Korea Craft Brewery opened in July 2014 and started offering tours in October 2014. Troy Zitzelsberger, of Reilly’s Taphouse and founder of the Seoul Brew Club, arranged the tour with some of us fellow SBC members. About a dozen of us met at the Hamilton Hotel on a crisp November afternoon, ready for the ninety minute road trip to Eumseong county.
I’m not sure what’s allowed in Korea, but I picked up a Lost Coast Downtown Brown for the road trip to Eumseong-gun. I sat in the back with my friends George and Jen, sipping my beer and shooting the breeze. George talked extensively about his fascination with a clear, malt beverage called Zima that had been discontinued in the USA since the 90’s, but which he found on his travels to Japan.
The brewery is surrounded by farmland, which makes it look all the more impressive in its size and newness. The doors are quite tall, and the antechamber is minimalist and clean. For some reason, there is a single chair which gives the room the feel of a smoking parlor or den.
Mark Hamon greeted us after a few minutes. Mark, the head brewer, started the initial Hitachino brewery in Japan. Korea Craft Brewery isn’t owned by Hitachino, but KCB’s ownership group is close with them. Consequently, KCB launched in July already armed with a major contract to brew Hitachino in Korea for the Korean and Chinese markets.
Before stepping inside the brewing facilities, Mark informed us that no photos are allowed inside the brewery and that we’d have to put our phones into a locker. In fact, all brewing activity is suspended for the tours. This was a pretty big disappointment for me, as a blogger, because I was afraid of being left only with pictures of a smoking chair and a big door. To be fair, there’s always people wanting to get a hold of a little too much information, and the craft beer scene here in East Asia is just about to explode.
KCB remained quite secretive in several regards: how they treat the soft, alkaline water of Korea for their beers; the hops they use; any recipe details; and their plans for contract brewing. It was actually quite fun to see Troy (from Reilly’s), Bryan Kunkel (from Hand & Malt), and some of the other guys trying to goad Mark into opening up a little more.
Before entering the brewing facilities, everyone slips plastic booties over their shoes and goes through a routine foot bath. Mark showed us around all the equipment, giving details about volume and technique. They can currently handle about 24,000 liters of beer a month and fill 80 bottles/min at max speed. They’re thinking about canning in the future, but don’t currently have the equipment. Mark also said that there’s tons of room for future expansion, as the brewery is surrounded by farmland.
Mark also has different uses in mind for some of that farmland. He is very interested in all natural, local, and organic ingredients whenever possible. Mark buys grains from a local supplier and said that he would love to get his hands on some quality wild yeast or traditional/historic hops or malts used in Korea’s past.
Mark impressed me with his interest in ingredients. He really wants to find authentic Korean ingredients and has been inquiring into whether there’ve been any traditional Korean hops or malts that can be rediscovered. Additionally, KCB will start growing their own hops on a local farm. He’s also interested in cultivating wild yeasts, if possible. Currently, four types of yeast can be grown on site.
Mark did provide some hints of information about the brewery’s future plans. He gave us a young sample of a special beer that would be their first contract brew. Since the tour, Craftbros Taphouse and Bottleshop have announced a Yuzu Belgian White beer named Snow White Ale made at Korea Craft Brewery by Mark Hamon. More will surely follow.
Mark said his ultimate goal is to get a nice stable of contract brews going and then expand to allow himself to do his own brand with an IPA, Belgian white, and Stout. KCB also has intentions of launching some special Korean style(s) of beer.
After the tour, we all piled into the tasting room and ordered several rounds of beer. The brewery was also kind enough to ply us with tons of free food and drink on top of it all. All-in-all it was a blast!
More information about the brewery and tours can be found at the website. Most of the information is in Korean, but there are English directions for arranging a tour.