Strange Brews: Japan's Abashiri Brewery

Here in the states we count on Japan for all things innovative and weird (especially when there's no reason or practical application), so we were delighted to see that Abashiri Brewery, located on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, specializes in "unique" beers.

Currently, Abashiri's most popular endeavor is its line of colorful beers, including the blue Ryuhyo Draft, red Hamanasu Draft, green Shiretoko Draft and purple Jyaga Draft.

The concept for this line revolves around the four seasons and the Okhotsk Sea, an icy arm of the North Pacific Ocean bordered by Japan and Russia.

For example, the wintery Ryuhyo (meaning "ice") Draft is said to contain water from melted icebergs in the Okhotsk. Its blue hue comes from seaweed extract. The ruby glow of the Hamanasu Draft uses juice from the hamanasu fruit (meaning "shore pear") to represent the wildflowers that bloom along the sea in the summertime.

The line of rainbow brews are not Abashiri's first wacky beer endeavor, however. The brewery made headlines in 2007 with its somewhat less appealing (but nonetheless intriguing) Bilk, a malt beverage made from 70% beer and 30% milk. The idea came about after declining milk consumption in Japan left a surplus of milk. To avoid wasting it, liquor store owner Chitoshi Nakahara proposed Bilk as a solution.

Unfortunately Abashiri no longer produces Bilk (perhaps it succeeded in eliminating the surplus...or inducing projectile vomit), but you can purchase the multicolored beers on the company's Web site (assuming your Japanese is better than ours).

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Adriane Goetz