Editor's note: More from our 'Adjunct Faculty'! The Blonde Guy has recently returned from Korea, and to celebrate his feet replanting on American soil, we present a series of his observations from those Eastern shores. Enjoy!
Hello Happy Hour Nation!
Well, I guess now we are technically Happy Hour WORLD! How cool does that sound!? Last we spoke I left you all in the sleepy town of Daegu with a briefing on the craft scene here in Korea. Since then we made our way to eight more cities in Korea, I teamed up with a Korean brewery to make a beer, and made we it back to the states! Now, becausenot all of these cities were very "craft-forward" (and also due to an inconvenient stomach bug), there won't be a comprehensive breakdown on each city. I will, however, leave yall a list of top bars that were found either by comrades or myself at the end of the post with links to each if you find yourself thirsty in Korea. Whew, ok with all that being said time to dive into my favorite city we have been to outside of Seoul... *We hear the king of travel, food, and booze, Anthony Bourdain, starting to narrate...
"Busan, South Korea. The second most populated city in the secluded Korean Peninsula. It boasts a sprawling coastline, an exciting culinary scene, and only recently, craft beer."
Thanks, Tony. We'll send your check in the mail.**
In all seriousness, Busan is not only the fifth largest port town in the world but one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited, and definitely the most beautiful in Korea. Bridges over the ocean connecting the downtown business center with the beachside restaurants, and a vast array of architecture create a skyline that requires taking an obscene amount of photos. (See obscene amount of photos below)
Only three blocks west of Namcheon Beach lays the headquarters of the aptly named, Galmegi Brewing Company. Galmegi (Korean for "seagull." Get it? Seagulls are on the beach... just like the brewery... ) started in a third story bar space and now is housed in a old surf shop that has been repurposed into a full fledged micro brewery and restaurant. With 12 of their own, rotating, beers on tap you can bet that anyone from a craft-beer-virgin to a certified Cicerone will find something they enjoy. Some favorites from my December visit were:
- Yuja Gose, a deliciously dry and salty Gose brewed with Yuzu to give it a nice citrus snap.
- Winter Ale:Winter warmer style with the perfect balance of Ginger and cinnamon, a favorite amongst the cast that was with me as it was the day after Christmas. F
- Galmegi IIPA and IPA: The Galmegi IPA is one of their best selling beers and honestly one of the most solid IPA's I've had to date. It sits at a mid-low ABV so you can have a few at the beach and gives you the perfect, balanced, hop-forward flavor profile you want from an IPA. Now their IIPA... Oooo their IIPA. When I sat down and chatted with their CEO, Steven Allsopp, he poured a chalice of this sweet elixir for me to try and I almost wept. I was immediately swept away through clouds made of flowers and citrus on tiny magic carpets made of hops and bubbles before landing softly in a peach orchard. Seriously folks, I thought he had poured me a Heady Topper or Sip O' Sunshine this beer was so good. Galmegi IIPA is only brewed a few times a year, so if you find yourself in Busan while it's on tap consider buying a growler or two or ten of this truly masterful execution of the IIPA style.
Galmegi paved the way for craft to take wing in Busan with Gorilla Brewing opening down the block and Akitu Brewing Company headquartering just outside of the metro area opening shortly after Galmegi hit the city's palate. British company, Owl and Pussycat, also opened a bar right on the beach offering a wide array of international and domestic brews and artisan dishes, and a bottle shop of the same nomenclature right across the street from Galmegi's flagship location. This beach oasis was quickly climbing to the top of my list of favorite cities.
Another exciting opportunity presented itself while visiting Busan: brewing my very first beer! I presented the idea of brewing a Jekyll and Hyde themed beer (a la Broadway Brews) to Galmegi CEO, Steven Allsopp, on our first night of meeting and he loved the idea. Two days later we nailed down a recipe and the day after that I met him at the brewery early in the morning for a full day of brewing!
We decided to make a sweet and spicy beer, incorporating the theme of duality from the show, using caramely(is this a word? It is now) German malt, and Korean chilis from a local market. After transferring everything to the fermentation tank, Steve brought out a huge surprise for me: the magical yeast we would be using to turn our work into beer were the same creatures that are used at Alchemist Brewing to make HEADY TOPPER. Yes, THE Heady Topper. The perfect micro organisms were pumped into the tank and we left it for two weeks to let them feast on the sugar, and poop out their delicious phenols and esters. It was distributed throughout Busan and to a couple bars in the many neighborhoods of Seoul and surprisingly well received by the craft community in both cities! So much so that Galmegi almost went through every keg before I could get my hands on it!
Jekyll and Hyde had a beautiful peach and pepper aroma with a sinister red hue. At first sip you get a malt forward flavor with a hint of the peach and rye. It then evolves into the "Hyde" profile with a dry Korean gochu (chili pepper) kick at the end. Not going to lie, this beer is weird (in a good way, like people who like to run for fun... Jimmy) but rolling in at 5.5% ABV this brew is goes down surprisingly easy even with the spicy finish. Topping the list of reasons why this beer is great is that we are donating a dollar from every pint sold at the brewery to a local orphanage in Busan. Unfortunately Galmegi doesn't have a canning or bottling system yet so there wasn't a way to get it back to the states.
It pained us all to leave this beautiful beach town, but alas, we had to move on with the show. The cities that we traveled through from Busan to our two and a half month sit down in Seoul varied with what they had to offer in the craft beverage department. I also experienced food poisoning and a back injury that required me to take medicine that prevented me from drinking for about a month all together. So my beer expertise is not so high on some cities, however I was incredibly lucky to have a craft cohort, Ian Jon Bourg, on this journey who never failed to look into more beer places to check out and is to thank for the lists below.
Like I said above, we have just now completed the run of the show and returned to the states. This is a short update so stay tuned for a "Korea in Retrospect" post in the coming weeks after the exciting Broadway Brews news. Believe me, there is A LOT, to report on from my stay in Seoul. A LOT.
Tim, AKA The Blonde Guy
The Ranch Pub - https://m.facebook.com/ranchpubdaejeon/
Plate and Ale - http://mollakorea.com/detail.php?number=1741&category=1129
Beerlab Project 2 Korea Craft Beer Pub - https://m.facebook.com/borimarutaphouse
First Alleyway - http://firstalleyway.com
AfterWorks - https://m.facebook.com/afterworks.brewpub/