This year’s summer, colorless beverages such as Coca-Cola Clear, Morning Premium Tea, Clear Latte and the Beer Taste All-Free All-Time alcohol-free beer have been trending in Japan. However, the limited run of Clear Craft, 5% ABV alcoholic beverage developed by Asahi Brewing Ltd, wasn’t a part of the trend. The limited batch of about 9000 pints of the Clear Craft was served on draft in four Asahi Brewing owned Asahi tap only establishments June 25th through the end of August. Luckily, one of the establishments is located in Osaka which is accessible to me.
In July, Yumi Sakai, the owner of Bîru Joshi (“Beer Girl”) blog, has interviewed Masako Nishiyama, the researcher directly responsible for the R&D behind Clear Craft at Asahi Brewing Ltd. Masako thought that beers are “a bit heavy”, “make you full quickly”, and its “difficult to drink many at a time”. She felt the desire to create the ultimately refreshingly delicious beer. According to the research team’s survey, words “colorless and clear” lead to associations of “sukkiri” to the Japanese consumer. “Sukkiri” translates as “refreshing” in the beverage context. That revelation marked the start of the project. It took Nishyama and the team more than 100 times to hammer down the recipe and it took eight long years for the idea to become a commercially sellable product if only for a limited testing run. Yumi describes the beverage as “lightly bitter, refreshing and (it) leaves an overall impression of sweetness which might confuse consumers who were prepared to drink a beer”. The consumers were asked to fill in a short questionnaire and had comments such as “quaffable because it’s clear”, “refreshing and good”, “too refreshing”, “I want it to taste more like a beer”. Masako heard their voices and is tweaking her recipe yet again to reduce the sweetness.¹
Here are my tasting notes: Pours a crystal clear slight tint of yellow with a quickly dissipating head leaving no lacing. Floral, Hallertau-like hop bouquet. Chemically induced clean bitterness comes in front, supported by carbonation and cold serving temperature. There is none to low malt flavor to follow or support the bitterness. Body is medium and carbonation is typical. In my opinion, there were no traditional ingredients used. If there is sweetness, it comes from Sweet’n Low sweetener-like flavor and its well hidden by the artificial bitterness which lingers with an unnecessarily warm finish. There’s much more tweaking for Masako to do to make this beverage palatable.
Yumi Sakai, “A developer explains the reasons behind the making of a transparent craft beer”. Last modified July 5th, 2018, https://beergirl.net/asahi-clearbeer_n/
Let there be a world of knowledgeable consumers and bar proprietors in which we understand beer in its splendid and almighty versatility. A place where the consumer will know how to pair beer with food similar to the general knowledge of red wine with beef and a white with a fish. Renown beer writer Michael Jackson in his essential Beer Companion points to discerning wine folk who underestimate beer: “No one goes into a restaurant and requests ‘a plate of food, please’. People do not ask simply for ‘a glass of wine’, without specifying, at the very least, whether they fancy a red or white, dry or sweet, perhaps sparking or still”¹. And then, the same wine geeks order ‘a beer’. Michael is trying to rectify this ignorance in his most known work – introducing and showing that beer can be as elegant as wine or spirits. It can be as complex or as simple simple as you want it to be: a cold and quaffable lager on a hot summer’s day; a table beer to go with your everyday dinner; a celebratory sparkling ale in a flute glass; a nutty brown ale to match your barbecued meat; or a nightcap of a thick imperial stout to warm you up on a cold winter’s night.
Unfortunately, ignorance isn’t reserved only for the consumer side – many bar owners should broaden their knowledge. In a perfect world, all establishments that serve beer would correctly maintain the draft systems; all bartenders would care for a proper pour to a beer clean glass and a whiff of an off-flavor either from a draft or packaged beer will raise bartender’s eyebrow. Faulty equipment or simple draft system troubleshooting could be done without calling for help and restaurant menus will include many beer and food pairings which will make the customers return. Finally, for the consumer, a myriad of hop, malt, and other ingredient aromas and flavors would become more than just “hoppy” or “malty” and the terminology reserved for tasters and brewers would become common language. A regular customer would walk in and say without looking at the menu that he or she wants a chicken salad and a witbier, a cheeseburger with a pale ale or a chocolate mousse with that imperial stout. We at Beerjuku.com are adamant that this perfect word is not too far-fetched and we are here to educate – one little sip at a time.
Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion – Stouts, Lagers, Wheat Beers, Fruit Beers, Ales, Porters – Second Revised (Elan Press, 1997), 6-7
Hops (Humulus Lupulus) and Marijuana (Cannabis) plants are taxonomically related and come from Cannabinaceae family. Both share similar aroma compounds (brewing term: hop essential oils) myrcene, beta-pinene, and alpha-humulene. Those are the same aroma compounds that produce Marijuana’s typical smell. Additionally, TCH – Marijuana’s active component, and humulone – a component that makes beer bitter (brewing term: hop alpha acids) are made from the same organic building block compound – terpenoid.
Martha Harbinson, “BeerSci: What’s The Connection Between Hops And Marijuana?”, last modified November 16, 2012, https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-11/beersci-marijuana-related-hops
Graham Eyres, Jean-Pierre Dufour “Beer in Health and Disease Prevention” 2009, 29 January 2010, Abstract, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-373891-2.00022-5