The first of the microbreweries was a bit of an eclectic establishment referred to, on their card at least, as Cafe, Pops Cool. The small staff consisting of a manager, a waitress, and a cook were all incredibly polite, and this was despite my lackluster Korean language skills. Communication at times was definitely a challenge, but all part of the local experience. Nevertheless, beer is a universal language, and once the staff recognized I was an advocate I was offered a tour of the premise, including the brewery. The brewery was quite small, but still impressive. That night they were serving two options a light beer and a black dunkel; I had both. The dunkel was definitely my preference, but both were vastly superior to the Korean mass-produced beer Hite or OB. Cafe, Pops Cool is definitely a good option for a quality brew from a friendly staff while touring Apgu.
Next on the list was Platinum Microbrewery also located in Apgu (there are apparently two in Seoul). This bar/restaurant was clearly designed to be more modern and high-end when compared to Cafe, Pops Cool’s, and this showed in the prices. It was a rather large dimly lit space that would be great for a date. The food and beer list was quite extensive with seven beers on tap. The food was decent, and the beer was satisfactory. However, I preferred the dark beer from Cafe, Pops Cool to any of Platinum’s selections. But, if you do find yourself visiting be sure to try the beer sampler, its the biggest bang for your Won. If my memory serves me correctly, then I believe Platinum’s Belgium White, at least to me, was the most impressive option.
If you liked this article then you would likely find this posting from seoulgirl discussing Seoul microbreweries, especially Platinum, an interesting read.
Also, I will soon be visiting the Seatlle area, and hope to do some beer related touring and tasting, so please email me or leave some comments to this post with any suggestions.
We arrive and after watching a quick introductory film on the DMZ, which oddly gives the impression that the place is something akin to Disney Land, despite the 10 million landmines. We start off touring the 3rd infantry tunnel. This tunnel was secretly dug by the North Koreans to accommodate a potential sneak attack on Seoul, scary when you think about it. Hopefully one day these tensions ease and the tunnel can be used for something more worthwhile like beer running.
Outside the tunnel I notice a small gift shop; I start to wonder. However, as I walk through the door hope fades quickly. I immediately notice all the typical touristy wares: postcards, T-shirts, etc… One unique item was a small paperweight like object featuring a piece of barbed wire from the original DMZ. By this point I was sure even if there ever was North Korean brews sold in the DMZ they were long drank, it was time for me to just enjoy the day…
I called a last minute audible and decided to pickup some water before we left, so I headed over to the small fridge. My eyes lit up like Ponce de Leon discovering the fountain of youth; there it was… the prize, Taedonggang Maekju! I couldn’t believe it, there it sat unassumingly surrounded by bottled water and North Korean Soju. I immediately rejoiced and made the purchase. I didn’t however imbibe the beverage until I reunited with Hogan, so by this time it had become somewhat skunky, but was still rather refreshing; overall we both thought it would be a decent beer. But by this point it wasn’t about the taste it was about the journey.
Here is a great article from Reuters discussing the background of this beer in pretty good detail.
First, the most consistently fantastic breweries. These are breweries that we tried multiple beers from and consistently scored high marks (4 or 5 on our scale from 0 to 5) by each of us.
Next, some musings on ingredients. We had a watermelon beer from Opa Opa that earned a four from everyone but me; I have a well known prejudice against fruit beers. For the record, Mike and I have tried the Watermelon Wheat from 21st Amendment (Come Hell or High Watermelon) on two occasions in the past (not knowing it was the same beer) and had radically different conclusions. We suspect it is because the quality of flavor in the watermelons used varies throughout the season; on one occasion it tasted somewhat artificial, on the other it was more natural. We both agreed that the Opa Opa beer had a more natural watermelon flavor than either of the 21A tastings, but that may have been influenced by the fact that they included a watermelon wedge that was nearly as large as our tasting glass. Note to brewers…nice gimmick but please don’t garnish a taster. I tried the dregs of the taster, trying to figure out what the base style was, but found the body was thicker than usual, because I was drinking watermelon pulp by that point. I wasn’t pleased.
I was, however, pleased and intrigued with the various beers containing rye as an ingredient. Several Rye-based IPAs were present, most notably two from Terrapin Beer Company in GA (The Rye PA single IPA, and Rye Squared, a Double IPA). I loved the way the spicy rye character played with the hop character and can’t wait to try playing more with Rye in his own brewing. The balance was relatively light on the bitterness and quite malty for an IPA (especially the DIPA), which is another well known Punk prejudice, earning both beers a four.
I also got a chance to try Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo Maron when the line was actually managable on Friday night. The thing that drew me to this beer was that the wood it was aged in is apparently designated a potentially endangered species. Make sure you get some while you still can, it was a fantastic beer: thick creamy mouthfeel, wonderful smokey nose, and a flavor reminiscent of a Russian Imperial Stout but more sour and less roasty (the actual style was Imperial Brown Ale). The finish was a little harsher and more bitter than I like, which kept it just shy of a five, but a very solid, respectible four.
Until next time, slainte!
The second thing to note is that if you are a serious festival goer, you might want to bring a secretary to take your notes (might as well ask your designated driver…in for a penny in for a pound, just make sure to get them something nice). I found it very difficult to juggle my tasting glass, beer list, and pen all at the same time. It also helps if your notetaker is in the legal profession, as they’ll be familiar with shorthand and are used to taking extensive notes. Our Friday notes read like the back of a napkin at 4AM; our Saturday notes like a court transcript.
Oskar Blues was also distributing necklaces with a beer can on them. We didn’t figure it out until it was too late to be useful, but this is not a spitoon, and not necessarily a fashion accessory either. We did, however, see people keeping their taster in it while they took notes. Very handy, indeed.
Finally, if you’re going to any beer festival, always remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself. This is often repeated, and with good reason. To that we would add, it’s not about “getting your money’s worth” either. When we ran the numbers we decided we had paid the equivalent of over six dollars a pint (remember you are only getting two ounces at a time, and you have to wait in line for that even). You’re not here to drink lots of beer cheaply, you can do that at home. You’re here to taste beers you can’t find anywhere else. This also means you should probably shy away from your old favorites for a change and try to find some new ones. So take your time and get searching.
The world of beer goes deeper than the line of taps at your favorite watering hole. It goes deeper than the cooler at your corner liquor store. Simply put the world of beer is much larger than most people dare to imagine.
Like most things, it all started simply with a series of small, seemingly inconsequential experiences. A brewery tour here, and brewpub there, a failed experiment with a Mr. Beer kit. Over the past five years our interest has turned into a virtual obsession. We seek beer while travelling, from coast to coast, to our neighbors in the north, and even to North Korea. Hogan in particular is becoming frighteningly obsessed with the technical side of brewing and how the magic four ingredients – malt, hops, water, and yeast – can produce such a wide variety of different beers, and the imaginative mad scientists behind the creation process.
We are not beer snobs. I’m not even sure either of us have ever met a beer snob. We are, however, passionate beer people. Sometimes beer people can seem a bit unapproachable to newcomers, like they speak another language. This needn’t be the case; we feel you can geek out on beer without losing everyone else in the room, if you do it right. We also feel that while it is sometimes exciting to hear about strange local customs from around the world or obscure farmhouse breweries, what we all really need is a usable road map to navigate the beer world. That is what we hope to provide. And we look forward to the help of our readers on this one, because after all, we can only draw a usable map for our own little corner of the world, and the few places we’ve been.