In a perfect world there would always be a delicious craft beer close at hand. We don’t (yet) live in that world, especially in Japan. A friend and I did a blind taste test of Japanese macro-beers, to help in those moments when your only option is whatever is on sale at the local convenience store.
Our field was Kirin Ichiban, Asahi Superdry, and Suntory The Premium Malts. Neither Sapporo or their subsidiary Yebisu were available at the nearest convenience store, so they were left out of the lineup.
Going into the test, we both expected Asahi Superdry to be the best of the bunch. This is probably because Asahi Superdry is one of the most ubiquitous Japanese beers. Overall Asahi is the biggest Japanese brewery, with about 38% of the market and is followed by Kirin with 35% and then Suntory with a mere 15%. I expected my preference to match those numbers, with Asahi first, Kirin Second, and Suntory third.
The results were a little surprising. I voted The Premium Malts as the best of the bunch, with nice hoppy flavors and good body. Kirin was in second place, and the Asahi a distant third. My associate put Kirin in first place, describing it as smooth and very drinkable. He had Suntory second, saying that it was not bad but a bit strongly flavored and not in a good way! Asahi came in dead last for him as well. We both registered some off flavors in the Asahi with few positives to balance them out.
So there you have it, Suntory and Kirin tied for first, and Asahi Superdry last. Proof that not all pale, mass-market lagers are created equal!