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When it comes to Korean alcoholic beverages, the spotlight often falls on soju or maesil-ju. However, the often under appreciated Korean beer scene, has been quietly brewing up a storm over the past few years. Beer culture in Korea has evolved significantly, with craft beer and local breweries gaining popularity. This article aims to guide you through the best Korean beers that you must try on your next visit to South Korea or your local Korean restaurant.
South Korean Lager dates back to the early 20th century when the country was under Japanese rule. The first brewery, Oriental Brewery (OB), was established in 1933, and it introduced OB Lager, the country’s first beer. However, it wasn’t until the late 20th century that beer consumption really took off in South Korea.
In the 1990s, as the country’s economy grew, so did the demand for beer. This led to the establishment of several other breweries, including Hite Brewery and Cass Brewery. These breweries introduced their own lagers, which quickly became popular among South Koreans.
In recent years, there has been a shift towards craft beers, with several microbreweries popping up across the country. These breweries are experimenting with different styles and flavors, introducing South Koreans to a whole new world of beer.
Related Post: 10 Best Soju Flavours To Try
These are the beer types that are available in almost all places in Korea. When I say “commonly found” beers, I am pertaining to these kinds. There are several major brands under this category, such as Cass, Hite, Kloud, Max, and OB.
These types of beers typically aren’t exceptional. If you desire an exceptional taste, it’s recommended that you continue reading to learn about craft beers. Nevertheless, these beers do have their own unique purpose, and are often used to make a great somaek (a mixture of soju and beer).
In my opinion and after extensive online research, these beers are typically viewed as inferior to European beers due to their weaker taste. They are primarily adjunct lagers with a similar style to Budweiser.
The most popular Korean beers are perfect to consume while eating delicious Korean cuisine, such as chicken, samgyeopsal, and other tasty dishes.
A staple in Korean bars and restaurants and publicised by none other than Gordon Ramsey, Cass is a light and refreshing lager that pairs well with a variety of Korean dishes. It’s a go-to Korean beers choice many locals and tourists alike. With a market share of 36%, this adjunct lager has won the best beer award for the past five years.
Cass has a mild hops flavor, and the taste will stick around for a while after taking a sip. The taste isn’t as smooth as some other beers, such as Kloud, but Cass has a richer and deeper flavor. On top of this, Cass tastes more crisp and refreshing.
Brewed using traditional German methods, Kloud offers a rich flavor profile compared to other mainstream Korean beers. Its distinctive taste has earned it a loyal following. Kloud has a slightly fruity taste that has a tiny tang.
This sweet taste isn’t pronounced in the face of the taste of the grainy hops. Overall, Kloud is relatively light-bodied. This makes Kloud very easy to drink. It’s a smooth beer that is easy to drink more than you should – a worthy contender in the Korean beers list
Another popular Korean beer, Hite is a smooth lager that’s perfect for those who prefer a less bitter taste. It’s a common sight at Korean BBQ restaurants. Hite is lighter than Cass and has an even taste – it’s not overly sharp, rich, or strong. For this reason, it didn’t stand out to me.
Instead, I found it was most comparable to FiLite, one of Korea’s budget beer brands. Hite is an okay beer choice if you are looking for something simple that won’t take away from another flavor. It’s good to wash down spicy foods or Korean barbeque where you don’t want the beer overwhelming the food.
Terra is a relatively new entrant in the Korean beers market, but it has quickly gained popularity for its crisp and clean taste. Terra has a light malt taste when it first meets your taste buds. However, this taste grows as your progress through the can and is more distinctive after a few sips.
You may also notice a slight corn smell that is ever-present while not obvious. Terra has a deeper taste than Cass, but Cass has a more iconic upfront hops taste.
Max stands out for its unique flavors, often incorporating elements like lemon and other fruits. It’s a great choice for those looking to try something different. Max is known for being an exceptionally creamy beer. For this reason, it’s usually found alongside chicken in Korea’s many chicken restaurants.
This Korean beer has a rich taste that complements the creaminess. There is also a nice depth to the malt beer. The balance of malt and hops makes Max a smooth drink that works well with a range of dishes.
These affordable brews are a testament to the fact that you don’t need to break the bank to enjoy a good beer.
Korean budget beers, often found in convenience stores and supermarkets, offer a cost-effective way to enjoy a cold brew without compromising on taste. They are the unsung heroes of the Korean beer scene, providing a refreshing respite for those on a budget.
Whether you’re a student looking for a cheap drink, a traveler trying to stretch your won, or simply someone who enjoys a good deal, Korean budget beers have got you covered. From light lagers to flavorful ales, these budget-friendly options cater to a variety of tastes and preferences.
A favorite among students, FiLite is a budget beer that offers a strong hops flavor with a lighter feel, likely due to its lower malt content. It has a sharp initial taste that quickly fades, leaving a weaker flavor compared to other beers on this list. FiLite is also noticeably more carbonated than other Korean beers. Despite its shortcomings, FiLite is a drinkable beer that offers value for money.
FilGood is Oriental Brewery’s budget beer. It has a similar flavor profile to FiLite but tastes weaker, almost more watered down. FilGood has a consistent taste throughout, without any strong initial or aftertastes. It’s smoother and easier to drink than FiLite, making it a good choice for those seeking a cheap, easy-to-drink beer.
Often referred to as Korea’s version of Corona (and you can see why by the look of it), Cafri is a budget light lager. However, its taste is very weak and watery, more like a carbonated soft drink with a slightly bitter taste. The taste dissipates almost instantly, leaving little to remember. Despite its shortcomings, Cafri could be a good choice for those seeking a very light, carbonated beer.
The Korean beer scene is as diverse as it is exciting. From mainstream lagers to craft beers with unique flavors, there’s a Korean beer for every palate. Whether you’re a beer connoisseur or a casual drinker, these Korean beers offer a refreshing change from the usual suspects. So the next time you’re in the mood for a cold one, why not reach for a Korean beer
Remember to always drink responsibly and enjoy the rich flavors that Korean beers have to offer. Whether you’re pairing it with a meal or enjoying a cold one on a hot day, there’s a Korean beer that’s just right for the occasion. Cheers, or as they say in Korea, “건배” (geonbae)!
What Is the Best Korean Beer? This is totally subjective! However, in my opinion, the best mainstream beer is Cass. When it comes to craft beers, I love Malpyo and Jeju Wit Ale.
Where Can I Buy Korean Beer? If you are in Korea, the best place to go is your local supermarket or convenience store. If you are overseas, check out the local Korean mart or shop online!
What Is the Most Famous Korean Beer? The most famous Korean beers are Cass, Kloud, Hite, OB, Terra, and Max.
What Types of Beer Are Famous in Korea? In Korea, you will find a lot of Adjunct Lager. Light beers and Pale Ale are also quite common!
What Beers Are Trendy in Korea? Currently, craft beers are very trendy in Korea. The most popular craft beers are Jeju Wit Ale, Gompyo, and Malpyo.