The major Japanese brewers, except Sapporo, brought more beers in a wider variety of styles last year than they did in 2013.
Suntory released ten different styles of beer, followed by Kirin with seven styles, while Asahi and Sapporo five each. The most common style was (and no surprise here) pale lager, with both Asahi and Suntory each producing five new ones.
Suntory introduced new four premium lagers and also gave us the only pilsner, blond ale, and dunkel. Suntory also produced one the most highly-rated beers ever made by a major brewery in Japan, The Premium Malt’s Hatsudzumi Hoppu.
Asahi had three new Spice/Herb/Vegetable beers, which were actually very lightly fruit-infused dark beer cocktails. These three, along with the four Fruit Beer/Radler beers created by Kirin and Asahi are part of a trend toward lighter, sweeter beers.
Judging from average rating scores (out of a possible top score of 5.0) from RateBeer, admittedly a limited sample, for all 47 new beers, Sapporo and Suntory are making more interesting and tastier beers than their rivals – and Asahi…much less so.
Kirin: 10 new beers
RB Avg. 2.67 My Avg. 2.68
Asahi: 12 new beers
RB Avg. 2.47 My Avg.1.96
Sapporo: 7 new beers
RB Avg. 2.77 My Avg. 2.78
Suntory: 18 new beers
RB Avg. 2.80 My Avg. 2.72
All the majors are forecasting increased sales in 2015. Two areas which have been promising are high-end premium lagers and low- or no-purine beers (popular among older drinkers susceptible to gout).
The majors are also dabbling in the craft beer segment and appealing to the preferences of younger female drinkers, all in an on-going effort to discover which types of beer will catch on with a fickle Japanese public, which is drinking less year-by-year and is notoriously fond of novelty.