Asahi Style Free: Happoshu and Beer of the Third Kind

Asahi Style Free

It is a strange quirk of history and economics that a nation’s taxation regimes change the beer that each country drinks. In the US, beer needs to contain at least 25% malted barley and so mass market brewers push the lower limit using rice, corn or anything else that can contain sugars and is cheaper than malted barley.

In taxation terms, Japan has three kinds of beer. Japanese booze blogger Jim from MoIpai outlines:

Regular beer which must contain at least 67% malt is taxed at the highest rate.

Happoshu (which means “Sparking Spirits” 発泡酒 in Japanese) contains less than 25% malt and is therefore taxed at a lower rate (which obviously means it’s cheaper to the customers).

There is a Third-Category “beer” called 第三のビール (Daisan no Biru) which basically doesn’t have any malt and is made from “other” ingredients (I believe corn, peas, soy, etc), which has an even cheaper tax rate.

Along with attempting to juggle a fickle drinking market, Japan’s brewers do so within a three tiered tax regime. Asahi Style Free is beer of the third kind, which is to say, that it is not beer. It’s tax-dodging beer simulacra for drinkers who primarily choose their brew by price. Asahi make the claim that this beer is zero sugar which they do by some sort of prestidigitation around what counts as “sugar” in this chart. It contains no part of some subset of sugar.

The beer is as expected – yes, it’s thin and watery, headless and virtually clear, with a metallic edge and the thinness that you get from brewing with rice rather than some other grain – you can’t confuse it with an actual beer but it is surprisingly refreshing.

3 Comments Asahi Style Free: Happoshu and Beer of the Third Kind

  1. steve

    Hi Phil-wow I didn’t know about the three tier system. That metalic ting you mentioned can also be a kind of fault for a beer that has fermented too quickly.

  2. Greta Caruso

    Hi Phil,
    I enjoy your free-range blogging style. I am going to Cambodia with Teachers Across Borders at the end of the year to do some volunteer work in teacher training. I am trying to find a good electronic English/Khmer tranlator; if one exists that will interface with Word in my PC I will be expecially happy.
    We are going to PP then up to Battambang where we will be working at the teachers college. I will try to visit some of the places that you recommend.

    Any suggestions welcome.

    Greta Caruso

  3. Phil Lees

    There is free Khmer dictionary software and a Word spellchecker at – but I’m not sure whether translation software exists yet. Your best resource for this might be stopping by some of the software shops in Sorya mall when you’re in Phnom Penh – if it exists, they’ll have it.


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