Seoul is a major importer of Beer and has an outstanding selection of brands. S. Korea also brews its own beer (Cass, Hite, Cafri, Max, OB) and sake. Unfortunately, beer of exceptional quality produced in S. Korea is hard to come by. Most Korean beer is on par with the U.S. Brands –Budweiser, Miller and Coors etc., “good, but nothing to write home about.” In the past, because of overburdening regulations, microbreweries have remained out of the picture (big business protectionism –is my guess) However, recent changes in regulation have afforded opportunities that one foreign company took and created the Craftworks Taphouse and Bistro Microbrewery –Seoul’s first microbrewery. It’s in Itaewon.
A cold beer hits the spot after hard day’s work, or for me, after a long hot bike ride. Beer is enjoyed throughout most of the world and in Seoul there is a large variety. I've taken advantage of that. For the past year, I have been sampling and comparing my thoughts to the reviews published on the expert panel on BeerAdvocate.com (a comprehensive beer lovers website complete with beer reviews and discussions). What I discovered was, a huge disparity in quality and taste, from one beer to another exists.
My photo-journal and favorites
I created a photo-journal of beer and alcohol in Emart which is the Walmart/Target of Seoul. They have a large selection. Many brands I haven’t sampled yet and remain on my to-do list, but of the ones I have tried, Duvel (8.2% alcohol), Schnieder Weisse (all “Taps”, but very notable is “Tap 5” –8.2%), Weihenstephaner (all types, especially “Vitus” 8.2%) are excellent brands. Beer Advocate agrees having graded all with 90% and over, Duvel approaching 100%.
Its best to drink beer just over 45 Fahrenheit; if it’s too cold flavors aren’t released, similar to red wine, and you miss out on taste. Beer experts break beer tasting into a number of categories including: appearance, smell, taste, mouth-feel and overall experience. Each of the categories is scrutinized and receives a written report.
There are many health benefits associated with drinking beer. According to an article written by Lisa Collier Cool at least 10 health benefits can be attributed to drinking beer. Apparently beer contains a lot of Silicon and linked to higher bone density and lower rates of fracturing. Italian researchers found a 31% decrease of heart disease in those who drank a pint of beer per day. A Finish study revealed a 40% lower risk of developing kidney stones. It is thought that beer prevents the dissolution of bone and thus the formation of kidney stones. A 2005 study revealed a 20% decrease in developing Alzheimer’s disease as well as increased mental alertness for those who consumed one drink per day. A Portuguese study found that marinating steak in beer removes its carcinogens. A Dutch study found that beer drinkers had 30% higher levels of B6. It turns out that beer prevents the formation of clots thus decreases the chances of suffering from stroke. Should I also mention that it was found that beer drinkers are less likely to develop diabetes, have lower blood pressure and live longer? Of course it goes without saying that you should drink responsibly, that participants in the studies drank reasonable quantities and not to the point of falling down drunk.
If Beer’s not for you
I have a few friends that don’t like beer and for them there are a number of popular alternatives. First, Soju is made from the distillation of rice and various starches. It tastes like a weak Vodka and is sold in nearly every convenience store. It is cheap and can leave its drinkers with bad hangovers especially if they’ve had a little too much of it. Second, mokgeolli, is a mild, milky white, sweet drink and is quite tasty. Korean Sake is also a wonderful alternative. There are a number of varieties with differing qualities. Lastly, there are many imported wines and liquors. In the end, there is always something for everyone.