Japanese Beer, and the rise of Happõshu.

I am sure many of you have been to Japan and enjoyed the difference of Japanese beer especially with the signature ‘karakuchi’ (dry) compared to the rest of the world. But, have you heard of Happõshu?

This, is the rise of a drink that might turn you away from Japanese beer, or have you spend less and enjoy the alcoholic high of these new beverages.

The market is now dominated by 4 larger beverage companies. Below shows the companies involved, with Asahi taking the lion’s share of the picture, as with the market.

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So what is with this sudden explosion of Happõshu got to do with lovely, simple beer? Well. It all boils down to legislation. Japanese taxes go higher the higher the malt content is in the beer. Malt, being the processed form of barley is essential for beer. But the high taxation of 67% content and above is prohibitive to sales. Thus, began the age of Happõshu. Keep in mind that liquor like Barcadi Breezer and Smirnoff Ice is also considered happõshu.

First, they started with low-malt content beer. By replacing the malt with rice and wheat. But then they realised they can sell beer even cheaper to appeal more, because of the ever depressing Japanese economy. Thus they went creative, and almost nuts. They experimented with soybean protein and pea protein to yield 0-malt beer.Tasted good even though it sounds scary. Just wait till you read what they did next.

They proceeded to make beer-flavoured beverages. Laced with spirits from barley and wheat. Most of it tastes legit and good, but the smell does not lie about its origin. You can even pick one up for ¥98! God knows what did they use to achieve such a product.

Now, don’t panic. We all love beer and alcohol. It should be treated equally and appreciated separately. But for the discerning palate and health conscious bunch out there, below is a guide to avoid buying, and drinking happõshu.

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As you can see here, the one above is happõshu. It is indicated in the bracket as 登泡酒。 Beer that uses 67% malt and more is shown in the pic below. Indicated by 非熟処理。 Or just read the all-malt label in english and 生 word. If all else fails, just buy Yebisu!

There are news circulating that the big 4 will soon shift production focus to happõshu only. But don’t fret. They won’t or else the new dawn of microbreweries would engulf Japan, and bring a new age of beer with it. Kampai!

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