beer with sushi
i prefer beer over saki when i go out for sushi. i am not as well versed in japanese beer as american and european beers. the typical suspects are kirin, asahi, sapporo. are there any japanese beers that i should be watching out for or seeking?
Beer is more traditional for sushi than sake is. Any nice light, crisp pilsner/lager goes well. Any pale ale without too much hops works well too.
If you get a chance to order a Japanese black lager, like Asahi Black, go for that. They are light and crisp in taste with a hint of darker malt taste, but dry. A very good match for sushi.
You have the big five brewing companies in Japan, you named three and the other two are Suntory and Orion. Each has around a dozen or more different breweries. Most produce their main beers, and some small batch ones as well.
The main Japanese beers are:
o Asahi Super Dry
o Asahi Black
o Asahi Hon-nama (happoshu = Low malt beer, usually not available much outside of Japan)
o Kirin Lager Beer
o Kirin Ichiban shibori
o Kirin Tanrei (happoshu)
o Sapporo Black Label
o Hokkaido Nama-shibori (happoshu)
o Suntory Malt's
o Super Magnum Dry (happoshu)
o Orion Draft Beer
o Orion Special
Since around the early 90's there has been a growth in smaller regional and micro breweries. I have only seen a few examples of these brews available outside Japan. They are all well worth trying.
I go against the usual convention and drink IPA's with sushi. Most say that the hops overpower the sushi, but I think spicy/floral hop aroma/flavor pairs very well wasabi and ginger. As far as overpowering the sushi, I don't believe it. Ginger is just as overpowering if you eat it with the sushi, but you don't, you eat it in between bites to cleanse the palate - just like the drinks of beer you take in between bites.
I find that the best large brewery Japanese beer going these days is "Suntory Premium Malts", but I haven't seen it or the regular Suntory brand, "Malts", in the U.S. yet. I prefer the Suntory Premium to all the Hitachino beers I've had so far. It's got a nice crisp hoppy flavor, without being as bitter as Yebisu, and is a good pairing with the sweetness of sushi...Japanese, as a general custom and preference, do not drink sake (nihon-shu) with sushi. In the words of one of my Japanese chowhoundish friends- "There's nothing like raw fish and beer!"
Although it may be a little too much fusion - if you are taking sushi out try it at home with a can of Boddington's Pub Ale.
The first posting from JMF has alot of good info. Although, beer is not more traditional than sake. But to me, beer is alot more fun. Sake in Japan has over a hundred different descriptions for flavor and depth, just like wine in Napa. Beer is just beer and subjective preferance with sushi is best. Read the labels of all the large Japanese breweries and you will find that all are brewed in other areas and companies than Japan. Molson in Canada, Budweiser, etc. have been brewing Japanese beer for years now. Orion is still brewed in Okinawa. Kirin on draft is brewed by Kirin in Los Angeles which is my choice. Japanese beer is not the same anymore but more consistant since it's not sitting on a dock in the Japanese harbors. Yebisu has been discontinued twice (shipping over from Japan) but is my favorite of all Japanese beers and don't know if it's available again...I guess it is since people are mentioning it. I was in Tokyo not to long ago and super chilled, Fresh, Japanese beer will sweep your sails away!
I posted about this a few weeks ago, but it got moved from the LA board:
Keizo-san at Sushi Zo was pretty clear that the idea that sake isn't traditionally dunk with sushi was not true. Now I'm not saying that no Japanese feel that way, but Keizo clearly had never heard such a thing, and I'm going with him on this one. Additionally, I've had Japanese-American friends who drank sake with sushi, but I just figured it was something they picked up here...I don't think that's the case with Keizo.
The discussion may have it backwards. Japanese get together to eat; but we may start by drinking sake. The question then might arise, "What do we eat (with ths sake)?" What's to prevent us from eating sushi?
My Japanese-Japanese, Japanese American, Japanese-Peruvian, and Japanese Brazilian relatives have nothing against sake plus sushi.
With Sushi I prefer either Kirin Ichiban or Sapporo.
Kirin Ichiban is brewed and packaged by Anheuser-Busch in the Los Angeles Brewery, but it is brewed precisely to Kirin's recipe and spec. The nice thing about this is that you have pretty good odds of getting really fresh beer. They even have born-on dating for the bottled beer.
Sapporo is a nice, typical Japanese beer and has the really cool can.
I know you aren't supposed to pair sake with sushi b/c of the rice/rice issue but that is what i prefer. At my regular place, Izakaya Sakura in SD, i usually get Otokoyama with my meal. Beer wise I do not really like the beer from the usual suspects. I liked Sapporo dark, but i cant find it anymore. I think sushi actually pairs well with a mild pale ale without too much hops.
When you sit at the sushi bar, buy a drink of whatever you are having, or give him a glass. this will inevitably get you some of the better stuff.
The Japanese beers brewed by AB and Molson taste nothing like their Japanese domestic counterparts, I don't care what they say about using the same recipe. I have visitors from Japan occasionally and they all bring me Kirin Lager. I called the AB distributor and they said "never heard of it".
I use to be able to buy Japanese made Japanese beer up in Georgia, but no longer. The last time I saw some was in an upscale Japanese restaurant in downtown Atlanta.
When in Japan, I drink Yebisu with sushi, but I can no longer find it in the US.
When you're there next time, do a blind taste test between Suntory Maltz vs. Kirin Lager and Suntory Premium vs. Yebisu. In both cases, you may surprisingly find Suntory better. I think both Kirin and Sapporo seem to be concentrating on the happoshu market rather than actually making better beer. Though, there's also a couple of decent premium Kirin offerings out there as well.
Rogue Brewery in Oregon produces beers specifically designed for the Japanese market. They are imported into Japan and sold as "Japanese" micros and are popular with sushi. Some or all are available in the US, especially the West Coast, including White Crane Ale (sold under a different name, which I don't recall at the moment -- Golden something or another).
I do sake with sashimi, but with rolls I prefer a good Kirin or a nice wit or lager. Frankly, not beer, but a good Gwertz, reisling or something. Morimoto Soba is OK.
I drink craft beer every meal I can. One exceptino is sushi, where I like champagne best. Although any beer from Hitachino Nest brewery will catch my eye.