Yes, we Japanese love our beer. In fact, many a drinking session in Japan is begun with someone literally saying, “Let’s start with beer, shall we?” So it’s not really surprising to see Japanese beer companies come up with interesting beers to catch the public’s attention.

But we have to say this particular beer produced by Sapporo Breweries is truly one-of-a-kind. The limited edition beer, which will become available for pre-order online later this month, is made using a very unique ingredient — obtained with the help of some small, hard-working winged critters. It’s the Ginza Brown beer, the only beer in the world made from honey bee yeast!

This is actually the third year Sapporo is selling the Ginza Brown. The beer has previously been available in a limited capacity on the Sapporo Beer online shop as well as at select Sapporo Lion shops and charity promotions at department stores, and they apparently sold extremely well. This year, the beer will be available strictly online only in a pack of either six or 12 333ml (11oz) bottles, and just 1,000 sets of each will be sold.

But how did this unique beer come about? Well, Sapporo has long had strong ties to the Ginza district in Central Tokyo, where the company opened Japan’s very first beer hall in 1899, and where its main office was located for many years. And it so happens that one of the social projects currently underway in Ginza is the Ginza Honey Bee Project.

The Ginza Honey Bee Project involves culturing bees for honey on building rooftops in Ginza, with the aim of promoting nature awareness and creating an environment where humans, plants and bees can coexist productively.

▼Scenes from the Ginza Honey Bee Project rooftop facilities:
ginzabrown project

▼The actual “Ginza Honey” produced through the project:
ginzabrown honey

The Ginza Honey Bee Project is actually a sister project to the Shibuya Honey Bee Project, the fruits of which we tasted earlier this year in the form of a delectable cake created by master patissier Toshi Yoroizuka and offered for one day only at the Shibuya Hikarie mall.

Sapporo has been a supporter of the Ginza Honey Bee Project, and through that involvement, they conducted research into the yeast that collects on the body of honey bees when they gather nectar from flowers. And after more than a year of study, they succeeded in identifying a “honey bee yeast” that could be used to brew beer.

After that, they had to try numerous variations in the type of malt they used and make repeated adjustments in the brewing process to make sure the characteristic cinnamon-like scent of the honey bee yeast beer wasn’t overpowering. Only when they finally had the right balance between the scent and flavor was it made into the Ginza Brown beer. The result was a beer with a dark amber color and a rich flavor with just a subtle scent of cinnamon. According to the staff who developed the beer, the Ginza Brown should go well with light nibbles like cheese and ham as well as sweet desserts and fruits.

Sapporo will start taking pre-orders for the beer on their online shop from June 10, and the actual beer will be delivered in early August. The 12-bottle pack is priced at 5,400 yen (US$53), while the six-bottle pack will cost 3,240 yen ($32). Well, we can certainly imagine there are many beer fans out there anxious to have this unusual tipple with their favorite snack. Here’s to the researchers at Sapporo and the hard-working bees of Ginza for giving us one more treat that should be enjoyable in the summer heat!

Source: Sapporo Breweries news release
Top image: Sapporo Breweries news release
Inset photos: L’abeille Honey Shop website