If I like Japanese beer, what other beer will I like?
June 16, 2011 10:51 AM   Subscribe

I like Japanese beer. What other beer commonly found in American bars will I also like?

Having gone years really hating beer, I was in Japan last week and discovered I really enjoy Japanese beer -- Asahi, Sapporo, Kirin, didn't seem to matter which one. So what is it about Japanese beer that makes it special or different, and what should I be looking for in beers I'm likely to find in your average bar here in the US in order to find one I might enjoy?

For reference, for years friends have been telling me I just "haven't tried the right beer" yet and under their direction I've tried damn near everything they've offered, but I've never liked it. Seasonals, stouts, hefeweizens, fruity (not lambic, just lightly fruity), whatever, doesn't seem to matter. I can choke down a UFO or Stella Artois to be polite, but I do not actually enjoy it or crave it, as I did with the Japanese beers I tried.
posted by olinerd to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I also like Japanese Beers, but they are pretty bland as far as beers go. Have you tried Rolling Rock?
posted by wingless_angel at 10:52 AM on June 16, 2011

Response by poster: Ah, for reference, within the US I'm in New England, so if you're recommending microbrews or something please keep that in mind.
posted by olinerd at 10:52 AM on June 16, 2011

Best answer: Japanese lagers are brewed with rice. Budweiser is, too, so you might want to give that a try. I'd say they have a pretty similar character.

If you want to try something a bit fancier that's made with rice, Hitachino Red Rice Ale is pretty great.
posted by zsazsa at 10:58 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can definitely find Rolling Rock in New England, and I'd be surprised if you couldn't find Asahi, Sapporo, and Kirin, too.

Out of curiosity, are your friends self-proclaimed beer "snobs"? Have they not let you try Bud, Coors and Miller? Because those are pretty similar I think. Light, refreshing, and easy-to-drink (some might say tasteless).
posted by Grither at 10:58 AM on June 16, 2011

Best answer: I find Budweiser to be remarkably similar to Japanese beers. I'd have to guess the reason for that is that they are both made with rice.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:58 AM on June 16, 2011

Best answer: Plain old Budweiser. Seriously, it's made with rice which is a bit unusual among commonly available American beers.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:59 AM on June 16, 2011

Best answer: Well Sapporo is a rice lager. Asahi is know for a few different brews but mostly their rice lager (the Asahi Super Dry in the silver can.) Kirin is pretty terrible IMO compared to the first two but their main brew is also a rice lager.

So Bud, PBR, Tsingtao, Red Stripe would be your best bets. Make sure you get the non-lite versions of Bud or Coors.
posted by zephyr_words at 11:04 AM on June 16, 2011

I can choke down a UFO or Stella Artois to be polite

Nthing everyone directing you to Bud and other big-name American lagers -- but what do you like about Sapporo that you don't like about Stella?
posted by holgate at 11:05 AM on June 16, 2011

Response by poster: but what do you like about Sapporo that you don't like about Stella?

Well, maybe wingless_angel had it up above, that it's pretty "tasteless". Actually now that I think of it I had a Budweiser at a roller derby match and was surprised how unoffensive I found it (though I was afraid to admit it because, yes, most of my friends are what you might consider beer snobs). Stella to me still has a beer-y aftertaste that's kind of bitter, which I didn't notice with the Japanese beers -- I felt like they were very smooth and not bitter, and really just much more refreshing.
posted by olinerd at 11:09 AM on June 16, 2011

Yeungling is a really great American beer. You can't always find it--though I think the Charles Street Wines and Liquors (the one closer to MGH) often has it. I've never been able to tell whether the beer at Shriners is just bad to begin with or it's just not the best delivery.

And, FWIW, I think Yeungling is pretty comparable to Bass, which is more commonly available. Locally, you'll see Smithwicks ("smitticks"), which is also pretty good.

Although, now I admit I'm confused--do you like "tasteless" beers or was that bad? The Bud/Bud Light at Shriners tastes pretty indistinguishable from PBR to me.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:29 AM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

You might like some of the lighter European lagers, like Beck's, Heineken or Carlsberg. They're similarly light, non-bitter and refreshing.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:39 AM on June 16, 2011

Odd Notion Brown Rice Lager by Magic Hat, from Vermont.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:53 AM on June 16, 2011

Yeah, I was going to recommend Yuengling too. It's a little stronger tasting than Bud, Coors, et al., so you might not like it. The big American macro-lagers are similar in taste profile to Japanese beers, mostly because they're rice-based. But they also have more of a "crisp"-ness to their taste. In your mouth it will taste almost sour, like a hint of citric acid. Or, in especially bad beer, it might taste almost metallic. American lagers, though they don't have much in the way of taste, use hops that bring out that crisp, slightly sour taste, and that may have something to do with the bitter beer-y aftertaste that you don't like.

Heineken, Beck's, etc. are a good choice too but they're all hard to find in the US without being (1) in green bottles and therefore (2) a little skunky.

So what you're looking for is a really light American-style lager that's hardly hopped at all. Yuengling has more taste, but it might fit that profile. Particularly Yuengling Light, if you can find it.
posted by penduluum at 11:54 AM on June 16, 2011

Seconding Red Stripe -- very similar to Sopporo.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:09 PM on June 16, 2011

Best answer: You'll essentially want to seek light to medium beers that are low in IBUs (international bitterness units...usually associated with hops). The fact that you did not like the bitterness of a Stella Artois, which is essentially a light beer, leads me to think that hops might be the culprit. See if you can seek out a Blue Point toasted lager, or Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber. That should appease the beer snobs a bit while providing a malty, slightly yeasty, refreshing brew. If you'd like to branch off a little further on the non bitter side, try these notable styles:
- Belgian (dark, tripel etc...Gulden Draak and Westmalle might be a good start these are much heavier beers, but will lack that bitter skunkish flavor you dislike)
- Saison (aka farmhouse ales...Hennepin, Collete, and Saison Dupont are three excellent introductory beers to the style...very smooth, malty, and somewhat lemongrassy like a japanese lager)
- Pilsner (Prima is a good start for this which is a german style pils...the russian style pils are a tad more bitter...if in a green bottle make certain it was freshly brewed)
- Witbier (typically light and wheaty, often with a slight hint of citrus and coriander...some good starts would be hoegaarden and allagash...sam adams also makes a decent wit)
- Hefeweizen (another light german style, almost no hop bitterness...typically has a citrus/banana like flavor...for more sourness a weissbier is similar. Sierra Nevada makes a decent and accessible Hefeweizen)
posted by samsara at 1:06 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I too like Japanese beers. But truth be told my favorite beer is Budweiser. And so I agree with those on here saying to just go for the bud. It's a crisp light beer. Coors or Coors Light should work for you as well. Enjoy.
posted by ljs30 at 1:11 PM on June 16, 2011

Nthing Yuengling. It's pretty mild/inoffensive.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:38 PM on June 16, 2011

Heineken is insanely popular in Asia and among Asian-Americans. Probably something to that.
posted by dagnyscott at 1:57 PM on June 16, 2011

The fact that you did not like the bitterness of a Stella Artois, which is essentially a light beer, leads me to think that hops might be the culprit.

That's my take as well, though I'd call Stella a Euro-lager.

If you do want to look beyond the middle of the beer aisle, another option would be K├Âlsch, which is meant to be light, easy-drinking and low on hops -- though domestic versions can often be less restrained, reflecting American craft brewers' habit of throwing hops at anything.
posted by holgate at 3:41 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's an article on Slate about Japanese beer that you might find interesting.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:49 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yebisu is the best of the mainstream Japanese beers, fwiw. In general, though, if Sapporo/Budweiser are your favorite beers, you don't really like beer very much :)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:58 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think people pointing you to Yuengling are way off. Yeungling is great value for a beer that still tastes like something, but that's not what you're looking for. I think most people here (like your friends) are pretty deluded in thinking that they can convert you into being their idea of a beer drinker (really, recommendations for Belgians to a guy who's only ever liked Sapporo?).

Embrace what you are: just like the vast majority of American beer drinkers. Drink MGD, drink Bud, but really, drink PBR. It's cheap and it's actually really good, despite it's reputation as a fashion accessory. And yes, there is a difference at the end of the spectrum, they do have different taste profiles.

Also, try some Mexican beers. Tecate, or Modelo Especial. Maybe Dos Equis, maybe not. I kind of get the feeling you won't like Corona, for similar reasons as to why I don't think you'll like Heineken (though they both taste very different from each other--there is a finish to both I don't think you'll like).

The other thing I'd suggest you do is get some Japanese beer glasses. They're small and narrow. I find they are like champagne flutes in that they concentrate the aroma into my nose while I drink it. Makes a huge difference to me. I often drink PBR in them. Also the act of pouring is pleasing but I won't claim it makes anything taste different. Well, maybe it keeps your beer cooler, the constant refreshing of the glass. Coolness, fresh head = refreshingness.

Are there any izakaya's near you? The best part of drinking Japanese beer is eating all the grilled snacks!
posted by danny the boy at 7:57 PM on June 16, 2011

I drink Japanese beer (not happoshu or dai-san beer) on tap all the time, and it has very little in common with Budweiser or other American macrobrews, taste-wise. It has a much stronger body and has more bite. Perhaps the above commenters are mostly drinking it from bottles, which has a different flavor profile in my experience.

Also, Japanese beer sold in the US is brewed in Canada (Sapporo, Asahi) and Los Angeles (Kirin -- in an Anheuser-Busch factory!), so the flavor may again be quite different to what is served in Japan. (I noticed they even have "Sapporo Light" in the US... ::facepalm::)

The other thing I'd suggest you do is get some Japanese beer glasses. They're small and narrow.

This is only if you drink bottled beer. Draft beer is generally served in stein-sized glasses known as jokki.

olinerd, if you can, visit a Japanese supermarket or beer store that carries a lot of imports. Yebisu is only made in Japan if you can find it that would be your best bet.
posted by armage at 9:32 PM on June 16, 2011

Oh, and Yebisu contains no rice.
posted by armage at 9:36 PM on June 16, 2011

Sapporo and Asahi and Kirin, even in Japan, even on tap, do not have "stronger body" than any beer anywhere ever, in my (considerable and commensurately blurry) experience. That's pretty much what "dry beer" means: doesn't taste like beer. Crisp and refreshing cold and absolutely vile warm.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:22 AM on June 17, 2011

Sapporo and Asahi and Kirin, even in Japan, even on tap, do not have "stronger body" than any beer anywhere ever, in my (considerable and commensurately blurry) experience.

I said stronger than "Budwesier or other American macrobrews", and that has been my experience. I disagree with your "dry beer...doesn't taste like beer" comment, but I'll leave it at that.
posted by armage at 7:01 PM on June 17, 2011

I prefer Japanese beer, and really like Czech beers (the original Budweiser), Tiger Beer from Singapore, and Tsingtao.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:53 PM on June 21, 2011

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