Korean beers. Yay or Nay?
There are only a handful of Korean breweries, making and distributing most of the beers available to the consumer here. Korean beer is popular and is big business here on the peninsula, but that’s about it. Have you ever heard of Korean beer brands? Probably not, as they are not well-known internationally.
What Do Korean Beers Tastes Like?
Even though it is somewhat widely available, the not-so-well-known Korean beer typically has a bad image and mimics an American-style pale lager. The major players are, more times than none, watery and tasteless, yet they are nonetheless enjoyable, similar to a Budweiser or Coors Light or even a Canadian Moosehead(sorry Eh!)
Yes, like all things, tastes differ when it comes to food and beverages, but all in all, the beers in Korea could be much worse.
The big Korean Breweries
Their beer brands include: Hite, Max, Dry D, S, Stout, Lager Beer, Terra, and a few more
Oriental Brewery (OB)
Their beer brands include OB Golden Lager, Cafri, and Cass brands (Cass Fresh(my personal favorite), Cass Lemon, Cass Red, and Cass light.
Their only brand is Kloud. Lotte is mostly known for confectionary items and soft drinks.
*There are a few smaller ones plus several craft beer makers but I’ll touch on those in another post.*
Most popular Korean Beer
At 4.3%, this pale lager is the most popular Korean beer on the market. It is frequently the draft beer of choice in many Korean pubs and eateries. Hite would be the standard beer if there was one. Imagine it as Korea’s equivalent of a Labatts Blue Light or something similar to a Miller lite. but with a milder flavor and less alcohol.
OB Golden Lager brings a respectable 4.8%abv and uses German hops in their recipe. I’ve tasted German beers on many occasions, and OB does not taste like any of them…by a long shot. Many consider OB as a step up from other offerings on this list, but I must disagree.
Keeping in mind that, tastes differ widely on beers. I, myself, have drank this beer but it gets way too flat too fast. Unlike my favorite of the crowd ‘Cass’.
Kloud is a malt beer. No, it does not pack a punch like an Old English 800, it has 5% abv. This is a new kid on the block, as it was introduced only back in 2014. I remember going to a promotional party on the weekend it came out and had more than a few Kloud beers that evening, and it stuck.
Either it was great promotional tactics or the subtle taste of the Kloud that stayed with me, either way, this one is my second go-to brew on the list.
Max, oh old Max. I’m not sure what to write here. Max is a drinkable malt beer like most on the list, except for TERRA, I’ll get to TERRA later. The problem with MAX is that it was too skunky when the burp comes.
Sorry for the details, but I know my beers, and MAX will make you run to the bathroom every 10 minutes as well as give you a skunky after-burp. I would 100% drink this beer if you’re the one buying it. But I would not stock this one in my fridge at home.
Cass all flavors
All of the Cass beer brands are great. The original Cass Fresh Cold Brewed is a great beer. It has an overflow of fizz, that’s an attractive part for some beer lovers, especially when you drink it from a can. Great beer.
As mentioned before they have a line-up of flavors that help their sales in the scorching summer months, but I rarely see anyone drinking them, or I might be wrong.
The Lemon Cass is quite enjoyable, during any season, and I think I might go buy a 6pack after this post.
Cass Red is a malt liquor and almost comparable to a Colt 45(my American friends will scold me for this). At 6.9%, the Red packs that punch that the others on this list fail to bring.
Oh, poor little Cafri. It’s always standing untouched in the fridge at stores all around the country. I call this one ‘the forgotten beer’. I’m actually not sure why. It’s very light and very refreshing. I compare it to a Sol or, even dare I say it, a Corona. There it is…the Korean Corona. Taste it, you’ll see.
Terra… is TERRAble. It’s supposed to be a “European Pale Lager”. I’ve been around Europe, nope, nope, nope…That TERRA beer taste has zero to do with anything European.
I’m not sure what happened in the brewery or who hired the brewmaster, but whatever you do…if you ever visit Korea, or you’re in a Korean restaurant in Zimbabwe, Bali, Chicago, or Ottawa, and the menu offers TERRA…Close the menu and leave. No respectful restaurant owner should have that on their menu. There I said it. Now I’ll be expecting a call from Hite/Jinro.
South Korea, being one of the most advanced countries in the world and a hub for technology, and a leader in global imports in several fields, is lacking way behind in the domestic beer aisle. When you think of Asian beers, big names come to mind: Asahi(Japan), Tiger(Singapore), Tsingtao(China) even Vietnam has its Saigon beer.
So when someone goes out and orders one of these beers outside Asia, most people will at least know the name. But if a customer orders a ‘Cass beer’ or a ‘Hite beer’…there are good chances that the server will look dumbfounded into what those beers are and where they are from.
Luckily, Korea is intuned with global changes so it might be just a matter of time before these Korean beer brands get their, proverbial, time in the sun, somewhere outside of the Asian continent.
But for that to happen, the brewmasters mixing the ingredients, and the ‘big cheeses’ sitting in their offices in downtown Seoul will have to change their tune(recipes) if they want to compete with the well-known players in the ever-evolving world of suds.