Beer Review: Sapporo Premium Black Lager

We all know that lagers are yellow, and we all know they come from Germany — or nearby, at least. Duh, that’s a given. So knowing that, let’s discuss Sapporo Premium Black — a black lager from Japan.

Wait, what?

Ah, little did many of you know that black beer — or Schwarzbier — is quite popular in Japan. And now the oldest beer maker in Japan wants to bring that beer to the U.S. Throw in the 22oz. slick-looking, steel can and you’ve got a little something fun to try.

In the end, no matter where a beer originates, or what it looks like, or how it’s packaged, it all comes down to the moment when the top is opened, the beer is poured, and the palate is drenched. Sapporo Premium Black Lager presents subtle hints of chocolate, coffee, and a nice nice hit of roasted malt. The coffee and slightly bitter chocolate is present on the nose, and then a dry sweetness hits on the back end. Because it is a lager, it is exceptionally smooth and clean, although the malt presence gives it some body. All those notes result in a very nice beer — nothing that will blast your taste buds with flavor like a black IPA, porter, or stout, but it’s easy-drinking with enough malt and roast to provide a little “somethin’-somethin’.” It’s just a good beer, period.

I wonder if beer nerds will by drawn to this unique offering. In a world where any beer drinker can access thousands of beers at a time, Sapporo is essentially a global-macro product competing with micro and craft brews, as well as a host of macro-owned crafts. I don’t know if it has the “wow” factor to claim a large audience..and that is a shame. While the beer may be unique to Americans, Schwarzbier has been around a long time and this is a solid representation of the black-lager genre. I actually took time to read reviews on various rating sites and I am convinced that most of the negative ratings and comments are those who’ve not had many black lagers — if one is expecting a stout or a barrel-aged robustness, they will be disappointed. It would be akin to drinking a pilsner when expecting an IPA. If one goes in looking for a maltier version of a clean lager, then one will fine it enjoyable.

A quick story from CNBC about this product:

Sapporo’s origin dates back to 1876, when it took the name of the city from whence it came. The brewery is Japan’s oldest but it did not make an appearance in the U.S. until 1964. Twenty years later, Sapporo USA emerged, and now Sapporo has mingled with several companies, does some of its canning in Canada, and ships through La Crosse, WI. To wit: they’ve been doing this a long time. I can’t say for sure if Sapporo Premium Black Lager will help them last another 150 years, but it should help – it truly is a good beer.

Give it a try. What could be more fun than drinking a Japanese Schwarzbier?

Mathew Powers

Mathew Powers

Forever part of the Sommbeer family, Matt's journey from beer geek to beer writer has included regular contributions to Chilled Magazine,, and his blog, "A Pint of Chicago," for the Chicago Tribune Media Group. He's also published non-beer-related items on various magazines, "webzines," and Ebooks. But, Sommbeer was, is, and always will be his home.
Mathew Powers