Seoul Beer

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Photo by Mallory Dowd

While Cass and Hite are still very much the Houses Targaryen and Baratheon, fighting constantly over the Iron Throne of the Republic of Korea, there are some up and comers vying for attention. The Lord Baelish's of the world, if you will. Personally, I will not compare anything I enjoy to that wretched worm, but you get the idea.

Not shockingly the vast majority of these upstanding beer barons are in Seoul, the King's Landing of Korea. While most of the country is still growing into its very large shoes, Seoul is a step ahead in almost every respect: the arts, culture, diversity, food, and most importantly around here: beer. While a lot of Korea still very much feels like a small town, Seoul is becoming a world city and craft beer is starting to take hold.

If you find yourself in the heart of the Land of Morning Calm, here are some watering holes to stop by. They're broken down by neighborhood to make your travels a little easier.

Itaewon

+82 2-794-2537
11:00am–3:00am

Always save the best for last? No. No thank you. Craftworks is far and away making the best beer in the country. This statement sounds bold, but there really isn't a shit ton of competition. However, if competition were plentiful, Craftworks would still very much hold its own. A self-proclaimed "foreign-run brewing enterprise," Craftworks has the largest selection of craft ales and even a stout.

On tap you'll find their Bukhansan Pale Ale, Geumgang Mountain Dark Ale, Bäekdusan Fefeweizen, Halla Mountain Golden Ale, Jirisan Moon Bear IPA, Seorak Oatmeal Stout, and Namsan Pure Pilsner. While these are pretty standard fair for most microbrews, I cannot describe what an absolute delight they are here. Again, beyond the novelty of simply having them, Craftworks does all of these standbys quite well. They even have two seasonals, the floral and summery Gwanaksan Kölsch, and the pumpkin pie flavored Hobak Pumpkin Spice IPA.

During my visit I sipped on the Jirisan Moon Bear IPA and Geumgang Mountain Dark Ale. The Geumgang is a lightly hopped nut-brown and ridiculously drinkable. As with most beer folk, I truly love a good IPA and the Jirisan does not disappoint. With Centennial, Cascade and Chinook hops all playing gleefully to the sound of 95 IBUs, the strong citrus and floral notes simply serve as palate pleasers.


In fairness to reality... I didn't actually get either of the beers I tried on tap at Craftworks itself. Despite claiming the hours of 11:00am–3:00am, they were closed for my 1:00pm lunch visit. On a Saturday. Such is Korea. Luckily, Vatos Urban Tacos is a short walk from Craftworks Taphouse and has a few of their beers on tap. The tacos themselves were tiny and not altogether great, but the atmosphere and the beer are worth the visit if you're in the mood.

Regardless of where you get it, be sure you get these beers. This is one of maybe three craft beer places in the country that isn't strictly serving Dunkel and Weizen. German style beer is good an all that, but Craftworks has beer that'll please the 'Merican tastes one such as myself craves.

Finding Craftworks

Come out exit 2 of Noksapyeong Station. Walk until you hit the pedestrian underpass and go under. Take the left exit in the underpass. Cross the street to get to Noxa Lounge. Craftworks is a few doors down from Noxa. Or use the Google Maps link from the address above.

Hongdae

Castle Praha
Castle Praha Building, 395-19 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu
+82 2-334-2121
11:30am–3:00am (Sunday and holidays 11:30am–midnight)

It's a fucking castle. A castle with Czech beer on tap. This place is Medieval Times meets beer hall meets TGIFridays and yet it's still spectacular. Their offerings include a Granat lager, a slightly bitter pilsner, the dark Dunkel, and surprisingly tasty Red (the Dunkel and Red are featured in the photo). Perhaps more shocking than the level of cheese this place gets away with are the prices of ₩5,500-₩7,000 for a glass of their in-house goodness.

Before fully taking the reins of the citadel of Hongdae, brewmaster Kim Heesang studied under the guidance of his Czech predecessor, Zdenek Fousek. Now solely responsible for the barley pops making their way to oversized wooden tables, Mr. Kim has made a seamless transition into serving the Eastern European style brews so many know and love.

As for the beer itself, it will not disappoint. The dunkel is malty and smooth with just a tiny hint of bitterness. The red was a little off from what one may expect of a true ale and wound up tasting more like a red lager, but in fairness that may actually be what it was. The translations don't always get it 100% right. Either way, it was enjoyable enough to finish the glass while sitting on the third floor balcony of a fucking castle! It's a castle in the middle of Seoul!

Finding Castle Praha

Come out Hongik University Station at exit 9, walk straight until you get to Bobo Hotel (about 550 meters), and make a left. Castle Praha will be down the third alley on your right.

Slightly confused?

Yeah, so was I. Just use the Google Map link if you can. Or, if all else fails, the Korean word for castle is seong (성). Just ask around on the streets of Hongdae and a local will most likely be able to point you in the right direction.


Oktoberfest Beer Hall
162-6 Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu
+82 2-323-8081
4:00pm–1:00am (Sunday and holidays 4:00pm–midnight)

This short list concludes with the Hongdae branch of Oktoberfest. Much like Castle Praha, it's a chain and has five branches around Seoul. This one is the closest to the castle, so that's where I went. The interior is extremely massive and truly feels more like a beer hall than anything else. Though some of the enormous copper pipes are simply for decoration, others serve up their in-house Dunkel and Weizen.

If you're sick of reading about these two choices on this blog you are not alone. As I've mentioned before, the Korean crème de la crème of beer always comes down to these two. Though I'm pretty sure it's the simple ingredients list that leads to these being brewed everywhere, others have told me it's due to a love of German beer. Regardless of the reasoning, or a slightly jaded perception, these are solid brews. The Hefe tastes slightly of banana and cloves with a dry and tart edge, and the Dunkel is toasted maltiness in a glass. Snack on some encased meat while you're at it and you can't go wrong.

Finding Oktoberfest

Take exit 9 from Hongik University Station, then follow the road until you come to Oktoberfest on your left. It's slightly hidden, but has a big ol yellow sign that should help. You'll most likely pass it once or twice if you don't have GPS on you.

Honorable Mentions

My visit to Seoul was a brief one and unfortunately didn't revolve around beer the entire time. This is a list of places I had hoped to visit, but just couldn't fit em in.

  • Reilly’s Taphouse - Itaewon gastropub serving up 30+ premium domestic and imported craft/micro beers on tap & fine cuisine.
  • Bars with a View - CNN Travel list of bars with some great views of the city.
  • FREE REFILLS! - List of places to drink on the super cheap, including a Makkeolli refill station, ₩8,000 all-you-can-drink, and a BYOB – Brew Your Own Beer place.

1 comments:

  1. So thankful for Craftworks. Also, Castle Praha is very cool. Like you wrote, cheesy but still awesome. Thanks for sharing the google map links!

    ReplyDelete

 

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