Keeping Light Beer Interesting: Brewing a Japanese-Style Rice Lager

Over the last few years, I’ve worked on brewing an enjoyable light-colored, drinkable, lager. I’m trying to craft a beer that a fan of Budweiser or Coors would enjoy but with a more unique flavor profile. The first challenge, and it’s a big one, is making a quality light lager. Light lagers have nothing to hide. Plus, the difference between a great light lager and a bad one is narrower than any other style. The second, even more significant, challenge is keeping it interesting.

This time around, I decided to make a Japanese rice lager. A Japanese rice lager is almost the same as an American lager. But, as one would expect, brewers use rice as a fermentable along with the barley. You can use Japanese hops to be more authentic, but as with other light lagers, don’t overdo it. Examples of this style include Sapporo Premium and Asahi Super Dry. Interestingly, both these beers contain a combination of rice, corn, and “starches”. Major American lagers stick to a single adjunct such as Miller with corn and Budweiser with rice. Kirin Ichiban only contains “100% malt” and notes this with pride. 

Japan has a hierarchy of beers with different tax treatments based on the percentage of malt. I’d compare Japanese beer regulations to the German Reinheitsgrebot or to how America regulates bourbon. Japan only allows beverages with a malt content of 67% or more of the fermentable ingredients to be sold as “beer”. The government taxes beverages with lower malt content at a lower rate. These lower malt beverages, called hopposhu, sell for a lower price and often have less than 25% malt.

In keeping with the Japanese government standards for beer, I used 71% malt extract and 29% rice syrup solids. For hops, besides my usual Perle and Hallertau hops, I added Sorachi Ace hops. Sorachi Ace is one of the most unusual-tasting hops that I have brewed. Japanese hop growers first developed it for Sapporo in the 1970s. The hop has a strong flavor of lemon with a touch of dill and herbs, unlike any hop I have ever tasted. There is nothing else like it. I went higher on the IBUs as I wanted to make sure the Sorachi Hops were perceptible. The result is a light, crisp, lager with a hint of lemon. So far, this is my best light lager and also the clearest.

Clear and crisp. Just like winter in Ohio.

In honor of my friend’s retirement, I named this beer Toxic Avenger Lager. He spent many years expertly protecting the environment. Nothing beats a homebrew for special occasions!

Toxic Avenger Lager

Recipe Specifics

  • Style: 2A, International Pale Lager
  • Batch Size: 5.0 gal
  • Extract/Adjuncts: 7 lbs
  • OG: 1.049
  • SRM: 2.8
  • IBU: 25.2
  • ABV: 5.8%
  • Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain

  • 29% – 2 lbs Briess Pilsen Light DME @ 60 min
  • 29% – 2 lbs Rice Syrup Solids @ 60 min
  • 42% – 3 lbs Pilsner Liquid Extract

Hops

  • .5 oz – Perle (pellet, 9.10% AA) @ 60 min
  • .25 oz – Sorachi Ace (pellet, 10.50% AA) @ 60 min
  • .5 oz – Hallertau (pellet, 3.40% AA) @ 5 min
  • .75 oz. Sorachi Ace @ 5 min

Yeast

  • Imperial Harvest L17 Yeast

Extras

  • 1.00 Whirlfloc @ 10 min.
  • 1.00 White Labs Clarity Ferm at yeast pitch
  • 5 g gelatin at cold crash

Water Profile

  • Profile: RO purified water
  • Source: Kroger
  • Additions: BeerSmith’s Light & Hoppy profile – Ca: 74.7 ppm, Mg: 4.6 ppm, Na: 9.8 ppm, SO4: 150.1 ppm, Cl: 50.2 ppm, HCO3: 0.0 ppm

Notes

  • Aroma – Slightly grainy with slight hint of lemon.
  • Appearance – Pale yellow, bright and clear.
  • Flavor – Slightly grainy with mild hop bitterness of crisp lemon and herb. Can’t really pick up on the dill apparent in the raw pellets.
  • Mouthfeel – Light body with high carbonation.

Comments

  • 11/10/2022 – Brew day.
  • 11/11/2022 – Ferment at 52 F.
  • 11/27/2022 – Raise temperature to 62 F
  • 12/8/2022 – Cold crash to 34 F
  • 12/11/2022 – Transfer to keg.
  • 1/1/2023 – As good as its going to get.


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