Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Yebisu Stout Creamy Top Beer

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I like Sapporo and I especially like their premium label Yebisu. So when I saw that Yebisu made yet another dark beer I had to try it out.

Like with all Yebisu products, Creamy Top is getting into restaurant price territory. One can commands a hefty toll of 258 yen or more depending on where you buy it. I was a bit more fortunate and found a 3 pack with a commemorative pack in glass for 589 yen. 196 yen for a can of Yebisu or even a dark beer is acceptable, plus I couldn’t resist a nice free beer glass. I even bought a second 3 pack so I could have a matching pair of glasses if I ever have a guest over who wanted to drink with me… Probably never going to be used. Sad smile

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I couldn’t drink it right away though. I had to restrain my thirst and let the cans and glass chill in my fridge overnight. This wasn’t all that bad because I haven’t had a beer in frozen glass at home since I left the US 5 years back. Also, the directions on the box recommended I pour and serve the beer a certain way so I decided to go along with it.

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From the illustraitions and directions on the back of the box and cans, Yebisu Creamy Top recommends that I pour straight into the glass to let the head build up. It really does expand fast in the glass that way and I found that I had to waste precious minutes letting the head go back down to a level where I could finally top off the glass. One whole can will fit in the glass but by the time it’s in, the glass is no longer frosted… Well at least in my hot apartment with the AC on it still couldn’t survive. It really sucks that I can’t get the glass to stay cool because there’s nothing like a nice cool beer to hit the spot.

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The beer has a nice dark brown color with a nice caramel colored head on top. It gave off a nice light aroma of dark chocolate or a sweetened coffee. It tasted a lot like a lighter Guinness to me at first sip. The beer left a pretty decent after taste as well. While I really enjoyed it, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to have it again unless I can find it as cheap as I did in the 3 pack. At it’s regular price it’s probably smarter just to go for the real thing and buy a Guinness. I know I would.

Still, if you find one and you’re just as curious to try a new Japanese beer, get one. I think you’ll find it a pleasant enough experience. It’s a limited release so they may be gone from shelves by the time you read this. Oh well, just grab a Kuronama or a Kirin Stout and save yourself a few yen if you don’t want to go the full price of a Guinness.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fall rice harvesting season

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Now back to something a bit more culturally focused than beer. Over the weekend I was fortunate enough to notice the owner of the field adjacent to my parking lot was harvesting his rice field.

Rice harvesting, at least where I live, is commonly done throughout the month of September and even part of early October. The guy who owns the field behind my apartment seems to do it during early September when he drains the field one week earlier and lets the field dry out for him to safely use his harvesting vehicle in it.

In these times of modern technology, even something as back breaking and tedious as rice harvesting can be improved. Many rice planters in Japan do still do their harvesting and planting by hand but every passing year I see more and more of these machines in the fields to speed along the labor. I am certain the increase of machine usage has a lot to do with the age of the farmers. It really doesn’t seem to change the end product in the end so good on them.

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After the field was completely harvested by the machine, it was completely bare except for a few piles of straw which he burned on the spot. It’s still OK for farmers and home owners, at least in the countryside, to burn their green waste. It has a very pungent smell and creates a lot of white smoke if its still wet. It’s one of those things that triggers my thoughts of Japanese country life. The smell of burning field grass… Weird right?

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I don’t have much more to say than that. I did take pictures of a different field not more than five minutes away that employs the classic method of hand harvesting. I still want to try planting and harvesting one day. It just seems like something worth trying at least once.

Here’s a video of the machine in action! It’s a lot faster than I thought it would be. You can clear a field out in less than a day if you have enough help unloading the rice into bags.

I suck at narration.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Now we can fry anything up like a boss

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After a year or so of begging my wife to buy an electric deep fryer, we finally got one. We actually found one kind of cheap on rakuten.com which made the decision a lot easier.

One thing that we usually don’t eat at home are fried foods because we, well… it’s really me, don’t like cleaning up grease splatters and the mess that comes with frying in a pan. I also was heavily inspired to buy one because of Cult-Moo’s YouTube program Deep Fried What?

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We bought a few pre battered frozen foods like chicken karaage, squid rings, and French fries to break in the new fryer. For the most part, it was a success! We enjoyed a nice unhealthy smorgasbord of fried goodies. A few days later my wife made pork katsu on her own with great success.

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We plan to make kushiage with it soon as well. It will save us some money by making it ourselves instead of having to go to a restaurant or izakaya for it. Neat!

When we get more confident in frying up stuff we’ll just bread and batter everything ourselves. Eventually I want to use it to make something a bit more creative like taquitos or even a deep fried Snickers candy bar. For now, we’ll use it for more conventional things.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Sapporo 北海道(Hokkaido) Premium … happoshu!

ビールの本場は、北海道。 北海道PREMIUM [プレミアム]

Yep, it’s that time again for another near-beer, happoshu review! While I’d prefer to try new beers, there aren’t many new NATIONAL brand labels as of late but there’s always happoshu! Like the seasons change, so do the flavors/labels of happoshu. This review is no different as it is yet another new label I have encountered while doing regular grocery shopping at the supermarket…

Sapporo released their self branded “premium” happoshu. It’s not an incredibly inventive name but to me but it works. It beats some of the other odd-ball labels I’ve seen. Heck, maybe premium means they’ve put a true effort into making an acceptable substitute to beer. Well, let’s find out!

Sapporo Hokkaido Premium is priced competitively to its happoshu equals at a reasonable 100-106 yen for a regular can and 158 or so for a tall can. I am not sure if this stuff is seasonal or not but it seems like it could stick around for a while since there are no seasonal marks on it that would indicate summer/fall like some other cans that are on store shelves right now.

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Time to get into the details; Sapporo Hokkaido Premium pours pretty nice. It pours with a light golden color and a convincing head. The smell that comes off of it is an equally convincing aroma. It doesn’t just smell like alcohol like many happoshu end up doing. The first sip of Sapporo Hokkaido Premium went down really smooth and easy. It had a nice sweet, rich, taste to it that I’d compare to regular beers. The following gulps were just as satisfying. It also went pretty well with the cheese I had at hand. So yeah, it’s pretty close to the real thing, I’d even wager it may edge out Mugi to Hop as king of the happoshu... at least in my book.

So if you’re looking for another happoshu to challenge or something that resembles beer without breaking the bank, Sapporo Hokkaido Premium may be the drink for you. Go out and get one, you might like it too!

You can find the official website for Hokkaido Premium here.

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Oh, and while we’re on the topic of Beer, I did find one interesting thing at the grocery store as well. I found a new black beer by Yebisu, the flagship of the Sapporo brand. The beer is called, Yebisu Creamy Top Stout.

Hmm, sounds promising! Unfortunately, I didn’t have the cash or sense of adventure to buy a full 6 pack. Even though I find the Yebisu label my most favorite of Japanese beers, I would prefer to buy just one can for starters… you know, just in case. It would suck if the whole 6-pack was nasty or not up to expectations.

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So, yeah, I’ll try Creamy Top Stout next. I am totally looking forward to another dark beer. Since it says LIMITED on the bottom right corner of the box, that means I need to stock up on it if I end up liking it. It looks VERY promising!