Drift Ice Draft even looks like sea ice from the north when it’s poured.

One of the most unique things you can do on a trip to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is take a trip out to see the drift ice in winter. Known as “ryuuhyou” in Japanese, the drift ice originates from Russia’s Amur River and makes its way to the Sea of Okhotsk north of Hokkaido every year, attracting visitors who take boat tours out to see–and even walk on–the ice in January to February.

▼ A popular setting-off point for the boat tours is Abashiri, where the coast is famous for large amounts of drift ice.

Our Japanese-language reporter K. Masami has been keen to make the trip to Abashiri to view the famous drift ice, but with the pandemic putting a hold on her travel plans recently, she decided to do the next best thing…by tasting the drift ice instead.

Thankfully, getting a taste of the ice requires no travel at all, given that Abashiri Brewery uses it as an ingredient in their widely available Ryuuhyou Draft (“Drift Ice Draft”).

▼ The beer label pays homage to the Sea of ​​Okhotsk in its design.

What sets this beer apart from others on the market isn’t just the fact that it’s made from drift ice–it also has an unusual blue hue. When poured into a beer glass, the frothy head and blue liquid beneath looks a lot like drift ice on the sea.

The Drift Ice Draft is classified as a happoshu, the name given to low-malt beer-like alcohol that doesn’t meet the 67-percent-minimum malt requirement for beer. Its blue appearance is due to gardenia jasminoides extract, which is used in the food industry for its blue pigmenting abilities.

Masami raised the glass to her mouth and as soon as her lips touched the frothy head on the beverage, she was immediately transported to the Sea of ​​Okhotsk. The crashing waves on the shore, the cold iciness of the water and the refreshing sea air filled her senses as she took her first sip of the drink.

The brew was tasty and refreshing, and far less bitter than she had anticipated. In fact, it had a fruity finish that made it so easy to drink Masami reckons even non-beer drinkers could enjoy it.

While there’s no way to really taste the drift ice component in the beer, just knowing it was in there really enhanced the drinking experience for Masami. She purchased a pack of eight online for 2,717 yen (US$25.02), plus tax and postage, but you can also find these throughout Hokkaido and in select supermarkets and liquor stores around Japan.

And if you’re looking to add more blue drinks to your liquor cabinet, this unique colour-changing sake will also wet your whistle.

Photos © SoraNews24
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