Macro Showdown: Golden Lagers

If we’re truthful with ourselves then we know that in Japan you can’t always get your hands on quality craft beer.  Maybe if you live in Tokyo, but those of us down the tracks have a tougher time.  I’m forced to pick up a can of some macro more often than I’d like to admit, but I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.  There are quality macros in Japan; it only takes a bit of research (read: heavy drinking) to find the ones that are worth spending a few hundred yen on.  With the recent release of Sapporo’s Edelpils in cans, the selection just got a lot better.  I decided against comparing all the pale lagers out there (work would be pretty unhappy with me tomorrow), just a few of my regulars.  

Enough talk; the competitors are: Sapporo Edelpils, Suntory Premium Malts, and Kirin Brau Meister.  

#3. Kirin Brau Meister

Extremely pale yellow with a nice rocky, white head.  The aroma is mediocre at best.  Sweet malts, earth notes, and very light citrus hops in the aroma as it warms up.  The flavor is fairly boring but not offensive and rather easy to drink.  Soft hops mix in with sweet malts and light herbal tones.  The hops come on a bit stronger in the finish and really add to its refreshment.  While not that flavorful, it does have noticeable hops- especially near the end.  The mouth has a dry finish which brings me back for more.  Decent, but too sweet and overall fairly tasteless.

#2 Suntory Premium Malts

I don’t know why I get so bothered with these pale lagers paleness, but this is another clear yellow brew with a tall white head.  Strong earth hops cover the sweet malty aroma.  The hops are a little muted in the flavor but still noticeable and really refreshing.  It blows my mind that the Japanese have more hops in their macro lagers than the U.S. does.  Earthy, light sweet malts, and some citrus finish up with medium dryness.  This used to be my standby before the Edelpils came on the market.  Still, a fine lager that I don’t mind being seen drinking.

#1 Sapporo Edelpils

I’m going to try to hide my love affair with Edelpils as best as I can, but I think it’ll still be rather apparent.  The yellow is still clean and clear, but it’s darker and more pleasing to the eye than the others.  Strong citrus and earth hops are held up well by the lightly sweet malts in the aroma.  Crisp hoppy flavor with a solid malt backbone.  Easily the best macro lager out there.  It’s fantastic on tap, but still a fine beer from the can.  This one has a permanent spot in my fridge for those days when I’m craft-free, but I wouldn’t be surprised to pass up an OK micro for this outstanding macro.

Edelpils wins this one going away, but thats not to say it’s the lone quality macro out there.  While the Brau Meister is a distant third, the Premium Malts remains a quality, easily accessible lager.  If you find yourself in a craft beer wasteland don’t be afraid to pick up an Edelpils or Premium Malts, you won’t be disappointed.

There you have it, the first macro showdown is in the bag with Sapporo coming up the big winner.  I’ll have another showdown in the future, the big boys out here brew a fair amount of schwarzbiers and, amazingly, they also brew a few quality stouts.  I hope this will make your next trip to the corner market a little bit tastier.


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