Friday, December 3, 2010

Rating the beer

ALONGSIDE indigenous tipples such as makgeolli and soju, Korea has a fair selection of its own beers. There is no need to pine for mass-produced fare such as Carlsberg or Budweiser here -- though both are easily found. Korea brews plenty of flavourless party juice itself.

Cass, Hite and OB are the three main options and are indistinguishable from one another. Each of them is a liquid alright and comes with obligatory bubbles to tickle the tongue. But then so does sparkling water. And at least sparkling water doesn't pretend to have a discernible taste.

Max, almost as readily available, is their comparatively attractive cousin. Max actually tastes vaguely like beer, with an appreciable hint of barley and malt. Even the name is utterly bad ass next to its competition: Max. It sounds like the kind of drink Indiana Jones probably chugged on after recovering the Ark of the Covent, having reduced the band of dastardly Nazis in his way to a whimpering mound with nothing but his fists and a whip from Anne Summers.

But, to be fair, one quality does set even the blandest of Korean beers apart: their astounding ability to reduce you to a despondent, irritable sociopath the next day. Korean beer may be the quickest, most efficient route to a raging hangover there is. Before coming here I didn't know it was possible to get a hangover on three beers. But, in fact, it is. Korea has devised a way.

Why waste hours and hours drinking into the early hours, when a couple of cans of Cass can grant you all of the aftereffects of an Irish wedding with none of the effort or expense? That's the kind of efficacy that builds a country's economy from nothing. No wonder the G20 took place in Seoul this year.

But the wonders of Korean beer don't stop there. Oh no. If one too many rough 3-beer (not quite) nights has you worrying about your health, never fear. Korea does healthy beer. No, really. It's good for you. It says so on the bottle.

Now, I know what you are thinking: this is too good to be true, one of those thing you hear and wish was the case but isn't. Like the inventor of the bra really having the name Otto Titsling.

S "stylish" -- yes, "stylish" is really written on the bottle -- beer with added fibre begs to differ. Apparently -- according to the manufacturer --Koreans don't get enough fibre. So the kind folks behind S decided to add some to their beer. As its bottle says, it's "exclusively designed for well-being of [sic] young generation".

Wonderful. Kids who skip their Weetabix in the morning can swig down a few bottles of S instead and defecate without strain. Human progress truly knows no bounds.

If that is not enough to have you running to your nearest (Korean) off-licence, you simply must be a deeply cynical person. You have my pity. But here's one last nugget to convince you. From their website:

"For the first time in Korea, S with dietary fiber was marketed in a green PET 1,600ml bottle. The special emerald-colored packaging and 8g dietary fiber give you reason to get together with friends, lovers, and colleagues. What’s more, it is now more affordable, so you can make your special gatherings even more special."

I tried, didn't I?


  1. Yay! Love reading fellow Irish blogs! I totally agree with Korean beers capability of making the most calm, collected and together people into drunken messes a a la Irish weddings...but normally that is due to quantity rather than quality..or lack thereof!

  2. you know any places to one can buy ale in Korea?

  3. I know some great micro breweries that do. Check out Craftworks in Itaewon, Castle Prah in Hongdae. There are a number of others, such as Platinum in Apujeong.

    As for stuff you can buy in shops... I don't know if I have ever seen ale in a convenience store. Homeplus would stock it, though, I'm sure. They do a good selection of foreign beers.