Japan’s best-selling beer is changing its recipe for the first time in 35 years

Will a new brewing process make Asahi Super Dry even more super?

Right on the can, Asahi Super Dry bills itself as “The beer for all seasons.” That promise of permeance is set for a revision, though, as Asahi Breweries has announced that for the first time since Super Dry was released, it’ll be changing the beer’s brewing process.

Super Dry first went on sale in 1987, when the concept of a “dry” beer was a novel, and in the minds of many uninitiated consumers, confusing, concept. Asahi wanted to create a beer that was flavorful but had a sharp, clean finish, much like the types of sake and wine described as “dry.” Curious customers quickly fell in love with Asahi Super Dry, and in just a few years’ time it became Japan’s best-selling beer, a title it’s held on to ever since.

Recently, though, Super Dry’s sales haven’t been as super as they once were. For 2021, Asahi Breweries sold 60.82 million cases of their flagship brew, and while that’s a lot, it’s down by about 30 percent from Super Dry’s peak of popularity in 2000, so the company is hoping that giving the beer a revamp will restore it to its full glory. The big change is a switch to late hopping. In simple terms, the technique is just what it sounds like: adding hops later in the brewing process, so that they have a more pronounced effect on the finished product. Specifically, Asahi Breweries says it wants to give Super Dry a more robustly hoppy aroma than it has now, while still preserving its dry finish, for a more satisfying overall drinking experience.

However, while sales might be down, you don’t sell 60-million plus cases of beer without a whole lot of people already liking it just fine as-is, and Twitter reactions to the announcement of the new Super Dry are far from universally enthusiastic.

“Not a good idea to mess with Super Dry’s flavor. Everyone likes it, so it’s a good choice if you’re having a party with other people. Asahi Breweries should just bring out a new type of beer and sell both.”
“Giving it a stronger hop smell is going to screw with the taste of the food you eat while you’re drinking it. The real appeal of Super Dry is how great it is as a meal-time beer.”
“I’m looking forward to trying the new version.”
“Can’t wait.”
“A new Super Dry…I’m half intrigued, and half scared.
“Don’t need the extra hoppiness. Super Dry is best when you take a big smooth gulp of it.”

As many commenters have pointed out, Super Dry’s smoothness, without being bland or watery, is what its biggest fans love about it. While hoppy microbrews and craft beer bars have been gradually carving out a bigger market for themselves in Japan, the country’s drinking culture is still predominantly centered on friends or coworkers knocking back a few cold ones while simultaneously eating dinner at an izakaya pub or restaurant. Super Dry’s balanced flavor profile means it goes well with just about any kind of food and can be enjoyed by just about anyone who likes beer, making it a crowd-pleasing choice for group drinking parties.

And also a popular present

Asahi Breweries believes customers will like the new Super Dry even more, but it’s hard not to be reminded of the New Coke fiasco in 1985, when the soda maker was immediately hit with a backlash from pre-existing fans who felt they’d tampered with perfection and wanted no part of the replacement. The new Asahi Super Dry is set to start showing up in stores and restaurants in mid-February, at which point we’ll find out if Asahi Breweries’ confidence in it is justified, or if maybe they’ll feel pressured to start offering an Asahi Super Dry Classic too.

Sources: Nihon Keizai Shimbun via Hachima Kikou, PR Times, Twitter
Top image: PR Times
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