Is Kirin Ichiban Gluten-Free? 3 Simple Ingredients

As an avid traveler, I love enjoying drinks from across the globe. On a gluten-free diet, this can be difficult at times. With wanderlust for Japan, I’ve been curious to know what beverages of theirs I can consume. This brings up the question, Is Kirin Ichiban gluten-free?

Curious to know the answer, I dove into research. 

Kirin Ichiban is not gluten-free as one of the main ingredients is malt. In fact, it has a relatively high gluten content compared to other Japanese lagers. This is due to the way the beer is processed. Anyone on a gluten-free diet should steer clear of this beverage. 

Don’t stress; while this beverage contains barely, there are plenty of other gluten-free Japanese beverages. In this article, I’ll walk you through the reasoning beyond the high gluten content in Kirin Ichiban, other Japanese beverages to avoid, and what ones you can enjoy. 

Kirin Ichiban Is Not Gluten-Free: Here’s Why.

The Japanese brewing company was founded in 1888 and has since gained worldwide popularity. Kirin prides itself in producing a smooth and decadent beer made with 100% malt.

Malt is a trigger word if you’re familiar with a gluten-free diet. Any last hope of enjoying the beverage has quickly disappeared when you see this ingredient on the label. 

If you’re new to the diet, store malt in your vocabulary of ingredients you cannot have.

Let’s take a deeper look and see what other ingredients make up this beer. Kirin Ichiban consists of:

  1. Water 
  2. Barley Malt 
  3. Hops

So, what makes this Japanese lager have such high contents of gluten? If you guessed the way it’s processed, pat yourself on the back; you’re correct.

Unlike most breweries that combine the first and second press of the wort (unfermented beer/ grain mash), Kirin only uses the first press. This process keeps the beer pure and full of gluten.


Is Sapporo Gluten-Free?

Like Kirin Ichiban, Sapporo is a popular Japanese lager you can find across the globe. The founder, Seibei Nakagawa, was Japan’s first German-trained brewmaster. His knowledge of beer along with his Japanese influence, inspired him to create a new masterpiece in the world of beer. 

 So, will we have better luck with this beer on a gluten-free diet? Sadly the answer is also no. The original Sapporo, along with Sapporo Pure, Sapporo Black, Sapporo Light, and Sapporo Reserve, all contain gluten. 

The ingredients of Sapporo include:

  1. Malted Barley (gluten culprit)
  2. Water 
  3. Yeast 
  4. Hops 

Don’t worry; you don’t have to miss out on Japanese-influenced alcohol completely. Read on for gluten-free recommendations. 

What Japanese Beers Are Gluten-Free? 

While it may be difficult to find them if you’re not currently located in Japan, there are a limited number of gluten-free Japanese beers. Nodogoshi Nama is made by the Kirin Company, being one of the most popular gluten-free “beers.” 

This was not produced gluten-free on purpose; instead, it was created to get around the heavy taxes applied to products generated from malt fermentation products. 

Technically speaking, Nodogoshi Nama is not a beer but a beer-flavored beverage. While there are no gluten-free claims on the website or the labeling, you can clearly see below that there are no gluten-containing ingredients. As always, use your own judgment before cracking open a can.  

Nodogoshi Nama ingredients: 

  1. Hops
  2. Sugar
  3. Soybean protein
  4. Yeast Extract

Can I Drink Rice Wine On A Gluten-Free Diet?

While you’ll have to miss out on the majority of Japanese beers you may be able to enjoy some hot (or cold) sake. There are several brands that are gluten-free, however, this is not the case across the board. 

The majority of sake does not have any gluten-containing ingredients; however, non-premium brands, also known as futsushu, are allowed to use gluten additives. While these additives make their way into the wine, they’re not always found on the labels.

Meaning when you drink non-premium sake, it’s not completely clear exactly what you’re consuming. 

If you have any type of sensitivity to gluten, it is best practice only to drink premium brands. So, how can you tell if sake is premium or not? The majority of the time it will be clearly listed on the bottle. If it’s not, there is no need to worry. There are other ways to discover if this is safe for consumption. 

Below are eight grades of sake that are all considered gluten-free: 

  • Junmai
  • Honjozo
  • Ginjo
  • Daiginjo
  • Tokubetsu Junmai
  • Tokubetsu Honjozo
  • Junmai Ginjo
  • Junmai Daiginjo

Are you looking to try sake for the first time but don’t know where to start? Check out this video for some great premium options. 

What’s In Premium Sake? 

If you opt for premium sake, it’s still best practice to check the ingredients label and make sure it is indeed gluten-free. For the most part, the sake will contain four simple ingredients. I have created a chart so you can clearly see the ingredients, what they are used for, and that they are gluten-free. 

Ingredients Use 
Sake Rice This is concentrated rice that supplies sake with its unique flavor. 
Water 80% of the sake is made of water, this helps to give the drink substance and even out the flavor.
Yeast Yeast is a single-celled organism that is used during the fermentation process.
Koji This is a mold popularly used in Asian culture. Koji helps to break down the starch in the rice into fermentable sugars, assisting in creating the alcohol. 


If you’re searching for a gluten-free Japanese lager, steer clear of Kirin Ichiban. The high gluten content will trigger a reaction in anyone with gluten sensitivity.

Nodogoshi Nama and sake make two great alternatives. Remember to look for premium sake when you shop sound or ask your server/bartender to look at the label before purchasing. 

Looking for other beverages, you can enjoy on a gluten-free diet? Check out my top ten gluten-free beers

My name is Gabby, and I’m the creator of Gone Gluten. I started this site to inspire those who are currently living or trying to live a gluten-free lifestyle.

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