A sip of Kirin's "ichibanshibori" stout is a splash of nostalgia-inducing variety. Japan is a land of light bubbly lagers. Here, beers seem to be designed more to match the cellphone emoticon than to be delicious and refreshing. In fact, there is a strange cultural feedback loop between cellphone graphics and beer that warrants discussion. Certainly beer emoticons were once upon a time modeled after the pre-existent product, but today it seems to work in reverse, or at least in both directions. Beer tends to be straw yellow in color and is always served in a glass, and while we Americans pride ourselves on the headless pours, Japan strives to create large, cartoon-like heads of foam in every mug. I tend to forget this ettiquette and my friends always seem little dissapointed when I turn the glass 45 degrees and proudly produce a tall glass of pale yellow gold with no white foam at the top whatsoever. To understnd this phenomenon, consider that the average Japanese teen is exposed to cellphone emailing and emoticon graphics long before becoming old enough to order a beer (drinking age is 20 here). Consider that all your life you have seen pictures of beer on tv and in email graphics that depict roughly 30% foam and 70% beer. Your first beer damn well better match that perfect mental image, right? It is admittedly a bit of a cultural Chicken-or-the-egg thing, but funny nonetheless.
Well Kirin Stout is out to change all that. At least the pale yellow part of the equation (see image).
The aroma is a bloom of roasted caramel and malts that become appearant upon exhalation, and it features a creamy smooth texture. This beer complements my spaghetti bolognese pretty well, but on the other hand, dark beers don't do much for most Japanese food, which is very light and easily out-competed by stronger beers.
The can claims that just a taste of Kirin's ichibanshibori stout will " enrich my precious time" and i have to agree; these times are quite enriched. It's definitely a nice change of pace from the usual lagar fare. Unfortunately finding even the domestic stout is just about as hard as finding actual Guinness (maybe 1/5 grocery stores). Anyway, 4/5 solid oishii!