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Beer Reviews

Yebisu Premium Black 5% ABV | エビス 黒ビール


A while ago there was a comprehensive review of Japan's best known classics - we're talking Asahi Super Dry, Sapporo Black Label, Suntory's Premium Malts, Kirin Ichiban Shibori, as well as Yebisu's Gold Label (the review is here by the way). These are typically collectively known as the Big 5 of Japan and represent the face of the biggest commercial breweries of the country.

And what was the response to that review? A whole bunch of people saying the Yebisu Black had to be reviewed. 

Now, outside of Japan, the Yebisu Black is not the easiest to find, but if the people ask for it, we'll find a way to make it happen - and so here we have the Yebisu Black. I really wonder what the excitement is about, I guess we're about to find out together.



But first, let's talk about what the Yebisu is. Yebisu, for those new to the brand, belongs to Sapporo (and was once jointly owned by Asahi too), and is meant to be the brewery's premium lineup, and thus features the deity Yebisu, one of Japan's Seven Gods of Luck, and is often depicted as a fisherman holding a fishing rod in one hand, and a sea bream in the other. He's therefore a representation of fortune, a patron of fishermen, and also a 100% malt beer.

I suppose compared to the other lagers available, Yebisu comes off with a fuller taste and texture because of the high malt content - malt's expensive! It also runs counter to the big trend of Happoshu's which is a lower malt style of beer that's popular in Japan for being cheaper (but often is touted more so for being less on calories).


Sapporo brought back brewing of Yebisu to Tokyo's Ebisu district in 2022, after a 35 year hiatus.


The Yebisu Black - as is the Yebisu brand promise - is 100% malt, but here the malt has been roasted over a charcoal fire which is said to give it a really great aroma. Don't mistake this for a stout though, rather it's more technically precise to call it a Schwarzbier - the difference being that a stout is an ale, while a Schwarzbier is a lager.

Lagers are bottom fermented at cool temps for a longer period of time, while ales are top fermented at warmer temperatures for shorter periods - practically speaking though, lagers tend to be lighter as compared to ales. And so with the Yebisu Black, we should expect this to be lighter bodied as compared to a typical stout, and also weigh in at a lower ABV. So keep in mind that while appearances might be similar, you can't expect a stout from Yebisu's Schwarzbier lager.

With all that said, let's get to it! Onward!

Yebisu Premium Black 5% ABV | エビス 黒ビール - Review


Tasting Notes

Colour: Espresso Black

Aroma: Really malty with a good amount of roastiness of espresso coffee. Also a light bit of burnt ends. There’s a subtle creaminess to it too.

Taste: Medium bodied, caramel, light roastiness, more espresso, treacle, a light bit of herbaceous parsley.

Finish: A little bit more of that bitterness of burnt ends - this oily savouriness.


My Thoughts

It’s got a pretty full flavour, but not all that dense a body (which should be the case for a Schwarzbier) which makes it very sessionable and easy to drink. It holds off on the bitterness but still keeps the roastiness - which again makes it really approachable and while it’s pretty straightforward in flavours, it does have pretty big flavours at that. It’s smooth, easy and pretty aromatic, and really just a very approachable brew altogether. It’s basically black coffee (or kopi-O) in beer form but sweeter.

I can see why folks are a big fan of the Yebisu Black - it's got a very nice richness to it, big flavours, but at the same time is light enough that you don't feel full or boozy drinking it, making it rather refreshing. As a beer, it's like a lighter version of a stout with pretty much the same flavours, but as mentioned, it really feels most like cold pressed coffee.