Eat at any Asian restaurants lately? If so, your beer offerings are likely to include Asahi and Sapporo. In the United States, Sapporo Premium is the number one selling Asian beer on the market.
Asahi beer represents a formidable competitor to Sapporo in the Japanese market, with a 2021 sales volume of around two trillion Japanese yen (about $US15bn).
But besides business, these beers grapple with being the preference of beer lovers. So which is the better Japanese beer?
There was a time that these beers were produced under the same company umbrella. In 1906, Sapporo, Osaka, makers of Asahi, and Japan Beer Brewing Company merged into the Dai-Nippon Beer Company until the companies eventually separated in 1949.
After that, Sapporo continued to be brewed under Nippon Breweries until 1956, when the company became known as Sapporo breweries again.
Like Sapporo, Asahi has taken to international acquisitions and mergers to remain a strong player in the global beer market and Japanese culture. The brand’s dry beer offering, Asahi’s Super Dry, targets carb-conscious beer drinkers with its refreshing taste and one-hundred fewer calories than Sapporo Premium.
Today, Sapporo and Asahi beer join Kirin Lager as the most popular beer offerings in the US market and abroad. While each pale lager has its nuances, they combine a light, dry taste designed to be enjoyed on a hot summer day or with the Japanese food of your choice.
The aroma of the Sapporo beer is refined with a subtle hint of rice cereal. The smell shows that this pale lager has more than just malted barley in the ingredients. Herbal hops are low but accentuate this malt character. The fermentation character is clean, helping the hops, malt, and rice shine. (See here for our full review of Sapporo Premium here and a comparison between Sapporo Reserve vs Sapporo Premium.)
Asahi Super Dry
Despite the use of rice in the Asahi beer, the aroma is drastically different than that of Sapporo. A soft rice smell is not present, somewhat an off-putting sulfur note that reminded me of burnt hair. The hops were floral.
The Sapporo can is designed to look like a beer glass. The top of the can previoulsy detached entirely so that the beer-drinking experience could remain enclosed in the brewery branding. The better plan is to pour this Sapporo beer into a tall, fluted beer glass. The beer will be straw to pale yellow. There is a bright white foam cap of tiny bubbles of carbonation. By pouring it into the glass, some excess carbonation escapes making for a more pleasant, less bloated beer drinking session. Additionally, the slender glass will help support the bubbles before they eventually collapse.
Asahi Super Dry
Asahi comes in a brown glass bottle adorned with a silver beer label. Besides “asahi’ and “dry,” the text reads Product of Italy. Who knew?
Super Dry is a clear, yellow to pale gold beer. It sports a decent head with mixed bubbles that quickly dissipate to the glass’s edges.
Rice continues to be a part of the beer with a smooth, slightly sweet tapioca flavor. Like the aroma, the hops play a supporting role. They are herbal, fresh tasting, and provide a sturdy bitterness that lingers to the finish.
Asahi Super Dry
Asahi tastes grainy with a subtle sweetness. Hop flavor and bitterness share more of the spotlight with this beer. I liked the hops, and they reminded me of a light Italian Pilsner – or is that just because I read that they brewed the beer in Italy?
The key to Sapporo or Asahi beers is their crisp, dry taste. These are refreshing beers, and Premium checks this box. While medium-bodied, the rice adjunct adds a roundness that keeps the beer from seeming thin. The carbonation and bitterness help add to the dry taste in the finish, with the effervescence adding a piquant liveliness.
Asahi Super Dry
If you’re going to have dry in the name, your beer had better be bone dry. So, I was somewhat surprised when I found Asahi Super Dry to be less dry than some of the other beers in this category. The beer does finish relatively dry and hoppy. It is a highly carbonated lager, which, when I burped, the finish was hoppy and reminiscent of some Northern German beers I’ve sampled. The Germans, who have a name for everything, call this hoppy belching “Hopgrupen” – or something like that.
Sapporo Premium: 140
Asahi Super Dry: 41
Sapporo Premium: 4.9%
Asahi Super Dry: 5.2%
What Do Other People Think About Both Beers?
Beer reviewers do not like these beers. However, I implore readers not to take reviews as the final word on a beer. A beer needs context sometimes, and Japanese beers serve a great purpose when one accompanies Japanese food.
Please do not compare it to full bodied beers or other Japanese craft beers. Instead, they should be judged in the vacuum of a specific meal. If you do this, I think you’ll find these beers are excellent beers to drink.
|Reviewer||Sapporo Premium||Asahi Super Dry|
|Untappd||3.177 out of 5||3.1|
|Rate Beer||2.42 out of 5||2.18|
|Influenster||4.5 out of 5||4.6|
|Beer Advocate||68 out of 100 (Poor)||66 (Poor)|
Brewing Process & Ingredients
Both Asahi Super Dry and Sapporo Premium are pale lagers. Lagers are known for their smooth, clean taste due to the type of yeast used during fermentation and extended cold cellaring time, which works to soften an extremely sharp aftertaste or excessive sulfur notes.
Lager Brewing Process
- Mash malt with hot water.
- Boil wort and add hops.
- Ferment at cold temperatures with lager yeast.
- Lager (German word means to store) to condition beer
- Filter to make beer clear
- Condition and carbonate
- Serve/ Package in can, bottles or kegs
Both beers are rice lagers, meaning they utilize the ingredient along with malt, hops, yeast, and water. Asahi’s UK brand site also lists corn as part of its ingredient list. The whole ingredients list is as follows:
- barley malt
- corn starch
Japanese Beers and Japanese Cuisine
If you plan on drinking beer on a hot summer day, most will gravitate towards craft beers with a crisp taste or a light American style lager, like bud light.
Despite their design to be exceptional in this setting, Japanese beers are more thought of as food beers; Sapporo and Asahi, specifically, are two beers that accompany Japanese food.
There is something to this. The dry beer is highly carbonated and helps to scrub the palate of the rich taste of sauces or oily fish flavors. These beers have a decent amount of hop bitterness that helps cut through fatty foods.
Since they’re light, they would match well with steamed vegetables and may complement the richness of seafood with a slightly sweeter taste from the rice.
Final Thoughts: Sapporo Premium vs Asahi Super Dry
If you’ve jumped to the bottom for a verdict on these two beers, I’d suggest you go with Sapporo Premium.
It’s a more refined lager with a unique flavor. Asahi Super Dry has its pluses, but it has plenty of flaws too.
Both are outstanding beers to go with seafood or rich foods that could benefit from effervescent beers. Kampai!
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