The Economist makes a complaint often heard: The food in South Korea is great, but the beer is well, you know, just…boring.
Adding insult to hangover, it says North Korean beer is better.
Some South Korean beers skimp on barley malt, using the likes of rice in its place. Others are full of corn. And despite the recent creation of Hite Dry Finish—a step in the right direction—brewing remains just about the only useful activity at which North Korea beats the South. The North’s Taedonggang Beer, made with equipment imported from Britain, tastes surprisingly good.
An editorial in Dong-a Ilbo says that Korean brewers aren’t taking the rice and corn accusations so well, and are claiming that The Economist is full of it.
South Korean beer companies denied the allegations, with one saying, “Most (South) Korean beers contain more than 70 percent malt, and some including Hite Max of Hite and OB Golden Lager of OB contain 100 percent malt. Rice and corn are not cheaper than malt, and these grains are used in the mixture to generate a mild taste.”
The Ilbo also adds that the locally brewed version of Hoegaarden (mediocre) shows that the South is on the cutting edge of beer technology. And besides, Korean brewers claim, the domestic market likes its beer boring.
Other than Belgium, Hoegaarden is produced in South Korea and Russia only, which demonstrates how advanced South Korea’s beer production technology is. Hite and OB Brewery say differences in flavor between imported and Korean beers are due to consumer preference.
They are drafting a letter of complaint (perhaps to be sent in a bottle) to The Economist.