Thursday, March 1, 2012

Non-alcohol zero calorie beer taste drinks?

Beer-mug[2]If you’ve ever visited or lived in Japan for an extended period of time, you may have noticed beer taste alcohol substitute beverages sold at convenience stores and supermarkets everywhere.

Over the recent few years the ratio of traditional beer to beer-taste alternative drinks like happoshu and daisan has significantly increased. It very apparent that beer has been given the back seat to beer like drinks because of the drastic difference in price. The reason for this mostly comes from the incredibly high tax beer is given in Japan. I read somewhere it was originally taxed so high to protect the Sake (Japanese rice wine) market because beer was in higher demand, and still is to a certain extent.

Every few months or so it seems like a new ‘Flavor’ or brand of happoshu/daisan is marketed to keep interest up in the beer like beverage market. I admit, I also like to taste the seasonal fake beers from time to time just from their labeling and commercials. But I am almost always disappointed with the flavor, aftertaste, or horrible headaches I receive after drinking them. When it comes down to it, nothing beats the taste of a real beer. If you want to drink beer, don’t settle for less, get the beer.

NEC_0063I’ve gotten a carried away with the backstory. I plan to revisit that topic sometime later. Hopefully… Happoshu and Daisan beers only tell part of the story. Due to the success of beer alternative beverages, a new market has opened up and flourished over the past year or so. The new market I speak of is the non-alcoholic beer taste drink line-up. Ever since 2005 when the zero tolerance drink and drive law was established in Japan, Japanese partiers and dinner drinkers have been forced to go dry until recently.

Could things get any worse for beer like drinks, well yeah kind of… Kirin and Suntory decided to try their luck at non-alcoholic no calorie beer like beverages. For the most part its been a successful venture. Many restaurants serve non-alcoholic beers like Kirin-free in bottle form now. I must admit it’s a nice gesture to be able to feel like you are drinking beer at a restaurant and be allowed to drive legally afterward but its just not the same.

The first strike for Kirin Free and others like it is that it is zero calorie, which usually means a very light to non existent taste. I hate diet drinks, I just drink the regular poison fat juice and cola in moderation. If I am going to drink something I want, it might as well be the real thing right?

Anyway, to me, Kirin’s free tastes like carbonated stale grape juice. It also has a pretty unsatisfying aftertaste. The same could be said for Suntory’s brand as well but it isn’t sold as widely Kirin’s is. I think Free tastes like stale grapes most likely because it is grape based. It looks like beer, pours like beer, and even kind of smells kind of like a cheap Hopposhu but it tastes nothing like beer. This doesn’t seem to bother many Japanese people I’ve drank this stuff with during business parties and other occasions. They have most likely become comfortable with beer taste drinks like Happoshu already so their standards have loosened somewhat. So I suppose my opinion on Kirin Free’s flat taste is not all that common. Or nobody really bothers speaking out on it besides non-Japanese expats like myself.

NEC_0062Here’s where my opinion on beer taste non alcoholic beverages improves slightly though, I finally found a non-alcoholic beer that actually is not an affront to my taste buds. Last Friday I was doing my regular shopping routine at a local supermarket and I was approached by a product testing lady serving Asahi’s new Dry Zero. Dry Zero is Aasahi’s attempt at a zero calorie, zero alcohol beverage to counter Kirin’s success. When I first sipped from the tester glass I got a similar disappointing sensation I usually do with non alcoholic beers. But after a second or so it seemed pretty decent to me. Even the after taste and the taste of a burp really felt close to an authentic beer taste. I am not quite sure how they did it but it’s a better attempt at simulating a beer flavor than Happoshu and Daisan Beers.

I have no real intention to buy any of these products for home use but if I encounter the Asahi brand non alcoholic beverage when I am at a restaurant I may get it. I wish the Japanese driving law and tax on beer wasn’t so unbearable and strict but at least I have a worthy alternative to drinking real beer. So, if you are into trying new things and you encounter one of Asahi’s Dry Zero in the wild, try one out. You might find it not too bad as I did. Smile

1 comment:

  1. That won't taste as great as Jolly Shandy and Anglia Shandy