Japanese Seasonal Beer: Getting Drunk All Year

As we showed you recently with seasonal sweets and snacks, you don’t need to venture into the wilds of nature to know what season we are in. Snacks are all very well, though but there’s something that I just have to had every day… beer! And this of course got us thinking about seasonal beers in Japan.

(For the purposes of this article, we’re including happoushu and so-called “third beer” [dai-san biiru]. Apologies to purists in advance!)

Spring

Like with snacks, spring in Japan is all about the cherry blossom and everything turns pink for the season. Cherry blossom means hanami, and hanami means… beer. Even if the weather is still a bit chilly, nothing will stop the Japanese from sitting beneath a cherry blossom tree and enjoying some drinks.

Kirin Beer: Kirin Lager Beer Hanami Cherry Blossom Can

kirin_hanami2013 design

Orion Beer 2014 Limited Edition Brews: Ichiban Sakura (Cherry Blossom Number One)

ichiban_sakuraOrion is an Okinawan beer maker. Since the cherry blossom bloom starts first in Okinawa, it follows that Orion releases its spring season beers ahead of the other major breweries.

Sankt Gallen Sakura

sakuraThis is more than just a label designed with a bit of cherry blossom. The beer itself actually uses sakura leaves for a sakuramochi taste. Sankt Gallen is a Kanagawa brewery that creates all manner of original “sweet beers” such as apple cinnamon ale.

Summer

Summer is the season when beers go crazy, since nothing tastes better on a hot day than a refreshing sud. And given how humid the Japanese dog days can get, a big mug of beer is an essential survival item. The year’s beer consumption levels literally hinge on how hot the summer was.

Kirin Beer: Ice + Beer

ichi_laggerThis one’s a bit unusual. The idea is that you pop in some ice cubes before enjoying this beer. It was sold as a summer season beer in 2011 and 2012.

Sapporo Beer: Niigata Pils Fuumi Soukai-ni Shite (Summer Can Design)

fumisoukainisite This special summer beer was just for the Niigata region. Its name means “make it taste refreshing.” We love the can design, decorated with fireworks, a classic motifs of the Japanese summer.

Sapporo Beer: Ice Lager 7

icelagger7 Released in 2012, the chilled flavors of this beer are topped off by the polar bear on the can!

Autumn

If chilled beers are indispensable for the summer, then with autumnal suds it’s more about the taste itself. This means that breweries in Japan release the most kinds of seasonal beers in autumn, so there are more varieties of tastes to enjoy than at any other time during the year.

Kirin Beer: Akiaji (Autumn Taste)

akiajiThis has been a staple of the Japanese autumn for 23 years and counting. The can design changes a bit every year but usually there’s lot of red and changing leaves.

Asahi Beer: Akiyoi

akiyoi

The name for this beer means autumnal night. As you’d expect, the can design features the red leaves of the season.

Suntory: Akiraku

akirakuRed leaves here too!

Winter

Winter is traditionally a time for partaking of Japanese Sake or Nihonshu, but more often than not, the first drink of the evening is still a beer. Perhaps because it’s a cold time of year and people don’t buy so much beer, but recently there have been some seasonal special beers coming out in the winter too.

Sapporo Beer: Fuyu Monogatari (The Winter’s Tale)

fuyumonogatariThis has now become a perennial favorite winter drink, released back in 1988 as Japan’s first ever seasonal beer. The slightly poetic name with its hints of the Shakespearean is also rather charming.

Kirin Beer: Ichiban Shibori Toretate Hops Draft Beer

toretate_hoppThis limited edition beer is sold at the end of the autumn and uses hops harvested in Toretate during the summer earlier in the same year. The design isn’t very wintery but that’s because it’s not so much a winter beer as a drink inspired by its “first crop” ingredients.

Sapporo Beer: Sapporo Draft Black Label Hokkaido Winter Matsuri

fuyunomatsuriThis beer was released in order to stimulate the Hokkaido region and features illustrations of Hokkaido’s representative festivals. Sapporo Beer actually produces many limited edition beers with regional themes like this.