Everyone has heard of Sapporo
beer. Abashiri Okhotsk Blue isn't made by Sapporo
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
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