Japan’s Fall Beer Marketing in 2011

Photo credit: kimubert on flickr

Posted By Nathan Hoernig

What does this article do for you?

Well, for one thing, it’ll most likely make you thirsty.

Aside from that, you can expect to see how Japanese beer companies are catering to the fall sales push. The weather here in Japan gets a tad bit cooler, people start switching off their air conditioners in favor of open windows and drinking (as is always the case in Japan) continues on, full force, into the winter months.

Fall beers? What’s the deal?

Well, first off, Japan is a highly “seasonal” country. By that, I mean that a lot of foods and drinks are enjoyed on a seasonal basis. “Osechi” is enjoyed around the new year; “umeboshi” are picked, enjoyed and developed into plum wines near the start of spring and the summer months bring “takoyaki” and other such festival favorites, just to name a few.

If you’ve kept track of this blog, back in April we posted an article about the cherry blossom season and how it’s carried into beer advertising and package design. Now, it’s time for the fall varieties and we bring with it, three different types of fall brew (though one is actually just a marketing ploy on an already existing version).

Kirin Aki-Aji (Fall Flavor) Beer

kirin akiaji seasonal beer

Kirin’s Aki-aji is first on the list for a few reasons.

First off, the can design is great. I love the contrast from the top of the can, down to the bottom. It feels like a night scene with the moon in the background. This is the only can of the lot that creates a real “mood” in my opinion.

Also, the Kirin can features “momiji”: the Japanese maple (pictured above). If you’ve ever seen a “momiji” tree in real life, you’ll agree with me in saying that they’re amazing. They look like normal maple leaves (like you’d find in North America, Europe, etc.), except the leaves are a fraction of the size and are super slim. This is also the only can that features ginkgo leaves—a brilliantly yellow aspect of the autumn season in Japan.

Furthermore, Kirin is the only company that’s created a fall “beer”. The other two that I’ve listed are technically called “happoshu”, which is a variety of beer that isn’t made with 100% wheat malt. What that means is that they use some other malts in addition to the wheat malt to avoid a higher tax category, thus lowering the price of the drink to consumers.

Nate’s Amateur Beer Review:

This beer was nice. Being a full-wheat-malt beer, it was naturally the best. Not too much aroma coming off of it but it definitely had a a smooth mouthfeel, a nice lingering hop bitterness and a malty, sweet flavor.

Suntory Aki-raku (Autumn Fun) Happoshu

suntori akiraki seasonable beer
Suntory’s “Akiraku”, is the second on my list because of the brand, Suntory. This company makes my favorite year-round brew, which is called “Premium Malts”.

Regarding the design: again, we have the leaves of the Japanese maple. Just like the maple tree in other cultures, the autumn season momiji bring beautiful colors to the Japanese landscape. This can’s design focuses less on a tangible “feeling” or mood and instead creates a soft “glow” to accompany autumn and the changing of the leaves. I really like the matte effect on the can and subtle colors, though I think it misses the mark in terms of typography and spacing/layout (notice the tension created on the right side of the English text as it teases that circular stamp, not to mention it’s, for some reason, right-justified).

Nate’s Amateur Beer Review:

For a “hybrid” beer, this one comes darn close to resembling the real thing. Of all three, this one’s roasted scent was the strongest and most satisfying. Flavor-wise, it couldn’t quite stand up to the Kirin but it’s a good, “economical” choice.

Sapporo Mugi-to-Hop (Wheat & Hop) Happoshu

sapporo mugi hop seasonal beer
Do you remember that marketing ploy I mentioned earlier? This is it. If you’d like to see what I mean, take a good look at this photo, then run over to the blog I posted back in April about “sakura” and try to find the same beer. Not much variety there.

I can, however, say one good thing about this design: it’s considerably cleaner than the April version which suffered from a “questionable” layout (the motif covered up the English text). This design also features a bit of landscape and wildlife which lends a little more substance to the design. Instead of marketing this beer as a fall brew, I’d be happy to see a legitimate “fall” version.

Nate’s Amateur Beer Review:

The Kirin brought extra malt to the table in a full-beer style. The Suntory implemented roasted malts to provide a nice aroma. Sapporo, does—nothing new. A bit of a shame but this happoshu is one of the most famous as it’s light, slightly sweet and not too bitter. I guess you could say it’s the “light” version here in Japan.

Signing off to finish drinking these!

All in all, a small but decent little push by some of Japan’s beer makers to capitalize on the fall season. Beer sales were highly impeded by the catastrophes that plagued Japan earlier this year but it’s great to see that the big shots are still pushing onward.

Perhaps it hasn’t hit the shelf yet but I’m wondering if Asahi, one of the country’s top beer manufacturers, is going to be releasing an autumn delight for us beer lovers. If someone finds it before I have a chance, let me know!

Do you have any fall-season beers that you particularly enjoy? Even if it’s from another country, I’d love to hear about what really hit the spot for you as the temperatures wane.


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