Our columnist has a little bit of fun with a new toy from Japan.
I’M a sucker for strange, new things. I love trying new beers and spirits, and also experiment with all sorts of drinks-related gadgets or equipment. Some of these “experiments” may not usually turn out well (for instance, that time I tried mixing Coke with raspberry-flavoured vodka and got … well, cough mixture), but hey, at least I tried it ONCE, right?
Anyway, on a recent visit to Japan, I was lucky enough to visit the Suntory Brewery in Kyoto for a tour and while the visit itself was quite insightful, it didn’t really leave much of an impression on me. However, on the way out of the brewery, I stopped by the gift shop, and amongst the awesome gift packs of Suntory beer, something in a cute little yellow box caught my eye. It was a strange little contraption called the Beer Smoother II.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “A beer smoother? What on earth is a beer smoother?”
Apparently, the Beer Smoother II (I wonder what the first version was like) is a gadget that is supposed to make your beer creamier, and allow you to pour “bar-quality beer” (which I assume means the canned beer would taste like beer from a bar tap).
Looking more like the nipple on a baby’s bottle than something used to pour beer, the gadget consists of a plastic base and a spout that is made out of clay from Shigakari, which is one of the oldest pottery producing areas in Japan (Shigakari pottery is considered one of the best in Japan and is often used in traditional Japanese tea and sake ceremonies).
The idea behind the Beer Smoother II is this: The Shigakari clay is supposed to reduce the contact between air and the beer, allowing for a creamier head and preventing the beer from going flat too quickly.
Anyway, being a sucker for this sort of thing, I decided to buy one and try it out on some beers back home.
For this experiment, I decided to go with Suntory The Premium Malt’s beer (I did get the gadget from the Suntory brewery, after all), though finding a can or two in KL proved to be more of a task than I thought (distributed by Beam Global Malaysia, the beer is currently only available in Isetan KLCC, BIG Supermarket in Solaris Dutamas, and selected Japanese restaurants in the Klang Valley).
Now, according to the instructions, you are supposed to “PUSHU!” – open the tab of the beer can – then “PITA!” – put the beer smoother on the top of the can. Finally, you pour the beer through the spout into a tilted glass. (For some reason, the instructions here describe this action as “AWA AWA!!” which means “bubbly”.)
So, does the Beer Smoother actually work? Did the beer turn out smoother? Well, I poured two glasses of beer – one with the gadget and the other without, and surprisingly, the difference between the two really was quite distinct. Visually, the bubbles in the “smoothed” beer were finer, and the head of foam didn’t dissipate as quickly as the other glass, which meant that the beer would retain its crispness a lot longer.
Taste-wise, while the one poured without the gadget tasted fine on its own (Suntory Premium Malt’s is a pretty good beer, after all – malty, with a nice strong body), the one with the Beer Smoother tasted so much smoother and creamier, and was somehow more full-bodied than the other one.
Curious as to whether the Beer Smoother works on other types of beers, I decided to test it out on a can of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. Here, the difference in the body and flavour was not as marked, but what was remarkable was the fine head of foam that the beer smoother generated, which was almost as nice as the ones you get with a Guinness Draught at the bar.
Now, if you’re looking to get a Beer Smoother II of your own, I can’t really help you there, though you can check online to see if there are any online stores that can ship them here. While it’s a cool little gadget to have around, the fact that it works only on cans also means that I can’t use it on the beers I usually prefer, most of which are ales. But still, you’ve got to hand it to the Japanese – they come up with the coolest stuff sometimes. Now, if they’d only come up with a portable gadget that can instantly chill a beer in less than five seconds …
■ Michael Cheang is a firm believer in trying everything AT LEAST once. It’s how he knows drinking 79.9% ABV Spyritus Polish vodka is a REALLY BAD idea.