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Home / Doug's Beer Republic  /   Review: Abashiri Okhotsk Blue

Abashiri Okhotsk Blue 
Posted: 4 November 2015  Beer Republic 2.0 
Abashiri Okhotsk Blue from Japan The bottle's label warns the drinker in advance to "enjoy the smooth feeling on your throat, crisp and rich of fragrance and flavor." Here is the catch.  There is no fragrance.  There is no flavor.  This is a gimmick beer brewed for attention   
Avg price/liter: USD 10.85   ABV %: 5.0  Type: Lambic-Fruit   

Everyone has heard of Sapporo beer.  Abashiri Okhotsk Blue isn't made by Sapporo Brewery.  It is made on the same Japanese island as Sapporo, Hokkaido, in a subprefecture known as Okhotsk.  The area of Abashiri isn't known for much apart from a Meiji-era prison for political troublemakers.  That prison is now a museum, but don't get worried about the criminal element in case you ever decide to visit.  The Japanese have built a new maximum-security prison to incarcerate a new generation of Japanese perverts and crooks.           

Abashiri is also the name of a brewery located in that same subprefecture and brewery I am quite certain you and most people on the planet have never heard of.  I wonder if even the residents in Abashiri would have ever heard of them if not for one product introduced in Japan in 2009 and overseas five years later.  Abashiri Okhotsk Blue Ryuhyo Draft.       

The Okhotsk Blue's only claim to fame is that it pours a turquoise blue that resembles the 70% ethyl alcohol solution we buy to clean our cat's defecations.   Marketing materials inform us this beer is crafted using melted icebergs from Okhotsk and colored naturally with gardenias and seaweed.  Chinese yams are tossed into the mix to create the illusion of ice on the head. On the surface, Okhotsk Blue sounds like the world's first health food brew.              

The bottle's label warns the drinker in advance to "enjoy the smooth feeling on your throat, crisp and rich of fragrance and flavor."  Those sentences probably read better in Japanese.          

Here is the catch.  There is no fragrance.  There is no flavor.  This is a gimmick beer brewed for attention, and on that count, it's a roaring success.  Okhotsk Blue is currently Abashiri Brewery's most famous drink and not because it's good.  Everyone who's tried it seems to despise it.  I was at a Japanese izakaya here in Bangkok the day after my wife and I sterilized our mouths with Okhotsk Blue, and the Thai couple at the table next to us had ordered a bottle of Okhotsk Blue.  The average Thai doesn't have a highly refined sense to grade quality brews.  These Thais didn't have a kind word to say about it.       

The icebergs impart no natural goodness.  The seaweed and gardenias have no flavor.  The yams I read about afterwards.  I didn't even notice them during the sipping process.  Everything about this beer is done for show, to be different to get people to talk about it and see what the novelty is all about.  Hey, that's why I ordered it!   

While there is nothing wrong with a novelty to get lots of cheap press, at least be willing to back up the talk with delicious facts.  This beer isn't just average.  It's well, well below that.  Much cheaper Japanese macrobrews like Suntory Premium Malts or Kirin Red Label make this Okhotsk Blue the equivalent of the one buck Schaefers I reluctantly drank in college -- and this Okhotsk Blue cost me a fair bit more than a dollar, even adjusted for inflation since my university days.     

It doesn't matter what color this beer is  You'll be red and pissed off after you drink it.       

If you liked reading this, consider savoring these reviews:
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 The Complete Beer Republic Index

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4 Nov 2015
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