While carpooling on the way out to the Choctaw Oktoberfest, Stefan and I discovered that we had a mutual appreciation for John Carpenter’s 1986 movie “Big Trouble in Little China.” I also have fond memories of “The Golden Child,” starring Eddie Murphy and a bowl of blood oatmeal, but Stefan informs me that my affection is misplaced as he’s seen it recently and believes that “The Golden Child” did not age well. Naturally all the talk of 80s movies with mystical Chinese-themed plot summaries led me to this question: “Is there such a thing as a good Asian beer?”
I mean, I’ve had Asian beer before, but it wasn’t remarkable enough that I would call it good. I don’t even remember if what I had, had been brewed by Sapporo or Asahi. At any rate, once I started on the path to serious inquiry, I decided that it was necessary to pair characters from “Big Trouble in Little China” and their various factions with a beer that best represented each of them.
It is worth noting that I tried very hard to get Stefan to write a portion of this review. But given how he feels about Asian beer in general, no amount of love for “Big Trouble in Little China” would convince him to put into words his lack of interest in the selections we found. Even the surprisingly, not completely awful beers were enough to sway him to at least attempt a light-hearted snark fest.
If Jack Burton were a beer he’d be a Tiger:
Style: American Adjunct Lager
Country of Origin: Asia Pacific Breweries, Singapore.
It poured clear, had medium to high carbonation. While it wasn’t what I would call outstanding, I do remember that it was several notches above being terribly offensive in taste. Of course, in double speak, that means it was more bland than anything else, but pleasantly so. Is there such a thing as unpleasantly bland, though? Yes. I think the crowning achievement of this beer is that we didn’t take a few sips and then pour it down the sink. Which is not unlike Jack Burton, as he is fairly likable, despite his rough edges.
The Motley Asian Brews:
Name: Asahi Black
Style: English Stout
Country of Origin: Asahi Breweries, Japan.
Review: I got hints of roasted malts. It was dark and didn’t seem to retain much of a head. Overall, this was not a bad beer. Of all the beers we tried, we ranked it first because it had a detectable flavor that wasn’t terrible. Like if I were ordering sushi and watching questionable Japanese game shows at some all night dive bar in Tokyo, I’d drink this.
Name: Sapporo Premium Beer
Style: Japanese Rice Lager
Country of Origin: Sapporo Breweries, Japan.
Review: This poured clear and golden, retained little head, didn’t have much of a smell, seemed pretty carbonated, and overall tasted passably bland as it could have been worse. I don’t think I’d willing drink this again as I’d rather get a sake or some plain H20.
Style: American Adjunct Lager
Country of Origin: Tsingtao Brewery Co., China
Review: I’m really sorry if this is as the label claims “the #1 selling beer in China.” This is like Chinese Coors Light but skunky and chalky. It’s carbonated, doesn’t have much of a beer smell, and no, I would not drink it again.
Name: Yanjing Beer
Style: American Adjunct Lager
Country of Origin: Bejing Yanjing Beer Group Co., China
Review: Two words “skunk piss.”
Name: Fruli Strawberry
Style: Fruit Beer/White Ale base with added flavors of spice and strawberries.
Country of Origin: Brouwerji, Belgium.
Review: We originally tried the Fruli Strawberry at the Oktoberfest in Choctaw. My preconceptions were completely blown out of the water upon tasting this beer. This is not like an Abita Purple Haze or Seadog Blueberry Wheat fruit beer, wherein the fruitiness is lightly hinted at, rather this thing bombards your taste buds with sweetness, more sweetness, and then it heaps a pile of strawberries on top of that. It’s more like Strawberry juice with beer added into it. It pours cloudy red. And it did not have much of a head when it was served to us in our plastic cups at the Oktoberfest. It is truly candy sweet, like one of those little strawberry hard candies with extra liquid strawberry syrup inside, and while it is highly carbonated, it is ever-so cloying. Which is kind of like Gracie Law, who has a way of showing up and sticking to you whether you wanted her around or not.
Style: Strong Amber Red Ale
Country of Origin: Quebec, Canada.
Review: When Stefan suggested this as an alternative to Avery’s Demon series, I didn’t really care one way or the other. I’d given myself over to the fact that this particular episode of beer tasting would probably yield both good and bad results. Besides, we’d picked Great Divide’s Yeti as a fail safe of good taste to lift our spirits should the Asian beer portion of this review be really, really awful.
Honestly, I thought I must have been coming down with a mild cold that night (I was), as I’d been disappointed that I couldn’t really smell the Asian beers we’d tried. Even the skunky one was a bit light in odor, not that I wanted a nose full of it. But then we cracked open the Maudite, and low and behold, it was like autumn in a cup. So delicious was its smell. Hints of pears and raisins, a bit of sweetness, it was all I could do to not just still there and breathe deeply for awhile. Eventually came the tasting. This beer pours a nice amber red, retains its head, and is just delicious. Malty sweet notes combine with a hint of spiciness, but all said, the taste isn’t quite as strong as the smell. Even so, I am totally drinking this again. It’s a nice complex beer to sip on while watching movies.
Name: Yeti Imperial Stout
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
Country of Origin: Great Divide Brewing Co. Denver, Colorado.
Review: The only Yeti I could ever love comes from the Great Divide Brewing Company. Oh, Yeti, you are so good to curl up with during a movie. Ok, honestly, Great Divide makes magnificent stouts. This pours dark like liquid espresso. I put mine in a Guinness glass and was surprised that it didn’t have much of a head although it did retain a ring of foam. This is just deliciously dark. Roasted malts bring in flavors from dark chocolate to toffee and caramel. And as far as mouthfeel goes, this stout is like velvet glove for your tongue. And at 9.5% ABV it is so strong, you only need one, maybe two if you’re feeling a bit impish. Sadly, this beast is way sexier than the freakish Yeren that carries off Gracie Law in the movie.
Conclusion: If there are better Asian beers out there, it seems like Oklahoma does not carry them. We searched several liquor stores, admittedly we skipped the little Asian District so perhaps we might revisit this query again, but it was slightly disappointing that we could not find at least one exceptional Asian beer at any of the stores we went to. But maybe, like in the final scene of “Big Trouble in Little China,” this isn’t the end.