Monday, April 16, 2012

Quaff Review #22: Asahi Black

When possible, I endeavor to break out of the everyday when it comes to beer and try something outside my experiences; it's a bit difficult when local beers are always the easiest to find, but if you're dedicated you'll turn up lesser-known labels here and there. In particular, I'm always interested in seeing what the state of the quaff is like in other lands - and if I don't have to leave Metro Vancouver to discover that, so much the better. That can be a bit of an irritating road when you find that a great deal of "foreign" brands are actually just brewed by license in Guelph; it kind of defeats the purpose, at least the way I see it. At minimum it's not even the same water, and the nature of the water you use for anything has a great influence on it.

That being said, in one of my recent lookarounds I was intrigued to find a bottle of Asahi Black, produced by Asahi Breweries Limited of Japan. It's not an unfamiliar name - another one of their brands, Asahi Super Dry, is commonly sold in beer stores across British Columbia and Ontario, and there's a big advertisement for it opposite one of the escalators down to the Granville Station platform, but like I said, it's produced under license in Guelph. This bottle of Asahi Black is different - the real deal, imported from Japan. I can tell because the back label is nothing but Japanese writing.

I tried my hand at translating some of it. Unfortunately for me, written Japanese involves a damning density of kanji, imported Chinese characters that are rather opaque if you don't already know them. I was able to recognize a few terms, like chigaimasu, so Asahi Black is different from something - perhaps Asahi's other beers - and it's possible that its taste is without rank, if I'm reading it right. Also, it contains hops and starch, has an alcohol content of 5%, and is an Asahi beer.

Yep, I'm only a few steps from mastery of the Japanese language now, for sure. Ganbatte!

My first thought on pouring it was "man, that's a deceptively small amount for a bottle that size." I doubt it would even have filled my San Francisco Living Sober 1991 coffee mug, except I wouldn't try, because that would be disrespectful. It's a 334-milliliter bottle, which gives it less drinkable content than even an ordinary can - looking at it now, it is significantly more tapered than North American bottles, but it was never obvious until it came time to pour. I would not be surprised for breweries over here to cotton onto this - charging the same price for less - eventually, so keep your eyes open.

Not that your eyes can tell you much about Asahi Black other than that, well, the name is appropriate. It's very dark, opaque even when held in front of a light, and had a vague woody smell. As for the taste, well...

It took me by surprise, because it wasn't there. I found Asahi Black to be a particularly watery beer, and though I thought there'd be some twist of flavor or a hint of bitterness - I've never had a Munich-type beer, to my knowledge, so I wasn't sure what to expect - there was nothing. No taste and no aftertaste. I might as well have been drinking alcohol-infused water, assuming my tastebuds did not all choose that moment to malfunction.

Asahi Black is a strange beer - it doesn't match what I would have expected at all. Where I expected taste, I got no taste. Where it has the look of something heavy and viscous, it's instead smooth and light. This is the first from-Japan Japanese beer I've had; I'm not sure if it's representative of the state of the brew over there or not. I think this calls for additional research.

ANDREW'S RATING: 2.5/5 - mostly for the questions that it raises.

Previous Quaff Reviews


  1. Where are your previous reviews, listed by ranking? :D

  2. I don't list them by rank, alas - just the ordered list at the end of the post. Never thought of that. Perhaps I will start.