Asahi Breweries and Kirin Brewery, Japan's leading beer makers announced their earnings for 2001 today in what was a mixed bag, with Asahi coming out of the year the stronger of the two operations.  Despite difficult conditions and escalating marketing costs, Asahi posted a year-on-year rise in both group sales and profits. The performance was in part driven by its entry into the low-malt beer market, a sector growing due to its cheaper price.