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Japanese beer label research

I’ve been undertaking weeks of painstaking research.  We all know that Japanese beer is excellent.  One-by-one, I’ve been working through the different beers on sale in my local convenience stores.  This has been a long term project, which I realised I’d started when I looked at my collection of cans building up over time for recycling.  At first, the purpose was to try as many beers as possible, but I wasn’t going to be able to do a comparative taste test after drinking them days or weeks ago, so I turned to evaluating the labels instead.  

The 15 reviewed beer cans

 

Like many other products, there are some great, and not-so-great, labels among them.  The methodology for this research project was to evaluate the English labelling.  It seems that it’s not possible to have a fast moving consumer good here that doesn’t have some English written on it, and the English can sometimes be rather colourful – beer cans included.  From the classic to the clangers, here are the evaluations of varying English on 15 beer cans, which I doubt many have bothered comparing before now.

 

Asahi Premium: Jukusen

“Premium jukusen is brewed from quality ingredients using cultured yeast and our unique brewing technique”

Comment: No nonsense label, but slightly superlative statement. A good premium beer.

Asahi Premium: Jukusen

 

Kirin Meiji Lager

“Kirin Lager 120th Anniversary: Since 1888”

Comment: Elegant label invoking the Meiji era, a good premium beer.  Minimalist use of English reinforces image of quality.

Kirin Meiji Lager

 

Sapporo (black label)

“The taste you will always enjoy, Sapporo draft beer gives you the relaxing and refreshing flavor of quality malt and hops. This is the beer that’s great for good times at home, or out on the town.”

Comment:  A classic label for a good quality beer.  A statement intended to move the reader.  I just drank the beer.

Sapporo (black label)

 

Suntory “Snow White” All Malt Beer

“A beer with creamy foam like a white snow. Let’s enjoy the soft and smooth touch!”

Comment:  No seven dwarfs.

Suntory "Snow White" All Malt Beer

 

Suntory “The Premium Malt’s”

“Esteemed quality with fine barley malt, aroma hop and natural water”

Comment: A good premium beer, modern stylised can matching the content inside.  English text makes me feel good.  My current favourite, despite some of the other Suntory beers reviewed being just a little on the fringes.

Suntory "The Premiums Malt's"

 

Premium Yebisu (black beer)

“This premium black beer is brewed using dark roasted malt and caramel malt in good balance, and fine malt and select hops for a rich aroma and hearty roasted flavor”

Comment: Black label for a black beer. Makes sense.  More superlative text – there’s a definite theme emerging here.

Premium Yebisu (black beer)

 

Asahi Orion (2009 limited edition spring beer – “Ichiban Sakura”)

“All malt and aroma hop”

Comment:  There are often special release beers on the market, and this is one celebrating the coming of spring. Interesting lack of English text – I would have thought a beer can with pink cheery blossoms was a perfect target for some superlative statement about the Japanese four seasons.  I feel let down by this one.

Asahi Orion

 

Kirin Pilsener Beer

“Kirin Lager 120th Anniversary: Since 1888”

Comment:  A sibling label to the Kirin Meiji Lager beer above – a Meiji era inspired label for a premium brew.  Again, minimalist use of English sends the message that few words are needed to sell the quality of this one.

Kirin Pilsener Beer

 

Suntory “Diet”

“Clear taste:  The new crisp, clear taste is made from fine barley malt and natural mineral water. Enjoy your active life with Diet’s new taste.”

Comment:  Diet beer!  What an impossible concept; and a long blurb about enjoying life seems to go hand-in-hand with trying to sell a doomed concept.   This is a light beer with 3.5% alcohol content, and tasted like a light beer.

Suntory "Diet"

 

Kirin “Strong Seven”

“This hard and clear taste brings you the great feeling:  Alc 7%”

Comment:  A “great feeling” from a beer with name directly derived from its high alcohol content?  This one’s not going to make the anti-binge drinking campaigners very happy…  (And it wasn’t exactly a refined taste on the way through to achieving that great feeling.  Maybe the end justifies the means.)

Kirin "Strong Seven"

 

Kirin Classic

“Traditionally brewed: A time-honored recipe that delivers a rich, full-bodied lager”

Comment:  Kiringets it done with the classic label.  No need for long sentences here.

Kirin Beer Classic

 

Kirin “Green Label”

“Good value and quality, Brewed for good times:  Green Label brings you a comfortable time.  The refreshing taste cheers your mind.”

Comment:  Kirin’s Green Label is more green on white than white on green.  But “comfortable times”?  Cheaper beer = more floral, aspirational marketing language.  This one’s not a premium, but it wasn’t bad.

Kirin Green Label

 

Kirin “The Gold”

“All malt Pilsener: Pride of over 100 years’ brewing heritage since 1907”

Comment:  Gold by name, gold can, golden inside.  No English statement about how the beer makes you feel, just simple reliance on 102 years of pride.

Kirin "The Gold"

 

Suntory “Rich Malt”

“Original rich taste for relaxing”

Comment:  Suntory’sgone blue withthis one – one of few departures from the gold cans.  Not a premium beer, but with the higher malts content, better than some of its peers.  Note that the good beers often have less English to convey.

Suntory "Rich Malt"

 

Asahi Draft Beer: “Super Dry”

“Asahi beer is brewed from quality ingredients by using our pure cultured yeast and our advanced brewing techniques. Asahi beer has excellent richness, truly refreshing drinkability and satin smoothness.  All year round you can enjoy the great taste of Asashi beer”

Comment:  Another classic beer, but this lengthy spiel departs from my theory that the quality beers can rely on brevity to prove their quality.  Doesn’t matter – just give me another one please.

Asahi Super "Dry"

3 Comments

  1. Kohei says:

    Very interesting review; I have never paid my attention to English statements…

    Let’s try all of them in April doing “Hamami”. FYI, my favorites are Kirin Lager and Ebisu.

  2. ernie says:

    Suntory is my fave brand in Japan, better than Asahi and they have better TV commercials too
    http://www.japansugoi.com/wordpress/suntory-beer-commercial-with-mikie-hara-and-yukie-kawamura/

  3. John says:

    Back in about 2000 there was a beer in Japan with the name Beer Water, had a blue and white label. I am looking for a photo of that, can’t remember which brewery made that one…

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