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E-Malt.com News article: Japan: Beer market offering more variety thanks to expanded definition of beer
Brewery news

More and more distinctive beers are coming onto the market, thanks to the expanded definition of beer that came into effect in April under the revised Liquor Tax Law, The Japan News reported on November 26.

Secondary ingredients in beer were previously limited to such items as rice and corn, but now they can include things like fruits and spices.

On Oct. 18, the Yona Yona Beer Works Shintora-dori restaurant opened in Minato Ward, Tokyo. To commemorate the launch, a beer called Sorry Umami IPA was served, which is made with dried bonito fish flakes. Numerous beer fans flocked to the restaurant on the day of the launch.

Up until March, however, Sorry Umami IPA was classified as happoshu low-malt quasi-beer. Yoho Brewing Co. in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, developed it for export in 2016. Added to give the drink a distinctly Japanese touch, the bonito flakes also jack up the fermentation of the yeast, giving the beer a fresh, clear flavor, the company said.

Sorry Umami IPA has been well received in the United States, but it was treated as happoshu in Japan because of its secondary ingredient.

That situation changed in April this year. Under the previous Liquor Tax Law, beer was limited to products with the primary ingredients of malt, hops and water, and secondary ingredients such as rice, corn and starch. The revised law added such possible secondary ingredients as fruits, spices, salt, coffee, kombu kelp and bonito fish flakes.

Yoho Brewing had limited its domestic sales of Sorry Umami IPA, feeling that the happoshu label would give the product a cheap image. It began full-fledged sales in April through such channels as its official Yona Yona Beer Works restaurants and online, deciding that labeling Sorry Umami IPA as beer would allow it to promote the fact that there are many different kinds of beer, according to company spokesperson Mariko Iino.

Major beer producers are also taking advantage of the changed law to introduce distinctive beers. Japan Premium Brew Co., a subsidiary of Sapporo Breweries Ltd., in July released Gourmet Beer, a sharply flavored drink featuring such ingredients as salt and black pepper. In August, Asahi Breweries Ltd. began sales of Shokuraku beer, a seasonal product for autumn made with cayenne pepper. The pepper “gave the beer a pleasant jolt and was a better combination with autumn dishes,” said a company employee in charge of the beer.

The changed definition of beer was also meant to support the makers of regional beers, who have access to the specialty products of their areas. Sennan Schinken Factory in Kakuda, Miyagi Prefecture, has created Honey Beer, which is made with honey in cooperation with a local apiary and college students, among other groups. “Adding honey gives the beer a slight mildness,” said Kyohei Oka, who is in charge of brewing.

The revised Liquor Tax Law limits the use of the newly allowed secondary ingredients to the equivalent of a maximum 5 percent of the weight of the malt. To emphasize the taste, aroma and other elements of their secondary ingredients, some makers have therefore continued to sell their products as happoshu.

Tsumari Beer of Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, uses buckwheat to create Tokamachi Soba Ale, in a bid to promote locally made soba noodles. The buckwheat used is equivalent to about 10 percent of the malt, so the product is technically happoshu. “If we don’t put a certain amount of buckwheat in, we can’t sufficiently produce the aroma,” said representative director Chiho Takagi.

Miyashita Sake Brewery Co. in Okayama has been making Muscat Pils for more than 10 years, using muscat grape juice from Okayama. With the secondary ingredient measuring over 10 percent of the weight of the malt, the product has also remained as happoshu since April. “We made multiple improvements to reach its current taste. We’ll sell it as happoshu, as we’ve done so far,” said Katsuhiko Hayashi, a company employee in charge of sales.

Yusuke Yamamoto, head of The Craft Beer Association, said: “There are many beers overseas, in Belgium and elsewhere, that use spices and other secondary ingredients. Beer has become more diverse since the recent revision of the law, offering more enjoyment for consumers.”

26 November, 2018

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