Korean beer consumers voting with their feet

Many foreign beer drinkers complain that Korean beers suck.  Comments range from donkey piss to kinda drinkable if really, really cold.  Personally, I like Korean beer with spicy Korean food and have never really thought of Korean beers as terrible.  However, there is nothing like the free market to bring out a little objectivity to the debate.

According to data from the Korea Customs Service consumption of imported beer has risen sharply:

South Korea’s beer imports reached a record-high level in the first half of this year, exceeding the nation’s beer exports.

Beer imports to the country surged 28.5 percent on-year to US$50.8 million during the January-June period, the highest figure since comparable numbers were first made available in 2000…

[…]

Imported beer[‘s] tonnage has increased more than 15 times since 2000…

So, are the Koreans flocking to British stouts or American lagers?  No.

Imports of Japanese beer came to 13,818 tons, accounting for the largest portion of the figure at 25.8 percent. The list was trailed by the Netherlands, Germany, and China at 8,887 tons, 7,825 tons and 5,067 tons, respectively.

Nippon number one!  At least in beer imports.

Netherlands?  Would that mean Heinekens are popular in Korea?

  • redwhitedude

    This is sounding like the complaint that I hear about Spaniards and coffee in the US.

    Frankly Warsteiner should just flood Korea with their beer. I am not impressed with the beer scene in Korea.

  • A Korean

    List your favorite beers here.

    I’m partial to Pilsener Urquel, Budwesier Budvar, Stouts and Dunkels.

    Brooklyn Lager I liked.

    Not a big fan of funky Belgium-style tutty-frutty stuff. Although some strawberry(?)-flavored something or other was pretty decent.

    The best? Old Milwaukee/Milwaukee’s Best – two bucks a six-pack – can’t beat it.

    Honorable mention goes to Colt 45 and King Cobra, best consumed in a a brown paperback at an alley around the corner from the liquor store.

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.kr/ Horace Jeffery Hodges

    I think you mean “Pilsner Urquell.” It’s currently my favorite. It’s the best, anyway, at the corner store where I sometimes sneak off for a beer that my wife would consider too expensive for me to drink. I like the hopped-up taste — most pilsners don’t have that. I happen to like pilsner beers anyway for their crisp, clean flavor, so this hoppy variant is great, given my preferences.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • A Korean

    Yeah, it’s got the clean refreshing lager taste with the hoppy ale flavor. It’s like a Bavarian lager truck and a London stout truck collided.

    “Pilsner” has become a meaningless term.

  • A Korean

    “Honorable mention goes to Colt 45 and King Cobra, best consumed in a a
    brown paperback at an alley around the corner from the liquor store.”

    Don’t forget the first pour for your “dead hommies”.

  • brier

    The new domestic beers are a step in the right direction. Hite’s Queen’s Ale; OB’s Aleston; and Lotte’s Kloud are OK to good, depending its storage history. I see open air trucks with beer products sitting in summer sun and cringe. Emart has a great selection of cheap important European stuff too.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    I used to teach in Prague and every pub had Pilsner Urquell for $1.50 a pint! There was usually Gambrinus as a $1 cheaper option. It was heaven. We actually took a trip out to the brewery in Plzen and got to try unfiltered and unpasteurized Pilsner straight from a barrel. Definitely recommend it if you’re passing through Czech.

    I’ve actually found several Czech beers here in Korea – Pilsner, Gambrinus, Staropramen, Kozel, and Budweis. Staropramen is nice if you haven’t tried it yet.

    The 7 Eleven near me has had Pils and a couple other beers on sale (4 pints / 10,000) for several months now. Check out the one near you.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    Remember that Pilsner Urquell (brewed in Plzen) was the original pilsner beer. It’s where the name comes from. German lagers adopted the name and their popularity redefined the term to mean crisp and clean.

  • RElgin

    Back in the hood . . .

  • RElgin

    There are more “craft beer” pubs popping up here and there.
    The key word is “craft beer” and they are good but $$.
    Pong Dang Korean Craft Beer Taphouse in Shinsa is a good start as well. bottle and tap.

  • cckerberos

    That makes sense to me, since Japanese beer is very similar in style but a bit better in terms of quality (though I don’t remember ever seeing any Yebisu or Premium Malts in Korea, which are the best of the mainstream Japanese beers).

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.kr/ Horace Jeffery Hodges

    Thanks for the advice! By the way, I spent several days in Prague back in 1992 or 1993, when the country was still Czechoslovakia, and I probably tried some of those various beers . . . but I didn’t know sh*t from sh*nola about beer back then despite drinking in a lot of bars around the world . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    “a bit better” is an understatement! Japanese beer is quality and not full of hangover-inducing toxins, unlike the big guys in Korea. Suntory Premium Malts is widely available in Korea these days. Suntory and Kirin are my go-to beers for convenience store drinking.

  • brier

    Not beer but cider found in my local 편의점. Somersby. It’s ok from a tin.

    Edit: Reading the fine print I see it’s from Carlsberg Breweries A/S. Global supply chains!

  • Our seoul in asia

    Asahi black is the drink of kings.

    Korean beer is a joke.

  • bigmamat

    Aww…the beer debate. So near and dear to a man’s heart. I honestly think men sound more enraptured talking about their favorite beer than they do their favorite women. Oh well, after a few stouts we girls can just swoop in and exploit the fact they’re all wearing beer goggles. Keep talking boys. Which lager was it that you preferred?

  • Bob Bobbs

    Back in Prague in 1991, Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar were 10 cents a pint.

  • Bob Bobbs

    I read (here?) that the original OB/Crown brewery in Seoul was built by one of the big Japanese brewery companies back in the colonial era, and then taken over by the locals in 1945. I guess they didn’t keep the recipe.

  • Sumo294

    Dating has certainly changed–an elderly American woman told me that guys tried to get her and her friends drunk all the time–these days what you say is very true. When I was playing hockey I never understood why the older guys never hit on women and just preferred to drink by themselves–now that I am older I understand it–you just want some alone time with your buddies–women like to harass their husbands–the older–the more they harass you.

  • Arghaeri

    I was more curious as to how you drink from a paperback!

  • kaizenmx

    Or that original brewery was bombed to fuck by the norks along with most of factories and the site was rebuilt from scratch.

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.kr/ Horace Jeffery Hodges

    I suspect you meant to address “A Korean” rather than me and my simian friend “Bruno.”

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • A Korean

    You can chime in with your favorite local moonshine if you want…

  • A Korean

    Now “Pong Dang” is a kind of name that grabs my ears. So what sort of “craft beers” do they put on tap? More hoppy/IPA sorts?

  • A Korean

    “편의점”, huh. Seoul got all fancy and sh*t, now, eh. Back in the days we used to have 구멍가개 – literaly “hole shop”, small corner shops selling packaged snacks, beverages, cigarettes, what-have-you.

  • kunt

    You forgot the Koreans favourite drink.

    Ttungsul Please try and understand our unique and special kulture.

    http://www.vice.com/shorties/how-to-make-faeces-wine

    “Ttongsul” is a Korean rice wine mixed with the fermented turd of a
    human child. It has an alcoholic content of around 9 percent. Little is
    known about the origins of what is surely one of the world’s most
    bizarre and gag-inducing medicines. A quick “Ttongsul” Google search
    will provide you with little more than internet-land hearsay and a
    flimsy Wikipedia page.

    Intrigued, we set out to discover if the rumors were true and to our
    astonishment found a traditional Korean medicine doctor who claims to be
    one of the last people who knows how to make “feces wine.” Dr. Lee
    Chang Soo’s face was tinged with sadness when he told us of his regret
    that feces is no longer widely utilized in Eastern medicine. The use of
    human and animal feces for medicinal purposes can be traced back
    centuries in Korea. Ancient Korean medicine books claim that it heals
    bad bruising, cuts, broken bones, and is even an effective remedy for
    epilepsy.

    It’s worth pointing out that the average person in modern-day South
    Korea would have have no clue what Ttongsul is. The drink is believed to
    have pretty much disappeared by the 1960s as South Korea began its long
    journey towards First World modernity and Western medicines became more
    popular.

  • bigmamat

    Apple pie moonshine has been popular lately. Fireball is popular right now too. My niece had me taking shots of that on 4th of July. I don’t really like beer but I drink it. So it doesn’t matter if it’s domestic or micro-brewery. I like lagers, not ales. I don’t like beer that will hold a spoon standing up. A lot of the guys like stouts and ales. I usually drink bourbon in the winter. I like Crown or Maker’s Mark. I can’t drink rail bourbon. I have to drink something that’s $20 a bottle or more, the other shit makes me feel to bad the next day. I drink gin occasionally, not the terrible cheap stuff either. I can drink just about any vodka. Don’t like tequila but someone always manages to talk me into taking a shot or two. I went through a wine phase a few years back but I pretty much never drink it anymore. I don’t drink that often anyway. I’m more of an occasional drinker. I’m also a binge drinker, when I drink, I drink.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    If by “Koreans favourite drink” you mean an apocryphal beverage that nobody really knows about, yet is still discussed on the internet by angry men whose Disqus names are quite accurate.

  • silver surfer

    Ttongsul is alive and well and being sold in pyunuijoms around the country as ‘OB’, ‘Cass’, and ‘Hite’.

  • RElgin

    A combination of the regular IPA, session IPA, experimental combinations such as IPA-influenced stout, single hops house brew, a few decent czech-style pilsners, various US bottled brands, Brew Dog, etc.
    Their lineup keeps changing as they run out so what is in one weekend may disappear by Tuesday. Check their facebook page for the current tap list.

  • RElgin

    It has much to do with the hops used in the brew and the temperature (?). A good pilsner is a great summer drink that you can spike with lemon even.

  • Dan Strickland

    In the early 70s when I was here as a Peace Corps vol, OB was actually pretty decent and Crown was firmly second-rate. Odd that it’s deteriorated.
    Speaking of all the craft beers, does anyone know of a spot that brews a porter? IPAs are all fine in season, but a good porter…..

  • Bob Bobbs

    Yes, that would make sense, too.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    What would be the point of drinking American beer? Might as well stick with sHite or C(r)ass.

    Overall the selection in the major stores is pretty good. I see new brands appearing on the shelves all the time. Its great.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Women are predictable. Whenever men discuss anything other than women, you get jealous. When we discuss women, you call us sexist. Make up your “minds” already

  • bigmamat

    I don’t care if you guys talk about beer or sports. I was just pointing out how near and dear the subject is to a man’s heart. I’m not jealous. I get it a man and his beer have a much less problematic relationship. Even sports can piss you off as badly as woman, but you never hear a man complain much about his beer.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Nothing pisses us off more than women.

  • Wedge1

    I beat you. When I was there in ’91, Pilsener was 25 cents a pint.

  • Wedge1

    Magpie has a great porter.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    You people are despicable economic parasites

  • bigmamat

    Even more than sports? Whoa…So you haven’t learned to ignore us then…

  • wangkon936

    “sHite.” Hahaha… good one.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Sports don’t piss me off. I love sports.

  • bigmamat

    You don’t get mad when your team loses or your favorite player gets hurt? My daughter is an Eagles fan so you know they have this reputation of being the nastiest fans in the NFL. lol

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    I don’t watch sports much. I DO sports.

  • Ewnerd Nasalo

    Clearly you’ve never been around a homebrewer who has just noticed that he skunked his latest batch. I once drank my way through a batch of unbearably sour ale out of spite for my own brewing.

  • gregory

    Coffee milk and soju. It’s an enticing mix~

    It’s kind of like a Black Russian, kind of like a White Russian, kind of like Kahlua and kind of like an Irish cream. It’s delicious and cheap, too.

  • bigmamat

    I forgot about the home brewers…I used to work with a guy that brewed his own. He was from New Mexico or Arizona or something. A beer expert and an expert on “real” Mexican food. Dude still wears a ponytail.

  • bigmamat

    That’s cool stay fit…I never liked running much after I “developed”. I do swim in the Summer months. I don’t like gyms either so I walk and use weights at home. I’m still chubby because I like to eat what I want and I’m not that dedicated to any kind of exercise. I hate to get sweaty.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Im not doing it to “stay fit.” Thats what women do. I do it to push myself as much as possible for better performance. I dont go to gyms because that isnt a sport, it is “fitness” or “exercise.” Again, I neither do fitness nor exercise, I do sport. Exercise is something I get as a side bonus, but it is not why I do sport. I don’t do it for losing weight or to have a 6 pack or to look good at a pool, though that is a benefit of what I do. I do sport to push my performance to higher levels. Do you understand?

  • bigmamat

    Sure I understand. So what kind of sports, running, cycling, martial arts, team sports? It’s a little bit like me learning Korean. There’s no practical reason for it. It just interested me. I like the way it sounds and it seemed difficult. It is difficult. Everyone thinks I’m nuts. I may get tired of it all one day and move on to something else. I’ve always got to be interested in something.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    I do cycling. I used to do running but injuries compounded themselves. I can’t swim in Korea: the pools are crowded, finding a proper 50m pool is nigh on impossible; finding a pool without useless old grandmothers doing anything BUT swimming and lifeguards controlling bad behavior is also nigh on impossible. Did I mention how filthy the water is? What drove me to stop swimming was that I basically developed a wart infestation on every single one of my fingers and on my feet. I know for certain that it was from the pool because after I took 2 months of about 10 procedures and recovery to remove them I never went back to the pool and never developed warts again. I can tell you that while its not that horrible to recover from having warts scraped and lasered off your fingers since you can still move around OK, and even ride a bike, having them removed from your feet basically means you are laid up for 2 weeks and can’t do anything.

    Being a natural loner, I like running, swimming and cycling. The one sport left to me is cycling, which is what I do. I am not up for team sports. I like to control my schedule without care for others. I also can’t find people willing to wake up before dawn to partner me in whatever so its basically the only thing I can do. That said I would love to find people whose schedule matches mine as its more fun (and faster) to ride in a group.

  • bigmamat

    Yuck…sorry about the wart thing. My sister got something called Folliculitis at a very nice hotel. They call it “hot tub rash”. She had it all over her thighs, torso, chest and neck. It took months for it to go away. It doesn’t sound nearly as bad as warts. EEEK! We have a membership to a private pool, or swim club as they call it. I didn’t pay my dues this year because they are a bit steep. My mother paid hers so we go for $5 each on her membership. Obviously I haven’t been much this year since I didn’t pay my dues. It’s clean and they have an adult swim every hour for 15 minutes. They also have adults only for the first hour they are open every morning.

    I’m not much of a sleeper. During the work week I’m up by 5:00 when I work from home and 4:30 when I go into the office. On the weekends I might sleep til 7:00. I can cat nap anywhere. I’d be one of those people asleep on the subway. Thank goodness I never drool. I do snore sometimes. I have crappy sinuses and messed up ears since I was a kid. I should get up and walk in the mornings since I work from home 3 days a week. But I usually wait until later in the day, lately I’ve been lazy.

    I’m a bit of a loner too. I never thought so until I got older and realized I was perfectly happy with my own company. That doesn’t mean I’m antisocial. When I’m around people I like to talk. I’m very self deprecating and everyone thinks I’m funny. I don’t mind making fun of my own faults. I have a terrible potty mouth so people who are sensitive make me uncomfortable. My mother hates it because I cuss. She laughs at me most of the time anyway.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    I hate anything other than a proper olympic size pool. Even 25m pools are a pain in the ass, and too much turning and loss of rhythm. Add to it crowds of people doing stupid things, as only Koreans can, and its a lesson in frustration. E.g. Imagine you are swimming in the middle lane and you come across:

    – 3 grandmothers talking/jumping up and down at the wall so you cant even turn properly
    – a grandmother doing hand stands in the middle of the lane
    – just really sloooooooooow people holding up everyone else

    And the warts thing has basically out me off swimming in a Korean pool ever again (or sharing showers since it may have been in the showers that I got it. And probably was, too, since the water isnt chlorinated in the showers.)

    Its bad on a bicycle, too. More dangerous than swimming because you arent going 35km/h in a pool. But at least going out before dawn you can avoid most of the idiots. Its why I never ride later in the day as the paths are full of morons doing incredibly mindless things. But no warts.

  • bigmamat

    Poor baby the rest of humanity just won’t get out of your way.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Its not getting out of my way, its following simple rules and having proper etiquette. There are bike paths and right next to them are pedestrian paths. Walking, letting young kids run, holding your boyfriend’s hand, pushing strollers, playing soccer, sitting down, etc should not be done in the middle of bike paths where people, not just me, are riding their bikes at 20-50km/h. Thats simply common sense. It is also etiquette. Just as it is etiquette and common sense that of you are a slow swimmer, or are going to do non-swimming things in a pool, you do them in the side lane reserved for such things, not the middle lane where people, not only me, are actually swimming.

    But etiquette and common sense are lost on Koreans

  • Bob Bobbs

    Dude, I was 17 years old in 1991.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Changes nothing.

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.kr/ Horace Jeffery Hodges

    I’d bike with you sometime.

    Jeffery Hodges

    @ @ @

  • bigmamat

    I wonder why? Has anyone ever asked someone? You know why are you walking on the bike path when you can walk on the walking path? Would they get mad if you asked?

  • DC Musicfreak

    I recall about 6 pint drafts of Urquell for $1 in Prague in May 1990.

  • Bob Bobbs

    Mir ist das
    scheißegal!

  • Sumo294

    I have to try this–sounds like a reasonable drink to me. Come think about it–banana milk and soju?