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Beer Reviews

Sapporo Lager Beer Akahoshi (Akaboshi), 5% ABV | サッポロ 赤星 ラガービール


Sapporo lays claim to being Japan's oldest living beer brand, having been first brewed in Sapporo, Hokkaido, in 1876 by Seibei Nakagawa.

Seeing as we're about to review Sapporo's annual Akahoshi (or Red Star) canned release - the brewery's historical original brew that was first made in 1877 at the Kaitakushi Brewery - which is typically only served on draft or in a bottle, it makes sense that we do a little blast from the past and talk about Sapporo's origins.

So it was the Meiji Period, and the government-owned Hokkaido Development Commission (or Kaitakushi) had got into a whole bunch of businesses to stir the local economy, one of them being a potential brewery. Nakagawa, the guy we mentioned earlier, he was one of the few brewers in Japan at the time who had learnt traditional brewing over in Germany, and so he became the first brewmaster for the Kaitakushi Brewery. In June of 1876, he made the first Sapporo Lager. By 1886, the brewery was privatised as the Sapporo brewery and became the focal point of the Sapporo Beer Company.


Sapporo's original Kaitakushi Brewery in Sapporo.


As beers became more well-known and appreciated in Japan, other beer companies would emerge, one of which was the Nippon Beer Brewery Company that was based in Tokyo, and had produced the Yebisu brand of beer. Over in Osaka, another brewing company called the Osaka Breweries (maybe you'll know them better as Asahi) was starting to make a name for itself, as was a Japan Brewery Company in Yokohama (you'll know them today as Kirin). The competition was stiff! And eventually Sapporo, Nippon and Osaka breweries would merge in 1906 to become the Dai-Nippon Beer Company, which with its sheer might had monopolised the Japanese market for decades to come.

Eventually, of course, the Dai-Nippon company would split up to form the Nippon and Asahi breweries, with Nippon Breweries producing Sapporo beer and Yebisu (which is still owned by Sapporo today). To make the company more salient to its core brand, the company would rename itself as Sapporo Breweries which it is still known as today.

Now, I must concede that Sapporo's lineup of beers is alittle confusing, so let's go over that too.



From left to right, we've got the most commonly sighted Sapporo - the Sapporo Nama Black Label which is an unpasteurised beer, then you've got the Sapporo Classic which is a Hokkaido-only limited edition, after which we've got the Sapporo Gold Star which is a Happoshu or a low-malt beer that's favoured for being cheaper, and finally the Sapporo Akahoshi Red Star which is the historic lager beer that is made according to the original brew recipe at Kaitakushi.

Some popular variants include the Sorachi 1984 which focuses on the use of proprietary Sapporo hops called Sorachi Ace (35 years of R&D, has distinct aromas of hinoki cypress and lemongrass), and of course Yebisu, which is a 100% malt beer that is often viewed as a premium beer. And then outside of Japan, is where you'll find the more common Sapporo Premium (in a silver label).

Of course there are plenty of variants and these are only Sapporo's mainstay lagers.

And with all that said, let's give Sapporo's Akahoshi or Red Star a go! Onward! 

Sapporo Lager Beer Akahoshi (Akaboshi), 5% ABV | サッポロ 赤星 ラガービール - Review

Tasting Notes

Colour: Clear Gold

Aroma: Really bright malt and honey notes, very buttery and aromatic, also with quite fragrant aromas of rice - raw and glutinous. 

Taste: Medium-bodied with light notes of honey, malt and rice. It’s really buttery and smooth, incredibly easy to drink, with a slight nuttiness and hoppy bitterness complementing the light sweetness. Really rounded and cohesive too.

Finish: Clean and fragrant - more on jasmine rice, chewy sweet glutinous rice. Lightly drying and crisp.


My Thoughts

An incredibly enjoyable beer to say the least! From the nose through to the finish it was just absolutely such a delectable beer. 

On the nose, there’s all these really bright and honeyed aromas that’s almost buttery and velvety rich. This moves so effortlessly to the palate which carries the same flavours, simple but really well done. Nowhere are the skunkiness, booziness or overt bitterness. 

Here’s a beer that’s so effortlessly smooth and well-rounded, with these flavours just gently washing over the palate. The finish is clean and crisp but oh so fragrant, with just a slight bit of chewy sweetness, yet slightly drying to make you want more.

I really love how fragrant this was, easy to drink with just the slightest aromatic bitterness from the hops and such a rounded body and flavours, with a nice aromatic and crisp finish.


My Rating: 8/10


Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most in its category, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.