Speaking to anyone who makes beer for a living, you’ll undoubtedly hear that it’s not a financial tiptoe through the tulips. Long hours, no holidays, endless debt and putting your monetary stability on the line seem to go hand in hand with getting people drunk in new and interesting ways.
Joe’s Soapbox Corner on Abashiri Jaga Draft
One of the ways, it appears, of keeping afloat as a small brewery is to hunt for a gimmick and make a beer based on that. These gimmicks are usually ones that are related to produce in the local area, and are sure to keep the tourist pennies rolling in. It probably explains why Japanese craft beer is more commonly known as “地ビール”(Ji-biiru, local beer), although the industry is pushing towards using “クラフトビール” (Kurafuto biiru, craft beer), ostensibly to be in line with the rest of the world.
There is a second reason why Japanese craft brewers are eager to correct you when you say 地ビール, however. A rather embarrassing past that they’d rather you forget, as they were young, and in college, and needed the money. In this case, it involves potatoes, pink food dye, and catnip. Read on.
Abashiri Jyaga Draft, then, is Abashiri Beer’s potato-based beer. It’s meant to evoke autumn in Hokkaido, and has a nice rustic handmade design to the label, albeit with a bizarre choice of the typewriter font for the English writing on it that make it looks like a conspiracy theory website. The ingredients look like they don’t belong in a beer at all- the first ingredient is saccharine starch; the third barley syrup. Then there’s the jagaimo (potato) and nagaimo (yam), and the bizarre inclusion of matatabi (catnip). Hops are only greater in amount to the two red dyes. And before I forget, it has an abv of 5%.