As Japan’s most prodigious celebrity endorser, Hello Kitty certainly keeps busy. In this month alone, we’ve seen her grace Toshiba’s SD cards, and even transform herself into a cute, cuddly dislocated tooth to hawk toothpaste.
With such a hectic work schedule, it’s understandable that Kitty-chan should want to relax the same way many of us do after coming home from a long, hard day at the office: by cracking open a cold beer. Even then though, the hard-working feline is on the clock, with a new line of Hello Kitty Beer.
Surprisingly, we can’t normally get our hands on these beverages in Japan, as the four varieties of Hello Kitty Beer are only sold in neighboring Taiwan. Thankfully, we have a correspondent stationed in that very same island nation who recently tried the whole line-up and shared her impressions with us.
Of course, Kitty-chan’s corporate parent, Sanrio, doesn’t have its own brewery. The beer is made by Long Chuan Beer Company, Taiwan’s second-largest domestic producer. Long Chuan hasn’t just slapped a picture of the cute cat on cans of their regular brew, either, as the Hello Kitty alcoholic offerings are a mixture of beer and fruit juice. They’re a perfect choice for both people who find regular beer too bitter and alcoholics who want to start their day off with a light, fruity breakfast.
Thankfully, there’s no need to worry about a drunken Kitty-chan looking slovenly disheveled in her new venture. The girl is a pro, and turns in her usual stellar work appearing dressed up as a passion fruit, lemon, banana, or peach on the respective flavors’ cans.
Despite their fruit infusions and brightly colored packaging, each of the four beers themselves are golden in color, looking like ordinary, if watery, beer.
The recent surge in popularity of hefeweizen wheat beers with a wedge of citrus floating in them has shown us that acidic fruit and beer can go great together, so our reporter’s taste test started with the lemon beer. “It’s really refreshing,” she informs us. “The lemon flavor is just a little stronger than the beer flavor, but you can still feel the alcohol. It was kind of like drinking a cocktail with a slice of lime, or shochu mixed with lemon juice and soda water.”
The peach and passion fruit versions were less overtly beer-like, but still got passing marks from our reporter. The first sensation on the tongue is of sweet fruit juice, with a hoppy bitterness coming afterwards. “These would probably be a good choice for someone who’s actually not that into beer,” she told us.
The banana beer was a little too far out of our correspondent’s alcoholic comfort zone, however. With all four flavors, upon opening the can the noticeable scent of fruit wafts up to greet you. According to Long Chuan Beer Company no artificial aromas are added to the Hello Kitty beers, but our reporter couldn’t shake the feeling that the banana beer smelled more like banana-flavored candy than an actual banana. The cloying smell kept the flavors from synching up properly, making it feel like she was alternating between sips of watered-down banana juice and beer, although she conceded that people with a sweet tooth might enjoy the concotion.
While the Hello Kitty beers are exclusive to Taiwan, they’re pretty easy to come by once you’re in the country. Our reporter picked hers up at her local grocery store for just 32 Taiwan dollars (US$1.10) each. The flavors might not be to everyone’s liking, but at that price they make a great gift for their novelty and cuteness (we especially like the ribbons floating like beer foam around Kitty-chan). Just make sure you don’t start drinking them yourself on the plane. With an alcohol content of just 2.5 percent, you’d probably have to drink the whole set to get a good buzz going during the flight home, and there’s no souvenir more awkward than an empty beer can that smells like candy.
[ Read in Japanese ]