Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Beer >
Sep 7, 2007 07:59 PM

Japanese Beer Wanted!

Over the course of the last few years, I've seen Kirin and Sapporo sell out to domestic brewers and now I can no longer find these brands that are brewed in Japan.

I use to be able to get it up in Savannah, GA. but now it's no longer available there. The last place I had Japanese beer was in Atlanta.

Does anyone have access to Japanese brewed beer and if so, how can I get some.

And no, Sapporo from Ontario is not Imported Japanese Beer. Sheesh, what numbskull thought that up?!?!?!?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The major Japanese brewers didn't "sell out to domestic brewers", they made business deals to license their beers to be brewed in the US and Canada (they'll say "for brewery fresh flavor" and they do have a point). Kirin has had a deal with Anheuser-Busch to have Kirin brewed in A-B's LA plant for over a decade (in exchange, Kirin brews the Budwieser that sold in Japan).

    Asahi's been brewed in Canada by Molson for about as long, and Sapporo's had a similar deal with Canada's Sleeman's and, a couple of years ago actually bought the brewer, so, the Canadians "sold out" to the Japanese, not the other way around. Can't say I notice Suntory on the shelf in the US anymore, so don't know about that one (looking at Beer Advocate, Suntory beers have less than 10 ratings each, so I assume they're no longer export to the US).

    In almost every case, once a beer is licensed all imports of that brands stop- it just doesn't make sense to compete against one's self (and no licensee is going to sign the deal in that case, anyway) so, while one might find old stock on the shelf or the exported version during a slow change-over, chances are that Japan-brewed and Canadian-brewed beer of the same label (for example) aren't going to exist at the same time in the same region.

    For most good beer lovers, the loss is no great loss, since the Japanese beers shipped here from the major brewers were of the "International Light Lager" style (and it's not like we don't have enough of them). If the brewer is satisfied with the beer that's contract brewed for them and agrees to put their name of it, I say "Who am I do argue?", and put the beer back in the cooler and move on. These contracts are undertaken by equal partners, no one has a gun to their head and the foreign company is just as much to "blame" as the domestic (or Canadian) brewer.

    If you simply want good beer with a "made in Japan" label, I'd look for the Hitachino Nest beers- a great line of interesting beers- no "light lagers", tho'- and I find them easily in NJ (Georgia- who knows?). B. United is the importer and the website has contact info to find them-

    9 Replies
    1. re: JessKidden

      "For most good beer lovers, the loss is no great loss".

      Not true. I have Japanese friends that bring me Yebisu and Kiring Lager on their trips to the US and there absolutely no comparison in the flavor. The stuff brewed by AB and Molson might as well be the weasel piss they normally make.

      I figure that since I've seen the real deal in restaurants in the US, someone must be able to get ahold of it.

      1. re: bkhuna

        Well, all of the Kirin labels allowed to be sold in the US are registered to A-B (LA and St. Louis).

        Looks like Sapporo just got approval for Yebisu in the US (from Japan)-
        (click on "Printable view" for the label), so check with your local distributor or Sapporo's NYC office. It looks like Sapporo has approval for a number of Japanese-brewed beers- it's up to them to bring them in and distribute them, tho', since they have their own import division, Sapporo USA.

        And that's not to say that some "grey market" beer doesn't make it through (I've seen, for example, Chinese beers sold in Chinese grocery stores that clearly don't have alcoholic beverage licenses, etc.) I'd check the labels on the "real" thing and contact the importer listed for more info.

        I'm sure there are some good beers from the big Japanese brewers, but the stuff they've exported to the US or had contract brewed here or Canada has been, for the most part, pretty standard stuff and, since they signed the contract and approve the beer before it leaves the shipping dock, I say your argument's with them more than MolsonCoors, Sleeman or A-B.

        1. re: JessKidden

          Well, Kirin Light and Ichiban are the only two Kirin's sold in Florida and both are brewed by AB. For a short while, maybe 10 years ago, some distrubutor had Kirin Lager on the shelves, but that went away when AB took over.

          The only Sapporo I've found anywhere in Florida is rebadged Molson's.

          Yebisu and Sapporo Draft made a brief appearance at Habersham's Liqour in Savannah where I purchased all they had whenever I was in town. Then, about three years ago, the too disappeared and the owner said he could no longer get Japanese brewed Sapporo.

          If Sapporo starts brewing Yebisu in the US, I think I'll just have to commit sepuku.

          1. re: bkhuna

            "If Sapporo starts brewing Yebisu in the US, I think I'll just have to commit sepuku."

            Nope, the label on the approval on the link I posted clearly says it's brewed in Japan- and the approval is dated Aug. 27, '07 so I expect it'll be a while before it hits the shelves. I'll keep an eye out for it now that we're discussed it.

            I doubt the Saporro you see if from Molson, since Saporro OWNS the third largest brewer in Canada, Sleemans, and they had the contract before they were bought out by the Japanese firm.

            1. re: JessKidden

              You're right; I should have said "Molson-esque" to describe the flavor.

              1. re: bkhuna


                Ya mean it's skunked? <g>

                1. re: JessKidden

                  Yeah, Molson is like making love in a canoe.....

      2. re: JessKidden

        Are the Hitachino beers the ones with the owl on the cap? I've had some of those at a restaurant here and did like them. Had some character. If the "owl beer" isn't the Hitachino, what is it, do you know? (And I know you do!)

        1. re: karykat

          Yes, the Hitachino Nest beers are the owl beers! I love the white ale, brewed with orange juice- it's a GREAT sunday brunch alternative to a Wittekirke!

      3. i second hitachino nest. fantastic!

        1. One light lager I've seen around is Orion, brewed in Okinawa. It's not bad. It's not Hitachino Nest by a long stretch, but it's a good light lager.

          1. In San Diego we can get Echigo Koshihikari, Orion, and Asahi Kuronama. Haven't seen Hitachino Nest yet.



            9 Replies
            1. re: Pablo

              Hitachino can be found at BevMo and Holiday Wine Cellar. Two of their varieties are also served at Hamilton's Tavern in South Park.

              1. re: Josh

                Their real ginger ale is fatastic.

                1. re: Josh

                  Thanks for the info Josh, I am off to Bevmo! BTW, they serve Echigo Koshihikari, Orion, and Asahi Kuronama at Yumeya in Encinitas.

                  1. re: Pablo

                    Bevmo has the White Ale and the Red Rice Ale, at least they did the last time I was there. Both are good, though the Red Rice one is kind of funky tasting.

                    1. re: Josh

                      Just about all the beers you get from BevMo are "funky" tasting in the Fresno area- BevMo has a really bad habit of allowing green-glass to sit in the light... I refuse to purchase anything from them anymore, too many skunky beers down the drain.

                      1. re: Josh

                        The white I can give or take but witbiers are not a style I njoy that much. The red rice is wonderfully complex though, i really enjoyed that one.

                        1. re: MVNYC

                          I love a good witbier. Another good Hitachino is the Japanese Classic Ale. IPA aged in cedar. Very interesting flavors.

                          1. re: Josh

                            In San Diego, several Hitachino Nest choices can be found at Windmill Farms. Off the top of my head, I saw the White ale and the Japanese Classic ale (my personal H.N. Favorite.)

                            1. re: naven

                              You can get those 2 here, also, but I'd pull from the back of the shelf:
                              Convoy Liquor
                              4383 Convoy Street
                              San Diego, CA 92111
                              (858) 268-8854

                2. I lovelovelove Hitachino Nest, followed by Orion. I was introduced to Hitachino beers when I attended the Japan Expo in Los Angeles a few years back. Thry have a great sake-tasting area, as well.

                  For those in So. Cal and love Japanese food and culture, it's a must-attend event. They have food vendors from Osaka, and lots of tea as well.

                  But yes...Go for the beer! ^__^