Rice beer was considered the most authentic Japanese beer for a long time. The Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854, when Japan opened its boundaries to foreign commerce, marked the beginning of the widespread availability of beer in Japan.
There are a lot of brands on the list of best Japanese beers. Contrary to popular belief, beer is Japan’s most popular alcoholic beverage. Given the enormous range available, affordable cost, simple accessibility, and 100% certainty of having a wonderful time that it offers.
Japan’s 11 Best Beers
1. Sapporo Premium
It’s no surprise that Sapporo Premium made this list, given the company’s history. Sapporo Breweries, founded in 1876, produces the oldest Japanese beer brands today.
As the flagship product of the Sapporo beer company, you’d expect it to taste fantastic, and those who haven’t yet tasted it may rest confident that they won’t be disappointed.
Sapporo Nama Beer Black Label is a premium beer with a ‘traditional’ authentic flavor. According to Japanese consumers, this beer has a strong umami flavor, and it tastes more polished and mature than other beers on the market.
2. Asahi Super Dry
Naturally, Asahi Super Dry is the finest beer on our list. Since its introduction in 1987, this beer has been loved all over the globe. And is possibly one of the most straightforward to drink both within and outside of Japan.
Asahi Super Dry has a pleasant and citrusy finish that isn’t overshadowed by the presence of malts in high concentration.
If you visit Japan, you’ll be able to recognize the famous gray can at practically every supermarket and convenience shop. Hence, there’s little chance that you’ll miss out on this delectable treat.
3. Kirin Lager Beer
Kirin is now the most traditional brand of beer on the market. It established itself as one of the best Japanese beers with various beers catering to practically everyone in the market with a history of over 130 years.
One of the most famous Japanese beers nowadays is Kirin Lager. Lager beer is made by maturing it at a low temperature, resulting in a more bitter and harsher flavor than regular beer. It is not, however, a very bitter beer by any means. Thus, it is appreciated by people who dislike intense flavors in beer.
4. Echigo Koshihikari
Echigo Koshihikari is a beer that puts rice at the forefront of its flavor profile, featuring a label picturing flooded rice fields. Using a short-grain rice type known as Koshihikari, this short-grain rice cultivated in a location produces some of the highest-quality rice on the Japanese mainland.
Because of the purity of the Koshikari rice grains used in this beer, Echigo Koshikari has earned the distinction of being known as the “ultimate rice beer.” In addition to having a smooth texture, it also has a rich flavor.
5. Hitachino Nest White Ale
Kiuchi Brewery, which has been brewing sake and shochu since 1823, is the brains behind this beer. However, they did not begin brewing beer until 1996, when Japan’s microbrewery rules were relaxed.
They’re a small company, but they’ve had a lot of success because of their traditional Japanese brewing processes, understanding of sake and shochu, and desire to try new things.
It may come as a surprise that Japanese brewers produce ales, given that this is the first on the list. But don’t be shocked, particularly given the exquisite taste of this ale’s brewing.
6. Yona Yona Ale
Yona Yona Ale is one of the best Japanese beers, and it has truly set the bar for what a refreshing, excellent, and economic beer should be. Ale is made by fermenting beer at very high temperatures (as opposed to lagers), and this method results in an entirely different experience.
Yona Yona Ale is known for its excellent citrus flavor, combined with flowery aromas and a hint of spice. These flavors, along with the hops’ bitterness, make it simpler to drink than other ales.
Although Yebisu usually is priced similarly to Premium Malts, it is regarded as the most premium beer among the readily accessible options, and with good reason. Yebisu is made by the same Sapporo Brewery that makes Black Label.
It takes that typical rich and hoppy flavor further, giving a drinking experience that rivals many European beers. You’d expect this quality from a brewery that follows precise standards derived from Germany, a country known for its strong brew culture.
The first Yebisu brewery opened in 1889, using German-made equipment and engineers, and the excellent quality of this beer has remained steady throughout the years.
8. Orion Premium Draft Beer
Orion, Japan’s fifth-largest brewery, distinguishes itself from other Japanese lager makers by delivering a stronger beer. It has a lot of taste depth, and they naturally carbonate it, giving it a pleasant, subtle carbonic acid taste and a rich malt profile. It’s a light beer, but one that I like.
Orion is one of Japan’s younger beers in the Japanese beers list, having been introduced only in 1957. Sosei Gushiken, the company’s founder, wanted to build a manufacturing business in Okinawa to help the island recover economically and socially.
9. White Belg
White Belg separates from the competitors with a distinctively fruity sipping experience. After a smooth and sweet start, you’ll notice intense aromas of orange and coriander that linger.
This beer also comes into the happoshu beer category, a nice bonus. Happoshu, or low-malt beer, is made with less malt than its full-malt equivalents, resulting in fewer calories and sugar.
Happoshu is not only healthier for your health, but it is also better for your money since it is taxed at a lower rate than other beers, allowing it to be sold at a reduced price.
10. Suntory Premium Malts
Suntory is another historic Japanese alcoholic beverage firm founded in 1899. However, it did not begin with beers. Suntory is recognized for creating whiskey in Japan and across the globe.
Suntory Premium Malts is classified as an ‘Ale’ style beer, and the taste reflects this, with a fruity and rich flavor. While the aftertaste is pleasant, the beer may be a little hefty at times, leaning too much towards the ale side.
The Premium Malts beer borrows its design from a more American-style beer, which is excellent in its own right, but it seems generic and says nothing about the beer.
11. Kawaba Snow Weizen
Unfiltered wheat beer prepared in the classic Weizen style, known as Kawaba Snow Weizen, begins with a hint of sweetness before transitioning to typical banana and citrus flavors. As the name implies, this is a softer, more nuanced wheat beer than other beers.
Kawaba encapsulates the spirit of ancient Japan. The beer derives from the hamlet of Kawaba, located in Gunma Prefecture, just outside of Tokyo. Don’t be deceived by the fact that it sounds metropolitan.
The Best Japanese Beers: Final Thoughts
The first corporations to introduce experienced brewers to Japan were European, such as Bass Brewery. Quickly enough, Japanese people developed a taste for the beverage, and local breweries sprung up throughout the country, each with its distinct brewing style.
Currently, Japan is home to vibrant beer culture, a robust market, and established brands that have developed their unique take on drinks that have appealed to the local and worldwide markets.
Want to try some other beers from across the globe? Take a look at the best beers from Korea!
Cover photo from https://yonayonaale.com/en/