Fish on new Yebisu “happy” beer cans changes colour when chilled

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RocketNews 24: (by Oona McGee)

In Japan, even beer cans have cute details.

Yebisu is one of Japan’s oldest beer brands, dating all the way back to 1887. Its well-known label features one of Japan’s Seven Lucky gods, Ebisu, the god of good luck, fishermen, and the ocean, who appears with a fishing rod in his right hand and a large red tai sea bream either tucked under his left arm or or dangling from his line.

And joining Ebisu for a limited time over the New Year period is a giant sea bream that changes from white to pink when chilled below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).

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The reason for the color-changing fish is all to do with bringing good luck, as Ebisu is known to do. Sea Bream, or tai in Japanese, is an impoortant component of traditional osechi New Year’s meals and is often eaten on festive occasions. Tai symbolises good fortune, both for its lucky red colouring and because tai forms part of the word medetai, which means happy or auspicious in Japanese.

▼ Rather than a bright red tai, the cans feature a large, pink “Sakura Tai”, which the company says is a good omen designed to bring joy and happiness.

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We’re not sure if it’s the lucky fish on the can or the liquid refreshment inside that brings the joy; perhaps it’s a combination of both! The company recommends drinking the beer at 4 to 6 degrees Celsius, which is what it will get down to after five to six hours in the fridge.

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Called the “Yebisu Medetai Can” or “Yebisu Happy Can”, these will be available around the country from today, 22 December.

Taste Test: Sankt Gallen Sakura cherry blossom beer

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RocketNews 24: (by Casey Baseel)

After three months of cold weather, I’m ready for spring. Coincidentally, after a long week of work, I’m ready for a beer.

Lucky me, these two desires have dovetailed perfectly in the form of Kanagawa Prefecture microbrewer Sankt Gallen’s newest offering, made with the petals of the harbinger of Japanese spring, cherry blossoms. So strap on your drinking caps, because it’s time for the sakura beer taste test!

While Sankt Gallen Sakura can be ordered here directly from the brewer, you can also find it in select grocers and liquor stores. The Tokyu Store at Hiyoshi Station on the Toyoko Line (which runs between Toyoko Line’s Shibuya and Yokohama) had the special beer in stock on February 24, the day of its release.

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At 464 yen (US $3.95) a bottle, the cherry blossom beer is a little more expensive than major brands like Asahi or Kirin, but perfectly in line with what you’ll usually pay for microbrew beers in Japan. Actually, in the eyes of the law, it’s not even a beer, buthapposhu. While that designation usually gets slapped on low-malt, low-quality alcoholic beverages in Japan, in the case of Sankt Gallen Sakura, the classification seems to be strictly a result of it being made with sakura petals and leaves. Since these aren’t standard beer ingredients, for legal purposes, the brew gets classified as happoshu instead of beer .

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While the brew’s happoshu status is listed in the fine print, you’ll find “Sweets Beer” writ large on the label. That’s because the true flavor inspiration for Sankt Gallen Sakura is the traditional Japanese confectionary called sakura mochi, a dollop of sweet red beans wrapped in a thin, sweet rice cake, which is in turn wrapped in an edible sakura leaf.

▼ Sakura mochi, in non-beer form

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▼ The cap is not a twist-off, by the way.

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Sankt Gallen Sakura pours up without much head, and if you prefer drinking beer to chewing foam you can pretty much eliminate it from your glass entirely. The color is unique, in that it’s golden without being particularly yellow. As a matter of fact, it almost looks like some varieties of green tea, which is appropriate considering the Japanese inspiration for its flavor.

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One common element between the three Sankt Gallen brews I’d tried before the cherry blossom beer is a heavy bitterness. On its website, the brewer claims the sakura beer is less harsh that its usual offerings, and that’s definitely true, although there’s still more bitterness here than in, say, a bottle of Asahi Super Dry. Sadly, there’s no cherry blossom aroma to the beverage, and truth be told, initially the special ingredients don’t seem to affect the flavor very much either.

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After the liquid washes over your taste receptors, though, there’s a subtle but lingering sweet saltiness that spreads out from the center of your tongue. While it doesn’t, by any means, scream “Japanese dessert,” the sensation should be familiar to those who’ve eaten sakura mochi.

At the finish, there’s a crisp but not unpleasant bitterness that hits the back of your throat. Overall, there’s a lot of character to Sankt Gallen Sakura. One of its most intriguing characteristics is that, in contrast to the sharp sensations of bitterness that bookend its flavor profile, it’s got a very light mouth feel, something you’d generally associate with a less flavorful beer.

It’s usually been my experience that combining desserts with beer worsens them both, as though the universe is punishing you for asking for too much pleasure in one sitting. That’s not necessarily true with Sankt Gallen Sakura and sakura mochi, though. Maybe it’s because of its light mouth feel, it stays drinkable even when alternating sips of beer and bites of sweets, although doing so dulls the beverage’s more unique flavor components a bit.

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When all is said and done, how does the drinking experience compare to that of last year’s Mint Chocolate Stout? Well, remember that post-tasting snapshot above? Here’s the one for Sankt Gallen Sakura.

Sort of like a cherry blossom viewing party, Sankt Gallen Sakura isn’t necessarily something you’d want to experience every day. But as a unique change of pace for a special occasion once or twice a year?

Definitely.

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Foreign residents pick their favorite snacks to pair with Japanese beer

RocketNews 24:

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A few years ago, I was hanging out with a friend in Tokyo. Being recently married meant that for the first time in several years I was living in an apartment more spacious and comfortable than a bunker, and I invited my buddy back to my place for a beer.

I called my wife to give her a heads-up that I was bringing home a guest, and when we arrived, I was surprised to see she’d gone down the block to the store and picked up a selection of snacks for our impromptu drinking session. In hindsight, this really shouldn’t have been so unexpected, as beer is almost always accompanied by food in Japan.

Our memories are a little hazy, but we seem to remember being taught, “When in Rome, drink as the Romans.” Taking this to heart, recently a group of foreign residents in Japan shared their favorite munchies to pair with Japanese beer.

While most people who relocate to Japan eventually adapt to the local cuisine, some dishes can be an acquired taste, such as spicy cod roe or chicken cartilage (both are outstanding, by the way). Japanese beer has no such learning curve, however, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an expat here who likes a drink now and then but doesn’t appreciate the local brews.

It’s always seemed fitting that Ebisu beer shares its name with a full-fledged god.

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Japanese beer received kind praise in general from the 20 foreign residents polled, with fans citing its smooth, rich flavor. Brewers in Japan often roll out limited-time versions of their products with the change of seasons, such as amber beers in the fall and whites in winter, which participants also said they enjoyed.

Asahi’s packaging asserts that it is “the beer for all seasons,” however.

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Still, the focus group did have a few quibbles about Japanese beers. One American male lamented the lack of Japanese-produced ales, likely a byproduct of the country’s relative lack of the hard water preferred for their brewing process. An arrival from Tunisia grumbled that Japanese beer’s alcohol content wasn’t quite as high as he’d like.

This is an extremely simple problem to rectify.

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But when foreigners in Japan are pounding down a few cold ones, what do they chow down on? One man from Brazil said he goes for either umeboshi (pickled plums) or chocolate. Actually, neither of these are completely unheard of in Japan, with umeboshi being a popular at-home snack for older men, and chocolate often being on the menu at bars, particularly upscale ones.

▼ Umeboshi and Premium Malt’s: affordable luxuries.

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If neither sour nor sweet is what you’re looking for, you could follow the lead of the Greek man who suggested Pote Long, a popular brand of crispy potato chip-like snack sticks. Regular potato chips are also a common beer partner, and Japan has a ton of unique flavors.

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Of course, sometimes you crave a little protein, in which case there’s no better choice than meat. Respondents mentioned the Japanese-style fried chicken karaage, which is usually seasoned with garlic, soy, and/or ginger, as well as the chicken skewers known as yakitori. And if it’s right after payday, you could take the advice of the Taiwanese man who gave his answer as yakiniku, or Korean barbeque.

We’re sort of blurring the line between “snack” and “meal” here, though.

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By far the group’s favorite snack to have with beer, though, was edamame, also known as soybeans. Yes, the same edamame that get recommended by nutritionists and show up in vegetarian eating guides. Toss a little salt on them, chill before serving if it’s summer, and you’ve got a light, tasty, healthy snack that you can eat with your fingers.

Edamame are essentially the Japanese version of crunchy mini pretzels. You don’t have to be drinking a beer to enjoy their flavor, but the combination is highly recommended.

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Source: Nico Nico News

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Foreign residents pick their favorite snacks to pair with Japanese beer