The latest craft beer to hit the market in Japan is so unusual that its release has been limited to 3,000 bottles. Called Hoya Ale, the beer itself sounds innocent enough, but when you find out that Hoya is an edible marine animal commonly known as the sea squirt, you might actually need some liquid courage before guzzling it down.

Halocynthia roretzi is an edible ascidian. Ascidians are soft-bodied, hermaphrodite filter feeders that cling to rocky surfaces and can be found on their own, in communities or in large social colonies. Also known as the sea squirt or sea pineapple, it’s eaten raw in countries like Japan and Korea, with a peculiar flavour that’s been likened to rubber dipped in ammonia, which is probably due to the fact that it contains an unsaturated alcohol called cynthiaol.


Yamauchi, a company specialising in seafood retail, released their first batch of Hoya Ale back in 2010. Sourcing their sea pineapples from Minami Sanriku, which was devastated in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, meant production had to be halted for four years. Now that the sea squirts are back in abundance, the company has been able to re-release the unique ale for fans of the unusual-looking sea creature.

To produce the beer, malt and hops are added to a broth filled with sea pineapples, husks and all. The result is a red amber ale is said to have a smoky aroma and a clean, refreshing finish.


Customer reviews lament the fact that the sea squirt flavour isn’t stronger but to be honest, that’s not something we’ll be complaining about!


Each 330 ml bottle retails for 597 yen (US$5.02) and the company has already sold more than 1,000 units from their 3,000-bottle limited release. Make sure you visit their online store before they sell out completely!

Images: Yamauchi Co., Ltd, @Press
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