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An interesting side effect of the bitter competition between Japanese breweries is that they tend to throw anything and everything out into the market and see what sticks. With beer the competition ground zero is convenience stores, and as a result you find new interesting beers at your local Lawson, 7-11 or Family Mart, rather than at dedicated liquor stores.

And not just cheap swill either; this is a test market for upscale products as well. If it sells well enough at the konbini, it may eventually show up in your regular store. Most products don't sell well enough of course, and soon disappear without a trace.

Tonights beers are Grand Kirin and Suntory The Royal Bitter. They're both "Limited Edition" lager beers with an unusually high alcohol content of 6%. To me the Grand Kirin is the winner. It balances thickness, astringency and alcohol very well, and feels like a unified whole; unusual in a pale beer with such high alcohol. The Royal Bitter is, as the name suggest, quite bitter with a hoppy feel that I like. But it lacks the balance of Grand Kirin and the alcohol shines through more than I like. It feels a little forced.

To me, Grand Kirin is the clear winner, and I'd happily drink it again given the chance.
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19 comments
 
Oo. I have 1 of each here too. But I can't drink 2 in a night without waking up in someone else's bed!
 
Is it just me, or does the font on the "The Royal Bitter" have an eerie resemblance to a similar cheap beer in denmark??
 
Actually, I think Suntory uses that font — or one much like it — for a number of their can designs.
 
+Fredrik Haugen  We have this strange red beer (tomato?) in the combini too. I think tomato juice belongs in Carry On Vampire type films though, so I won't be trying it.
 
Grand Kirin is one of the few drinkable Kirin beers these days, and it really is quite good (based on several tastings). We used to get Braumeister by the case, but they stopped making it. Have not tried the Royal Bitter.
 
+Jan Moren I agree. I shall save the grand kirin for tomorrow because I am nissed as a pewt!@_@
 
+Jan Moren I haven't had the Grand Kirin yet, but the Royal Bitter positively surprised me, it was IMHO the best Japanese beer I drank yet. As in: tasting like beer and not beer flavored water. I need to get the Grand Kirin then!
 
I agree with +Jan Moren The one on the left is better. 

But watch out, if we start liking it, they'll stop making it. It'll become the new "Gaijin Tease Beer"...
 
That's happened more often than I like to think with dark beers. I'd discover a good, drinkable dark beer (the dark Premium Malts was really good for instance) only to have it yanked from the market a few weeks later.

For tonight I got a can of Asahi Red Eye and a Kirin Ice+Beer. My expectations aren't high for either — they're really stunt beers after all — but I'm prepared to be positively surprised.
 
Where did you get the Grand Kirin? Recently I was tempted to buy a Ice+Beer, but it is probably just as "meh" as most. Please keep us updated :)
 
Grand Kirin is a joint product of Kirin and Seven & i Holdings, available only in 7-11 Stores.
 
+Marek Kubica The Ice+Beer was a surprise hit, actually. The problem with chilled beer (or any drink) is that you lose a lot of flavour. So Ice+Beer is a fairly full-bodied ale; once you add the ice the flavour becomes light but well-balanced and very easy to drink. Good summer drink.
 
A Red Eye — a beer with a splash of tomato juice and salt ­— is a standard drink, not something the brewery made up. It was decent; savoury (thank the tomato for that) and not too pungent. Same kind of thing as a highball in a can: It's not as good as the real thing, but you know what you'll get and won't be disappointed.
 
+Jaques Connard I haven't lived in Sweden for ten years now, so I don't really know what is good and available nowadays. I'm sure you'll have no problem  sampling your way through the local assortment, though. :)
 
+Jaques Connard Dugges is a good local brewery. In general, there are several good Swedish micro-breweries, like Oppigårds, Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri, Nils Oscar, Sigtuna Brygghus, and Gotlands Bryggeri. The stuff from the larger breweries (mainly lager) range from the just about drinkable (Pripps, Falcon, Åbro) to the OK-but-unexciting (Mariestads, Spendrups, Zeunerts). You may have to look around to find a place that serves the good stuff though. And you may have to hold on to your hat when you hear the prices. But hey, life's too short for bland beer. The "Bishop's Arms" pub chain usually has an excellent assortment, but it's pricey.
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