Alcohol free Japanese "beer": Kirin Free

Alcohol free Japanese "beer": Kirin Free

Last night was my weekly night without alcohol.

Nights without alcohol always cause me problems – not because I’m an alcoholic but because I always have to be drinking something. Even in the period when I never touched alcohol (I didn’t like alcohol until after I graduated uni) I’d always be drinking something fizzy like Diet Coke.

So on the nights when I’m not drinking I find myself stocking up with some kind of fizzy soda water (I don’t drink fizzy soft drinks anymore because they all contain either caffeine or sugar in Japan, and plain water just tastes bland to me). Last night on the way home I noticed my local supermarket has Kirin Free right next to the fizzy water – not in the alcohol section – so decided to get a few cans.

Kirin Free is different from low alcohol or almost no alcohol beers in that it has zero alcohol – it’s not made with yeast at all. Taste wise, it’s not bad at all actually – in fact it was so “ok” that after trying one can I went back to the supermarket to get more.

I’m making absolutely no claims that this tastes like beer – if you expect it to then you will be disappointed. What it tastes like is wort watered down with fizzy water. As such it has more taste than low alcohol beer. Heck, I’d even argue that it has more taste than a Kirin or The Master or a cheap Japanese beer – yeah, it’s not “beer” taste, but it’s taste. And it makes a change from having to drink coke or water or fruit juice when you don’t want alcohol.

My night without beer is usually a Monday rather than a Tuesday, but this Monday I had a Ruination craving and decided to head to Cataratas again in the hope they still had Ruination on tap. They didn’t. They had:

  • Chapeau Banana
  • Lowenbrau
  • Westmalle Dubbel
  • Weihenstephan Korbinian
  • Edelweiss Snowfresh
  • Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale

First beers of the night: Korbinian and Calico


Weihenstephan Korbinian and Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale

I have to say that I’m becoming surprised by German beers these days – the Weihenstephan Korbinian was damn good. Quite similar to the “Samichlaus Bier Strongest Lager Beer In The World” I mentioned yesterday, but without the beautiful Imperial kick that beer had.

The Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale on the other hand was RANK. It was so bad that I couldn’t drink it. It tasted like the bitter mouldy taste that Orval sometimes – not something that I like. Since no special yeast was mentioned in the writeup, I’m sure there was something wrong with this beer or the conditions it was served in – it’s unlikely that taste could have been the result hops and malt alone.

Now I think about it actually, I wonder if perhaps the bar had cleaned the beer lines but not run some beer though after – it tasted a little like the time I poured some beer and forgot to clean the sanitiser from the beer lines first.

In fairness to Cataratas, after a bit of a chat with the owner and him tasting the beer himself, he said that it tasted OK to him but offered to change it for another beer anyway. I accepted. If I see this beer anywhere else I’m going to have to try it just to see whether it tastes the same. It really was awful – I don’t usually return beer or refuse to drink it.

Next beers up were the Westmalle Dubbel and Edelweiss Snowfresh. The first came with zero head and was a bit flat – it should have been fizzier. The Edelweiss Snowfresh was another surprise – a beautiful fruity white beer, not dissimilar to Kronenburg Blanc, though a little less fruity. I could drink more of that – though in this occasion I returned back to the Korbinian since I have a feeling I wont be seeing this beer often in Japan.

While in Cataratas and speaking to the owner, I gave him – in the nicest possible way – a bollocking for not updating his website. “I came here for Ruination,” I told him.

I explained to him about Boozelist (which he seemed not to know above but uttered something in Japanese like “sugoi – someone really does that?” when I explained what the site was) and this site, gave him email addresses, and told him to mail Boozelist and myself when he changes beers – “Tell us when you change beers and all the gaijins serious about beer will know about it,” I told him.

A few minute later a Japanese guy comes in and gives him the same bollocking “Hey, do you know how long it’s been since you updated your website?!” He hadn’t heard me giving the owner a talking to before, so hopefully the owner got the message and will at least send mail. As I was there a Keg of Ruination was delivered. The owner laughed and gave me this “Ruination set” and said “As soon as this goes on tap, I’ll mail you” (in Japanese, of course).

Soon: Ruination

Soon: Ruination

Beers waiting to be kegged up:

  • Piraat Ale
  • Kasteel Rouge
  • Ruination IPA
  • Another Chapeau fruit beer (can’t remember which one)

Next stop was The Aldgate, the old staple of Shibuya.

In case you’re wondering how I remember which beers I’ve drunk, this is my technique:

Guest Beers at The Aldgate

Guest Beers at The Aldgate

Yeah! Point at the menu and take a photo. The Preston IPA – I have to say: WOW. That beer was hoppy and gorgeous. Some people don’t rate Preston’s beer but this, along with the Shiga Kogen Harvest Brew IPA, is one of the best Japanese IPAs I’ve tasted.

I really should do a proper write-up of The Aldgate. It’s a cracking place – as well as having ever rotating guest beers, they have14 or so regular beers on tap, including Baird IPA, and they are usually all around 1000 yen. They are also completely no-smoking – one of the first bars to be no smoking in Tokyo and even now, there are less than 5 smoke free bars that I know of in Tokyo (though Popeye is now smoke free from this week!) And don’t get me started on the Cornish Pastie!

I’ve been going to The Aldgate forever. Which is probably why I haven’t done a full write up. I should.