Friday, June 15, 2007

Like Making Love in a Canoe

JoongAng Daily writer Cho Jae-eun gives us an odd, brief history of Korean beer. I am tempted to fisk the article, but I fear I would be here all evening. The article has a little bit of useful information in it, but, sadly, it is obvious the writer does not know much about "real" beer, and so had to recycle a lot of OB and Hite PR material. I do not want to sound all mean and negative... Oh, who am I kidding? I am mean and negative.

Suffice it to say, Korean beer is bad. Really, really bad. I do prefer Cass and Hite and Hite Prime/Max (whatever they are calling it this week) over Budweiser and Miller and mainstream American beers. But that is not saying much. Japanese beer is rarely much different, although there are a couple of brands that are marginally nicer.

As for Canadians who love Labbats or Molsons -- you need to be quiet. Contrary to popular opinion in Canuckland, mainstream beer there is nearly as bad as in America.

The other Korean beers -- Cafri, OB Blue, Cass Light -- are pretty much undrinkable. And Cass Red is just nasty. It tastes like syrup, not beer. It is the Majuang Port Wine of beers. (I mean the Majuang stuff they used to sell at convenience stores for 1,800 won... count yourself lucky if it never passed your lips).

I am slightly ambivalent about Hite Stout. It certainly is no stout. I can remember when it tasted a little bit like a dark mild, but (as they story states) it has been rejigged and watered down for local tastes since then.

Whatever happened to Hite's ExFeel? That was another terrible beer. The name was supposed to mean "Excellent Feeling," but instead sounded like a way of referring to an former girlfriend.

Korea's brew houses are a little better, but not much. Very uneven. They often start out okay, then the brewmaster takes off and quality quickly goes down the toilet (Exhibit A: Platinum... such a sad decline and fall of a once good beer joint). I am told Big Rock in Gangnam is pretty good, but I do not get down to that part of town much.

I wish I had a most useful way of ending this article, but I do not. Oh, yes I do. Watt's on Tap in Shinchon has a decent pale ale on tap (from Canada). Good weather for sitting on the roof and drinking that.

Anyhow, I hope someone comes up with the bright idea of offering well-made, natural, flavorful beers to the public. Bring in Sleeman's or some German microbrewery or somesuch. It is just crazy enough an idea that it might work.

1 comment:

Jason said...

I'm with you on the Cass Red. I was back in Korea last week after a three year absence and thought (foolishly) that my memories of bad Korean beer were overblown. WI was wrong. I also made the mistake of buying a few tins of Cass Red and sat down with my father-in-law (no slouch in the beer drinking department, he) to give it a try.

Seriously, worst. beer. ever. Cass Red tastes like they just brewed regular Cass and then added a bit of pure alcohol post-fermentation to give it its 6.9% alcohol volume. I consider myself pretty tolerant about the constellation of tastes beers can have, but when I crack open a cold one, I'm not thinking "Mmmm, Dr. Pepper!"

Neither of us could finish the first glass and so we ended up cleansing our palates with the water-like qualities of a plastic liter bottle of Hite (which is also a new development, and an utterly awesome one at that!).

Also, is it me or is Busan firmly under the thumb of the mighty Hite chaebol? Every restaurant I went down there, it was the only brew available. Or maybe I just wasn't going to the vigorous and youthful joints...