Kirin Spring Valley Brewery

 This post took me in a different direction than originally intended. I started out thinking this was simply a case of a major brewer pretending to be a micro-brewer. The real story here is more about the interesting history of Kirin Beer, something I had forgotten.

On the grounds of its Yokohama Brewery, Kirin runs a microbrewery and restaurant called Spring Valley Brewery. Currently, there are seven varieties of beer on offer and the price per bottle averages 430 yen. These same beers are also available for sale on the internet. Getting this far, it looked to me that it was simply a case of one of the big guys muscling in on mom and pop microbrewery territory.

It is not quite that simple though. Spring Valley Brewery is actually the name of what Kirin calls the first brewery in Japan that was a business success. In 1869, William Copeland, a Norwegian-American brewer, made the shift from dairy to beer brewing and established Spring Valley Brewery in Yokohama. Copeland was at the forefront of employing what was then the new pasteurization technique. He also dug a 210 meter cave in the side of a hill in Yokohama in order to have a fixed temperature space for controlled beer maturation.

In 1885, with the help of famous Scottish trader Blake Thomas Glover, the business was sold to a group of Japanese investors which included the president of Mitsubishi. The new business, called The Japan Brewery, was founded and incorporated in Hong Kong. This was the forerunner of Kirin Brewery. Glover is buried in the Foreigner's Cemetery in Yokohama and his grave is maintained by Kirin.

So Spring Valley Brewery is a throwback to Kirin's roots, and the Copeland variety is named for the founder. Interesting history.

Key Words: Spring Valley Brewery, Kirin Beer, William Copeland ウィリアム・コープランド キリンビール スプリングバレーブルワリー

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Kirin Namacha Green Tea

Kirin touts a propitiatory method to be the secret behind the taste of its Namacha Tea. The process centers around the use of ceramic balls to crush the tea leaves. Typically, tea leaves are mechanically cut, but Kirin uses creamic balls and a ceramic ball mill to more finely cut the leaves and therefore more efficiently release tea extract essential to genuine tea taste. The complete presess consists of three steps: crushing the leaves with ceramic ball instead of cutting, pressing the resulting mass as a whole to extract all the flavor, and low temperature extraction to avoid any loss or change of flavor due to temperature.

The web page also makes a point of the completely green packaging, which is said to convey a more basic tea image.

Tea is an important product category in Japan, where even seemingly minor taste advanages can be very important

Key words: Kirin, Namucha, Tea, キリン 生茶


Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


White Black Thunder

This is a Hokkaido-only special edition of Black Thunder a popular chocolate snack. It is made with white chocolate in the company's Sapporo factory. The added copy reads "white thunder god" 白い雷神 (the thunder god is a Shinto-related god often seen in Japanese prints) and "Deliciousness straight down" おいしさ直滑降 (the word for straight down is most often used with skiing).

Black Thunder is the most well known brand from Tokyo based Yuraku Seika Confectionery company.

Key Words: Black Thunder, Yuraku Seika, ブラックサンダー ユーラク製菓


Kamaboko and Shirasu Pizza

Pizza can be a different experience in Japan. In addition to what you might call typical pizza varieties in Western countries like pepperoni and triple cheese, you also encounter liberal use of corn and mayonnaise here. At a party last night, in what might be a first for me, kamaboko and shirasu pizza was served. Kamaboko is cured surimi, but is also referred to as fish paste or even fish hot dogs. Kamaboko is not just a way to process excess fish protein, it is actually considered a staple of almost any multi-serving Japanese meal. Kamaboko can be very expensive.

What you see pictured here is a cheese pizza with distinct mayonnaise flavor topped with kamaboko slices and shirasu (I had to look up the English - small fry of fish or whitebait).

Probably not something you would find on a menu outside Japan, but it was actually quite good.

Key Words: Pizza, Kamaboko, Shirasu ピザ 蒲鉾 シラス 白子


Calbee FritoLay Doritos

FritoLay, which goes through a Calbee owned company in Japan, has introduced dark black garlic pepper Doritos for Halloween. There is an image of a Dracula figure and in English it says "I can't eat garlic, but I want to eat this!" In Japanese, it says "トリックオアパリット!" which translates as "Trick or Crisp!"

Key Words: Calbee, FritoLay, Doritos, Halloween, pepper garlic カルビー ドリトス フリットレー ドリトス ハロウィン ペッパーガーリック


Morinaga Creap Creamy Powder

One product name that frequently makes non-Japanese laugh is Morinaga's Creap creamy powder, which is powdered cream mostly used for coffee. However, this is one of Japan's best known brands which is now celebrating 55 years on the market. It is also the only cream powder on the market actually made from milk and not plant based oils. Besides celebrating its 55th anniversary, Morinaga is introducing plastic containers to replace the long used glass bottles.

Key Words: Morinaga, Creap 森永 クリープ

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Meiji Bulgaria Green Fruits Mix Drink Yogurt

 Meiji has introduced Bulgaria Green Fruits Mix Drink Yogurt in the still relatively new screw top bottles.


MegMilk Snow Brand Baristaism Chilld Cup Coffee

MegMilk Snow Brand has introduced a new chilled cup coffee line called Baritaism, which is centered around Hiroshi Sawada 澤田洋史, who in 2008 became the first Asian to win the Free Pour Latte World Championship with the highest ever recorded score. Even though the name does not really make sense in English, the press release describes how trendy it is.

Chilled coffees sell at a premium and are always marketed as a luxury, so the imagery fits perfectly. However, at present, the brand is tied solely to this one latte artist. Odd to create a new brand which depends on one spokesperson. Maybe they will introduce other baristas in the future. Also, he won his notoriety as a latte artist, which has nothing to do with taste and cannot be reproduced in a chilled cup coffee where you sip the coffee through a straw and never actually see the coffee.

So, I am left with more questions than answers, but marketing like this is aimed more at imagery and feeling than logic. If the product actually tastes good, everything else will be forgotten.

Key Words: MegMilk Snow Brand, Bristaism, Hiroshi Sawada 雪印メグミルク バリスタイズム 澤田洋史

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Organic Milk and Shelf Life

Below is a link to a short but interesting Q&A from The New York Times.

In short (my summary),
Q. Why does organic milk have a longer shelf life than regular milk?
A. Demand for organic milk is less, therefore it has to travel farther to market. Therefore ultra high temperature (UHT) pasteurization (as opposed to HTST) is used for organic milk, which extends the shelf life.

All factually correct. However, by itself the illustration accompanying the article is misleading because there is no inherent connection between organic milk and extended shelf life. Marketing realities demand different processing techniques.

And this answer does not even hit upon the irony of many people buying organic because they think it tastes better. The negative effect of UHT pasteurization on taste is very apparent to anyone who takes the time to compare the two. So buying organic might actually provide inferior taste, due to market necessities.

As with any issue, when you dig down, nothing is ever as simple and straight forward as you might like it to be.


Pokka Sapporo Aromax Coffee

Aromax Coffee is Pokka Sapporo's premium line of canned coffees. The current 5 varieties can be seen in the image above: Premium, Black, Low Sugar, Latte, and Caramel Macchiato. The obvious connection between the product line name, packaging and improved taste is the large screw top which allows more aroma out of the can and enhances the flavor perception of the product. That is pretty straight forward, aroma plays a huge role in flavor (as opposed to taste perception in the mouth).

However, looking at the webpage, Pokka Sapporo sites more reasons behind improved taste of this line and I have listed them below.
1) coffee beans are specially selected and then roasted under optimal conditions (light, medium or deep roast depending on the bean). I take it this is opposed to cheaper methods where beans are mixed and roasted all together.
2) more coffee beans (1.2 times more) are used to obtain a rich flavor
3) different coffee bean blends (the most suitable coffee bean blends) are used for each product.
4) The patented Fresh Natural Aroma Method (フレッシュナチュラルアロマ製法) is used for retaining the original taste of the coffee without resorting to the use of any added flavors at the end of the process. The flavors are retained by showering hot water on the roasting beans and capturing any escaping flavor compounds, condensing them back to a liquid and reinjecting these flavor compounds at the end of the process.
 5) In order to avoid off flavors resulting from oxidation products, Pokka Sapporo has developed a process (脱酸素製法) remove most of the oxygen prior to processing. (They indirectly reference similar methods used such as for Meiji Oishii Gyunyu "Delicious Milk").
 6) Finally, the mention the large screw cap which they somewhat akwardly call the Wide Mouth Bottle Can "広口ボトル缶".

So, when you buy Pokka Sapporo Aromax Coffee, a lot of thought and technology has gone into bringing this product to market.

Key Words: Pokka Sapporo, Aromax Coffee, Fresh Natural Aroma Method, deoxygenation, Wide Mouth Bottle Can ポッカサッポロ フレッシュナチュラルアロマ製法 脱酸素製法 広口ボトル缶

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.