What beer to drink—and what beer to avoid—with sushi | Dish | Indy Week
Pin It

What beer to drink—and what beer to avoid—with sushi 

Asahi Super "Dry" beer and homemade sushi at a party in Durham.

Photo by Alex Boerner

Asahi Super "Dry" beer and homemade sushi at a party in Durham.

Rice is, of course, synonymous with Japanese food. It is part of, or an accompaniment to, most meals and often eaten by itself. So it is no surprise that most Japanese beers are rice lagers, meaning rice is used as an adjunct in making the beverage, just as with sake.

Like hops in other parts of the world, different rice varietals impart distinct flavor profiles. While the macro Japanese rice lagers (think Budweiser's analogues) tend to use a flavorless grain, craft beer maker Hitachino has turned to sake for inspiration. The company uses a variety of grains like Omachi (rich and earthy) and Yamada Nishiki (soft and fragrant) to achieve interesting flavors during the brewing process.

I've explored five Japanese beers offered at local sushi joints. Remember, though, that having sushi doesn't mean you must stick with Japanese beer. Germany's Ritterguts Gose is a tarty sour with a salty, mineral-like finish that works well with the fish, while Duck Rabbit's Milk Stout, from Kinston, helps tame the heat of spicy foods through milk. Or consider a classic Czech-style pilsner (like Oskar Blues' Mama's Little Yella Pils) or Haw River's Rusted Plow Farmhouse Saison, an earthy brew made with local honey and dry-hopped with Sorachi Ace, a Japanese hop.

KIRIN ICHIBAN: Calling itself "100% malt, first press," Kirin is a yellow, fizzy, bland lager—tantamount to the Budweiser of Japan in popularity and taste. Indeed, the beer is made stateside by Anheuser-Busch. This very carbonated lager has a dry, rice-wafer-like finish. It can be found in most sushi restaurants.

SAPPORO: This is the oldest beer in Japan, first brewed in 1876. It's cheap, light and refreshing, without much complexity that might spoil your palate pre-sushi. Look for it on draft at Basan in Durham.

HITACHINO: The only Japanese craft beer on this list is undoubtedly the most complex. Hitachino XH is matured in sake casks, and it's highly recommended. Hitachino has some Belgian-inspired ales, too; the Hitachino Nest white ale, for instance, has a grassy, peppery essence with hints of orange peel and coriander at the finish. Though amber in color, the Red Rice Ale, the company's take on a Belgian golden, has the sweetness of a strawberry-and-red vinegar concoction. At 7 percent ABV, it drinks like a hard soda. Look for these in local bottle shops.

ASAHI DRY: The beer that started the "dry wars," as it was the first to adopt the term. Dry refers to a fully attenuated pale lager, meaning all of the sugars used in the fermentation process make it stronger in alcohol and what's essentially a "diet" beer. It is commonly served in a 22-ounce can. Order one next time you visit Carrboro's Akai Hana.

LUCKY BUDDHA: This one pours a golden straw with very little head retention. I try desperately to get a whiff, and it smells like nothing at all. Even PBR has a smell. It tastes like nothing. Even Corona Light has a flavor. This beer just "is," which makes it more Taoist, right? It claims to bring good fortune and enlightenment, and, at under 5 percent, it's definitely not going to overpower anything you are eating. Hey, the bottle is cool, like a little Buddha figurine. I think I'll top it with a candle and let the wax drip down all over it. Suddenly I feel like a hippie. Maybe there is something in this beer... Available at local bottle shops.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Rice cold"


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Dish

Twitter Activity


We are a Greek family from Dallas who know good Greek food when we see it and are accustomed to …

by Taso on Kipos Greek Taverna (Orange County)

Don't waste your $$ here. Horrible service, mediocre food. From what we heard - kitchen turnover is the issue due …

by Ibaguru on Piedmont Restaurant (Durham County)

Most Recent Comments

If you want info about the business try the Mobile Food Vendor Academy Group on Facebook. Click Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/174363016277860/

by Jason Hillard on A Former Harlem Globetrotter Settles in North Carolina to Open a Louisiana Food Truck (Dish)

Henry is our amazing nephew, thank you for sharing your/his story. And now I'm craving a grill cheese.

by Karen Field on Feels on Wheels: What It's Really Like Running a Food Truck (Dish)

Thanks for sharing Paul! This is Danny with Cut Bait and we all respect you and have proven to be …

by Danny (Cut Bait Cafe) on Feels on Wheels: What It's Really Like Running a Food Truck (Dish)

Yum... I don't suppose there are vegan versions?

by December27 on Booze for Dessert: The Simple Wonder of Chuck's Milkshakes with Shots (Dish)

Story idea for food trucks: Wake Tech has a "How to Start a Food Truck Business" course. http://www.waketech.edu/programs-courses/non-credit/ce-courses?course=SEF-3001B3

by Kate Pattison on Eating in Traffic: Welcome to Our Dish Special Issue on All Things Food Truck (Dish)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation