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, I’m guessing you love it too.
If you’re new to Korea, or just curious about Korean beers, I want to give you an insight into the best Korean beer brands to try.
I’m not a beer expert so I won’t be able to give you hard facts about each beer. But I can give you a description and a flavor of what’s on offer.
I will start with the mainstream Korean beers that have been around for the longest, like OB and Cass, and then move on to the more trendy craft beers that have set the market alight like Jeju Brewery and Kabrew.
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 Koreans treasure alcohol like pirates treasure 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. But, 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 are the recommended daily allowance- that’s 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 that moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle.
What’s the general consensus on Korean beer?
If you go into any Korean convenience store you will see the standard four beers for 10,000 won. This is seriously cheap. Although, cheap now, I have a feeling that this offer isn’t going to last. Inflation is already pushing the price of everything up, including beer. For example, in 2022 Oriental Brewery which makes Cass and OB lager raised the price of its beers by 7.7%. This is the first time in nearly 6 years- yikes.
At the moment those bargain deals you find at GS25 and E-Mart are still very generous.
Also, if you were to buy imported beer without using the deals in Korea, it would set you back more than if you were to buy Korean mainstream beers like, Cass or Hite.
More often than not people go for the deal’s on offer because it includes a wide selection of imports.
This is what I do. I prefer drinking Corona over Cass. I also think younger Koreans prefer drinking imported beer too. I often see the baskets overflowing as they head to the checkout.
The older generation sips soju.
You’ll see a few bottles of Cass circling the BBQ grills. But in general, there will be smaller green soju bottles than long brown beer bottles.
Is Korean beer tasty?
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.
What I can say is that Korean beer is bang average. It goes well with food. But I wouldn’t order it at a bar unless they were selling it for 5,000 won.
Should I buy Korean beer?
Well, you can buy 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 price difference? 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.
Where can I buy Korean Beer?
When you’re out and about in Korea you will encounter Korean beers. It will probably be Kloud, but more often than not, it’s will be Cass or Hite.
If you’re in Korea head down to your local supermarket. It is here that you will find the best selection and most affordable prices.
What is the Best Korean Beer?
Everyone has their favorites. Mine is Cass. But i’ve been gravitating to craft beers a lot more these days.
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.
What’s the most popular beer in Korea?
Korean mainstream Beers ranked
Nick’s Beer Review.
6. Max Beer
Alcohol content: 4.5%
Beer type: All Malt Beer
Price: (500ml) 2300KRW
One beer YOU SHOULD AVOID 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 Max over to you. When Max sits down alongside you make sure to ask the waiter for 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
Alcohol content: 4.6%
Beer Type: Adjunct Lager
Price: (500ml) 2300KRW
Oriental breweries goes back decades. Back to the ’50’s’!
OB is a thick all-malt beverage made from German noble hops. It has a mild taste that feels overly carbonated. 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 taste.
To be honest I think Oriental brewery tried to develop a European-tasting malt beer; they tried their best and it’s bang average. 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, give your taste buds a bottle of OB premium.
Alcohol content: 4.3%
Beer Type: Pale Larger
Price (500ml) 2500KRW
Hite Extra Cold is a popular Korean lager that is produced by Hitejinro. This popular beer competes with Cass for the number-one spot in Korea. Hite extra cold tastes sweet and golden and is best drank 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.
I feel like Hite is lighter than cass. It sits right in the middle for taste. It doesn’t have a strong or rich taste. I would go for Terra over Hite.
Hite, although better than some others on offer is not my favorite beer. I think it’s drinkable, but only when it’s ice cold. If you have the option between Hite and Cass then you should pick Cass.
Alcohol content: 4.6%
Beer Type: Adjunct Larger
Price (500ml) 2300KRW
Hitejinro advertises 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 Heinekens – it tries its very best.
This beer comes to you in a green bottle, which looks very different from 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 realize it was a cousin of Hite until someone told me.
Hitejinro Brewery makes this beer with malt grown from Australia. Maybe that’s why it holds up well, compared to some other Korean beers. Terra has a clean and refreshing taste, and one that I would choose if I was out at the restaurant.
Alcohol content: 5.0%
Beer Type: Pilsner
Price (500ml) 2500 KRW
Lotte joined the fray in 2014 with its attempt at creating a beer. And long and behold they came up with Kaloud.
Klaud is a 5% beer fermented without the dilution of water. Instead of water dilution, Lotte uses the gravity method which they say helps bring out more flavor.
Kloud devours Hite for taste and certainly kicks Max out of the ballpark. Overall, it’s not a bad drink to have at a Korean bar.
Kloud has a fruity taste with a light body. I would say it’s very easy to drink and pairs well with snacks, like peanuts and chips.
Alcohol content: 4.5 %
Beer Type: Adjunct Larger
Price (500ml): 2700 KRW
Oriental Brewery took the 2020 Korean beer award yet again. So that means Cass has won the race for the best beer, five years in a row.
Introduced in 1994, cass 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.
Cass has a crisp and refreshing taste. It delivers with its more refined and deeper flavor that lingers on your taste buds for a while.
More so, Oriental Brewery has pledged that it will make all its packaging 100% recyclable. Up from 96 to 97% the year before. This brewery is 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 food.
The Best Korean Craft Beer Brands
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 on 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 flavor. 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 aftertaste that leans more on the sweeter side with no bitterness. The Booth Brewing Company has a fantastic selection of craft beers to try. Check out their website here.
Here are some more Korean craft beers to check out:
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