Recently we ran a report on how Japanese netizens expressed their outrage over the way a Korean pop star chooses to eat her instant noodles. Now it seems that the international outrage shoe is on the other foot as Japan has drawn the western stink eye over how they like to enjoy their beer.
At the center of this controversy is an innocent advert for Jokki Hour (a puny mistranslation of “Foam Jockey”). Jokki Hour is actually a cleverly designed beer mug that has a lever attached. When you push the lever the cup creates a head on the beer. Not a bad idea in itself, but I think it’s the advertisement that turns Westerners off. Let’s take a look.
To the average viewer who resides outside of Japan this looks like a bunch of people losing it over giving their beer way too much head. The scene where the little girl claps at her parents giving themselves an extra dose of beer foam pretty much sums up how they see Japanese people and beer: immature drinkers who think “bubbles are fun.”
At least that’s the gist of the comments this promotional video attracted. “Ohhh Japan…”; “Why?”; and “Can someone get Japanese people a real beer?” were among the comments of bewildered beer lovers.
If we take the issue of appropriate beer head to extremes then it’s easier to see what’s going on. We can all readily agree that no foam at all is no good. It conjures images of stale, flat disappointment. Since we all know that some head is necessary the real cultural difference is where to draw the line.
Western people are willing to put up with a certain amount of foam to meet their aesthetic needs, but generally have a low tolerance. There are a few reasons for this. Most importantly, we feel that foam shouldn’t take up too much real-estate in the glass reserved for actual beer. And while foam is pleasing to the eye, its flavor is almost nonexistent; it gets on your face; and is just an obstruction to the main event.
On the other hand, Japanese drinkers place a very high value on freshness, and they feel that the more head on the beer, the fresher it is. Japanese people tend to have a more sensitive palette as well and can get more satisfaction from the taste of foam than we usually do.
Basically this all boils down to a case of different strokes for different folks. And while I too shudder at the image of a pint that’s 40% head, I can appreciate the concept behind Jokki Hour. I’ve been in more than a few beer tents where the beer was so stale you could waterproof a patio with it. So don’t guffaw the product based solely on how other cultures use it, give it a try for yourself.