How to make a dry homebrew beer - a guide to get that crisp Japanese taste

Tuesday, January 23, 2024
All beer is wet.

Except when it's dry.

Then it's a dry beer.  

So what is a dry beer?

Such a beer has a crisp finish, a light body and has no sweetness to taste, indeed a dry beer leaves little after taste.

You might have heard of the Asahi Super Dry? It was one of the original popular beers of its kind that came to dominate the Japanese beer market for a time.

If you're keen on making a dry beer, this guide may help you find your way

This guide delves into the process of brewing a dry beer at home, covering essential steps, tips, and techniques to achieve that perfect dry finish.

guide to brew dry style beers

Understanding what makes a Dry Beer tick

Before diving into the brewing process, it's important to understand what makes a beer 'dry'. The dryness of a beer is primarily determined by the balance between sweetness and bitterness, along with the level of residual sugars present after fermentation. 

In dry beers, the yeast consumes most of the fermentable sugars, leaving less sweetness in the final product. This results in a beer with a clean, crisp finish, often with a pronounced hop character.

We are certainly not making stout here!

Selecting suitable ingredients for a dry lager


The malt selection is a critical factor in brewing a dry beer, as it directly influences the fermentability of the wort and the final flavor profile. Malts that are highly fermentable and less sweet are preferable for achieving a dry finish. Let's delve deeper into suitable malt choices and their impact on brewing dry beer.

Ideal Malts for Dry Beer
  • Pilsner Malt: A classic choice for many beer styles, Pilsner malt is light in color and flavor, offering a clean and crisp character. It is highly fermentable, which makes it an excellent base malt for brewing dry lagers and ales.
  • Pale Ale Malt: This malt is slightly more robust than Pilsner malt, providing a subtle malt character while still being highly fermentable. It's a versatile base malt that can be used in a range of beer styles aiming for a dry finish.
  • 2-Row Malt: A common base malt in American brewing, 2-Row malt has a neutral flavor profile and high fermentability. It's a great foundation for brewing dry beers where the focus is on hops or yeast character.
  • 6-Row Malt: Similar to 2-Row, but with a slightly higher enzyme content, 6-Row malt is another option for highly fermentable base malt. It can be particularly useful when brewing with adjuncts that require additional enzymes for full fermentation.
  • Vienna Malt: While slightly richer in flavor than Pilsner or Pale Ale malts, Vienna malt can still contribute to a dry beer, especially when used in moderation. It adds a subtle toastiness and complexity to the beer.
  • Munich Malt: Like Vienna malt, Munich malt is a bit richer but can be used in small quantities to add depth and a hint of sweetness without compromising the dry finish. It's often used in darker or more robust lagers.
Malts to Avoid for Dry Beer
  • Caramel/Crystal Malts: These malts are known for their unfermentable sugars, which add sweetness and body to the beer. They are less suitable for dry beer styles as they can leave residual sugars that counteract the desired dryness.
  • Specialty Malts (Dark or Roasted): While they can add color and complexity, dark or roasted malts often contribute unfermentable sugars and strong flavors. Use them sparingly or avoid them altogether when aiming for a dry beer.
guide to making Japanese style dry beer

Malt Usage and Considerations

When brewing a dry beer, the proportion of base malt to specialty malt is crucial. A higher percentage of base malt ensures greater fermentability, while specialty malts should be used judiciously to avoid adding too much residual sweetness or overpowering flavors.

Additionally, the mashing process plays a significant role in how the sugars from the malts are converted. Mashing at lower temperatures (around 148-152°F or 64-67°C) encourages the production of more fermentable sugars, enhancing the potential for a dry finish.


Yeast selection is critical for achieving a dry beer. Choose a yeast strain that has a high attenuation rate, meaning it can ferment a larger percentage of sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeasts used in brewing dry beers include certain ale strains (like American or English ale yeasts) and lager yeasts, depending on the style you're aiming for.

You could consider these lager yeasts:


Hops can enhance the dry character of your beer by contributing bitterness and aromatic qualities. Consider using hops with a higher alpha acid content to achieve a good balance of bitterness. The choice of hops also depends on the beer style you're brewing.

Here are some hop varieties commonly used in brewing dry lager beers, along with their distinctive qualities:
  • Saaz: Originating from the Czech Republic, Saaz is a classic hop used in many traditional lager styles, especially Czech Pilsners. It is renowned for its mild, earthy, and herbal characteristics, imparting a delicate bitterness and a distinctly pleasant aroma.
  • Hallertau Mittelfrüh: A traditional German noble hop, Hallertau Mittelfrüh is prized for its mild, floral, and slightly spicy notes. It is often used in German lagers, including Munich Helles and various Pilsner styles, providing a refined and balanced bitterness.
  • Tettnang: Another noble hop from Germany, Tettnang offers a slightly floral and spicy profile. It is well-suited for lager styles where a subtle hop presence is desired, contributing to the beer's crisp and clean finish.
  • Spalt: This German hop is known for its mild and slightly spicy characteristics. Spalt hops are often used in traditional German lagers, adding a nuanced bitterness and aroma that complements the malt profile without overpowering it.
  • Perle: A versatile hop with German origins, Perle provides a moderate level of bitterness along with floral and slightly spicy notes. It's a great choice for lagers that require a firmer bitterness while maintaining a clean and balanced profile.
  • Hersbrucker: Another noble variety, Hersbrucker hops are used in a variety of German lagers. They offer a mild and pleasant aroma with floral and herbal notes, contributing to the overall delicacy and drinkability of the beer.
  • Noble Hops (General): In addition to the specific varieties mentioned, noble hops as a group (which include Saaz, Hallertau, Tettnang, and Spalt) are frequently used in brewing dry lagers. These hops are known for their low to moderate bitterness and delicate, refined aromas.
When brewing a dry lager, the hop schedule and the amount used are crucial. Typically, hops are added during the boil for bitterness, and sometimes late in the boil or during fermentation (dry hopping) for aroma. The key is to achieve a balance that complements the clean and dry character of the lager, without overwhelming the subtle flavors and aromas inherent in this style of beer.


The water profile can impact the perception of dryness in your beer. Water with higher sulfate content can enhance the hop bitterness, contributing to a drier finish.

Good luck with testing your water supply...

How to make a dry homebrew beer - a guide to get that crisp Japanese taste

The Brewing Process for making dry beer

Mashing at a lower temperature range, around 148-152°F (64-67°C), encourages the production of more fermentable sugars, which the yeast can fully consume. A thinner mash, with a higher water-to-grain ratio, can also promote higher fermentability.

A longer boil can help reduce the water content, concentrating the wort and potentially enhancing the final beer's dryness. However, be mindful of the balance between boil time and the risk of creating unwanted caramelization or Maillard reactions.

Controlled fermentation is key. Maintain a steady fermentation temperature suitable for your yeast strain. For a drier beer, allowing the fermentation to fully complete is essential. This might mean leaving the beer in the fermenter for a longer period, even after the active fermentation signs subside.

Dry beers often benefit from higher carbonation levels, which can accentuate the crispness and refreshment factor. Carbonate your beer to the higher end of the style's recommended range or to your personal preference.

What to do after brewing your dry beer

Allow your beer to condition properly. 

Brewing a dry beer at home requires attention to detail at every step of the process. From selecting the right ingredients to meticulous control during brewing and fermentation, each aspect plays a crucial role in achieving that desired dry character. Experimentation and practice are key, as slight variations can significantly impact the final product. Embrace the journey of home brewing, and enjoy the refreshing and satisfying experience of crafting your own dry beer.

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