Angry Beer and Free Beer

Beer is angry. “Half of me is tax!”

I came across this cartoon character this morning during a guided tour of the Suntory Beer Factory. Cartoon characters are often used to educate adults, as well as children in Japan. Mr Angry Beer was protesting the unfair levels of domestic beer tax. 

Apparently, Japan`s beer tax is 11 times higher than America`s. Domestic beer tax is 4 times higher than on other types of alcohol. The situation is becoming desperate –  some drinkers are even joining factory tours just for the 20 minute free tasting session.

The particular tour I undertook, for important research, lasted 40 minutes. It was fast-paced and eye-opening.

After drinking hops  for half my life, I finally learnt what they are. We were given a cluster of green ones to sniff. Bitter and reminiscent of an unkempt hamster-hutch, it almost put me off the taste testing. 

Our tour leader was a genki (lively) girl in a yellow air hostess outfit. She tried to interest everybody, but some were clearly only there for the beer. A group of thirsty-looking blokes in running outfits may even have been regulars. They comfortably won the race to the taste testing bar. 

Many foreign drinkers loath the large amount of froth on beer in Japan. You do feel like you`re being short-changed. But, apparently the high froth content is deliberate, and an important part of the taste. The cute airhostess guide told me this, so it must be true.

Although the tour was fun, I cannot recommend Suntory beer. The odour of hamster hutch is just too off-putting. (In Japan, Kirin beats all). 

The drinking pace in the taste testing area was relentless. I felt tipsy after leaving. That perhaps explains, if not excuses, why I paid 500 yen afterwards for a vacuum sealed pack of beer-pickled radish and kelp. Well, at least that shouldn`t smell of hamster.  

Suntory beer barrels - made from recycled hamster hutches.

Suntory Beer Factory, Nagaoka - a 10 minute train ride from Kyoto.

Man in baseball cap necks fourth free beer as banana-uniformed air hostess defends controversial froth levels

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