I always associate Japan (in terms of beer that is) with beer brewed with rice or maize, like Asahi, but Kirin Ichiban is much more like your traditional lager. With one exception, according to the bottle. It's brewed by the 'unique Ichiban Shibori Process'. What is the 'unique Ichiban Shibori Process' you may ask? Well, apparently it means 'First Press', and is an 'uncompromising process where the beer is made from a single first pressing of the finest ingredients'.
It all sounds intriguing, the promise of purer, sweeter beer free from bitter-tasting tannins, brewed using this Japanese method. Only it's not brewed in Japan. It's brewed in Bedford. By Wells. But many beers are licensed and brewed outside their native countries these days, so the only real concern is what does it actually taste like?
Well, it looks pale, very much like a lager, has a large frothy head very much like a lager, and tastes... very much like a lager. If you like lager, then you'll like this. It's very smooth, incredibly easy to drink, has that lager-like malted barley taste and at 5% stands along with other premium lager beers. There is a bit of a bite to it, it's very clean but it is also has an underlying wateriness, that makes it slightly unsatisfying. But that said it is very refreshing and feels natural on the palate, with none of the chemical taste of many lagers.
In truth it's probably best suited along with food, sushi for example, where it's delicate flavour wouldn't overwhelm the fish. On the whole then, it gets the thumbs up from me, and it's worth picking up a bottle if you see it, though I'd like to see what the Japan brewed version tastes like.