The Past, Present, and Future of Craft Beer in South Korea
The Dark Days……….
We that have been in Korea for some time know all too well the terrible beer options that were made available to us prior to Craft Beer being mostly accepted by everyone today. We’ve had beer in Korea however the main corporation known as Hite opened its doors in 1933 with Oriental Brewery (OB) entering the market in 1952. These two companies would tower over the beer market and remain there thanks to government restrictions on licenses based on brewing capacity and taxes that favored large-scale production. Cass, created by Jinro-Coors, was established in 1994 only to be absorbed into OB shortly after in 1999. To this very day, Hite (who merged with Jinro in 2006) and Oriental Brewery continue to dominate the beer industry in Korea with their beers appearing in countless bars across the country. All hope wasn’t lost though because slow trickles of beers were making their appearance in certain local shops and by 2002 Korea was planning for the World Cup. This allowed for the domestic liquor tax to be amended and the government began administering licenses to micro breweries however their production capacity was limited because the “Brew-pubs” could only brew beer in the bar they were served in.
In 2006 a wonderful beer known as Alley Kat was imported from Canada into Korea with the help of a local brewing company called Ka Brew that began their brewery in 2000; It was a huge hit among locals however due to legal restrictions it was still easier to import beer from halfway around the world instead of selling and making it in your own bar. In 2011 the manufacturing laws lowered to allowing breweries to manufacture a post fermentation requirement of 150,000 liters as well as a new law allowing beer made in one brewery to be sold at another brewery (Contract brewing). Craftworks were the first business to partner with KaBrew and soon after other breweries like Magpie got on board as well in 2012.
The Beer Explosion of 2014…………….
The beer revolution was in full swing by now when the manufacturing requirements were lowered to 50,000 liters and taxes were slightly reduced. Breweries began to pop up more frequently due to the reinvigorated passion that breweries had to make Craft Beer work in South Korea. Some of the leaders were Hand & Malt and The Galmaegi brewing company and the two began really making things interesting by 2013. Not only are brewers working for a better, brighter future of beer but pubs and tap houses are making use of the contract brew system. This is extremely helpful since some of these businesses still don’t possess the resources to undertake this task themselves. 7brau and KaBrew are the two spearheads in the contract brewing market here on the peninsula at the moment
The Future of Beer, 2016 and Beyond……
This last weekend we were at a beer festival in Gonju with seven different breweries offering over fifty different kinds of Craft Beer ranging from Vanilla Stouts, Pumpkin Ales, and an Apple Waffle Beer. I.P.A.’s, Ambers, Lagers, and Porters were also available at the ready which shows that Korea is definitely getting their game together and the lessened restrictions on the brewing laws are allowing the breweries to be more adventurous and creative with the types of beer they are making. This year has had 5 beer festivals so far and a sixth one is due to take place in Daejeon to showcase over eighteen different breweries with the largest craft beer variety we have seen to date. This trend has no signs of slowing down and we feel that there will be even more chances to wet your whistle with the elixir in 2017. If you happen to be in the neighborhood on October 15th 2016 come and get your Funk and Beer drinkin’ on. We as The Bump City Band have been lucky enough to experience these festivals over the past two years while being excited to see them progress over time we can’t wait to see what the future holds in 2017.