Magpie Brewing offers homebrew class for 50,000won/class. All classes take place on Sundays, usually running from Fall to Spring (the Summer months are too hot for easy beer making). You have three choices on how extensive and expensive you want your experience to be.
You can do a single class for 50,000won. You’ll learn the techniques of brewing in a lecture-style lesson given by Magpie co-founder Jason Lindley. There will be a beer tasting followed by a short brewing demonstration.
You can do four classes for 200,000won. The first class is the same. The next two classes have you brewing a 20L batch with a small group. Each class will brew a different beer, and all the beer you brew will be shared amongst the group. When I finished, I ended up with 12L of beer: half of it an IPA and half a Yuja Porter. The last class is for learning how to bottle the beers. Jason shows you what to do and while you and your group bottle the beers yourselves. There is also another beer tasting.
Starting in February, Magpie plans on offering a twelve class course which involves more in-depth learning, much more brewing, and a trip to The Table where Magpie’s own beers are made. Jason has also started doing special one-off holidays gift sessions. For Xmas customers could help brew a sweet potato ale that’s then packaged in a nice glass bottle. For this Valentine’s, students could help brew a vanilla chocolate stout.
For more detailed information, skip to the bottom of this article.
Class Journal: My Four-Lesson Experience
I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I signed up for the class. Details were surprisingly scant. However, any apprehensions I had about the class was quickly lifted as soon as Jason started teaching. The following is a detailed (and sometimes not-so-detailed) journal of my experience.
Day 1 – Intro Class
Jason Lindley, co-founder of Magpie, was our instructor. His assistant, Ji, helped out and translated. Jason started the class by introducing himself and providing a short, contextual history of the growth of craft beer in Korea.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jason credits much of the growth of craft brewing in Korea to the work of homebrewers. He specifically highlighted the contributions of Homebrew Korea, Rob Titley, Gord Seller, Ka-Brew, and our old friend Bill Miller.
Once we got context out of the way, Jason took a scientific angle in teaching about the brewing process. However, it wasn’t as intimidating as it sounds. Jason also provided a printed homebrewing guide with the lecture that we could take home. Among the things we learned, the real highlight, for me, was a terrific explanation of the effect that adding hops at different times has on your beer. It might sound technical to the uninitiated but hops provide the bitterness, flavor, and aroma that’s sought out in pale ales and IPAs—and timing has a lot to do with it.
About two hours into the class we started our beer tasting. Jason had spent a lot of time teaching us about the different ingredients of beer, so it was nice to put all that theory into practice. We tasted the Magpie Sorachi Ace, whose hops give it a rare lemon and dill flavor. Next came the Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale, North Coast’s Acme IPA, Caldera Brewing’s IPA, Brewdog’s Punk IPA, Magpie’s Belgian Strong Golden Ale, and finally Magpie’s Belgian IPA. We discussed the different flavors that hops give to beer, and about how time and improper importation can destroy these flavors.
With about 30min left to class, Jason did a mock demonstration of brewing a beer. Normally the process takes 2-3 hours, but Jason’s demo was—as he described—like a cooking demo on a talk show. Still, the wort was real and the room filled with a smell somewhat akin to toast or baking bread.
Everyone left the first class very happy, full of knowledge, and excited for the first real brew day!
Day 2 – IPA
Normally Jason does an IPA or pale ale on this day. Two of our groups made an IPA, but the third group wanted to do an Amber Ale. Jason was very obliging, even though it made his job a bit harder.
What really excited me about the IPA was that we got to choose our own hops from Jason’s collection. Even reading the bags, with their descriptions of flavors and aromas, was mouth-watering. Opening the bags and smelling those dank, marijuana-like, sweet, fruity buds was heavenly.
The recipe for our IPA went as follows:
3.2kg DME (Dried malt extract)
24L of 70C water to steep specialty malt for 15min
Specialty Malt: Carahell 200g (a lightly toasted malt with bready, toast flavor; adds light/golden color; adds freshness, body, richness)
Hops: Four hops additions
H1: 60min/Bittering hops/alpha 8%/14g /Columbus
H2: 15min/Flavor hops/28g/Summit (Onion/garlic flavors )
H3: Flame out/Aroma hops/28g/Amarillo (Floral, Citrus, Tropical aromas)
H4: Flame out/Aroma hops/28g/Topaz (Fruity/Citrus aromas)
Jason already had our 24L of water heated to around 70 C°. We measured out our specialty malt and put it in the brew bag ourselves. Then we measured the DME. When water was boiled we added the DME while stirring vigorously. We washed a fermenter while waiting for water to again boil. Then we added our bittering hops. We set a timer for 45min so we’d know when to add our flavoring hops (H2).
A few minutes after we added the DMT, it boiled over. Jason informed us that we should always watch it closely for the first 5min. If it continues boiling over, you have to switch heat back and forth; but you must have a strong boil! A chemical called DMS gives beer a taste like cream corn, and it takes about 45-60min for DMS to boil away. Also, the hops interact better with the rolling of the boil to extract alpha acids.
While we waited, Jason taught us how to properly wash and sanitize our equipment. Jason and Ji did the cooling of the wort by themselves. After the cooled wort was transferred into the sanitized fermenter, we cleaned our used equipment. Then, we used a hydrometer to measure the Original Gravity (OG—a measure of how much sugar, proteins, and other compounds are in our wort). We were aiming for 1.060-1.065 and we got 1.060 OG. I also learned that, when you have finished measuring the sample wort, you can taste it! Ours was quite sweet (as there’s been no yeast added to start eating the sugars) and had a nice bitter finish from all those hops.
After the chilled wort was transferred and the cleaning was done, I sanitized my hands, pitched the yeast, sealed the fermenter, and put on the label: IPA Group #1 OG 1.060 at 18C.
We were all done! I stuck around until Magpie opened for general customers so I could try their limited edition A Bird in the Hand Rye Pale Ale. It was very fine: spicy, clean, dry, and satisfying. It was one of the best beers I’ve had that was made in Korea.
Beer #1: IPA — The Verdict!
We didn’t bottle this beer for two weeks and I let it condition for another 5 days before trying it. It was truly incredible! Definitely a beer I would buy in a store if the price was right. I couldn’t taste onion or garlic specifically, but the beer had a true savory flavor layered upon the standard bready, malty flavor. The hops were more subtle than I expected, but that savory taste was just outstanding. I ended up calling it “Savor the Flavor IPA”.
Day 3 – Yuja Porter
Day 3 saw us split into only two groups, as there were only six of us (with a seventh showing up about an hour late). Jason presented us with a big bag of Yuja. Yuja is a Korean citrus fruit that’s very sour and is traditionally used for making tea. Because of the strong presence of yuja, we were going to use less specialty malt than usual. Our recipe for the today was as follows:
300g Roasted Malt (Carafa 2)
14g Stella hops (7% alpha acid)
2 packs of S05 yeast
After starting our brews, we had a more in-depth lecture on ingredients than on the first day. We talked a lot about specialty ingredients, secondary fermentation (when many special ingredients are added), and yeast.
Again, the talk was often very scientific but explained expertly by Jason. He really has a gift for explaining technical concepts in a way that’s easy to understand.
We also had a good chat about the brewing process and, especially, of fermentation. We learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. I took several pages of notes.
Upon tasting the wort this time, I got a real hint of Terry’s orange chocolate. It was quite sweet and surprisingly good.
Beer #2: Yuja Porter — The Verdict!
I gave away three of my bottles right away. Of the three I kept the first one I tried while it was still too young. We fermented them for 1 week, but the Final Gravity was a little too high. Jason said that, ideally, we would have let it ferment a little longer. He also said that we could feel free to let it condition up to six months before refrigerating it.
The first one I refrigerated after only 5 days. I was impatient! It tasted nice, but I could tell that it was too young. It was a little too sweet and fizzy and bright. The second one I refrigerated in early January. It was better, but still a little too tangy and bright with too little of the dark, malty flavor I craved. I didn’t really get that orange-chocolate taste until my last few sips. The final bottle I’m going to keep as long as I can. Hopefully I’ll last until at least Lunar New Year and give the flavors a real chance to mature.
Day 4 – Bottling
The last day! We were all really excited about seeing how our beers had turned out and learning how to bottle them! We also did a really fantastic beer tasting at the end of this class.
Jason warned us that bottling can be easy but very messy! The mess was mostly just harmless sanitizer solution, but it did get all over the floor.
First we sanitized about a hundred 1L bottles and some tubs to transfer our beer into. Jason also taught us how to use our OG and FG gravity measurements to calculate our abv (alcohol by volume).
Once we were all ready, Jason showed us how to syphon our beer from the fermenters into a new, clean tub. The yeast settles on the bottom of the fermenter so, if we syphon from the top, we can get as much beer with as little yeast as possible transferred into our new tub. From there we can bottle.
Jason also taught us about adding bottling sugar to help generate CO2 for the bottled beer. We also learned what to look for in our fermented beer to tell if it has developed any bad flavors or chemicals.
After a fun and not-too-messy time bottling, we each had a suitcase full of beer! As mentioned before, I got six 1L bottles of each kind. My yuja porter group had four members instead of three, so we all had to rock-scissor-paper to see who got the extra bottles.
With plenty of time left for the class, Jason treated us to an outstanding beer tasting. He chose nine beers, many of them quite expensive. We did several of Magpie’s beers, some Belgians, and a few American imports.
We started with the Magpie Rye Pale Ale which I already mentioned was one of my favorite beers. Jason explained how he used double the usual amount of rye and some special hops grown in small batches in Michigan. Then came the Magpie Belgium IPA again. This time we had a better appreciation for the ingredients that went into it, especially the Belgian Golden Ale yeast that gave it a cooling, minty flavor.
The next beer was Magpie’s own gose beer called The Ghost, which is a German-style sour beer. This kind of beer promotes a particular bacterial growth and then uses salt to help open the tongue up to sweetness in order to balance out the flavors. I must admit that, after the first three sips, I didn’t think I could finish it. It was so strangely unique in its sourness. But I forced myself to try more (I hate wasting beer!) and on the fourth sip the sourness seemed to mellow—as if my brain turned a switch and adjusted to it. All of a sudden, on one sip only, I got a pleasant splash of green apple. By the time I was finished my sample, I quite enjoyed it.
We then tried a pair of Belgian beers from The Bottle Shop. First up was Westmalle Trappist Dubbel. Dubbels are essentially “doubles” and are traditionally strong brown ales. Jason explained that Belgians often use candied sugar in their beers, imparting a distinct “ribbon candy” flavor. Next was the Westmalle Tripel (or triple). These are traditionally very strong golden ales. This one was super dry, but with a minty coolness akin to the Magpie Belgium IPA.
Already feeling pretty unwound, we got to try the standard Magpie Porter next. This beer has been on Magpie’s menu since the beginning and actually has a colorful and secret past which extends beyond that. The porter has an aroma of molasses cookies and tastes slightly smoky. Right now it’s 4.6% abv due to regulations that were in place when it was first brewed, but Jason plans to tweak it to 5.5-6% soon. The Magpie porter is a great example of Jason’s fine, authentic taste in beers: he seems to dislike anything too novel or experimental for the sake of flash and attention.
We then tried Caldera’s Pilot Rock Porter and Coronado’s Cigar City Jurata Baltic Porter in order to compare the different tastes that can come in a porter, since we just bottled a specialty porter ourselves. The last, and perhaps best, was Magpie’s new Baltic Porter. A Baltic porter is a higher gravity porter that’s usually fermented in colder temperatures. This one was quite nice, with big chocolaty and malty flavors. Very warming for the cold winter season.
Needless to say, we all left Magpie that last day with mirth in our hearts and gratitude pouring from our lips. The experience was really wonderful. I learned a lot about brewing and beer in general. I got lots of very good quality beer to take home and I got a chance to meet some very fine people. If there’s a better way to legally spend 200,000won, I’m not sure what it is.
Thinking of doing the class? Here’s some important information to help you out.
What do we learn?
We learned so much from Jason that it’s not feasible to list it all. Just to give an idea: Everybody gets a printed manual, with tons of information, to take home. Jason also gives lectures, answers questions, gives demos, and allows us to have hands-on experiences in a small class setting.
What freebies do we get?
Classes #1 and #4 each have a free beer tasting. The amount of beer tasted is significant, as is the guidance of having someone describe the beers. Classes #2 and #3 involve making beer, which you will get to take home to drink! I got 12L but some people got a little more. In addition, we got to take home a free poster of A Bird in the Hand. This might not be usual, but several of us had mentioned how we loved both the beer and the poster and Jason managed to get some extra copies. Lastly, Jason and Ji signed us all up in a web-group in case we had any questions or brewing experiences to share.
How much hands-on experience do we get?
On classes #2 and #3 you actually participate in almost every aspect of brewing while on class #4 you get to bottle your fermented beers. You will measure the ingredients on a scale, fill the grain bag, steep the bag, measure the time, add the hops and malt, clean and sanitized the equipment, pitch the yeast, and bottle the finished beers. The only things we did not do were work the stove and use the wort chiller. Getting to do the brew session twice, with very different kinds of beers, really helped reinforce what we learned.
Is it good for groups? How many students in a class?
The classes are very good for small groups of people. The class can’t really handle more than 10-12 people, with 9 probably being the most comfortable. The class is split into groups of 3-4 people, but the room is small and there’s lots of interaction amongst the groups and with the instructor.
English/Korean language problems?
Jason teaches the entire class in English. He’s from Chicago, so English speakers be at ease! For Korean students whose English is a little low, Ji is there to translate the harder stuff into Korean. However, I imagine a functional level of English is recommended.
Was it fun?
The class was tons of fun. Trust me.
What’s the 411?
The class takes place at Magpie’s Kyungridan location at 11am on Sundays only. You can sign up or ask for more details by emailing Jason at Classes@magpiebrewing.com.
I’d recommend bringing a pen and perhaps a notebook or laptop with which to take notes.
On bottling day (class #4) you should bring a small piece of luggage or a big backpack and a spare bag to carry all of your glorious beer. Also, on that day, wear a pair of shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty/wet. If your hands dry out easily, bring some moisturizer because you will be washing equipment and using sanitizer quite often!
Cameras are welcome!