I have had a mixed sample of beers accumulating in my fridge, so I've decided to start a beer review that will survey the major Japanese brands. I'll begin on this unassuming Wednesday night as I dine on salmon and stewed veggies that were brought for me in a laquered wooden bentou from the school cafeteria's head cook. He studies English, so I stop and chat with him any time I am passing through the cafeteria for a meal or just a snack. At almost 60, he is quite an amazing intellect, self-studying from the animated TV English lessons, he is actually very talented! ..More fluent than some English teachers I know, anyway *ahem*. Anyway, in an amazing ongoing gesture of kindness, he often brings me dinner or leaves it hanging in a plastic bag from my doorknob when I am not at home, always complete with a set of bamboo chopstocks.
But I came here to write about beer, not people. Today's random selection is Honnama Draft from Asahi:
Looks like a bought this one by accident; Honnama is actually not real beer, but happoshu, a cheaper beer lookalike produced only in Japan, as far as I know. Rather than pure barley malts, happoshu relies a variety of other starches are used, including everything from rice to potatoes, to pea protein, to soy peptides. Compared to it's maltier counterparts, happoshu is very cheap because it escapes the high taxes on beer by lowering the malt percentage below 25% of what it should be. Some beer substitutes even have zero malts. Instead they play up the smoothness, or hoppy flavor. clever, clever.
The red can tells us that Honnama should be smooth and tasty, but lets take a closer look. Weighing in at only 5.5%, the yeasty flavor of alcohol is surprisingly predominating and the other flavors seem subdued and blunted. Nevertheless, It is refreshing with a meal and goes down the hatch smoothly. I believe it was Budweiser coined this quality "drinkability." This strikes me as really scraping bare minimum so long as we're talking about beverages. Drinkable? I would hope so! Not the first thing I look for in a beer, but a redeeming quality nonetheless. I will give this one an uncontroversial "chotto maamaa" (kinda ehh). 2/5.