After World War II ended, beer in Japan was a little too expensive, prompting Kokuka Beverage Company (now Hoppy Beverage Co., Ltd.) to develop a low-alcohol beverage from carbonated malts and hops. The concoction was dubbed “Hoppy” and hit the market in 1948, gaining popularity in the Tokyo area.
Adoration for the sparkling beverage fell flat during the 1960s and 1970s. Hoppy became known as the beer for the working class – think Schlitz or Pabst Blue Ribbon in the States – and fell out of favor as the economy in Japan stabilized and built toward its bubble years.
Hoppy made a comeback in Japan around a decade ago, thanks to the efforts of Mina Ishiwatari, Hoppy Beverage Company’s president and granddaughter of the man who created the original Hoppy recipe.
Now Hoppy is turning 66, and if you want to observe this special occasion, Azasu is the place to go this week. The Lower East Side izakaya, one of the only places in the US that pours Hoppy, is in the midst of a five-day Hoppy celebration that ends on Sunday, August 17.
For the special price of $18, you can purchase a ticket for all three types of Hoppy: Hoppy White, Hoppy Black, and Hoppy Premium. And if you don’t feel like drinking all three in one sitting, no worries; you have until September 30 to use your Hoppy drink ticket.
Since Hoppy has only around 0.8% alcohol, the standard way to enjoy the beverage is with a shot of shochu, Japan’s distilled liquor. The folks at Azasu have a hunch that this trend will find roots in New York, so when you order Hoppy from now through Sunday, your server will pour your beer into a frosted glass that contains two ounces of shochu, which has 25% alcohol. The result is one refreshing beverage!
While you’re gulping down the Hoppy at Azasu, indulge yourself in the juicy, peppery karaage and the crispy pork gyoza. You don’t have to take JapanCulture•NYC’s word for it; this recommendation comes from Azasu owner Gaku Shibata himself. Sake Samurai Chizuko Niikawa lauds Azasu’s french fries. They look just like Ore-Ida frozen crinkle-cut fries, but there’s a subtle garlic flavor that’s enhanced when you add Azasu’s mixture of soy sauce and grated daikon. It’ll leave you wondering why you’ve slathered ketchup on your fries all these years.
Make your way down to Azasu at 49 Clinton Street in the Lower East Side and have Hoppy Hour with a few Hoppy beers!