23 April 2007
Indeed, Kirin is one kicking beer... a high flying, acrobatic, goat hooved, horn-tastic kick. I figured I'd give it a rest with the Belgian whites for awhile, and celebrate this fantastically refreshing Japanese brew. Oddly enough, I had it for the first time in Paris, but at least it was at Saporo, a japanese restaurant near the Opera. It's light crisp taste, totally wetted my whistle, and left a wonderfully clean after taste.
I admit, I could not find too much of a backstory to the brewery itself, but was able to find out a few facts. The first Kirin beer factory was established in Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama in 1907 with help from Thomas Glover, the Scottish trader. God bless the Scotts. The brewery had originally been founded as Spring Valley Brewery in 1870, by the Norwegian-American William Copeland, but misfortune was headed his way. In 1872 Copeland left Yokohama temporarily to search for a bride in Norway; later, he returned with his wife, but she died in 1879. Shortly thereafter Copeland, who seemed dogged by misfortune, found that he lacked the necessary capital to improve and expand the business. By 1884 he had closed the brewery and sailed for the United States.
A year later W.H. Talbot and E. Abbott, both foreign entrepreneurs, entered into partnership with two Japanese businessmen, Yonosuke Iwasaki and Eiichi Shibusawa, to reopen Copeland's brewery. With sound financial backing, the newly formed Japan Brewery Company, Ltd. soon became a profitable enterprise. By 1888, all of its beer carried the "Kirin" label. According to ancient Chinese legend, the Kirin, which is half horse and half dragon, heralds good fortune to those able to catch a glimpse of it. Under the name Japan Brewery Company the company continued and combined with Meiji-ya to market Kirin Beer for the first time in 1888.
With more than 100 years of experience in the brewing business, Kirin now applies its fermentation technology to areas such as plant genetics, pharmaceuticals, and bioengineering. Although brewing and related businesses remain the core of Kirin's activities, the company is also involved in several other sectors: hard liquor, wine, soft drinks, and food products, logistics, engineering, real-estate and restaurants. Another reason for me to think that beer rules the world. Known as canned “chu-hi” in Japan, Kirin produces a range hit canned alcoholic beverages based on ingredients including brown rice tea, green tea and wheat based grain spirit. The portfolio of brands includes Kirin Lager and Ichiban Shibori, as well as Kirin Tanrei happo-shu (low-malt) beer. Kirin Light boast 95 calories per bottle too!
So what the heck is a kirin? It's a bitching looking monster with the head of a dragon, body of a deer, serpent's scales instead of hair, tail of an ox, hooves of a goat and a small, fleshy horn protruding from its forehead. It is a gentle, shy creature that will not harm anything unless it feels threatened. What a cool name that would be to give to someone. "Mommy? Why did you pick the name Kirin?" "Well... let me tell you a story..."
I was also recently told that when pronounced phonetically in the japanese language, kirin also means giraffe! I think I fancy a beer giraffe of Kirin right now!
*sidenote: I don't know what this says, but the Kirin Beer University looks the awesomest. A wicked fun website.