If you’ve been scanning beer brands and varieties, you may have noted quite a few sporting the word “dry” on the label.
Even if it’s a hit with a lot of consumers, the term “dry” is still puzzling for some. One Quora question even went so far to ask why would beer be called “dry” when it’s made mostly of water.
This article will discuss interesting facts about dry beer, including what exactly makes a beer dry, and what difference do brands per country have when it comes to this type of beer.
Read on to find out everything about dry beer.
What is dry beer?
Dry beer is a style of beer that has little to no sweetness. That’s actually where the term “dry” applies – the lack of sweetness. It has nothing to do with the water content.
Apart from this, dry beer generally has an absence of aftertaste. What you get is a strong, clean and refreshing taste. This type of beer is relatively new as a process, starting only in the ‘80s.
What is extra or super dry beer?
In dry beer, the fermentation process is extended to allow for more natural sugars to break down and convert to alcohol. Varieties that are termed “super dry” use even longer fermentation, resulting in a beer that is full in strength but has fewer carbs.
According to The New York Times article published in 1989, dry beer was first introduced in Japan in 1987 and was subsequently adopted by brewers in Europe and North America.
The first dry beer on the market was the Japanese brand Asahi Super Dry, launched in March 1987.
Developed as a result of consumer research, the formula immediately dominated the Japanese market. Other brands like Kirin, Sapporo, and Suntory International jumped on the bandwagon, making dry beer get as much as 40% of the Japanese beer market share at the time.
The dry beer trend also spread to the US, with several domestic brands introducing their dry brew in 1989.
What’s interesting about dry beer is how brewers around the world have different takes on how it’s supposed to taste. For instance, in Japan, the beer has more alcohol than regular brews, which is not the case for American-made dry beer.
Writer Florence Fabricant states that dry beer “appears to be an elastic concept that the beer industry is stretching over a batch of stylish selling points,” which suggests that dry beer takes on characteristics that consumers in a given area would favour.
This type of beer is a result of a special brewing technique. When beer is brewed, the yeast breaks down sugars in the wort. What remains are alcohol component and CO2. Sugars that are not broken down during the process give beer its sweet flavour.
There are several ways on how to brew dry beer. One method involves using high performing yeast strains that ferment sugar more efficiently than ordinary yeast. Another way is mashing low, which means encouraging the enzyme activity to produce a wort that’s extremely fermentable. And another is using little to no crystal malts.
If you use the low-malt approach, the alcohol content tends to be lighter compared to using robust yeast, which can result in a beer that has higher alcohol levels than the regularly brewed beer.
Australian Dry Beers
Together with the US and Canada, Australia is another country that joined in on the dry beer trend in the 80’s.
One of the first dry beers to hit the Australian market, Hahn SuperDry has become the frontrunner in bringing that crisp, dry taste to the country. This beer has a very low calorie content with just 0.7% in a bottle – 70% less than regular beer. It’s also 99.99% sugar-free, which makes it perfect for those who are looking for a lighter beer option.
Japanese Dry Beers
Asahi Super Dry is the first dry beer of Japan (and the whole commercial world), which features a clean and light flavour.
The beer’s formulation was developed based on consumer research highlighting the need for a kind of beer that could work with the delicateness of Japanese food without overpowering the palette.
American Dry Beers
The biggest market to go along with the dry beer trend, American brands started brewing their own formulations in the ‘80s. Although it was initially a hit with consumers, big names such as Budweiser weakened in sales, leading to the brewery discontinuing the line.
However, today there are still brands such as Sierra Nevada with their Torpedo Extra IPA and Anchor Brewing with Liberty Ale that feature dry hopping in the brewing process.
European Dry Beers
European dry beer, like American varieties now, lean towards the dry hopping process, rather than the yeast activation that is featured in Japanese beer. Some of the popular brands include Holsten Dial Pils, a dry German beer that features very low sugar content.
There are also Irish stouts, such as the Guinness, called “dry stouts” because they are not as sweet as other stout types. However, they are certainly far from being light and crisp like the Japanese dry beer.
What does a dry lager pair well with?
Beer is a great beverage to pair with meals due to its ability to cleanse the palate and distinct flavour that can highlight a certain taste.
For dry beer, the crisp and clean body of flavour goes well with bold food combinations, such as spicy stir-fries, barbecue, and curried dishes. Pizza is also a nice food to pair with dry beer, as the carbonation balances the acidity of tomatoes and heaviness of cheese.
Light flavours also go well with dry beer, as what the Japanese swear by. A light lager accentuates sushi, shellfish, and fresh seafood nicely.