An Ultimate Guide For Korean Beer
Don’t you just love a cold beer? A pint that takes the edge of life. One that lets you relax while you sit out in a beer garden. I love it, and if you’re reading this, you probably love it too.
If you’re new to Korea, or are just curious about Korean beers, I want to give you an insight into the best and worst Korean beers money can buy.
I will start with the traditional beers that have been around for the longest, like OB and Cass, and then move onto the more trendy craft beers that has set the market alight: Jeju Brewery is one that comes to mind.
So sit tight, grab a cold one and let’s make a toast to Korean beer- 건배.
Benefits of Beer
Beer, which is essentially the fermentation of grain, is revered around the world. Especially in Korea, where they treasure alcohol like a pirate treasures gold. But as you probably know, having one too many can have lasting implications on your health. Alcohol dependence and liver implications are just a few to name. However, when you drink beer in moderation, your body can pull all the goodness from this glorious drink to give you a health boost. Remember, I’m talking about keeping it under 14 units a week. 14 units is the recommended daily allowance, which is about 6 pints of average strength beer.
So what does the science say. Well, Scientific studies have shown that beer has several health benefits for us. Some major ones are:
- Improved Heart Health.
- Prevention of Kidney stones.
- Improved creativity.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Prevention of type 2 diabetes.
Just remember, moderation is the key.
What’s the general consensus on Korean beer?
If you go into any Korean convenient store, you will see the standard, 4 beers for 10 thousand won. A generous offer considering it includes imports like Heineken and Stella. If you buy imported beer in Korea, it will set you back a lot more than if you were to buy Korean staples like Cass or Hite. So more often than not, people choose the 4 for 10 deal because it includes a wide selection of imports. If you wanted, you can go all in and just buy the foreign beers. This is what I do because I prefer drinking Corona over Cass. I think younger Koreans prefer drinking imported beer too. I often see them going all out for the imports; Hands full, until they reach the checkout.
The older generation sip soju and you’ll see a few bottles of Cass circling the BBQ grills. I’m not sure if they like the beer or they’re just drinking it because it’s the most abundant beer you’ll find in Korea.
To get an interesting insight into what Koreans think about their beer, one major news outlet in Korea, The Korean times, conducted a little poll. 57 percent of the 370 respondents said they disliked Korean beer. One person went as far as saying: “They taste like an accident in a chemical lab,”
What I can say is that they not that bad. Maybe this respondent was an importer of Foreign beers. Nevertheless, you get the general thinking by some people.
Should I buy Korean beer?
Well, you can buy the mass-produced beer like Cass and Hite for a couple thousand won cheaper in the shops, but why would you when you can get a better tasting beer for a negligible difference in price. Still, Korean beer isn’t the worst beer in the world, and I’ve found that when I’m out, I can drink it. But it’s not something I would buy for my little fridge at home.
When you’re out and about in Korea, you will definitely encounter Korean beers. It could be Kloud, but more often than not, it’s Cass or Hite.
So with that in mind, I thought I would draw up a beer list. One that will help you decide the most drinkable Korean beer. So, to start things off, let’s begin with my least favorite.
Korean Beers ranked worst to Best
Nick’s Beer Review.
6. Max Beer
One beer that I try avoiding is creamy Max.
I’m not too up on creamy soothing beers, which this beverage proud’s itself on. You can find max beer in Chicken shops up and down Korea.
Alongside your finger licking chicken, you will also probably order a cold one too. Soon enough, the waiter will bring a Max beer over. Make sure you pack an ice cream scooper. You will need one to shovel the froth into an empty cup. Sometimes there is more froth than beer.
Jokes aside, instead of Max, go for a bottled beer like Terra or Cass.
5. OB Premium
OB is a thick all- malt beverage made from German noble hops. As you might have guessed, I might pass on this one too. But if I had to choose between this or Max beer, I would go for OB Premier every time. This towers over max for its taste.
To be honest, I think Oriental brewery have tried to develop a European tasting malt beer and have done a decent job. The CEO of Oriental Brewery, Chang In-Soo states: “We insist that the hops and yeast used in The Premier OB precisely follow the traditional recipe of the Bavarian Imperial House beer,” As you can see, if you want a European tasting malt beer, try your taste buds with OB premium.
Hite Extra Cold is a popular Korean lager that competes with Cass for the number one beer spot in Korea. It’s sweet and golden and best drank chilled.
Hite is Korea’s version of Budweiser. It’s commonly sold to the masses and if you go into the supermarkets, you often see some impressive deals to go along with the beer. In the summer months they regularly pack cooler bags full of Hite bottles to keep your beers extra cold.
Hite, although better than some others on offer, is not my favorite beer. I think it’s drinkable, but only when it’s freezing. If you have the option between Hite and Cass, I would say pick Cass.
Hitejinro advertise Terra as “Clean and Crisp”. I have to admit, it’s not that far off its official description. Although Terra can’t stand next to the Heineikens; it tries its very best.
This beer comes to you in a green bottle, which looks very different to the blue that we see with Cass and Hite. When I first saw it, I thought it was an import from Australia. I didn’t realise it was a cousin of Hite until someone told me.
Hitejinro Brewery make this beer with malt grown from Australia. Maybe that’s why it holds up well, compared to some other Korean beers. Terra has a refreshing taste, and one that I would choose if I was out at the restaurant.
Lotte joined the fray in 2014 with its attempt at creating a beer. Klaud is a 5% beer fermented without the dilution of water. Instead of water dilution, Lotte use the gravity method which they say helps bring out more flavour.
Kloud crushes Hite for taste and certainly kicks Max out of the ballpark. Overall, it’s not a bad drink to have at a Korean bar.
Oriental Brewery took the 2020 Korean beer award yet again this year. So that means Cass has won the race for the best beer five years in a row.
Introduced in 1994, it can now boast a current market share of 36 percent. As you can see, Cass is dominating the domestic beer market. With its brand firmly rooted amongst the older generation and its sleek advertising to reign in the younger adults, I can’t see it being pushed off the top spot for a long time.
More so, Oriental Brewery have pledged that it will make all its packaging 100% recyclable. Up from 96 to 97% the year before. This brewery is really making a statement and honestly trying to cut its plastic use. In 2019 they sponsored the Daegu Chicken and beer festival and introduced biodegradable beer cups. Hats off to OB for trying to save the environment.
Cass is probably the best Korean beer you will find in Korea. It’s popular and well suited for soju cocktails and alongside your grilled bbq.
The Best Korean Craft Beer
Let’s dive a little deeper into my fridge and have a look at some craft beers Korean brewers offer.
Craft beer has exploded onto the scene these past couple of years, and rightly so. I was getting fed up with the limited choice of average domestic brands.
With a vast variety of locally produced beers, it’s an absolute treat for us. If you’re on holiday or a business trip, pick up a few bottles of beer with a place name on like Jeju ale. It’s a great souvenir.
I will give you some beers I like. But there’re tons more which you can find out with a little searching, like the beers I stumbled on below.
1. Jeju Wit Ale
One of my favorite Korean craft beers you can pick up at local convenience stores in Korea is Jeju Wit Ale. Made from organic Jeju orange peels, this beer brims with flavour. I also like their Jeju Pellong Ale.
2. Sujubeun Peach Ale
This award-winning fruity craft beer is perfect for summer. With a peach aroma, this would pair perfectly with picnics in the park. Head down to your local Lotte mart to pick up a few.
3. Kukmin IPA
This IPA pours golden, with an explosive mix of fruits and honey. It has a pleasing after taste that leans more on the sweeter side, with no bitterness. The Booth Brewing Company have a fantastic selection of craft beers to try. Check out there website here.
Here are some more Korean craft beers to check out:
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