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Eating and drinking are two of our favorite necessary life functions, since they’re both so much more fun than sleeping and breathing. So when we heard, back in January, about a new beer from Suntory that’s specially designed to go well with Japanese food, our three months of anxious waiting until it was scheduled to go on sale started right away.

Well, spring is finally here, and we’ve just recently experienced the joys of stepping outside without an overcoat and admiring the cherry blossoms, so now it’s time for the last item on our checklist of vernal pleasures, as we sample a can of Suntory’s new Japan-centric brew, the all-malt Wazen.

Suntory combines five different types of malts to produce Wazen, which it claims draws out and compliments the intrinsic flavors found in Japanese cuisine. Despite the extravagant ingredients and lofty goal, though, you can find Wazen in any major supermarket or convenience store in Japan. We grabbed a can at our local grocery store for 199 yen (US $1.95).

▼ There’s nothing like the thrilling adventure of a beer corner photo safari.

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The can’s understated design seems appropriate for its goal of pairing with Japanese food, given Japan’s aesthetic appreciation of elegant simplicity.

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We cracked ours open and poured the liquid into a glass. Wazen has a vibrant golden color, and from appearance we could tell this would probably be in line with the light, refreshing style of most of the offerings from major Japanese breweries.

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▼ Sorry buddy, we’ve just got the one can, and we’re in no mood to share.

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We raised our glass, took a sip, and were met with a flavor that we can only describe as extremely Japanese.

Early on, Wazen stimulates the tongue with the grainy, almost-corn like notes that characterize Kirin Beer. Next, there’s a punch of flavorful malt similar to Ebisu, which gives way to an initially very clear aftertaste reminiscent of Asahi’s popular Super Dry. At the very end though, there’s a mild but definite parting shot of bitterness, not unlike Sapporo or normal Suntory.

In short, it’s like drinking every prominent Japanese beer, all at once.

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Wazen is tasty enough that we’d have had no problem emptying our glass then and there, but in the back of our alcohol-relaxed mind, we recalled Suntory’s promise that this is the beer to have with Japanese food. We’re far too safety-conscious (and lazy) to cook over an open flame while drinking though, so while we were at the grocery store procuring our Wazen, we also picked up a pack of sashimi.

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We’d decided to pair Suntory’s new beer with some sliced inada, or young yellowtail. True gourmets say it’s at its best in the summer, but the portion we ate was plenty tasty, especially in conjunction with the leaves of shiso (Japanese basil) that came with it.

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With the inada’s natural sweetness tickling our taste buds, it was time to see if alternating bits of sashimi and sips of Wazen would influence the beer’s flavor, and we were not disappointed. The exact reason why eludes us (we’re drinkers, not scientists), but as we went back to our beverage after a few mouthfuls of fish, the transitions between the Wazen’s multiple flavor stages seemed smoother. There hadn’t been much of a jolt between the shifts before, but now it was even less of an issue.

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Of course, there’s more to Japanese food than just raw fish, and we were curious how Wazen would do mixed with a dish with stronger flavors, so we decided to move onto our next course, the stir-fried noodle and vegetable dish called yakisoba.

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▼ We realize we said we were too lazy to cook, and we stand by that statement, so we went with Plan B: Leftovers Prepared by a Beautiful and Generous Wife.

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Sadly, this didn’t have quite the same synergy as our first combination, as there was a bit too much going on flavor-wise for the noodles and beer to play off of each other. That said, the yakisoba didn’t take anything away from the Wazen, and the pairing was tasty enough that before we knew it, we were out of both beer and food.

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Having no more Wazen also meant the end of our testing of Suntory’s claim that it’s the best beer to have with a Japanese meal, but we feel like we’ve got enough data to issue our professional opinion. This is a flavorful, tasty beer, good enough to stand on its own merits. On top of that, should you feel the desire to bring up a playlist of koto music and munch on some of Japan’s traditional delicacies while sipping your Wazen, we can’t imagine you’ll be unhappy with the results.

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Photos: RocketNews24