Japanese Malt Liquor

I am not a beer or liquor connoisseur by any means.  I can barely distinguish a dark beer from a non-dark, know little about brewing techniques, and care little about where a particular beer comes from. Mostly, I’ll occasionally drink a beer to take the edge off, usually with a meal. So I am not going to get picky with my beer selection.

For the last year or so I have been stocking my fridge with three or four cans of Eurohop, a Japanese “Belgian” beer with “Anno 1877” stated as its founding date and a 5% alcohol content. This beer has been holding tight at around 85-88 Yen per 330 ml can at food import/specialty shops like Kaldi. That is about as cheap as it comes here in Japan, and is good enough for me.

So when exploring the beer aisle of my local supermarket I was astounded by a 500 ml can of beer (that’s one of those tall, jumbo cans) selling for a remarkably low 125 Yen. My wife, in her tea-totelliing manner, explained to me that the beer I had chosen, Neue Welt, was in fact something known as happoushyuu (発泡酒), and in her words, “was not beer but tastes like beer and has alcohol in it, I think.” What in the world? Had I stumbled upon some kind of synthetic/plastic beer of the future? Had the Japanese somehow cracked the code of beer production and found a way to do it sans organic ingredients?

Well no… what it actually turned out to be is the Japanese version of Malt Liquor.  The difference being that this particular Malt Liquor has been refined to taste almost exactly like beer, with a similar alcohol content, and drunk not by alcoholic hobos but “respectable” salarymen. It tastes just fine for someone like me and the price is perfect for penny pinching Japan, since it avoids the Japanese Beer tax saving anywhere between 100-150 Yen for a 500 ML can!

By the way – I fall somewhere in-between alcoholic hobo and “respectable” salarymen  using my own Act-Together Rubrick.

update: Happoshu is actually a low-malt beer with under 67% malt content.