Korea isn’t exactly known for its fine tasty beer… it’s more known for it’s incredibly bland Cass and Hite. While in Seoul recently, I took the chance to discover if there is more than just tasteless lager. The bad news is: not really. There are a few places, mostly German style breweries, and one called ‘Platinum’, but I don’t really like German beer at the best of times (heathen!) and the photos made Platinum look like nightclub from a TV show, so neither of those options really appealed.
One that caught my eye, however, was Craftworks. Mostly because it is near my sister’s apartment, but it also has a good looking range of beers. Apparently the brewery is a little way out of the city and is possibly contract brewed by another brewery called ‘Ka-Brew’. I couldn’t find too much info though and I guess it’s not important really.
Craftworks is based in Itaewon, Seoul. Closest to Noksapyeong station. According to my sister, people are always asking for directions, so listen up: If you get out Exit 2 at Noksapyeong station, walk straight ahead, you will come to a set of stairs leading underground. Go underground and you will come up on the other side of the street. Walk straight ahead, over the intersection (past Noxa, an Italian restaurant. I will mention them a little later), keep walking until you see the Craftworks logo, next to a Korean BBQ restaurant (delicious by the way) and turn right. It’s a little back from the street.
They have six beers, and sometimes a seasonal or a beer from Canada by Alley Kat brewery: http://www.alleykatbeer.com/ - I’m told you can find Alley Kat beer in a couple of places around Seoul as well. I found it a nearby cafe the next day.
They also do a large selection of scotch, food, coffee, as well as hosting quiz nights etc etc. Beers are about 7,000 won (about $7 US/AUD/NZ give or take for exchange rates) and tasting selection is 9,000.
How does it look?
It has a decent looking small bar, clean, and not flashy. There is also a nice little outside area but I imagine it would get quite noisy on a Friday or Saturday night. It was quiet while we were there, bar a few guys who knew EVERYTHING about beer and microbrews and made sure we could all hear them talk about it.
How do the beers taste?
I worked my way through a tasting selection and a couple of IPAs. I was pleasantly surprised at how good they were. They all definitely have a lemony citrus taste at the backend, (I’m guessing this is down to whatever hop they prefer) but each is quite unique. The only one I didn’t enjoy was the Pilsner. I thought it was a little bland, but that may be down to it being surrounded by tastier beers.
The Hefeweizen had all the hallmarks of a decent hefe, although slightly light on the funk. This is fine for me, but for fans of that particularly Belgian yeast taste (banana cloves esthers phenols blah blah blah) then you may not find it a great example.
The Guemegang Mountain Dark Ale is brown ale and was a little thin at first, but has enough flavour to make it a sessionable but enjoyable example of a brown ale. Some coconut and nut flavours in there.
Gwankasan Kolsch was quite enjoyable. The citrus from the hops really helps this one stand out and would be fantastic on a hot sticky Seoul day.
The Halla Mountain Golden Ale was a decent example of a Golden. It didn’t set my world alight, but I still enjoyed it and would enjoy it again.
The Jirisan Moon Bear IPA was definitely my favourite. It’s not a huge monster of hops, but there are some great aromas and has a lovely bitterness. It gets slightly off kilter during the aftertaste, but once again the citrus helps it remain pleasant as the bitterness sets in. This one also comes in a good tulip glass, which is always appreciated by me. I liked it so much I bought a 1.5 litre takeaway bottle (19,000 won).
Finally, the Alley Kat, imported from Canada, was the Full Moon Pale Ale (It may have been the newer ‘Fresh Hopped’ version, I can’t remember) was very good. I will definitely keep an eye out for this in Australia as it’s a fine example of an American style Pale. Quite bitter but with some sweet honey in there as well.
Overall, I enjoyed Craftworks. It is good to know that a decent beer is on hand in this part of the world. While the beers weren’t amazingly inventive, they were well made and tasty enough to keep any beer drinker happy.
The previously mentioned Noxa, an Italian restaurant, threw up a surprise when we went a few nights later. They had Peroni/Corona/Hite/Cass and VB on the menu, but there was also an ‘Indica’. A quick bit of research told me that it was an IPA from Lost Coast Brewery in the USA. Their beers aren’t available in Australia for retail purchase currently but they are definitely worth keeping an eye out for. A surprising and tasty find in an Italian restaurant.
Finally, I was unable to purchase Taedonggang, the North Korean beer anywhere, including the DMZ. Apparently it’s no longer being sold in South Korea due to a price rise.