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Beer Kitchen

August 4, 2008

Far East Beer Showdown!

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Written by: BeerMagDerek

Far East Beer Showdown
Maximum Best beers from Asia fight it out to the death
Words: Derek Buono

The Far East is a very interesting place. It has some of the oldest cultures and traditions in the world. Asian beers are a product of this rich culture and plethora of food offerings, with a style that could almost be called a subcategory (even though they are mainly just lagers). They have been tweaked over the years to go well with the cuisine of the area (which is typically spicy), and some are even brewed from rice. This month we took the beers from Asia and subjected them to our usual taste test … which inspired us to order some Chinese food. General Tso’s, please.

The Entries
We went to our local Beverages and More liquor store and rounded up all the major Asian brand beers we could find in a bottle. There are definitely many more Asian beers available, but we stuck with the big names that are found just about everywhere in the U.S.

Blind Tasting
We had a panel of four beer drinkers ranging in age from 28 to 42. All the beers were from 12-ounce glass bottles. They were poured in random order, served in a pilsener glass, and allowed to form a head. The beer’s identity wasn’t revealed until the end of the tasting. This type of testing removes any preconceived notions the testers might have based on previous experiences.

The Ratings
For this shootout we chose a new way to rate the beer. For each category (appearance, aroma, taste, finish) we had a scale from 0 to 5 in each direction. This means that if the flavor wasn’t appealing, it would receive a score from 1-5 in descending order, and if it was appealing, it would be marked from 1 to 5 in ascending order. It’s important to note that these beers were judged against each other, and not against any specific style or standard. It was simply a taste test using four beer elements and seven beers. The ratings represent an average from all four judges, and each judge ranked their favorite to least favorite, which was also averaged to obtain the final standings. It’s all confusing, but this is the list of beers we liked, going from favorite to least favorite. It’s sort of like picking a Miss America, where #52 is still a winner no matter what.

#7.Kirin Ichiban
Brewery: Kirin
Country: Japan
Imported by: Anheuser Busch (brewed in the USA)
Alcohol Percentage: 4.95

Bottom Line: Kirin was the surprise of the test, and the reason blind testing is the way to go. Many describe it as having the most unpleasant smell of the bunch, although there are far worse in other styles. Its taste also carried some of that slight skunk taste, and its finish was decent. It’s not a bad beer by any means, but in this crowd it was #52.

#6. Singha Lager
Brewery: Singha corporation
Country: Thailand
Imported by: Singaha North America, Redwood City, California
Alcohol Percentage: 5.0
Price: $8/6-pack

Bottom Line: A strong acidic taste that was sort of like a carbonation burn caused some lower scores in the taste category. It’s not that it tasted bad, it just had more of a sting than the others, which caught some by surprise. The finish was good despite that initial burn, but its lack of smell and middle-of-the-road taste made it fall back.

#5. Tsingtao
Brewery: Tsingtao Brewery
Country: China
Imported by: Monarch Import Co, Chicago, Illinois
Alcohol Percentage: 4.5
Price: $7/6-pack

Bottom Line: This one suffered from one of the most skunky/hoppy aromas of the bunch, but it did score well on taste despite the less-than-perfect nose. This is similar in smell to many of the lighter lagers out there. It’s light and refreshing and wouldn’t be kicked to the curb for the taste.

#4. Tiger lager
Brewery: Asia Pacific Breweries
Country: Singapore
Imported by: Import Brands Alliance, St. Louis, Missouri
Alcohol Percentage: 4.8
Price: $8/6-pack

Bottom Line: Tiger is a good beer if you’re thirsty and don’t want the taste to get in the way of what you’re eating. It’s light, and because of its nearly neutral taste and finish ratings, it’s not offensive in any way. But it isn’t full of flavor like the winner.

#3. Sapporo
Brewery: Sapporo
Country: Japan
Imported by: Sapporo USA, New York, New York
Alcohol Percentage: 4.9

Bottom Line: Sapporo beat out Tiger in this case with just slightly more taste, but with an aroma that hurt it a bit. The smell was just a hint of skunky hops, which most said wasn’t appealing—despite the fact that its almost neutral flavor wasn’t bad and you could drink more than one of those and enjoy the light flavor with a slight acidic taste.

#2. Asahi
Brewery: Molson Brewing
Country: Japan
Imported by: Asahi USA, Torrance, California
Alcohol Percentage: 4.9
Price: $8/6-pack

Bottom Line: Squeaking into second was Asahi. It’s a very light, very refreshing beer that’s sure to quench your thirst or help you through that wasabi you ate by accident. It had a decent amount of flavor, despite tasting a little more watery in the mouth.

#1 San Miguel
Brewery: San Miguel Corporation
Country: Philippines
Imported by: Logret Import & Export Company, City of Industry, California
Alcohol Percentage: 5
Price: $8/6-pack

Bottom Line: Our lone Pilipino tester got excited about our Asian beer shootout, and in the end (we hoped he’d be wrong just because that’s how we are) San Miguel had the most flavor and tasted better than all the other beers of the region. The beer had a certain wheat/citrus hit that set it apart from the rest.

The Tab
Asian beers share many characteristics, despite being from different regions. All of them were light bodied and very easy to drink. They aren’t the most flavor-packed, although San Miguel did have a surprising amount, and that is by design. You can drink lots, and drink them with most foods and in most climates. If you’re out for some Asian food and are looking to try something different, San Miguel is our recommended beer.

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  1. catman1

    You need to try Chang. It is the number 1 beer in Thailand.

  2. BrianB

    Suntory Malt was my favorite. Lived in Japan for 3 years and it was just great. Fresh Tiger is very good too. Mr. Heineken started that label in Singapore. I did the brewery tour.

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