Cheap sort-of-Beer in Japan | Happoshu, Daisan-no Beer and Shin-janru
A long time ago, I went to Germany on a trip. During my travels, I met a guy from a country in northern Europe. He was also on a trip around Germany, and during our conversation he showed me his bag that was full of beer bottles. I know Germany is famous for beer, though, I couldn't understand why he was excited at buying so much beer. I asked him the reason, and he said, " Beer is very expensive in my country because of high taxes. How about in your country?"
"In my country? In Japan?". It was not long before I realized that beer is expensive in Japan, as I rushed to buy some beer and compare prices. I was shocked. Yes, Japanese beer is quite expensive in Japan because of the high tax. However, Japanese brewers have made great efforts to reduce taxation and have developed cheaper brews called Happoushu 発泡酒 (=low-malt beer), and Daisan-no Beer 第三のビール or Shin-janru 新ジャンル (= sparkling liquor).
Daisan-no Beer and Happoushu are not legally classified as a beer, and the taxation is lower than that of a regular beer. The price of a canned beer (350ml) in Japan is somewhere around 220 Yen on average. The price of a can of Daisan-no Beer or Happoushu is between 110 Yen and 160 Yen. Affordable aren't they?
There might be a difference in taste between ordinary Japanese beer and Daisano Beer or Happoushu. However, you won’t really care the difference when you drink that sort-of-beer in the middle of the hot summer in Tokyo - any kind of beer turns to taste nice, and the phenomenon is called the magic of muggy summer in Tokyo.
Actually, the quality of Daisan-no Beer and Hapoushu have been remarkably upgraded, and you might hardly say which is regular beer and which is sort-of-beer anymore. Sort-of-beer is usually not served at restaurants or bars. Instead, you can buy various brands of them at any liquor shops or convenience stores/supermarkets handling liquors.
Differences between Beer and Sort-of-Beer in Japan
Under the liquor tax law of Japan, has changed in 2018, Beer and sort-of-Beer have been defined like below. The tax rate varies depending on the percentage of malts used for production.
The liquor tax law will be revised in 2026, and the liquor tax rates will be unified for any kind of beers...
- For beers, the percentage of malt used for its production must be 50% or more.
- The weight of sub-ingredients must be within 5% or lesser of the malt used.
- The sub-ingredients allowed to use are designated (barley, rice, corn, and potato, etc.)
- The beer made from malts letter than 50% of the total ingredients is defined as Happoshu.
- Happoshu can contain sub-ingredients that are not allowed to use for beer production.
- For Happoshu production, barley is used as an ingredient instead of malts.
Daisan-no Beer 第三のビール or Shin-janru 新ジャンル
Daisan-no Beer literally means "The third Beer", and Shin-janru(genre) means "New style" in Japanese, and both are like Happoshu that contain barley spirit.
- Similar to Happoshu, the use of malts must be less than 50% of the total ingredients. Daisan-no Beer also made from hops, sugar water, and other ingredients, excluding malts.
How to recognize a bottle of Daisan-no Beer or Happoushu
If you find the word below in the printed label on the can, then the beer is not regular beer.