I've actually just opened a can of this wonderful stuff (at the time of initial drafting...), so I thought I'd write a little bit about it.
Kirin is one of Japan's "big four" beer producers, the others being Suntory, Asahi and Yebisu, all of which are also excellent. Kirin actually means "giraffe" in Japanese. It comes in several varieties, including Classic, which is in the white and red can (seen in the picture) and "Ichi-ban" (No.1), which comes in a gold and beige can. They also have the quite wonderful "Aki" brew - "Aki" meaning "autumn", which comes in a beautiful red can with a maple leaf design, along with, of course, the Kirin dragon logo. I have a few of these in the fridge ready to go, but I'll finish writing this first!
For the last seven years I've lived in Japan, so I've never actually had Kirin in England. In fact, until I came to Japan I had no idea of its existence. We have very few foreign lagers here (some larger shops sell them but they're expensive - 2.50 pounds in a supermarket for a bottle of Carlsberg ... um, no thanks) and since Japanese beers are generally stronger (nothing is less than 5%) all the foreigners I know far prefer Japanese and Kirin tends to be the most popular (although to be fair, I like a bit of everything).
Kirin has a lightly sparkling but full taste. It tastes strong, unlike say, Fosters or Carling, which just taste watery, but has a good clean taste without that metallic aftertaste you get with stronger lagers like Stella or Kronenburg. At 5% alcohol it packs a decent punch whether in a can or draught (not sure if you get it on tap in the UK, but practically every bar has it here). Cold, it's extremely refreshing. The only real difference I can notice with the Aki brew is that it's stronger at 6%, for the same price (here in Japan, at any rate - you probably can't get it there, but if you see it, grab a crate or two).
In Japan we have three main varieties of canned alcohol: regular lager - known simply as "biru" - such as the Kirin described here, "happu-shu", which is cheaper, not so delicious (I'll only drink it if someone gives it to me for free) and is beer made without hops, and "chu-hi", which is effectively alcoholic fruit juice in the alcopops vein. It's what you drink when you want to get smashed, because it's cheap and some varieties are 8%. Kirin, without doubt, is the drink for a quality party or a relaxing evening in.
Over here the most common sizes are 350ml (Coke can size) and 500ml, although there are little grubber cans as small as 135ml (obviously for elves, and the funny thing is you can buy them in 24 packs!) and monsters of 2000ml, which look cool to drink but actually work out more expensive by volume and go warm long before you get halfway through. You always see newcomers to Japan drinking them - old hands are a lot wiser. Draught beer here is a regular 500yen in a bar (currently 4 quid, although due to the nature of exchange rates it has been as cheap as 1.90 while I've lived here) while a single 500ml can in a supermarket is about half that. Again, it doesn't sound cheap, but you're paying for quality and the exchange rates are pretty skewed at the moment.
Very recommended if you come across it.
May also appear on Ciao.
*Beer for Japanophiles*
Much as the language and cultural differences terrify me, I love what I've seen of Japanese culture and am an even bigger fan and evangelist for Japanese cuisine. I love their ritualised approach to food, the way it's an integral part of life for many Japanese as opposed to an afterthought and the care that goes into preparation, presentation and the importance attached to nutrition.
It will come as no surprise, then, that whenever I'm feeling flush and payday approaches I can normally be found meandering around the Japan Centre in Piccadilly in a good natured manner trying to decipher packaging like an awkward gaijin.
Kirin Ichiban usually makes its way into my basket and this extra virgin olive oil of the Japanese beer scene is a great way to wet the whistle when celebrating at the start of a holiday, or just relaxing at the weekend.
*Availability and cost*
Kirin Ichiban can be purchased from the aforementioned Japan Centre if you're in London (www.japancentre.com - review to come shortly), as well as various other specialist retailers of Japanese food and drink. It's occasionally available from cash and carries (well, I found it in Makro once) and a select list of pubs which serve it in draught (mostly in London), can be found at http://www.kirineurope.com/kirin/experience .
The typical price is £1-1.40 for a 330ml can, considerably more for a pint.
*A great beer for those of us who don't like beer, if that's a compliment?*
I have to confess to being a terrible philistine, as I'm a chap who can quite happily live without beer. I'm more than busy enough being a wine fan without exploring the world of real ale and other complexities and this is an absolutely cracking choice for the few occasions where a beer is really in order.
Kirin Ichiban has a light, crisp taste (5% ABV) and is very 'summery' and refreshing. It's considerably more suited to my palate than drain cleaner such as Stella Artois or Carling and it doesn't leave the cheap, tinny after taste that so many of the British and continental lagers do.
It's very easy to drink and the three cans I purchase yesterday have disappeared far faster than I would have liked. That said, please drink in moderation as with any alcoholic beverage.
Most of the Kirin to be found in the UK has also been brewed here, but it follows the Japanese Shibori process. This means that the ingredients are only pressed once, with the remainder being thrown out afterwards. I'm certainly not going to contradict them - it's clean and clear, tastes good and goes down easily.
I'd certainly recommended this to anyone looking for a refreshing drop of a summer evening that isn't too complex and won't leave them feeling too 'foggy'. It's a little dearer than some beers out there, but that's not an issue if you're not looking to purchase one of the monstrous slabs of continental lager designed for house parties or binge drinking.
A smooth, easy drinking beer - give it a go with savoury snacks, fish, or if you fancy something a little spicier, I can recommend some wasabi peas.
I recently had a bit of a disaster where by my supply of beer for the England v Andorra game escaped from my rucksack and smashed all over the floor. The only bottle left from my week's testing, was the small 0.33l bottle of "Japanese Premium Lager" called "Kirin".
The label was somewhat conflicting because it said 5% on the actual bottle but 4.7% on a small label from an importer. In the build up to giving it a go, I'd heard some pretty poor reports about the dragon emblazoned bottled of Japanese booze.
I was therefore pleasantly surprised to discover a very normal tasting lager with an exceptional blend of flavours that ensured it wasn't too sweet nor too bitter. The carbonation too was impressive, not too fizzy yet easily maintaining its body for the duration of the drinking period. It seems that most of the negative reports on this beer revolve around the one bottled and brewed in California. Whilst this one wasn't made in Japan either, which of course is a bit disappointing - it also wasn't made in California but instead for Kirin Europe in Kaliningrad, Russia supervised by a Dusseldorf based brewery.
I get the feeling that this is not what the US bottled version of Kirin nor the Japanese draught version would taste like at all and the recipe is probably different as it tasted pretty much like a reasonable German lager. The label is cool, if just for the novelty of Japanese writing and the mean yet effeminate looking dragon like character on the front of the bottle. The only downside of course is that it seems only to be done in ponsy 0.33 l bottles.
First of all Kirin ?the premium Japanese lager? (or so it?s garish label informed us) is now brewed by the A-B Brewery in California. I think this immediately put my back up? I like my bottled alcohol to come from where it is supposed to come from. Bud?American Beer, Kirin ?.Japanese beer. This guarantees that the entire mystique, tradition, honours etc. that were heaped up it while it was a cornerstone of the Japanese brewing tradition are still being maintained. You cannot uproot tradition. /rant over : ) We bought a crate of 24 bottles for a small select gathering (ahem?) (£30 Sainburys) on the basis it was on offer, good value and well ?. ?party beer?, so it did not matter if it did not taste like premium beer as long as it didn?t make anyone ill. (It was my house after all!) To establish my credentials and bias for lager, I am primarily a stout/bitter girl (Depending on what country I am in) However I do like lagers and have been known to enjoy Azhal (Asian), OB (Korea), Kingfisher (India) or Taj Mahal (India). So I am not adverse to a nice tasting lager at a party or at the end of a hot day. Alarmingly for a lager, once poured, Kirin loses its head very quickly. After 2 mins away from my drink, I could only identify which was mine by its glass as it sat on a table full of its ?flat looking? cousins. Its colour is a rich gold, rather like Carlsburg. The taste, both initial, and final is of hops, hops and hops. There is some sweetness (which I presume is rice? as there is no other ingredient listed that could account for this) Oddly, there is no real aftertaste, just a tinny sensation on the roof of your mouth. Not unlike having had a metal tongue press inserted and taken out again. It's alcohol content is 4.8% so you can have a few bottles and be mellow rather than turn into a house wreaker :) Another plus is that it is not too gassy (well I suppose that is a minus if you are planning on holding burping ch
ampionships) It tastes like no other foreign beer I have ever had before and as ?premium? beer and ?foreign? beer are concepts that are often mixed up, I think anyone buying this under the impression that this product is anything special based on the price (normally at about £1.25 a 330ml bottle about the same as premium beers) will be in for an unpleasant surprise. On the plus side for those out there worried about GM crops being used in their beers coming from industrialised nations like the US both the Asahi and Kirin Beer companies have switched entirely to non-genetically modified ingredients. And Japanese soybean farmers, who do not use any genetically modified seeds, are enjoying a huge demand for their beans. Thanks for reading xx E.
I'm always on the look-out for new beers to try. My preferences lie in the myriad styles of the great beers of Belgium, most particularly Trappists and Abbey-style dubbels and tripels, but I'm a great believer that different occasions call for different beers. I don't really care for Japanese food but if I were to tackle a terriyaki, a Japanese beer would be the best companion to augment it. Wouldn't it? Of course you don't have to eat 'moules et frites' to appreciate the qualities of Belgian ale, so I think it should be gourmetically acceptable to quaff a beer or two from the 'Land of the Rising Sun' without scoffing some sushi. So, after scanning the shelves of my local supermarket, I found myself in the position of sampling Kirin Lager. I searched for some information about this beer and had a look at their website, but to be honest, I couldn't care less about buy-outs and mergers, and that's pretty much what the Kirin site is all about. No more than a couple of lines about their beer is all you'll get I'm afraid - lots of information about sushi, but not much about beer - it all looks a bit fishy to me. Kirin's history in brewing goes back 1885 and to a small brewery in the port city of Yokohama. British and Germans residents took over the Spring Valley brewery and renamed it The Japan Brewing company. In 1888 they launched a German style lager called Kirin. The brewery was acquired by the Mitsubishi family in 1907 and renamed again. There then followed a period of swallowing up smaller breweries, and partnerships with others (including Anheuser-Busch). In 1954, Kirin became the number one beer distributor in Japan only losing that position recently to Asahi Breweries. Due to their partnerships around the globe, Kirin (or to be more accurate, the locally brewed equivalent wherever you are) is widely available. http://www.kirin.com/home.html <
br> A Kirin is - The Japanese unicorn, an animal-god who punishes the wicked with its single horn. It protects the just and grants them good luck. Seeing a kirin is considered an omen of extreme good luck - if one is a virtuous person.* --------------------------INTERLUDE------------------------- A man walks into a Japanese restaurant but is told that there will be at least a twenty minute wait and would he like to wait in the bar. He goes into the bar and the bartender says, "What'll it be?" The man, who has a passion for Russian vodka replies, "Give me a Stoli with a twist." The bartender squints at him for a few seconds, then smiles and says, "Once upon time were four little pigs..." OR.... A 92 year-old man went to the Doctor to get a physical. A few days later the Doctor saw the man walking down the street with a gorgeous young lady on his arm. A couple of days later the Doctor spoke to the man and said, "You're really doing great, aren't you?" The man replied, "Just doing what you said Doctor, Get a hot mamma and be cheerful." The Doctor said, "I didn't say that. I said you've got a heart murmur. Be careful." ------------------------------------------------------------ Back to the beer..... Ingredients: Water, barley malt, yeast, hops, rice, corn Rice? Corn? - Oh dear. • The Pour • Kirin lager pours to a slightly hazy, pale golden colour, with a really thin whispy white head that disappeared as soon as I turned my back. The initial aroma was not encouraging, with a combination of vinegar and brown paper, and some musty, grainy tones. There was only the most basic, and faint, floral hop aroma. Very disappointing. • The Taste • Light-bodied, it's hard to distin
guish any dominating flavours. It's very lightly hopped with hardly any noticeable malt character. The little hop taste that is there, has a very slightly lemon tea-like twang. There's some obvious, artificial sweetness which, along with a dry graininess gives the beer a little crispness. It finishes with a somewhat oily, husky dryness and a metallic edge with a slightly bitter aftertaste, although even that's subdued. • The Verdict • At 4.9% ABV, this is a very unimpressive lager. I'm sure the genuine, Japanese version is a lot better - it's hard to see how it could be worse - but this stuff, brewed by Charles Wells in Bedford, is very poor. Perhaps their aim was to brew a Bud-type lager....ah, if only it reached those dizzying heights! Food pairing? - Anything with some flavour should do the trick, the beer certainly won't overwhelm even the most lack-lustre of dishes. Bland and boring, this is one tasteless and pointless bottle of beer. As soon as you see those words - rice and corn - that should be enough to set the alarm bells ringing (unless you're shopping for a breakfast cereal). These are cheap additives used purely to maximise profits and if you use inferior ingredients, it's hardly surprising when you end up with an inferior beer. This is another one of those Safeway beers that retail at £1.49 for a 500ml bottle. Would I drink it again? - It depends on the weather....only if hell freezes over. * Seeing this kirin didn't bring me extreme good luck - I guess that says a lot for my morals then! Thanks for reading, Sláinte ©proxam2003
Premium Japanese Lager, 5 percent Alcohol.