Dry Beer

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Dry is an adjective that can be used to describe any beer (or any fermented beverage low in residual sweetness. However, in modern usage, Dry Beer usually refers to a specific style of extremely highly attenuated pale lager popular in Japan and briefly popular in the United States as well.

History of Dry Beer

According to Michael Jackson, Dry Beer was derived from Diat Pils, a style of highly-attenuated Pilsner intended for drinking by German diabetics. A drier version quickly gained popularity in Japan. It is still popular in many parts of Asia, represented by brands such as Asahi Super Dry, and was exported to the United States, where even drier versions created a brief marketing fad.

Modern Dry Beer

Dry Beer is characterized by unusually high attenuation, which is achieved through a combination of yeast and ingredient choice, long fermentation time, and in some cases special chemical processes designed to break down ordinarily unfermentable sugars into smaller, more fermentable ones.

As a result, dry beer has very little residual sweetness, very little beer flavor, and a slightly higher than average alcohol content. The result is a beer with a crisp bite and little or no aftertaste, said to be good for cutting through greasy or fatty foods and with a more interesting, delicate residual flavor than a typical mass-market American-style pale lager where a light flavor is obtained solely through the use of adjuncts.

Types of Dry Beer

There are some differences between the beers marketed as "Dry Beer" in Asia and in the United States. American versions of Dry Beer are brewed exclusively by large corporate macrobreweries; examples are Bud Dry and Coors Dry. They are said to be even drier than the Japanese originals, and usually also lack Asian Dry Beers' relatively high alcohol content.

Brewing Dry Beer

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Competition Styles

The BJCP does not recognize a Dry Beer style, and in BJCP competitions it should be entered into one of the BJCP's Specialty style categories. However, the GABF, with its focus on commercial beer, does have a Dry Beer category.

GABF Style Listings

While most commercial examples are brewed in Asia, the GABF guidelines define only a "American-Style" category. Asian-style dry beers are probably close enough to be entered into this category, although authentic versions may be too high in alcohol for the categroy; they may also be entered as one of the GABF's specialty beer styles.

American-Style Dry Lager

27A. American-Style Dry Lager
GABF Style Listing (2007)
This straw colored lager lacks sweetness, is light in body, and is only mildly flavored by malt. Its alcoholic strength may contribute to the overall flavor character. Bitterness is low and carbonation is high. Chill haze, fruity esters, and diacetyl should be absent.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.040-1.050 (10-12.5 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.004-1.008 (1-2 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 3.6-4.5% (4.3-5.5%)
Bitterness (IBU): 15-23
Color SRM (EBC): 2-4 (5-8 EBC)