A mere two weeks into business and word must have spread like wildfire because right when the clock hits 5 p.m. and Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar’s first overseas outlet opens, customers start filing in.
Within 30 minutes five out of a total of 10 tables are already taken. The drinks start flowing and so does the conversation.
What’s the main attraction?
The beer ― which is served between 0 to -2.2 degrees Celsius, lower than the average serving temperature of around 3 ― appears to be the primary draw.
|Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar Seoul’s spicy fried chicken (front) and Asahi’s uber-cold Super Dry (back, left) and Dry-Dry Black draft beer. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
“If you serve draft beer below zero, the foam gets softer and therefore dissolves more slowly,” LOTTE Asahi Liquor Co., Ltd marketing assistant Lee Jae-chan explained of the logistics of an under zero draft brew. “The foam helps insulate the beer’s carbonation and thereby helps maintain it.”
In layman’s terms, if the theory holds, that means a gulp of under zero beer should go down extra fizzy.
Beer aficionados know that under zero draft beer is not new. It has been available as early as 2005, but according to LOTTE Asahi marketing team senior manager Shin Woo-bok, it has yet to go mainstream.
However, there are signs that the uber-cold beer may catch on.
There are currently at least five places in Korea that serve draft beer at temperatures under zero degrees Celsius. The opening of Asahi Extra Cold Bar might signal the spread of the under zero draft beer trend.
According to Asahi Group Holdings, the Japanese beer brand launched its first Extra Cold Bar in Tokyo’s posh Ginza district in 2010. Within three years, the number of Cold Bar outlets has jumped to eight.
|At the Asahi Super Dry Extra Cold Bar in Seoul, draft beer is served from special towers at 0 to -2.2 degrees Celsius. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
While the Extra Cold Bars are only open for a limited period of time on an annual basis, around 5,000 spots in Japan are dispensing Asahi’s super cold beer year-round.
Should response be equally good in Korea then a similar expansion might occur here.
Shin, however, said there are no plans at the moment to rent out special draft towers to establishments in Korea and Lee says no decision has been made on whether or not to hold the event again next year,
The Extra Cold Bar in Seoul, says Shin, is also meant to help maintain Asahi’s number one position in Korea’s increasingly competitive imported beer market. According to LOTTE Asahi, Asahi Super Dry has been Korea’s top-selling imported beer for two years running.
“We wanted to provide our customers with a special experience,” said Shin, 41, explaining how the bar was organized by Japan’s Asahi Breweries and the brand’s official Korean distributor, LOTTE Asahi.
The bar, which is located near Seoul’s Gangnam Subway Station, will be open until Sept. 30. Set up like a tapas-style bar, the small space sports ten, standing-only tables.
The menu is pared-down with a variety of 12 bites and two brews, Asahi Super Dry and Super Dry-Dry Black, on tap.
The simple, no-frills approach works.
Nibbles like the succulent spicy fried chicken pair wonderfully with the creamy beer, while the casual vibe makes for a relaxed pre- or post-dinner hour or two.
“Careful attention was paid to the menu and it was kept reasonably-priced,” said Shin, adding that the food also played an important role because of the Korean custom of pairing alcohol with anju (tapas-like dishes), meaning customers would likely want to have something to eat with their beer.
“The spicy chicken is quite popular as well as the croquettes,” Shin said.
Lee revealed there are no current plans to extend the duration of the event, which means that those who want a taste of Asahi’s uber-cold draft beer will need to make it to the bar by the end of September.
By Jean Oh (email@example.com