If you ever entered an izakaya or a bar in Tokyo, you have probably noticed a bottle of beer-like beverage called Hoppy. One evening, a tipsy Japanese salaryman came over to speak with me, as he found a foreign face he could practice English with. He explained to me that Hoppy is not just another new hype drink for hipsters but it is a carbonated drink developed in the late 1940s. People obviously had to face poverty in post-war Japan and could not effort a luxury of having a beer. That’s when Hoppy came to substitute it.
The drink that comes in the bottle of Hoppy is nearly non-alcoholic (contains only about 0.8% alcohol) but has a distinct fruity flavor similar to beer because it is made of hops but also barley and yeast. Since April 1992 the Kokuka Beverage Company started producing black hoppy as well. Hoppy is then mixed with multiple-distilled shōchū (similar to whiskey or vodka but weaker, around 25-45% alcohol) in ratio 4:1.
It is usually served in a big glass mug with shōchū and ice cubes, although the company says it is best enjoyed chilled but without ice. The bottle of Hoppy is called soto (the outside) and the actual alcoholic beverage, shōchū, is called naka (the inside). So you are going to mix it together and depending on which you need to refill you can ask a waiter for either soto or naka.
In 2016, it was awarded the Food Hit Grand Prize with "Longseller Special Award" and also for its design. Since February of the following year, the bottles of both kinds of Hoppy are returnable. This year, it is celebrating its 70th anniversary.
It has a nostalgic value for many Japanese around Kanto area where it has been produced since Showa era. The other reason for its popularity could be the fact that it is in comparison with a beer low in carbs and calories which makes it the perfect beverage for people concerned about their daily carb intake. It is definitely worth trying at least once while you are around Tokyo, however, don’t expect to feel the same bitter taste as the beer has.
LINK to cover photo (taken from official website of Hoppy): https://www.hoppy-happy.com/cms/wp-content/themes/happy-hoppy/dist/images/img/img-whats-hoppy-birth.png