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Asahi vs Sapporo: Unraveling Japanese Beer Excellence

Asahi vs Sapporo

When it comes to Japanese beers, the names Asahi and Sapporo are iconic. These two Japanese beers have been delighting avid beer drinkers like us for generations.

But if I were to pick one between Asahi and Sapporo beer, it would be a challenging conclusion. So, to determine the best beer, I did a detailed comparison between these refreshing beers.

Today, I’m here to share my insights about these two Japanese beer giants’ nuances, flavors, and histories. For craft beer lovers like me, stick around as we undertake this frothy journey.

Comparing Asahi vs Sapporo Japanese Beers

Sapporo and Asahi in Can

Let’s start by delving into the core characteristics of Asahi and Sapporo’s beers.

Sapporo was founded in 1876, making it Japan’s oldest brewery. It has a rich history and commitment to traditional Japanese brewing methods.

Sapporo beer boasts a crisp and refreshing taste, making it an ideal choice for those hot summer days. Its golden hue and clean, mild flavor are distinctive.

“Sip, savor, and celebrate the rich flavors of the Japan beer culture.” – Liquor Laboratory 

On the other hand, Asahi is a relatively newer player in the Japanese beer scene, established in 1889.

Known for its innovative brewing techniques, Asahi Super Dry is a flagship product that revolutionized Japanese beer. I like that it exudes an exceptional balance of bitterness and smoothness.

Sapporo vs Asahi Cheat Sheet

FeatureAsahiSapporo
TypeJapanese LagerJapanese Lager
Packaging AestheticsSleek, modern design with silver beer labelClassic steel cans (instead of the American beer cans)
Founded18891876
Tasting ExperienceDry and crisp taste  Mild and clean taste
Cultural SignificanceKnown for innovationOldest brewery in Japan
Consumer PerceptionInnovative and modernTraditional and classic
Popular VariantsAsahi Prime Time, Asahi Super Dry, Asahi Black, etc.Sapporo Premium, Sapporo Draft, Sapporo Pure, etc. 
Calories40 calories (Asahi Super Dry)140 calories (Sapporo Premium)
Food PairingsJapanese cuisine like sushi and seafoodBBQ, grilled meats, and some Japanes food like Ramen

Key Differences

History

Sapporo Brewery boasts the title of being Japan’s oldest brewery [1], with roots dating back to 1876.

In 1906, Sapporo Brewery joined forces with Osaka and Japan Beer Brewing Company, and together, they created the Dai-Nippon Beer Company.

This merger was a significant move that enabled them to combine their resources and broaden their reach in Japan and the American beer market. In 1949, they decided to go separate ways.

But Sapporo beers continued to be crafted under Nippon Breweries until 1956. They’ve stayed true to their traditional brewing techniques with a long-standing reputation for quality.

Conversely, Asahi brewing history started in 1889 and has made a name for itself by pushing the boundaries of innovation in brewing.

But despite the differences in history, both are now recognizable beer brands.

Sapporo Premium Beer is the best-selling Asian beer in the US, and Asahi Super Dry is one of the most popular beer brands in Japan.

Quick Fact: Sapporo has introduced the Sapporo Beer Museum, where they beautifully present the rich history of their brewing legacy. 

Alcohol Content & IBU

Cans of Sapporo Beer

Asahi’s flagship beer, Asahi Super Dry, typically has a slightly higher alcohol content, around 5.2% ABV (Alcohol by Volume), compared to Sapporo’s 4.9% ABV.

Regarding bitterness, Sapporo beer tends to have a slightly higher IBU (International Bitterness Units) value, producing a more bitter taste than Asahi.

Read: Sake vs Soju

Brewing Process

Both the Asahi and Sapporo breweries [2] employ lagering techniques in brewing beer. Sapporo and Asahi involve these four key steps:

  • Malting
  • Mashing
  • Boiling
  • Fermenting

As you can see, the process is similar to making a lager-style beer, which captures the American beer drinkers.

However, Sapporo emphasizes traditional methods, while Asahi beers incorporate modern brewing technology for a drier and crisper taste.

So, if you opt for classic Japanese-style lagers, I recommend drinking Sapporo Premium or other beers from the brand.

Ingredients

Hops & Yeast

Hops serve as the agents responsible for infusing bitterness and aroma into the beer. But Sapporo and Asahi have their unique approaches to hop selection.

Asahi beer employs a blend of hops sourced from various corners of the world, while Sapporo opts for hops from the renowned Hallertau region in Germany.

Yeast, another essential ingredient, comes into play during fermentation, converting the sugars derived from malted barley and rice into alcohol.

Malted Barley & Rice

Both the two beers, Sapporo and Asahi beer, rely on malted barley and rice as their primary ingredients. To kickstart the malting process, barley is soaked in water, initiating germination.

Once the barley has sprouted, it’s then dried, halting the germination, and the resulting malt is roasted to enhance its flavor profile.

Rice, on the other hand, plays a role in lightening the beer’s body and imparting a refreshing, crisp taste.

Fermentation Process

Once the boiling phase is complete, beers cool down their wort and introduce yeast into the mix.

Afterward, the concoction will be transferred into a fermentation tank where the yeast gets to work, munching on the sugar and crafting alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Now, regarding Sapporo vs Asahi, these two beers both employ a bottom-fermenting yeast variety.

In simpler terms, this means that the yeast settles at the bottom of the tank during fermentation. This transformation process spans approximately two weeks.

Following this, it’s time for the beer to move to a conditioning tank, where it gracefully ages for several weeks, enhancing and maturing its flavor profile for a great beer-drinking experience.

Beer Composition

Asahi Beer Bottle

Sapporo, particularly Sapporo Premium, often has a fuller body, while Asahi beer, mainly Super Dry, provides a light and refreshing character.

Read: Hibiki Harmony Guide

Flavor Profile

Mouthfeel

When it comes to Sapporo or Asahi beers, what truly sets them apart is their unmistakably crisp and dry mouthfeel.

These brews are all about delivering a refreshing drinking experience, and Sapporo Premium fits the bill perfectly, as it falls into the category of medium-bodied beers.

The combination of carbonation and a touch of bitterness contributes to the dry sensation that lingers on the palate, while the effervescence adds a lively and tangy quality to the finish.

“Beer. Now there’s a temporary solution.” – Dan Castellaneta, American Actor

If a beer proudly bears the name “Super Dry,” you’d naturally expect it to be bone-dry. So, I must admit I was a bit surprised when I discovered that Asahi Super Dry wasn’t as dry as some of its counterparts.

But it’s worth noting that Asahi Super Dry is a highly carbonated lager [3]. After a satisfying sip, the finish does bring to mind the hoppy notes found in certain Northern German beers I’ve had the pleasure of tasting.

Read: About Japanese Whiskies

Appearance & Aroma

I’ve noticed some distinctions in terms of how Asahi beer and Sapporo look and smell.

Asahi, to begin with, boasts a pale golden hue and an aroma that’s both clean and crisp, carrying subtle notes of hops and malt.

Meanwhile, Sapporo Premium leans towards a slightly deeper gold color and provides a slightly sweeter taste and aroma, featuring hints of corn and grain.

FAQs

Why is Asahi so expensive?

Asahi Super Dry is considered an expensive, premium beer in the dry beer market due to its innovative brewing process and quality ingredients.

Is Asahi a premium beer?

Yes, Asahi is often regarded as a premium beer in the Japanese beer market [4]. Its innovative approach to brewing and distinct flavor profile position it as a popular beer and a top-tier choice.

Which is smoother, Asahi or Sapporo?

Sapporo Premium beers are generally considered smoother due to their longer fermentation process, resulting in a cleaner and silkier mouthfeel.

Why do some people prefer Sapporo over Asahi?

Some beer enthusiasts prefer Sapporo for its traditional brewing methods and the rich, Japanese malt beer flavor it offers.

Is Sapporo or Asahi better for food pairing?

Both Sapporo and Asahi are Japanese food beers. Sapporo’s clean and mild taste pairs excellently with grilled meats and barbecue dishes. Asahi’s crispness makes it a great companion for sushi and seafood.

Are there any notable variations or specialty beers offered by Asahi and Sapporo?

Both brands offer a range of variations and specialty beers. For example, Asahi Super Dry is one of the most well-known products of Asahi Breweries, while Sapporo has its Sapporo Premium Beer and Sapporo Reserve lineups. Additionally, both companies produce seasonal and limited edition beers to cater to different tastes and preferences.

Where are Asahi and Sapporo beers brewed?

Asahi and Sapporo beers are primarily brewed in Japan, but both companies have expanded their production facilities to other countries to meet the demands of international markets. Asahi Breweries has breweries in various locations including Tokyo and Hokkaido, while Sapporo Breweries also has breweries in different regions of Japan.

Do Asahi and Sapporo beers contain any additives or preservatives?

Asahi and Sapporo beers are brewed according to traditional brewing methods and generally do not contain additives or preservatives. However, it’s always a good idea to check the ingredient list on the packaging if you have specific dietary concerns.

Are Asahi and Sapporo beers widely available outside of Japan?

Yes, both Asahi and Sapporo beers are exported to many countries around the world and are commonly found in bars, restaurants, and liquor stores in various regions. They have gained popularity internationally due to their quality and unique flavors.

Final Words

In Japanese beers, both Asahi and Sapporo have their merits.

Sapporo, with its rich history and dedication to tradition, offers a smooth and classic lager experience. On the other hand, Asahi brings innovation to the forefront with its crisp and refreshing taste.

But if you ask about the best drinking beer between Asahi vs Sapporo, I prefer Asahi. Asahi’s innovation and clean, dry finish make it my best bet.

Its ability to push the boundaries of what a Japanese lager can be while maintaining a refreshing and drinkable quality sets it apart. Besides, it has fewer calories – perfect for carb-conscious beer drinkers.

But remember, the true winner is the one you enjoy most, so don’t hesitate to explore both and decide which popular Japanese beer reigns supreme. Kanpai!

References:

  1. https://news.abs-cbn.com/ancx/food-drink/features/12/19/19/the-oldest-beer-in-japan-sapporo-grew-up-to-become-everyones-go-to-bottle
  2. https://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/sapporo-breweries-limited
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713519302877
  4. https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/126271/7/Umemura.Slater.JSM.Accepted.pdf
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