Tuesday, April 04, 2006

April 2006 - Asian Style Beers

The largest markets in the Far East are Japan and China, both of these countries overall has a small consumption per capita of 3 gallons (USA 22. German 32, Belgium 26). Anthony Bourdain traveled to China last month on the TV show No Reservations and increased the consumption per capita to 4 gallons. Beer was introduced in China by Russians and Germans around 1900 and now the number of breweries is approaching 1,000. Beer arrived in Japan about 50 year's earlier than China, and Kirin was the founded in 1870 by an American, in 1908 a beer tax law was introduced which led to massive consolidation and most small and local breweries did not survive. The law was repealed in 1994 and there was a sudden growth in ji-biru ("local beer". Many of these new crops of microbrews were long-established sake brewing companies.

This month the Memphis Beer club is going to be sampling 3 beers from Japan (Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo), 1 Thailand beer (Shigha), 1 Chinese beer (Tsingtao), 1 American beer (Rogue Morimoto Soba) and 1 Vietnam beer (Export "33").

The first beer will be the #1 beer in Asia, Tsingtao (pronounced "Ching-dow"). This is a Premium Lager and is the flagship beer for the Tsigntao Brewery. Founded in 1903 by German settlers in the port of Tsingtao (now Qingdao) and has about 12% of the market share. The Tsingtao Brewery was later occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army in the Second Sino-Japanese War, and finally retaken by the Chinese. It has now been converted in to a museum about the brewery's past.

It was introduced to the United States in 1972, and it soon became the top-selling Chinese beer in the U.S. market. The Tsingtao brand is sold in more than 50 countries worldwide and accounts for more than 80% of China's beer exports. In fact, Tsingtao is the number-one branded consumer product exported from China.

We will try another Premium Lager, Singha from Thailand. It is brewed by the first and largest brewery in Thailand, Boon Rawd Brewery. It was founded in 1933 by Phraya Bhirom Bhakdi utilizing German technology to produce Pilsner-style lagers. Today, Boon Rawd is a diverse company selling products ranging from bottled water to coffee and tea. It has three beer brands, Leo, Thai Beer and Singha. Singha is a full bodied all-malt lager with a prominent herbal hop character.

The next four beers are all Pale Lagers and two of them were part of the Dai Nippon Sapporo and Asahi.

Asahi was the smaller of the two breweries until the late 1980's ,when it launched Asahi Super Dry. Asahi Super Dry's success is due to its smooth, light flavor, which was formulated following extensive market research. The smoothness and lightness are achievedd by a longer maturation period. It is similar to a classic German Pilsner, al together it has a much lighter hop profile and just a hint of bitter. Asahi also brews several other beers including Asahi Draft Beer Fujisan, which is brewed exclusively using water drawn from the springs of Mount Fuji and Ashai Black. Ashai Black was inspired by German Schwarzbier (black beer) but avoids using roasted barley resulting in a smoother flavor.

Kirin Ichiban, Kirin's "other" beer was launched in 1990 as Ichiban Shibori. Ichiban Shibori translates literally as the "first pressing." It earns this name because it is brewed only using the first run of the wort - usually the malt is reused to brew a second batch of wort, which is weaker that the first and contains a higher level of bitter tasting tannin. Kirin Ichiban has higher alcohol content and a milder, purer flavor, which made it instantly popular among Japanese beer drinkers. This also helped the brewery to establish and international expansion acquiring a major share in New Zealand's Lion Nathan group in 1998, and the San Miguel Brewery of the Philippines in 2001.

Next we will be trying the other brewery of Dai Nippon, Sapporo. Sapporo Premium Draft is the flagship beer of the brewery. Elsewhere the beer is know as Sapporo Premium, served in a stylish silver can . Wherever it is sold, it is a light, refreshing, golden lager. It was launched in Japan in 1977, but Sapporo brewing has a history that stretches back to 1876, when Seibei Nakagawa. After traveling to Germany to learn about the art of brewing, He was employed by the Japanese governmentt to oversee the construction of a brewery in Hokkaido. It was renamed to Sapporo in 1886 and moved to Sapporo, home of the 1972 Winter Olympics. It was part of the Dai Nippon brewery until 1949 and moved back to Hokkaido in 1956.

The final beer of the night will be American Asian style beer from the Rogue Brewery, Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale. The Morimoto Soba Ale is part of the new Signature Series of Rogue Ales, launched in the Spring of 2003 with internationally acclaimed Chef Masaharu Morimoto--a James Beard awarded chef and one of the stars of the Food Network series, Iron Chef. Soba (also known as buckwheat) is not a type of wheat but a member of the rhubarb family (a fruit, not a grain!) Soba has been a longtime staple of Japanese cuisine because of its nutritional value. Buckwheat is high in potassium, phosphorous, vitamin B (50 percent more than wheat) and protein, and it’s virtually fat-free. The fruits of buckwheat plant are like small beechnuts, which are milled to separate the edible groats from the dark brown hulls. The groats are then roasted and used more or less like a grain (a good example is Kasha).

Trafford, there is nothing here about the Vietnamese beer. Is it that bad?
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