supermarkets, convenience stores and service stations at train stations.

Beer can be consumed almost anywhere, however, Japan has very strict laws with drivers or cyclists who ride after or while drinking. The fine can exceed 20,000 BRL and lead to jail.

In Japan, beer can also be sold in vending machines, although, as of 2012, it has become less common in large cities to prevent minors from consuming the drink.

To prevent minors from buying from automatic vending machines, some vending machines have cameras or require a card to prove their age. This does not prevent adults from buying drinks for minors.

Ranking - Japan's Best Beers

Japanese beer making has been constantly exported to most of Asia and also to others continents. The list below presents the best Japanese beers according to an international survey.

It is very likely that many of the beers below are handcrafted, seasonal, flavored or for a limited time. So it is not easy to find some of the Japanese beers in the ranking below, they may not even be available anymore.

  1. Hidatakayama Karumina
  2. Baird Dark Sky Imperial Stout
  3. Hitachino Nest Ancient Nipponia (Bottom Fermented)
  4. Hitachino Nest XH
  5. Tamamura Honten (Shiga Kogen) House IPA
  6. Shonan Belgian Stout
  7. Minoh Imperial Stout
  8. Fujizakura Heights Rauch
  9. Baird Kurofune Porter
  10. Sankt Gallen Imperial Chocolate Stout
  11. Shiga Kogen Takashi Imperial Stout
  12. Hitachino Nest Japanese Classic Ale
  13. Oze No Yukidoke Heavy Heavy
  14. Baird Suruga Bay Imperial IPA
  15. Hitachino Nest New Year Celebration Ale
  16. Shiga Kogen W-IBA Masaji the Great
  17. Tamamura-Honten Batch #500 Yamabushi Saison One
  18. Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout
  19. Fujizakura Heights Weizen
  20. Baird Temple Garden Yuzu Ale
  21. Baird Ganko Oyaji (Stubborn Old Man) Barley Wine
  22. Tamamura-Honten the Far East Barrel Aged Imperial House IPA
  23. Swan Lake Imperial Stout
  24. Sankt Gallen El Diablo
  25. Swan Lake Amber Swan Ale
  26. Shonan Imperial Stout
  27. Baird Morning Coffee Stout
  28. Shiga Kogen IPA

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