Top 10 Beers In Japan

In Japan, beer is primarily produced by the country’s four largest breweries: Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo, and Suntory, who specialize in pale-colored light lagers with an alcohol concentration of approximately five percent by volume. The beverage is extremely popular, with beer consumption vastly outnumbering sake consumption.

Asahi Beer Hall. It is one of the buildings of the Asahi Breweries headquarters in Sumida, Tokyo

Although pilsner-type lagers are the most widely manufactured beer variety in Japan, beer-like drinks created with lower amounts of malts, known as happoshu (“bubbly alcohol”), had taken a significant portion of the market due to reduced taxation.

1 Orion Beer (Okinawa)

A delicate mouthfeel but a rather malty flavor lie under the strong carbonation. The Orion Draft is a semi-dry beer. For an industrial brew, head retention is adequate. The hop content of Orion Draft is limited, yet it has citrus and flowery notes. On the finish, there is a slight astringency.

Honey and Oates, light toast, ripe banana, lemon zest, hay, and dried flowers are some of the unique taste characteristics found in Orion. These fragrance and flavor characteristics are all subtle.

Orion Beer, located in Urasoe, Okinawa Island, is Japan’s fifth-largest beer producer. About 1% of the Japanese beer market is controlled by the company. Throughout Okinawa, it has 60% of the beer market.

Water from springs near the brewery is used as per the Orion company as the source of their beer. Orion, like many brewers, characterizes the quality of its beer to the source of its water a natural mountain spring. 

Orion Beer Tasting sometimes having a grassy earthy taste

In 1959, Orion began brewing beer. Orion struggled to compete with the other main Japanese brewers, but after switching from an Austrian beer to an American-style beer, it was able to grab the majority of the beer market in Okinawa.

Orion became Okinawa’s most popular beer, and “the company’s popularity climbed as the brew transformed into an even more American-style beer, but it had a market that was exclusively Okinawa until 2002.”

From 2002, Orion has collaborated with Asahi Breweries to produce Asahi beers in Okinawa in exchange for Asahi’s help in marketing its beer in mainland Japan.

2 Kirin Ichiban Shibori

Beer at its most simple level… This lager is as sweet and flavorful as they come, brewed using the best, most carefully selected malt available and the Ichiban Shibori brewing process, where the beer is created from a single first pressing of the components.

Kirin Beer produces two of Japan’s most popular beers: Kirin Lager and Ichiban Shibori. Kirin Lager is one of Japan’s oldest beer brands, having been manufactured since 1888. Kirin Tanrei is the best-selling happoshu (low-malt) beer in Japan.

3 Suntory Rich Malt

Pours a clear golden hue with a medium, frothy head and lingering carbonation on the glass. Doughy malt, green hops, and hay aromas are present. The taste follows the scent, with notes of citrus and hay, as well as mild, watery tastes of sweet, doughy malt and grassy hops. There is no perceptible bitterness or aftertaste at the end. With a light body and moderate carbonation, this beer has a smooth mouthfeel.

Suntory Rich Malt

Shinjiro Torii founded Suntory on February 1, 1899, when he established his Torii Shoten shop in Osaka to sell foreign wines. The shop began selling Akadama Port Wine, a fortified wine, in 1907.

Torii constructed Japan’s first malt whiskey distillery Yamazaki Distillery in 1923, and the store became the Kotobukiya corporation in 1921 to grow its operations. Suntory Whiskey Shirofuda, Japan’s first single malt whisky, was marketed five years after production began in December 1924.

Suntory specializes in pale-colored light lagers with a 5.0 percent alcohol by volume. The beverage is extremely popular, with beer drinkers in Japan.

4 Asahi Beer Dry

Asahi is the largest of Japan’s four main beer producers, with a market share of 37 percent, followed by Kirin Beer with 34 percent and Suntory with 16 percent.

Asahi extended its global coverage and business market lineup in response to a developing local Japanese beer market by acquiring extremely desirable beer firms in Western Europe and Central Eastern Europe.

As far as lagers go, this is as smooth as they get, with no aftertaste. If you enjoy premium lagers, give this a try; you will not be disappointed.

The term “dry beer” refers to a beer that has little or no sweetness. That’s where the name “dry” comes from — the absence of sweetness. It has nothing to do with the quantity of moisture in the beer. Aside from that, there is usually no aftertaste with dry beer.

5 Saporro Premium Beer

The semi-transparent beer pours a light honey hue and forms a very brief, brief, off-white head. The fragrance is slightly sweet but not overbearing, and the first taste is nearly cider-like with a hint of bitterness at the finish. The carbonation takes away some of this, leaving a faint sensation on the lips and tongue. This would go well with sushi. Overall, when I want a light cider flavor, it wins hands down.

Sapporo Breweries, founded in 1876, is a Japanese beer brewing corporation. In Japan, Sapporo is the oldest beer brand. Brewer Seibei Nakagawa initially brewed it in Sapporo, Japan, in 1876. Sapporo Breweries has its global headquarters in Ebisu, Shibuya, Tokyo. In Japan, the business operates five breweries.

6 Yebisu by Sapporo Beer

Beerhead with frothy, creamy, and delicate head in a golden, bright white color. Foam  Retention is excellent. The scent is clean and malty, with a little hops aroma. The flavor is mostly malty, with a concentration on barley malt.

There are no grassy notes, and it’s quite drinkable. Light sweetness, slight bitterness, medium carbonation, a crisp mouthfeel, and a dry aftertaste. A note of bitterness lingers.

7 Asahi Prime Rich

Asahi Prime Rich has a fuller full body and isn’t too carbonated, resulting in a “smooth” mouth feel. It’s a dry drink with no sweetness or bitterness.

8 Asahi Dry Black

Pours a dark brown color with a creamy caramel head on top. The aroma of cereal grains with a dash of chocolate is thrown in for good measure. From start to finish, it’s quite an individually unique beer, with toasted cereal grain that ends on the malty beer side. The body is medium in size, however, it’s a touch weak around the edges.

9 Asahi Aqua Blue

Pours clear amber golden with a creamy white head that has very good retention.
Meek and mild aroma and flavor. The flavor is of better quality than the aroma.
mouthfeel is a medium-light body with medium carbonation.

10 Japans Micro Brews

Technically number 10 isn’t a single beer but rather a myriad of beers from all over Japan. I think we would be remiss if we didn’t include the large number of small breweries that make some of the best beer in Japan.

In Japan, there are presently over 200 microbreweries, however many of them are financially linked to bigger sake manufacturers, restaurant chains, resort hotels, or other similar businesses. Ales, IPAs, stouts, pilsners, fruit beers, and other kinds of beer are produced by microbreweries in Japan.

Otaru Beer, a leading Japanese microbrewery, at the brewhouse and restaurant along the Otaru Canal

Japans Beer Museums and Points of Interest In Japan

There was an early surge in microbrewing after the Liquor Tax Law was relaxed in 1994, however, the quality of regional microbrews was typically uneven, and initial customer excitement faded.

Limiting yourself to only the mass corporate brewers your definitely missing out on some of the finest beers brewed in Japan.

It has only been in the last few decades that microbreweries were allowed to operate by law.

Smaller breweries producing 15,850 gallons per year for a beer license or 6000 liters per year for a happoshu license were allowed under Japan’s stringent tax regulations in 1994.

Breweries could not acquire a license before this modification unless they produced at least 528,000 gallons per year. As a result, a number of tiny breweries have sprouted up all throughout Japan.

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My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.