How the Other 99.9% Live – Japan edition

June 25, 2009

This is Vince reporting from sunny and rainy Tokyo – weather is a little fickle at the moment. I’m on a vacation around Asia, and I’ve decided to do a segment on some lifestyle/financial observations on this trip. This first segment is devoted to…

Fruit prices in Japan.

Yes, fruit prices. First and foremost, prices are astronomically high. Additionally, it is very difficult to find fruit. Convenience stores, the most accessible food supply store in Japan – one in every three stores in Tokyo seems to be a convenience store (Lawson, Mini Mart, Family Mart, 7-11, Newsday…) – do not supply fresh fruit. Instead, they are replaced by jello encapsulated fruit and fruit drinks. However, if you were interested in consuming a fruit, you could go to a small corner market or a restaurant. Large grocery stores mostly don’t exist either, since space is at a premium.

Mango at a restaurant

Mango at a restaurant

So how much is a fruit at a restaurant? At a restaurant chain in Tokyo, about $5 for a third of a mango. Fruit prices at small stands aren’t much better…about $6 for four peaches, $1 for a banana, and $5 for an apple.

Maybe I’m shopping at all the wrong places, but so far I’ve yet to find a place that disproves the theory that fruit prices in Japan are high.


The More You Know…About BEER: Ginga Kogen Silver Bottle

May 15, 2009

Editor’s Note: Here once again is beer expert, Ant, bringing you our weekly installment of The More You Know…About BEER! This week: Ginga Kogen Silver Bottle Edition!

Ginga Kogen Silver Bottle
Higashi Nihon Sawauchi Sougoukaihatsu (Iwate, Japan)
300 mL (10.1 fl. oz.)
5% ABV

Ginga Kogen Silver Bottle

Commercial Description:
Fruity beer with rich taste made by packaging “Weizen”, the traditional beer in the South Germany made of over 50 % of wheat malt, without filtering beer yeast. Blue bottle with modern design brings out table coordinates.

I found this bottle in the beer section of Nijiya Market just down on Convoy (for you San Diegans). Its beautiful blue bottle is a definite eye catcher and I kept imagining what kind of homebrew I was going to put in it when I was done. I think the bottle was about $4-5, a little steep for an import beer that’s only 300mL. Even Hofbrau Original is under $3 and that’s a 500mL bottle. Then again, Yebisu (a premium all-malt beer produced by Sapporo) is about $4-5 for a 12oz. bottle. Yet, I couldn’t pass it up especially because the bottle didn’t even describe what style of beer it was in English and I was curious to see what this blue bottle contained. Originally, I decided to place this in the German Wezien/Weissbier category since its flavor profile matched the closest. American Wheat beers don’t have any banana/clove esters that German Wheat beers have and this beer didn’t have any citrusy orange fruitiness that Belgian Witbiers are well known for. This traditional style originated in Southern Germany and is usually considered a specialty for summertime consumption yet can be consumed year-round. At the same time, no category for international wheat beers exist in the BJCP Style Guidelines. After doing some research on their website, their commercial description confirmed its German Weizen style. I think it’s really awesome how this Japanese brewery used an uncommon style of beer to be its flagship beer especially in an era where lagers dominate the domestic brand in almost every nation that never had malt-based beer in their historical roots (Sapporo-Japan, (Editor: Sorry, no official website, so no link) Taiwan Beer-Taiwan, Tsingtao-China, Singha-Thailand, Tiger-Singapore, Quilmes-Argentina, Taurino-El Salvador, etc.). Then again, Widmer Brothers and Pyramid Brewery paved the path for flagship wheat beers in the U.S. and at the same time created new styles. Good thing? Maybe. Now for this beer.

Pale gold in color and effervescent, Ginga Kogen starts off clear until yeast sediment is poured in making this quite hazy. The head is bright white and fluffy that slowly dissipates. Traces of cinnamon colored yeast sediments in the middle of the head along with the fine bubbles suggest that this beer is bottle-conditioned (naturally carbonated). Initial sulfur volatiles permeate after being opened but fades into moderate banana-like fruity esters and mild phenolics (spicy). The hop aroma is very low but present. Light wheat aroma is apparent and sweet smelling. The mouthfeel is medium light bodied with a pleasant creaminess that makes this beer smooth going down. Banana/bubble gum and wheat flavors are prominent; a stronger clove presence would make this an ideal German Weizen. Hop bitterness carries through the malt and finishes slightly dry and semi-tart. Overall, a delicious example of a German-style Wheat beer however most of the flavors turned out low to moderate in intensity (not bad, but I was looking for a little more flavor).

Category 15A: Weizen/Weissbier

Aroma: 9/12

Appearance: 3/3

Flavor: 15/20

Mouthfeel: 4/5

Overall: 8/10

Total: 39/50