Visit enough places in a certain city, or country, etc., and certain themes and trends begin to emerge.
In South Korea, at least in Busan, South Korea, these include projections onto concrete walls, inoffensive western rock music from the 70s and 80s, craft beer and seemingly nonsense writing peppered hither and yon.
The Forge Taphouse, in the quieter and not yet completely gentrified section of Jeonpo-dong closer to Bujeon, has tapped into all of these. And while the combination can come off in equal parts as a bit weird and and a bit cooked up in an Instagram search for “trends in Korean nightlife,” it all somehow seems to work well enough together to provide an enjoyable nighttime experience.
The first word that came to mind when I thought of how to describe The Forge was “cute,” which is probably a win for Korean 20-somethings as “cute” is a driving force in marketing and presentation in just about everything in popular culture here. But, then there’s all the anvil themed stuff and the bare industrial walls (long a trend in the west, its Korean counterparts offer a different take, considering there’s still a lot of old building stock here that speaks to its own unique time). The large, bearded man working with molten metal being projected on the wall. But, then there’s also the aforementioned 70s and 80s western rock music coming from a retro styled sound system that reminds me of a similar set up at a popular coffee shop located about 10 minutes away. It’s an odd, but not entirely offensive mix, like orange juice in coffee instead of milk.
I must not be the only one who thinks “cute” when they think of The Forge. While my friends and I enjoyed a couple glasses of Goose Island IPA (8,500 won) and Magpie Porters (7,000 won) on draft, as well as Rogue Cold Brew IPA (7,000 won) and a sour ale tallboy from Denmark’s To Ol for 8,000 won, groups of young Koreans in twos and threes came in to order beers and the craft beer bar in Korea equivalent to “anju (side dishes served with alcohol)”–sausage plates and ham and cheese plates that seem way more expensive than they should be but people always seem to order them without protest (15,000-16,000 won). They made cute faces at each other as they took photo upon photo of their drinks, the bar and themselves. All the wrought iron around the small establishment and the brutish looking beast making anvils on the wall didn’t seem to turn them off. It was kitschy, it was different. It was, somehow, cute.
Overall, The Forge provides a good craft beer experience and I wish them well. That said, Daily Beer, located about a 10 minute walk away in the far busier Seomyeon district, nails a lot of these trends a bit better and kept popping in my head when deciding what I thought of The Forge. They have the projected movies and odd (to native English speakers, at least) writing on the walls. They have retro western rock coming from the speakers. But, they also have truly local beers on draft (meaning, stuff from Busan for the Busan locations on this large chain) and a more robust bar food selection (of course there’s sausage. This is still a Korean bar. But, they also have large portions of fries for far fairer prices, and some really great looking fried chicken). A lot of that comes from being a now well-established chain with a lot of money backing it. The Forge, by comparison, seems to be propped up by only a pair of young entrepreneurs. By all accounts, they’re doing pretty well, all things considered.
The Forge is off to a good start. They’ve settled in a location that is gaining a following but has not yet exploded and become cliche. They have a small, but decent selection of good drinks at fair (for craft beer in Korea) prices in a relatively comfortable space. But, if they want to be in business beyond the Honeymoon period, I hope they embrace more of their own voice, as well as more of Busan, moving forward.
Seojeon-ro 47beongil 17, Busan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 010-3357-5786