2010 looks bad for real Japanese beer

2010 looks bad for real Japanese beer

Analysts and breweries are bullish on "third-category beer" sales as Japan's alcoholic tastes nosedive
Japanese beer
The advertising for Suntory's third-category beer Kin-Mugi uses former Takarazuka actress Rei Dan to put a happy face on the quaffing of soy peptides.

Japan may be set to see signs of economic recovery in 2010, but the Japanese beer industry will unfortunately remain in the swampy depths of fake beer propagation.

Japan Today reports that the big four Japanese breweries are hoping to see double-digit sales growth for their dreaded "third-category beers," low-priced alcoholic beverages that replicate beer's malt taste with soy peptides (the original German braumeisters who brought the art of suds to Japan must be rolling in their graves.)

These beverages are to beer what Potted Meat Food Product is to steak. Yet with tighter purse strings in this Japanese economic malaise, drinking up a six-pack of real beer is now a luxury.

Sadly, it's not just the brewers who are hoping to prosper from underestimating the tastes of the Japanese public. In the January 11 issue of Nikkei's Marketing Journal (MJ), the newspaper surveyed supermarket buyers on their predictions for 2010. The #1 slot for "expected to grow" went to third-category beers. The #1 spot for "expect to shrink" was, no surprise, regular beer.

Ironically, MJ's surveyed buyers were also bearish about happoshu -- the industry's first attempt at low-priced fake beer. Japanese consumers are no longer rich enough to even enjoy this mid-level of low-malt, low-price brew. Or perhaps, if they are already resigned to drink swill, they may as well go to the bottom of the barrel.

We here at CNNGo support the imbibing of real Japanese beers: Yebisu and historical Kirin, if not the amazing selection of local craft beers. But if you must drink a fake beer at least have one with a little history -- try the Hoppy.