While my heart will always lay with European lagers and British ales, I have become partial to a tipple of the old Japanese standards; namely Kirin Ichiban Shibori and the world-renowned Asahi SuperDry.
I have devolved into the world of Suntory’s Premium Malts and Yebisu’s offerings, yet I seem to defiantly stick to my guns and rarely stray from the classics. This may be to the detriment of connoisseurs, but I stand by my decision.
What may further wrinkle the noses of more ‘educated’ drinkers is that I actually enjoy Happoshu, a low-malt ‘beer’ that flies under the radar of what the Japanese government defines as ‘beer’, making the consumption tax lower for the product, thus proving popular amongst consumers. By far Asahi Clear is ahead of the crowd for me, though Suntory’s金麦 has proved a contender to the throne when my local convenience store ran out of Asahi Clear a while back.
As with their standard beer counterparts, Happoshu beer enjoys a seasonal outing of various flavours; the winter and autumn seasons provide the best season for a plethora of limited edition incarnations. One recent incarnation from Asahi stands out as perhaps the most intriguing for myself as a consumer of that golden liquid that parades under the moniker; beer (whether it be in standard or Happoshu form).
In late Spring Asahi released ‘Red Eye’, a tomato-infused beer cocktail, made from ‘selected tomatoes’ and ‘the finest malt’. Now I am all for trying something new to add a twist to my old friend, Mr. Beer. Taking inspiration from The Wire, I drank a beer avec raw egg (raw egg, beer, put in and let it sit there, with the yolk winking at you from inside the glass). I can fathom a worse marriage of flavours, but tomatoes and beer……who? What? Why? When?
Proper flavoured beer in the UK has enjoyed a recent surge in sales, with the various flavours adding versatility to the drink and to its’ image. Personally I have tried banana-bread flavoured beer, raisin beer and not to mention the multitude of fruit-infused beer that helped the summer of 2006 pass smoothly by.
So back to ‘Red Eye’, how did it taste? Exactly how you think: it tasted like someone dropped a mashed up tomato into your beer, dared you to drink it whilst pummeling you with tomatoes……in the face. I was ill, angry and a little bit tired that I had drank such a concoction.
I can’t imagine the board-meeting at Asahi the day someone suggested a tomato beer; ‘got an idea?’ said the CEO ‘yeah, tomato….beer…..tomato beer’ said the Head of R&D. I can’t believe the idea was passed through to the development stage and somehow made it through the taste test, ending up in the chiller-cabinets throughout Japan’s food and beverage retailers.
I can imagine that meeting was akin somewhat to a scene in Anchorman, with Brick declaring his love for a lamp, simply because he was looking at a lamp. Who knows what crazy incarnations could be coming to a convenience store in the future if that’s the way new drink ideas are made…….cucumber…..Pepsi….oh wait, that’s been done already!?!?!
Sorry Asahi, I still love you for your other efforts, but if you were a child at school, I would be sending you to see the Head Master to explain what you’ve done and why you did it.