Craft Hans recently opened a location off of Gangnam daero, behind Mixxo and near my favorite pub Woodstock. Craft beer enthusiasts will fondly remember Hans Store behind the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon as a true OG of the bottle shop scene. Last year they magically transformed into a strangely faux-German gastropub selling pints and bottles to the new yuppie Korean foodies who now dominate Itaewon.
Though I never stayed more than a minute inside the Craft Hans in Itaewon, I was excited to see one pop up in Gangnam. In the past year, Gangnam has seen several craft beer places finally open shop; but there’s still a room for a lot more.
This location is far more spacious than the Itaewon iteration. It has a beautiful interior; minimalist, but a little refreshing. At a time when every hip new establishment has the minimalist/exposed fixtures style, Craft Hans stands out a little because of it shows more wood and brick than chrome and steel.
The music was English-language club pop. It wasn’t too loud. You can groove to it, but it’s still easy to have conversation. However, given the wood and brick décor, I’d prefer something hearing something like early blues or an alternative mix.
Overall though, I really liked the look. The central bar with thick wood planks, the corner view of the back alley of Gangnam, and the wooden beams supporting the ceiling all make it a comfortable and hip spot.
Amazingly, the beer prices start at 4,500. All draught beers are brewed by Ka-Brew (Kapa Brewery). It’s no secret that Ka-Brew went from craft beer Godfather to laughing stock in the Seoul craft beer scene. Problems with rebranding, diminishing quality, and terrible inconsistency made Ka-Brew a kind of minor-league where many beers started there but eventually moved on to better breweries. However, Ka-Brew has been fighting back. They had a presence at the latest Great Korean Beer Festival, showcasing their own branded recipes, bucking the trend of just producing Craftowrks clones. And these Craft Hans beers, while possibly Craftworks clones, might just be original and were certainly very solid. It reminded me of how Craftworks/Ka-Brew made me fall in love with craft beer only three years ago.
In addition, Craft Hans has its customary bottle selection featuring the usual suspects like Kona Brewing and Lost Coast. They have about 30 bottles including Old Rasputin for 13,000 and Sculpin IPA for 12,000, which are not great prices. Although the bottle prices aren’t as generous as the draught, there is a 30% discount when you get them to go.
I grabbed a sit in the corner overlooking the street before it got busy, which it was by the time I left at 8pm. The food menu looked great but I decided to try the Craft Hans Burger for 9,000 and Sampler 1 for 8,000, which featured the Weizen, Pale Ale, Mosaic IPA, and Stout.
The Weizen was a beautiful, super pale color: almost like a white Mr. Freeze. It smelled of bananas but tasted drier than I expected, with a spritzy mouthfeel. Not exactly my style, per se, but still an attractive summer beer due to its not being too sweet or cloying while being bright and light.
The Pale Ale was a very nice American Pale Ale style, clear and light copper color with an apricot aroma. It had a slight malt backbone, but the hops shine through to the end. Although it’s tame compared to Hand and Malt’s Combat Zone, it does remind me of Indica IPA a little bit. This might be my favorite beer of the bunch.
I took a break from the beer to eat my burger. The fries were wedge style, but small enough to be nice and roundly crisped. They look battered and well-seasoned with salt, pepper, and maybe a hint of something spicy.
The burger had baby greens, tomato, white cheese, and a huge base of caramelized onions. It smelled incredibly smoky and had a cute grill burn on the top of the bun. The patty was thick and juicy, rivaling some of the better patties in the city like Firebell and Brooklyn. It was almost too stacked to fit into my mouth. However, after my first delicious bite, the bun started to slip away from the burger because of all the onions and what is maybe a teaspoon full of a tomato based sauce. I’m not exactly sure what it was. It tasted fine, but perhaps would have been better replaced with a nice dill pickle or grain mustard. Overall, the burger was actually quite good. For 9,000won, the Craft Hans Burger and fries was a great purchase.
Next, I dove into the stout sample. It was more of a dark brown than a true black stout. It’s lighter and, again, spritzier than I expected. It also tasted a little fresh, as if it could improve with some aging. Despite none of the beers having very good head (they were sample glasses, but still) this beer had noticeable bubbles sliding up the inside of the glass. I love stouts, but I wasn’t a huge fan of this one. However, as with the Weizen, it’s a clean and crisp beer. I can see people really liking it, especially at this price point. It’s almost a summer stout, if that’s a thing.
I saved the Mosaic IPA for last. Although it was quite paler, the hops reminded me of the pale ale with its apricot/peach aroma and flavor. However, the Mosaic IPA definitely carries more of a hop punch. Some of that could be due to using far less crystal malt. With less malty sweetness, the hop bitterness is more pronounced. As with their other beers, despite having no head it was quite carbonated. I actually prefer a nice, malty IPA and thus preferred the pale ale. However, for someone looking for a kind of pure IPA in the Combat Zone variety, this one does a pretty good job.
Finally, I ordered a full glass of the dark ale because I was curious to find out how it distinguished itself from the stout. The stout was bubbly, dark brown ale. The dark ale, confusingly enough, was a true stout. It was inky black (at least it looked it, but the sun was setting) and smelled of roasty flavors like coffee and cocoa. The head was still a little too thin, but at least it didn’t hit with a barrage of bubbles. It was a little fresher and more carbonated than I’d prefer, but it’s a very solid light stout.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Craft Hans. It was a beautiful place with solid beer and food at very reasonable prices.