Asahi has been the best selling beer in Japan for years up until 2020 when another Japanese Brewery, Kirin, overtook them. Historically the preponderance of sales of Asahi come from draft form in bars. This has obviously been greatly impacted by the recent public health restrictions imposed by Japan for COVID-19. In an effort to regain their place as the leading brewery in Japan, Asahi is changing their recipe and manufacturing process to regain their old customers. This makes the first change for the brand after thirty five years. Currently this change is only happening in Japan. One of the benefits of being an American Beer lover in Japan is that I get to try the old and new recipes and give my opinion.
In 1889 Komakichi Torii, in an effort to introduce beer to Japan, founded Osaka Brewing Company. 1892 Asahi beer was first released. In 1987 Asahi released Super Dry and was one of only a few dry beers offered in the country. Understandably Asahi has not released but they have advertised a late hop addition in the brewing process. Traditionally the wort is boiled for at least an hour during the brewing process. When hops are added at the beginning of this boil they normally impart a bitterness to the beer. When hops are added closer to the end of the boil the hops impart more aroma and flavor to the beer. The late hop addition in this recipe should deliver more aroma from the hops vice the bittering from an earlier hop addition. Claims to improve the drinkability and aroma of the beer. The change will effect the recipe and the manufacturing process and not effect the ingredients or beers specifications such as alcohol percentage, bitterness and color (ABV, IBU, SRM). The company does claim that the drinkability is increased, but do not go into detail on how.
Original Asahi: The lager yeast is the initial aroma that hits the senses. The smell of white bread is slight along with a very faint metallic smell. The beer pours with a very large fluffy head that persist for a good amount of time. The color is light straw color that is very very clear with no apparent effervescent bubbles rising. In addition the drinker can detect a slight floral and earthy hops aroma. Very crisp finish leaving no aftertaste in the mouth leave a distinct finish to each sip. There is a bite on the back of the tongue from the hops bitterness. Not offensive but definitely noticeable. The beer is well attenuated. I see this beer as one that would completely clear my pallet after taking a sip. Neither left a really good beer lace.
New Asahi: The aroma is of sweet malt on the initial pour. The malt flavor is more toasted malt and less hop floral aroma. The beer is a light straw color with a crystal clear look through the glass. The color is slightly darker than the original version. There is a steady stream of carbonation bubbles coming from the bottom of the glass. The finish of the sip does not have a distinct finish. The finish more so tapers off. There is a lingering malt sweetness that hangs around the mouth and in the nose. There is a little body to the beer that is detected in a slightly fuller mouthfeel than the original. This beer would go with much more savory foods due to the greater mouthfeel and malty sweetness.
My preference: Neither one is bad. Like children, I can see the good qualities in each of them. I can definitely see the merits of the old recipe being a great compliment to sushi or other light fish foods. The new recipe I see appealing to a larger audience of beer drinkers. These drinkers who have at least been exposed to fuller body craft beers that have become more dominant in the last ten to fifteen years. In the end all recipes change. While some Belgium breweries claim to tie their histories back to beer brewing monks many of them can really only trace their recipes back to the Second World War. Over all change is inevitable and I wish best of luck for Asahi as they look to regain their market share. I would consider the original Asahi Super Dry as more of the typical japanese beer. I would see the new Asahi Super Dry as meeting the desire of a larger world market, specifically America. With that I find it interesting that this was only released in the Japanese Market.