Seoul’s Winter Beer Fest 2014

By Rob Shelley – Craft Beer Asia’s Correspondent in Korea

This year’s Winter Beer Fest was part pub crawl, part race against time. Seven different venues, sixteen unique homebrews, with a 20,000 won ticket entitling you up to fourteen different samples of homebrew courtesy of the Seoul Homebrew Club.

However, event co-ordinator Bill Miller had warned me: completing the circuit of all seven venues and sampling the allotted fourteen beers before they all ran out would be all but impossible.

Two hundred tickets were originally for sale, making it unlikely that there would have been enough to go around in the first place. However, due to popular demand, extra tickets were made available, leaving the final number somewhere closer to 275 tickets. Calculating for inevitable over-pouring, spilled drinks, and freebies, and it truly was a race against time and each other!

My small group ignored the warning and attempted do the impossible. We plotted a route starting at Upper Deck in Noksapyeong and finishing at Phillies in Haebongchon (aka HBC). What ensued was whirlwind trip that would have me trying new beers and new venues, meeting the same people again and again, and forming frienemies with each other as we all raced against the ticking clock that was the constant emptying of the kegs.

Upper Deck

The Winter Beer Fest was scheduled to run from 2pm until 5pm (or whenever supplies ran out) on January 18th. We met near the Upper Deck, a sports bar I hadn’t had the pleasure of visiting before, at 1:50pm. Bill Miller was pouring three of his own concoctions there, and I’m a big fan of his beer.

The Upper Deck is a nice, clean looking bar. “Minimalist” is the word that came to mind. The walls were sparse grey, like the basement rec-room of a new home. The big windows allowed daylight to pour in. New flatscreen TVs mounted along the walls showed Kevin Durant filling the NBA scoresheet.

At least 30 people lined up once Bill opened the kegs and started pouring the first samples. Bill offered three unique beers: a Pineapple IPA (7.2%), Xmas Ale (7.2%), and New Year’s Ale (9.7%).

The Pineapple IPA wasn’t as hoppy as I’d expected, considering how much Bill enjoys bitter IPAs. However, this beer seemed to be the consensus favorite among I people I asked. The pineapple flavor was very subtle, imparting enough sweetness to balance the hops. The Pineapple IPA would be a great crossover beer for someone not used to IPAs.

Bill Miller Upper Deck Craft Beer Korea
Bill Miller’s three beers served up in Upper Deck (Seoul, Korea)

The Xmas and New Year’s ales were both tasty as well. The Xmas was more of a stout with its dark, roasty sweetness, but was hoppier than most stouts. Meanwhile, the New Year’s ale was much more experimental. Bill said he used cilantro and candied ginger in the recipe. The ginger imparted a strong spiciness, while the cilantro was very subtle. The hefty 9.7% ABV hid behind the sweet and spicy ginger pop.

We finished our three samples quickly and headed across the road to visit our second venue: Maloneys.

Maloney’s

If the Upper Deck was a brand new baseball glove, Maloney’s was well broken in. Smaller than the Upper Deck, Maloney’s had a homey feel and traditional pub décor. The two members of the Seoul Homebrew Club who poured here were a real blast to talk to. This place also offered three beers, forcing ticket-holders to choose two out of three. Unlike at the Upper Deck, here we could not weasel our way into trying all three. On tap were a Toasted Coconut Porter (5.5%), a Caramel Robust Porter (6.9%), and a Black Forest Stout (5.5%).

My first choice was the Caramel Robust Porter. The brewer said that he wasn’t sure what to expect from this beer until he smelled it earlier that morning, and was surprised by how strong the caramel notes were. He used very little caramelized malt, but the results were spectacular. This porter was roasty and sweet with a strong presence of rich caramel, but it was also very smooth. A real crowd pleaser.

My companions chose the Black Forest Stout first, and find it almost indescribable. They seemed a little displeased and could only voice the taste as being sour like vinegar, yet not like vinegar. I was a little worried about trying it, but juat couldn’t pass up a stout; it’s my favorite kind of beer!

Maloney's Seoul Craft Beer
Three craft beers served up at Maloney’s during the Winter Beer Fest in Seoul.

I asked the brewer about it first. He suggested letting it warm up to mellow the tart flavor. Before I tried it, he explained that, to achieve the Black Forest taste, he added raspberries to the dark, chocolaty malt.

When I took my first sip, it did hit me funny; unlike any stout I’ve ever had. But I processed what he told me and realized that the “sourness” my friends were describing was just a raspberry tartness. It was quite strong and a little sharp. However, it was unmistakably raspberry, followed by a mellow, dark-chocolate aftertaste. After I described this taste to my group, it all clicked. Sometimes it just takes a little context!

I’d have to chose the Black Forest Stout as my favorite beer of the day. That being said, I don’t know if I could drink more than one or drink it with most food. This is really a one-and-done pint or a dessert beer. But—man!—did it ever have a nice flavor.

With five samples down, I started to notice the effects of the alcohol. Although five samples would probably equal a single pint, most of the beers had been quite strong. In fact, I actually spilled my first Black Forest Stout sample and had to ask for another. I apologize to the first person who was refused a Black Forest Stout. That one’s my fault!

The three of us finished up headed towards the eye of the storm: Craftworks Taphouse & Bistro.

Craftworks

This place really is the epicenter of the craft beer scene in Seoul (as I’ve mentioned in my last article), and it’s usually quite busy around brunch time on a Saturday. On this day it was, unsurprisingly, even more chaotic. I felt bad for the wait staff who had to navigate, and tolerate, a bunch of intoxicated leeches queuing up for free beer.

The fourth member of our group finally showed up here, an hour late. That would turn out to be a critical failure, as the beer supply was already running low in some places!

Craftworks had two selections of unique beer: a Saison (5%) and Sour Braggot (half beer/half mead, 8%).

Seoul Craft Beer Winter Beer Fest
Two craft beers served at Craftworks

This was my very first experience with the Belgian style ale known as Saison or Farmhouse Ale. The consensus amongst us was that it tasted unlike any beer we had ever had, and the closest analogue was white wine. It had a fruitiness and dry, crisp finish. It was quite nice and very interesting. That’s what the beer fest is all about! Discovering new tastes.

The Sour Braggot was another first for me. The mix of beer and mead definitely went down easier than the pure mead I tasted at the last Beer Fest. It’s an acquired taste, for sure, and this drink still tasted more powerful than the New Year’s Ale (9.7%) because of that unfamiliar “honey wine” flavor. An interesting experience.

While finishing our second sample, we struck up a conversation with some other ticket holders. They warned us that Magpie—our next destination—had run dry. We soundly cursed them for drinking our beer, in a friendly manner we used with everyone who got to the samples faster than us. However, we were still determined to try and finish the entire circuit, so we ignored their warnings and made our way to Magpie to see what fate awaited us.

Magpie

Magpie was another early forerunner into the mainstream Seoul craft beer scene. Following the success of Craftworks, Magpie created their own Pale Ale and Porter that can be found in restaurants around the city. The location itself is small and serves only a few items. On this day they only offered the porter. Magpie is simple but what it does, it does well.

We were lucky to have ignored the warnings because there was one beer left: a Chipotle Stout. At this point, my palette was a mess and my ability to judge beer had bottomed out. However, the Chipotle Stout struck me as surprisingly good. It was spicy, but not in a hot way: the chipotle giving it a unique punch of flavor. It was interesting and smooth, another completely unique experience for me.

Very shortly after we all finished getting our sample, the keg ran dry. We made it with less than a minute to spare! I felt bad for the folks in line behind us, but I would soon experience that disappointment for myself. However, our luck would hold out for one more beer as we carried on to another spot that brews its own craft beer—The Booth!

The Booth

This location was different than the one I mentioned in my last article. However, the same zesty smell of pizza sauce hung in the air and punched me in the gut. But there was no time for ordering food, and we fought our way to the back of the room to see what the SHC had in store for us here.

Seoul Korea Winter Beer Fest
The Booth in Seoul serving up Craft Beer during Winter Beer Fest 2014

Considering how packed The Booth was, and the fact that the SHC beer was running out, the line at the back was deceptively short. However, it wouldn’t be short enough.

The two guys pouring were really friendly and funny. The brewer of the Double Milk Stout (9%) kept making Communist jokes at the brewer of the Red Rye (?%) simply for, as far as I could tell, brewing a red beer.

I had already tried a Red Rye at The Four Season a few weeks before. Although it was very tasty, I opted to try the Double Milk Stout first because I had never tried a Milk Stout. At this point, all I can say about the aesthetic and culinary qualities of the beer was that I drank it and it made me happy. As it was my ninth different sample of the day, I honestly can’t differentiate more than that without venturing onto shaky ground.

Just as I got in line for the Red Rye (and before I had even finished my Double Milk Stout) they announced that the Red Rye and run dry. Our luck had finally ran out! I had to settle for another serving of the Double Milk. I know, first-world problems.

We had thus sampled nine different beers. Our 20,000 won had served three of us pretty well at this point (our late friend didn’t get quite as much value, as he only sampled four). However, there were still two venues left across the overpass into the neighbouring HBC area: Bonnie’s Pizza and Phillies Pub.

Bonnie’s and Phillies

Sensing that this was probably the end, we crossed the road with low expectations. I had been wanting to visit Bonnie’s for a long time, as their pizza is legendary.

Unfortunately, Bonnie’s had about 20 people outside the door waiting to get inside, while Phillies had no obvious line-up. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that both situations were dire. Phillies had run dry, while Bonnie’s was on their last keg (allegedly a double IPA). With such a long line and a cold wind blowing outside, we decided to cut our losses and return to Maloney’s for a couple of purchased pints.

Maloney’s: The Return

All in all, it was a great day. The first three of us got to taste nine beer, and the fourth got four. Pretty decent value when you factor in the energy, excitement, and novelty of it all.

Maloney’s was really on-the-go as everyone stopped pub crawling and began to settle down in one place.

We bought three rounds and drank a selection of beers from Anderson Valley. I also got a super greasy (and completely satisfying!) double bacon-cheeseburger.

I ended the day with a pint of Paulander, and it stuck me that I’ve come a long way in my beer taste since returning to Korea only 18 months ago. Back then, a friend took me out to a classy little place in Gangnam because they served Paulander. It was the first time I’ve had it, and I fell in love right away! I had just started getting to Hefeweizens, and this stuck me as a luxuriously delicious beer with a thick, sweet head that conjured the memories of an orange creamsicle.

Seoul Korea Beer Taps
A set of imported Taps at Maloney’s Bar in Seoul, Korea

Now that I’ve fallen in love with IPAs and flavorful stouts, I’ve started to become a little unsatisfied with the Hefeweizen’s light, banana & clove characteristics. Especially after a day of drinking very strong, bold beers, I found that this beer—which as mesmerized just a year and a half ago—was now barely drinkable. I’m sure I’d love a single Paulander on a hot summer day with a clean palette. But still, it startled me how quickly my tastes could change.

And that’s the best thing about the SHC beer fests: the invaluable experience of tasting a wide range of strong, bold, flavourful, and often experimental beers. It broadens your horizons and changes how you experience beer. And whether you race around in area trying to get as many free samples as possible, or so focus on just a few venues and enjoy a day of drinking with the city’s best beer lovers, the Winter Beer Fest provided an amazing opportunity to celebrate beer. For only 20,000 won, it was the best money I’ve spent all year.

Strand Brewing: Your Friendly Neighborhood Watering Hole in Guangzhou

By Hector Flores – Craft Beer Asia’s China Correspondent

Craft Beer in Guangzhou, China
Strand Beer Guangzhou China

Led by the intrepid David Strand and his wife Xurry, Strand Brewing is the vanguard for craft brewing in thirsty Guangzhou. 

With Shanghai and Beijing the current darlings of the craft brewing scene in China, the southern region of the Middle Kingdom can easily be lost in the fervor and that is quite literally the way Strand Brewing likes it.

Craft Beer in Guangzhou China
Strand Beer in Guangzhou, China. **

Tucked away in a family friendly neighborhood on the forgotten side of Zhejiang New Town, Strand Brewing is a friendly welcome to the beer scene in Guangzhou.  Started by David Strand and his wife Xurry in the summer of 2013, the fledgling brewery and tap house known as The Strand Beer Café has attracted locals and expatriates alike.

“We were almost immediately busy,” says David “and it has not slowed down. I guess people were waiting for Guangzhou’s answer to Great Leap and Boxing Cat (two well-known breweries from Beijing and Shanghai).” David goes on to say, “craft brewing in China is at an early stage and there is a lot of room to grow.” With their optimism and commitment to quality beers, it is clear that Strand Brewing is Guangzhou’s answer to their big city counterparts.

Strand Beer, Guangzhou's Craft Brewery in China
Craft Beer Drinkers at Guangzhou’s Strand Beer **

Having lived in China for the better part of the last half-decade, David watched from abroad as the craft beer scene in the United States boomed. David laments, “We have had some new breweries popping up in unlikely places, like my hometown (in Reno) and they are doing well.” With this as a source of inspiration, David threw himself into home brewing 5 years ago, at first going through the process of learning all about quality brewing, albeit from China. Without a large local brewing scene, David has had to turn to the Internet for community and camaraderie.

“Brewing on a small scale is not difficult here, since many of the ingredients are readily available, although, some are tough to source.” David describes that local people were initially confused as to why he would need hops (啤酒花 lit: beer flower) and yeast. After spending several years refining his skill set and testing his batches on his unsuspecting yet appreciative friends, David and Xurry decided the timing was ripe for a larger operation.

Guangzou China's Strand Beer
The Taps at Strand Beer Guangzhou China **

Difficulties arose when scaling his operation from home brewing to a larger system. David tells us that he had to modify and build his own brewing system since many of the locally made brewing systems are made for export. Problems also arose when trying to source large amounts of ingredients. “Since most of the brewing in China is done on an industrial scale, suppliers deal in tons, not pounds.” David says, “so getting someone to sell us a couple hundred pounds of barely was a challenge.” Luckily, David has managed to sort out these logistical hurdles, although, he has had to find his own work around to others. For example, since a large quantity of brewing yeast is not readily available, David has had to learn to propagate his own yeast cultures.

After pooling their funds, Strand Brewing was born. The tap house, located near the Wu Yang Cun metro stop (exit A), is a warm and cozy place for a pint. David tells us “We pour our beer at the café, and we also have a decent selection of bottled beers. We also offer pizza and hope to expand our menu soon.”

Craft Beer Bar in Guangzhou China - Strand Beer
The Interior of Strand Beer in Guangzhou China **

Brewing takes place at an off site facility not far from the bar. David comments “initially, we wanted the brewing equipment to be visible but there was not enough room. Our long term goal is a larger facility where we can include the brewing equipment and bar under the same roof.”

David brews familiar styles, an IPA named Wu Yang after the ancient name of his adopted city and Xurry’s porter named after his wife. Both have been tremendous sellers but David has set his aspirations higher, “we put on a farmhouse ale and also a Belgian, both we very popular. I really like to experiment with style and ingredients.”  At press time, David’s most recent one-off includes a chestnut ale infused with dragon eye fruit. Future beers, David tells us, will be mixed with more local ingredients giving his beers a uniquely Guangzhou-esque character.

Business has been brisk to say the least, with an eclectic mix of beer enthusiasts quaffing their ales alongside handmade pizzas.  Local media has been quick to capitalize on the novelty of the brewery as bitter beers or full bodies ales are something of an oddity.  David says, “Locals are used to drinking lagers but now they are learning more about quality craft beers. Half of my customers are Chinese and they are very appreciative of the beers.”

Beers at Strand Beer in Guangzhou China
A Taster Rack of Craft Beer at Strand Beer in Guangzhou, China **

The Strand Beer Café is not a large corporate bar with plasma TV screens showing the latest football match from the Premier league. It begs conversation with your friends or stool mate. The ambiance lends itself more to contemplation and dialog and is best enjoyed with a group of friends. “We have our regulars and we have people who hear about us through their friends,” David tells us, “and I think that is the best form of marketing there is.” We couldn’t agree more David!

For more information:

Address: 1 Chunfeng Road, Wuyang Xincheng, Yuexiu District

五羊新城明月二路春风路福安家政对面

Metro: 五羊站 (exit B)

Phone number:  (020) 8735-7179

Website: www.strandbrewing.com

Email: strandbeer@gmail.com

**All Photos by David Strand

An Interview with Seoul’s Craft Beer “Pioneer” – Bill Miller

Article by Rob Shelley (Craft Beer Asia’s S. Korean Correspondent)

Last Saturday I met with Bill Miller, a member of the Seoul Brew Club, at Craftworks Taphouse & Bistro. Bill has had an impact on the craft beer culture in Seoul by organizing beer festivals and sharing his recipes with local gastropubs.

While waiting for me, Bill sat at a table with Dan Vroon, the founder of Craftworks, drinking a beer of his own invention: the Bukhansan Pale Ale. This craft beer is one of the three recipes offered on the Craftworks menu that was created by Bill.

Craft Beer Korea Craftworks Pale Ale
Craftworks Taphouse Buk Han San Pale Ale

Two other surreal encounters happened while I spent the evening talking beer with Bill Miller. One was at a new pub opened by a couple of Seoul Homebrew Club members called The Four Season. The room was almost at capacity with Korean customers (a healthy sign for the future of craft beer in Seoul), and one table got up to ask if they could take their picture with Bill.

Bill has a distinctive looked, with his forked, ZZ Top-like beard; but this request was about more than recognition—it was about respect. One of the Korean gentlemen referred to Bill as “the beerfather”, and several times Bill was thanked for helping make good beer in Korea. I later asked Bill if he knew who they were. He had no idea.

Bill will be the first to tell you that he is not “the beerfather.” He said that there isn’t really any one Godfather-like character of the Seoul craft beer scene.

As for the major influences, he points to guys like Dan Vroon of Craftworks, which is the true trailblazer and current epicenter of the scene. Guys like Rob Titley, who is the current brewmaster at Craftworks and founder of Homebrew Korea. Or Troy Zitzelsberger, founder of the Seoul Homebrew Club and Reily’s Taphouse. Sung Lee deserves credit, too, as the CEO of Bremasters Korea, for filling many pubs and restaurants with great American craft beer. And finally, the person closest to being the Godfather, Park Chul: the founder of Ka-Brew brewery, which currently brews almost all the Korean craft beer.

Korea Craft Beer Bill's Pale Ale
Bill’s Pale Ale on Tap

Like most emerging scenes, there is no one person responsible for creating it. Instead, several individuals arrive at similar conclusions at the same time and seek each other out. In this case, individuals started to realize that Korean beer was rough and it was time to brew something better.

Bill was one of these individuals. He first arrived in Seoul back in 1990 and has done three “tours” here, the latest one starting in 2006. Hailing from West Virginia, Bill was actually introduced to homebrewing while living in South Korea. Things have changed for homebrewers in Seoul since the days when Bill started. Now there’s the Seoul Homebrew Club which offers tons of advice. There’s the associated Seoul Homebrew shop, which sells supplies and products. And there are seasonal events, like this month’s Winter Beer Fest, where members of the SHC tap kegs of delicious and varied brew to share with each other and the public.

Since the early days, Bill has refined his craft. In fact, Bill has made more of a mark on the Seoul craft beer scene than many people realize. Bill’s beer recipes can now be found on menus at both Craftworks and The Booth.

Bill tells a story about how he got so many beers on Craftworks’ menu. Dan Vroon and Park Chul were planning on using Bill’s recipe for an IPA, but Park wasn’t yet a fan of hoppy beers. According to Bill, Park had never used more than 5lbs of hops in a batch while Bill’s recipe called for 20lbs. Feeling uncertain, Park altered the formula by reducing the hops and malt: This was how Halla Mountain Golden Ale was born.

However, Dan insisted that Park try Bill’s IPA recipe, unaltered. The result is now a Craftworks favorite: Jirisan Moon Bear IPA.

Craft Beer Korea Craftworks Jirisan Moon Bear IPa
Craftworks Jirisan Moon Bear IPA

Bill later entered a Craftworks Pale Ale brewing contest, with the winner’s ale becoming the recipe for Craftworks new Pale Ale. I’m sure you know how this story goes: Bill wins and the Bukhansan Pale Ale is born.

Due to his employment with the US Military, Bill’s homebrewing exploits can’t be anything more than a hobby. But that suits Bill just fine. He’s simply a beer lover. If he can contribute by sharing recipes, managing festivals, or helping newcomers on the scene (like myself), then that’s reward enough for him. That, and having good beer to drink.

But Bill undeniably attracts attention in this small community of beer aficionados. While talking at Four Seasons we were first approached by the co-founder and I had the opportunity to congratulate him on his Red Rye Ale. Then another SBC member approached us, holding a growler of homebrew he had just finished. Of course, we were invited to taste it (or, to put it more accurately, Bill was invited while I imposed myself). It was a lovely dark ale with huge hops. Bill proceeded to dissect the taste of the beer, pinning down how, and with what, it must have been brewed. It was really something amazing to witness for a recent student of beer, like myself.

The surreal experience of drinking with Mr. Miller continued at The Booth. After being briefly introduced to the founders, I decided we had to order the first beer on the menu: Bill’s IPA. Different than the Moon Bear IPA at Craftworks, this is another one of Bill Miller’s creations. It’s pretty surreal to be drinking with someone who introduced me to the founders of all three pubs we drank at, and then discuss with him the beer we’re drinking… when it’s a beer he created. Just when I thought the feeling of drinking with Seoul beer royalty had peaked, the founder of The Booth came over to offer us a free round on the house!

To wrap things up, I asked Bill to look into his crystal ball and tell me what he thought was coming next in the Seoul craft beer scene, and what things could look like five years from now.

There are three things Bill sees coming next. First, he expects Craftworks to open their own state-of-the-art brewery in the near future. This will help Ka-Brew focus on their other contract brews, as it’s rumored that they’re struggling to keep up with the growing demand.

Next, he expects the diversification of beer styles to increase. I personally thank the guys from the SBC for hitting me with some unique beers at the Craft Beer Fest last November, and I look forward to this month’s Winter Beer Fest.

Finally, Bill foresees a change in governmental and taxation policy which will allow the microbrew movement to really begin to thrive.

As for the next five years? Bill Miller foresees an emerging regional and national identity for Korean craft beer. Something that rivals Japanese and American beer. He expects the beginnings of beer tourism and perhaps a unique Korean beer style that distinguishes itself.

And if anyone knows about being distinguished, it’s Bill Miller.

Seoul’s Craft Beer Fest 2013

– By Rob Shelley in Seoul

The end of 2013 witnessed an important moment for craft beer in Seoul Food Week at COEX just wrapped up early this November, featuring a huge space for the food and restaurant industry to display and market their products to commercial buyers and regular customers, alike. However, the show was stolen by a ragtag group of young people tucked away in the corner: the Craft Beer Fest. This featured a gathering of many of the players in Seoul’s growing craft beer scene. In contrast to the often ungenerous displays of the foodies, Craft Beer Fest featured a sweetheart of a deal: 15,000 won for twelve 3oz beer samples.

craft beer fest seoul korea
Badge and tasting chart for Craft Beer Fest in Seoul, Korea

Each ticket holder got a stamp card with twelve spaces to fill. Many lucky patrons, myself included, managed to leech off of folks who felt that 12 small beers were simply too much for them. The choices included established names in the local scene such as Craftworks and Reilly’s. Curiously missing was Magpie Brewing and The Booth. The Booth actually had a physical booth waiting for them, but no one showed up to open shop; at least not during the 3+ hours I was there. Rounding out the roster was The Wolfhound pub (serving mulled wine), Platinum Brewing, and the Seoul Brew Club. I managed to snag quick, intoxicated, informal interviews with representatives from both Platinum and the Seoul Brew Club.

I had never heard of Platinum Brewing, though they apparently had a brewpub for several years in Seoul. They have since moved their brewery to China due to financial and regulatory reasons, but remain very optimistic about the growing market and changing culture of craft beer in Korea. The brewmaster, himself a Korean, told me about his studies in Kentucky, the influence of Japanese craft beer on his tastes, and his personal brewing philosophy. He was a very nice dude who has great enthusiasm for beer.

Here's me with the Master Brewer from Platinum.
Here’s me with the Master Brewer from Platinum.

Platinum’s brewmaster told me that he likes to hit inside the middle of the taste spectrum with his beer—he doesn’t like beer that veers too boldly off of the expected ranges of flavor. This may sound like he’s looking to mimic the bland taste of the mass-produced lagers. But that’s not so. He did offer a fresher, tastier beer that could entice any casual beer drinker with his middle-of-the-road Golden Ale. However, his two IPAs showed that he likes a tasty beer, just not an extreme or gimmicky one. Each brew definitely had clean tastes, but the Strong IPA (my favorite of the bunch) had a beautiful hoppy bitterness that would please a more seasoned and adventurous beer drinker.

A surprise treat at the Craft Beer Fest was the Seoul Brew Club. This is a ragtag group of homebrew enthusiasts in Seoul. Each day of the expo had four different kegs prepared by various members of the club. As I only attended one of the four days, I unfortunately missed out on many delicious sounding beers. All the beers had nice, unique qualities. They ranged from a Burnt Honey Mead to a light Ginger Peach IPA. A few of the beers (I’m not saying which ones) had some impurities that certainly reminded you that you were drinking a homebrew, despite how good the flavor might have been. I have a feeling that the brewmaster from Platinum would have disapproved. But every beer served had several advocates who were delighted to taste something bolder than the common fare.

However, one of the homebrew beers was so good that I asked the server to stamp other places on my card reserved for other brands, just so I could try it three times.  It was so good it belongs in restaurants and brewpubs along with Craftworks, Magpie, and Platinum. I knew I had to find out more. I asked, and was directed to a tall, spikey-breaded fellow named Bill Miller.

At first it was hard to pry him away. He was busy and the event had become a packed and well-refreshed social event. When I did manage to lure him away for a minute, he turned out to be a delightful wealth of knowledge. He has been brewing in Seoul for about a decade, and knew far more about the birth of the craft scene here than I did. He proceeded to enlighten me on details about the Brew Club and the ever elusive Ka-Brew brewery, which seems to be the well-spring from whence almost of all this newfound craft beer comes from. He even told me he had helped on a recipe there. This came as no surprise, considering how good his Columbus Rye IPA was.

Columbus Rye IPA
Columbus Rye IPA

Bill filled me with tons of knowledge that, in my half-cut state, I knew I was bound to forget. However, one very important detail stuck with me: the notion that looser regulations would be coming soon. This was something echoed by the fellows at Platinum as well, but made a little more explicit by Mr. Miller. In fact, many here believe that the new Korean government of Park Guen-Hae will loosen the tight restrictions that make it difficult for smalltime brewers to start, grow, and thrive. Economic democratization has been a huge buzz word in Korea, even for the current conservative government. And a spotlight was cast upon the craft beer issue after articles in the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and an expose by Korea’s JoongAng Daily

Those new political forces and growing public awareness are combing with an emerging market, a budding scene, and the precedent of America’s recent craft beer surge. It’s looking as if the end of 2013 might pale in comparison to what’s coming next.

Rob Shelley is Craft Beer Asia’s correspondant in Seoul, Korea.

In Singapore, If You are Thirsty, Go to Thirsty (The Beer Shop) for Craft Beer!

During our June 2013 trip to Singapore for Beerfest Asia, we wanted to find out where one would find a good selection of craft beers, both local and imported. We found our source, at Thirsty – The Beer Shop!

Located in Liang Court (near Clark Quay), Thirsty offers very friendly and knowledgeable staff and a well stocked selection of craft beers from all over the world including local favorites from Jungle Beer, and imports from names like Stone Brewing (USA), Nogne Ø (Norway) Brew Dog (Scotland) and Mountain Goat (Australia).

Thirsty - The Beer Shop Singapore
Singapore’s Thirsty – The Beer Shop offers a wide array of local and imported craft beer.

Keep up to date with new offerings at Thirsty by following their Thirsty Facebook Page and while you are at it, Like Craft Beer Asia on FaceBook too!

Pull up a chair and enjoy your craft beer in the store. Thirsty is open late until 10PM and they take major credit cards. Cheers!!

Craft Beer at Thirsty - The Beer Shop
A wonderful selection of craft beer available in Singapore at Thirsty – The Beer Shop. This craft beer drinker is picking up a case of Stone Brewing Ruination IPA from California, one of our favorites!

Craft Beer Asia Experiences Singapore’s Brewpubs During Beerfest Asia 2013

Craft Beer Asia was privileged to attend Beerfest Asia in June of 2013. While we were not revelling at the festival site, we toured a few of Singapore’s brewpubs who are putting the Craft into Craft Beer and leading the way in Asia.

Brewerkz at Riverside Point was a very North American Style brewpub offering a number of fantastic in-house craft beers and a few guest taps including Singapore’s Jungle Brewing. The large patio was a great spot to people watch and relax on a sultry tropical afternoon. The Double IPA was also very very good!

Singapore Craft Beer at Brewerkz Brewpub
Brewerkz Brewpub in Singapore is located at Riverside Point and offers fantastic craft beer and a wonderful patio setting.

A short stroll along the boardwalk towards downtown Singapore brings you to Red Dot Brewhouse. Located right on the water at Boat Quay and offering a cozy patio, Red Dot Brewhouse offers up some creative craft beers made right in Singapore. As with Brewerkz, we ordered the taster rack and then went to the IPA, which was well made in our eyes, and tastebuds.

Craft Beer in Singapore at Red Dot Brewhouse
Order the sample tray of craft beer at Red Dot Brewhouse in Singapore located at Boat Quay.

Crossing the river and making your way back to Clark Quay, you will come across The Pump Room. A little higher end concept, but a brewpub offering a nice set of craft beers. Again, the IPA was quite nice! This is a great spot for people watching as the central fountains are a  hot spot for the kids as the evening sets in.

The Pump Room Craft Beer in Singapore
Located at Clark Quay, The Pump Room offers some decent IPA and other craft beers as well as great people watching while in Singapore.

Finally, we visited a couple of the concept pubs by Archipelago Brewing. Archipelago offers its brews at several pubs around Singapore that have a very unique atmosphere to enjoy some fine craft beers. The Archipelago beers are not too aggressive but offer a great alternative to the mass produced big guys. Archipelago does do seasonal one-off beers including a decent British Style IPA that I was able to enjoy.

Singapore's Archipelago Brewing
Archipelago Brewing in Singapore offers its fine craft beers at a number of concept bars around the city. Pictured are some of their Wit Beer.

So, craft beer is alive and well in Singapore through several decent brewpubs around the city. Stay tuned for our follow up stories on Beerfest Asia and General Singapore Craft Beer explorations.

Check out our Singapore Directory that is currently in its infancy.

2011 Philippine Craft Beer Tour

My 2011 Craft Beer Tour of The Philippines took me to Metro Manila and Bacolod City. The trip also allowed me time to finish up some much needed dental work with my new and highly recommended dentist in Manila.

Makati Metro Manila, The Financial Hub of The Philippines
Manila’s Main Financial District of Makati, also the Craft Beer Hub of The Philippine

On my trip to Bacolod, I spent a day with Felix (Bogs) Hagad who is brewer and owner of Bogs Brew (Negros Island Craft Beer). Bogs brews a couple styles of beers using local organic ingredients where possible. Bogs Brew is also available win Manila at PenPen Restaurant in Cubao X.Jim Araneta and the Global Beer Exchange are responsible for importing and marketing several craft beer brands from the USA and Japan in the Philippines. We visited The Tasting Room at Greystone Gallery and the new Tasting Corner at Craft Pub & Grill. The Tasting Room is now closed and all of Global Beer Exhcange’s craft beer selection can be found at Craft Pub & Grill in The Fort.

Bacolod City's very own Craft Brewery, Bogs Brew
Pairing some Cassava Cake and Bogs Brew in Bacolod

Another highlight of my 2011 trip was my time spent with Allan Agala of Great Island Craft Brewery. Allan is brewing craft beers from his house in Paranaque and hopefully soon will be going commercial and distributing his fine brews around the Metro Manila area.

Another craft brewery doing good things in Manila is Pivo Praha in Makati. Pivo brews Czech style beers and distributes to various places in the Metro Manila area including one of my favorite spots, The Hobbit House! If you are in Makati, stop by Bravo Best Foods and try some of their beers on tap with some pizza! They are located near Makati City Hall at 1331 Angono St.

I had a nice surprise visit to G Point Bar in Malate where owner Morgan is planning to open his own brewery and serve a couple taps of his beer on draft in his pub. He has a second location in Tagaytay. He currently offers a selection of imported beers from Europe and hopes to also have a draft offering from Great Island Craft Brewery when they are up and running. Check them out on Facebook! It’s one of the funnest bars around.

G Point Smorgasbord Bar in Manila is a great spot to drink Beer.
G Point Smorgasbord Bar in Manila is soon brewing its own craft beer.

Suds Magazine also attended opening night at The Beer Gallery, a small intimate venue in a very hip Makati location. The Beer Gallery is located inside The Offbeat Cafe in a place called The Collection. This is a must visit place pairing up craft beer, Imported European beers and some pretty eclectic food options. Check them out on Facebook!

Another mover and shaker in the beer business in The Philippines is Mags Villafuerte from Gilmore Wines and Spirits. Mags offers one of the largest selections of beers in the country for retail and wholesale trade. The offerings include craft beers from The U.S.A. and Japan as well as numerous imports from all over the world. Gilmore distributes to bars and restaurants all over The Philippines along with its retail operation in Quezon City.

We visited a number of other locations in the Metro Manila area that offered up some great craft beer. Some great food pairings at The Balcony Gastropub in Makati was a highlight as was the 100+ bottle selection at Beers Paradise. For an up to date listing of restaurants offering craft beer in The Philippines, contact The Global Beer Exchange.

Mr Jones Restaurant in Greenbelt Makati City Philippines
Enjoying a Stone Brewing Oaked Arrogant Bastard at Mr. Jones in Makati.

Enjoy Manila and the rest of The Philippines and rest assured that you’ll not have to go without great craft beer while you are there!

Craft Beer Asia is Launching Soon in 2013!!

Craft Beer Asia will be launching this site soon. In the mean time, stay in touch on our Facebook Page or our Twitter.

We are are all booked to be attending Beerfest Asia in Singapore in June, 2013 so watch for the colour-coordinated crew roaming the grounds and enjoying some great craft beers.

If you would like articles on your craft beer related business that is located in Asia, feel free to submit it to us with photos if available. We will be happy to publish and promote anything related to Craft Beer in Asia.