If you've been reading grape Japan lately, then there's a good chance that you know about Amabie アマビエ. Legend has it the yōkai 妖怪 (monster) with long hair and a scaly body appeared off the coast of Kumamoto, making predictions of a bountiful harvest, then left with the words: "If an epidemic ever spreads, draw a picture of me and show it to everyone."

Rediscovered in March in a Tweet which went viral, Amabie quickly became Japan's unofficial mascot character in its fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak, inspiring fan art and appearing in everything from rice crackers, colorful donuts and wagashi traditional sweets, and even showing up as a SnapChat effect.

Now, Amabie appears on the label of Amabie IPA, a new beer from SanktGallen Brewery, the oldest microbrewery in Japan.

Fighting the pandemic with great beer and donations

Having sold over 10,000 bottles of Amabie IPA only a day after it launched on April 28th, SanktGallen Brewery donated 2 million JPY in proceeds on April 29th to a fund dedicated to stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus. The brewery is committed to continuing sales of the beer until the outbreak subsides and has vowed to continue donations throughout that time.

SanktGallen Brewery's 2 million JPY donation | © PR Times, Inc.

Label by "Moyasimon" creator Masayuki Ishikawa

In a very appropriate collaboration, the microbrewery called upon Masayuki Ishikawa, whose hit manga "Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture," about an agricultural college student who can see and talk to a motley crew of bacteria, was translated in several languages and made into an anime.

In addition to the epidemic-fighting monster, the label also features two of the manga's most famous bacterial characters, Aspergillus oryzae (also known as kōji 麹, a fungus essential for brewing alcohol) on the left, and Malassezia furfur (a yeast that lives on the skin of humans and animals, and perhaps, in Ishikawa's imagination, on the hair or scales of Amabie as well).

Flanking the Amabie are messages in the style of prayers often seen at Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples. On the left is 厄難消除 yakunan shōjo, meaning "dispelling misfortunes," and on the right is 除災招福 josai shōfuku, meaning "removing calamities and inviting good fortune."

Background story

According to their press release, SanktGallen Brewery had been pondering what they could do to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Breweries in other countries have been making rubbing alcohol, but they didn't have the distillation facilities required to make such a high-alcohol product. When they announced the cancellation of their summer beer event in an SNS post with the image of Amabie on a fictional beer bottle, they received numerous requests asking them to make such a beer in reality. As it turns out, they had beer which was going to be used for a canceled event at the factory, so making Amabie IPA was the perfect way of salvaging it.

Amabie IPA

Amabie IPA uses 7 types of hops (Azacca, Ahtanum, Warrior, Citra, Ekuanot, Simcoe, and Mosaic) with a characteristic citrus aroma. Not only does it have a citrusy scent, but it also has a juiciness that can even fool you into thinking it contains juice. The body, which uses plenty of wheat malt and oats, is creamy and smooth. The aftertaste is dry with some bitterness. It has a slightly higher level of alcohol (7%), but has a refreshing taste, making it perfect for the hot days to come.

SanktGallen Brewery CEO Nobuhisa Iwamoto measuring hops | © PR Times, Inc.

Product information

  • Name: アマビエIPA (Amabie IPA)
  • Volume: 330 ml
  • Alcohol: 7%
  • Sale period: From April 28th, 2020 until the outbreak subsides
  • Sold at: Yokohama Takashimaya, Keikyu Department Stores, Marui Family Ebina, SanktGallen Brewery Online Shop, etc.
  • Price: 460 JPY / bottle (excl. tax) MSRP
  • Special online discount: 2 bottles for 1,780 JPY (excl. tax, incl. refrigerated domestic shipping)
  • Online shop website: Amabie IPA

By - Ben K.