Drinking in Korea: Update from the Blonde Guy.

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

Daejeon - 

The Ranch Pub - https://m.facebook.com/ranchpubdaejeon/


First Alleyway - http://firstalleyway.com

AfterWorks - https://m.facebook.com/afterworks.brewpub/

Wheat Field Brewing co. - https://m.facebook.com/pages/%EB%B0%80%EB%B0%AD%EC%96%91%EC%A1%B0%EC%9E%A5-Wheat-Field-Brewing-co/1022959184436639

**Anthony Bourdain was not in anyway contacted for this article.  However, if he reads this, please contact us so we can travel, eat, and drink.

Frequent Flyer Guy Reports: Craft Beer in Vietnam!

Our own FREQUENT FLYER GUY, (a.k.a. Steve Smith), returns with another update from Southeast Asia. Great to have you back in the fold, Steve! (and oh, MAN, do we want to join you.) Check it out:

What's Hot in Vietnam: Cold Craft Beer

- How Vietnam is rapidly becoming an unlikely craft beer mecca

What are first things that come to mind when one thinks of Vietnam? Rice paddies? Motorbikes? Phở, Vietnam’s iconic noodle soup? Ha Long Bay? Floating markets on the Mekong Delta? Probably not craft beer.

Just two years ago, this was the extent of my Vietnamese beer experience.

Just two years ago, this was the extent of my Vietnamese beer experience.

Traditionally, beer in Vietnam has meant a macro-brewed lager like 333 or Bia Saigon poured over ice in local watering holes, or an imported Tiger or Heineken in more upscale pubs and clubs. Up until very recently, you could have any style of beer you wanted--as long as it was lager. But as I learned on my recent trip to Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City’s BiaCraft Artisan Ales, that is changing in a big way.

According to beervn.com, there were no craft breweries in Vietnam in 2013. And for good reason. Brewing craft beer in Southeast Asia can be extremely challenging. Most equipment needs to be imported or made locally from spec—a daunting proposition. Ingredients can be impossible to find locally, and difficult to import (imagine getting a large batch of green, skunk-smelling hops through customs without being arrested as a drug trafficker). In nearby Thailand, archaic liquor laws that protect large breweries force craft brewers to brew their beer in neighboring countries, and then import their beer (subject to a 60% customs duty and a 48% excise tax). And finally there is the challenge of educating a market whose expectation of beer is a clear, simple-tasting lager. When Vietnamese craft brewer Platinum Beverages first released an unfiltered golden ale, many of the kegs got returned by distributors who thought the cloudy ale was defective. And Pasteur Street Brewing probably should have thought twice about producing a durian-flavored beer. Not only is the pungent fruit a challenging choice as a beer ingredient, it also faced having to overcome the urban legend of durian and alcohol being a lethal combination. (It was not a commercial success.)

Just a few years ago, none of these beers were being made.

Just a few years ago, none of these beers were being made.

But the overwhelming appeal of craft beer is overcoming these obstacles. Today there are several dozen Vietnamese craft brewers from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh, and the number is growing rapidly. And while foreigners are behind the brewing, and much of the consumption of Vietnamese craft beer, Vietnamese locals are also starting to embrace it. Led by the young, well-traveled, middle- and upper-class urban Vietnamese, they are attracted to the quality and variety offered by craft beer, as well as the cachet of consuming a premium Western product. The manager we spoke with at BiaCraft estimated that roughly half of his customers were Vietnamese. And on our visit, the busy Thursday night crowd appeared to be at least half local.

BiaCraft's patrons on a busy Thursday night included many locals.

BiaCraft's patrons on a busy Thursday night included many locals.

I visited BiaCraft’s District 3 location (1 Lê Ngô Cát, phường 7, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam) with two friends—an American craft beer lover, and a local Vietnamese to whom we were just introducing craft beer. We sampled several selections from BiaCraft’s menu of 30 drafts (all but one brewed in Vietnam). They included a Belgian-style wit beer, two IPAs, an India summer ale, and one beer inspired by the spicy flavor of phở. Predictably, our Vietnamese craft beer novice was much more receptive to the wit beer (Tê Tê Belgian Wheat) and India Summer Ale (BiaCraft’s top-selling "Xao Ba Co"; Vietnamese slang meaning “f***ing liar”), with the hoppy bitterness of the IPAs being a bit much on the first try.  My American friend and I both enjoyed the IPAs however. And while all three of us love a good bowl of phở, we weren’t 100% sure that making a beer try to taste like phở was such a good idea. It did grow on us as we drank it however, and we're fairly confident it was a better idea than making beer taste like durian.

BiaCraft's extensive menu of draft beers

BiaCraft's extensive menu of draft beers

Our first tasting flight: Tê Tê Belgian Wheat, BiaCraft’s Xao Ba Co India Summer Ale, BiaCraft's Xau Ma Chanh IPA, Lac Brewing Co.'s Devil's Lake IPA

Our first tasting flight: Tê Tê Belgian Wheat, BiaCraft’s Xao Ba Co India Summer Ale, BiaCraft's Xau Ma Chanh IPA, Lac Brewing Co.'s Devil's Lake IPA

Larger cities and tourist destinations like Hanoi, Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh City have a rapidly growing number of craft beer bars, and now many smaller cities are seeing their first craft taprooms open. If you enjoy craft beer and plan on visiting Vietnam, you will be pleasantly surprised (as we were) at the availability of good, local craft beer.






The Blonde Guy is drinking in...KOREA!

    안녕, 금발 녀석!

Translation: Hello from The Blonde Guy!  Its been a while since I've seen you all, and my what has happened since!  I can't believe it has been almost two whole months since we landed in this beautiful country and started our journey with the Jekyll and Hyde world tour.  From the moment we got on the plane at JFK it felt like we were in a different world.  Stepford-esque flight attendants, friendly seat-neighbors (shoutout to JT!), good food, and free beer all were an amuse-bouche for the smorgasborg to come.

    While the first brewery post is in the works, I wanted to give a basic overview of what I've observed in the beer scene/culture while in Seoul and Daegu.  


    The first stop on our tour of Korea was rehearsal for a month in the capital city of Seoul.  One of the world's most technologically advanced cities and home to more than 25 million people(half the population of the entire country) it is certainly the cultural hub for the nation's citizens.  Everyone in the Gangnam-gu district, yes that Gangnam from the popular song, is clad in either business attire or fashion way forward.  No matter what you're wearing, where you work, or what time of night it is, one thing brings everyone together when the sun sets: Beer.  Most of the beer here in Korea is contract brewed by much larger beer companies, (think Macro brewers like Anhueser-Busch, SABC, etc...) These beers are the traditional drink-to-get-drunk light lagers and ales with a an ABV that never exceeds 4.5% and you can buy a liter at a convenience store for the equivalent of $1.75.

    Drinking is as deeply rooted and crucial to South Korean culture as kimchi is.  It is tradition and a way of life.  One that shows no signs of fading away, rather, with the help of the recent craft movement, is growing more and more vibrant.

    Now, the craft movement still being fairly young in the country, I had many friends who had visited or are from Korea state that I would have a difficult time finding real, Korean brewed, beer.  "The Booth Brewing Co." was the first craft bar that some comrades and I visited in the bustling hills of Gangnam-gu. 

From the first beer on the tap list to the last, my worries of having a non-palatable experience here dissolved.  From having a few brews from The Booth itself to collaborations with Evil Twin and the delectable Danish brewers, TO ØL, I knew I was in for a bevy of different brews.  Four of the five beers brewed in part by The Booth were pale ale variants, and the other was a moderately hopped Irish Red Ale.  One look at what the tables around us were drinking and the bottle selection for the evening and it became very clear that the lighter ales and lagers had been traded out for a dryer, more hopped up flavor.  IPA's reigned king in this pub.  For good reason too, after being gifted a free tasting by the manager that evening (thank you generous stranger!), my favorite was their in-house brewed, robustly roasted and mildly malted, Brew Bro Black IPA.  It was the only beverage I went back for seconds of that evening.  

A lot of flying went into this flight! (see what I did there?)

A lot of flying went into this flight! (see what I did there?)

    The next stop on our galavanting through Gangnam was a place that, little did I know, would become my go-to stop for post rehearsal winding down, Ark Handcraft Beer.  Much smaller and quaint than the multi-floor, Williamsburg-hipster-loft-esque Booth Brewing space, Ark boasted more of a homey vibe.  The first evening there I was greeted by the manager, Bo, who showed incredible generosity by offering me a flight of the six beers they make as a gift and welcomed me to their bar.  Y'all.  Two free flights of incredible beer in a single night, Korea was quickly becoming my favorite place.  Along with all of their own beer the draft and bottle list offered up Brooklyn Lager (A little taste of home) and other European brews from Germany, Austria, and Denmark.  "Hug Me," their white ale, and "Cosmic Dancer" were my absolute favorites.  Ark Handcraft Beer and the people working at the establishment were incredibly generous and hospitable while we were in Seoul. I can't wait to visit their gorgeous facility and get more into the "hoppy-worty" (nitty-gritty replacement? No? Ok.)

    This is truly just a generic overview of the newly-dense beer scene in Seoul.  When we return to Seoul in the spring I will be reporting more on specific breweries in the surrounding areas so stay tuned!  After our time in Seoul it was time to open the show a couple hundred miles southeast in Daegu.

    Almost everyone involved with our production, backstage and onstage, said that there wasn't anything to do in Daegu.  That there wasn't much to do, see, eat, or drink.  I tried to remain positive but however, it became painfully obvious when we got there that there really was not much by the hotel besides restaurants that didn't open until 6pm, a plethora of convenience stores, and oodles of fried chicken and soju. During the day this area was a strange ghost town of motels, casinos, and a slew of Korean BBQ establishments.

    A week into the trip, on the quest for secret Santa gifts, I was in a grocery-mega-store in the middle of nowhere and found the wailing wall of beers.  Brews from the States, very few from Korea, the usual from Europe, and a surprising debut of beers from New Zealand and Australia gave me a feeling, I like to think, of how Taylor Swift felt when she finally got "Out of the Woods."  That was a very good week for this beer nerd.  Two weeks later Jess and I were exploring their brand new department store, Shinsegae, and stumbled upon a craft beer store inside of the Korean equivalent of Best Buy.  Nerd. Gasm.  Surrounded by life-size comic book characters, computers, and video games I scanned the surprisingly excellent selection for any bottle shop let alone one in the middle of an electronics store!

    The true hidden gem of Daegu though is located on the outskirts of the south-eastern part of town, Daegu Bottle Shop.  One of my colleagues had found their business page on Facebook and when I tried to find it on a map it didn't even exist!  I hopped in a cab and told the driver to drop me in the general area. After aimlessly wandering around another deserted area, a friendly Korean store owner calling the shop for me, and getting lost a second time I finally found it.  Opened just a little under a year ago, the facade of this treasure trove looks like a tiny, mom and pop Korean restaurant because, well... it is.  I hesitantly knocked on the door and gesticulated "Beer???" and was led to a tiny room where only two refrigerators stood.  I was admittedly a little bummed at first that I had made this trek only to find two small fridges but what they held in them was pure magic.  Prairie Brewing, Stone, Rogue, Brooklyn, Delirium, good Lord. I felt like I was going to explode! Even though it was all western brewed it made me giddy to find such a haul in such an unassuming place!  After spending far too much money (but really what is the price of love right?) I thanked the man and went on my now merry way.  Even though there really wasn't much in Daegu in terms of sight seeing, it still proved to be a fruitful visit.  Complete with new friends, new brews, and thousands of Korean Jekyll and Hyde fans.

    Even with it's very young history in the country, craft's popularity is growing thanks to foreigners teaching the locals how to make it and the locals being adventurous and passionate about change.  I can't wait to explore more of the history here as well as the exciting present and future of craft brewing and all of the incredible people involved.  Till next time...




Tim (The Blonde Guy)


Frequent Flyer Guy finds a Bangkok Beer Oasis.

Our own Frequent Flyer Guy, Steve Smith, reports in from one of his favorite cities in the world:

Bangkok Beer Oasis:

In a city known for many pursuits besides brewing, great craft beer is on tap if you know where to look:

Bangkok, Thailand.

Bangkok, Thailand.

I love Bangkok. It is one of my favorite international destinations. For me it has nearly everything a great city should have: Great restaurants, delicious street food, friendly locals, a large international community, and of course the bustling nightlife for which it is famous. But Bangkok, like many Asian cities, is not known for a thriving craft beer scene. While I have encountered craft beer on occasion in Bangkok, it has often been disappointing. Most craft beer I have come across in Thailand is imported, which unfortunately can mean a steep price tag (due to Thailand's high tax on imports), and unreliable quality (due to improper product handling during shipping, storage, and distribution).

Mikkeller Bangkok!

Mikkeller Bangkok!

Just this year, however, a brand new player emerged on the Bangkok beer scene, and has brought world-class craft beer to the city. In January, 2014, nontraditional Danish brewer Mikkeller opened just its second international beer bar in Bangkok. (Its first was opened in San Francisco in 2013.)

Located well off the beaten path on a sleepy, residential side street in Bangkok’s upscale Ekkamai neighborhood, Mikkeller Bangkok is a destination bar to be certain. It is located far away from many of the tourist and ex-pat neighborhoods like Khaosan Road and Sukhumvit, and receives zero benefit from foot traffic. Yet on my visit on a Saturday evening, the bar was full, loaded with tourists and ex-pats who managed to navigate the sois of Ekkamai for great beer. “This is the best craft beer bar in Asia,” I was told by a IPA-loving British ex-pat from Hong Kong, who said he now makes a point to visit Mikkeller every time he comes to Bangkok. And its easy to see why.

Don't waste time. Just get there.

Don't waste time. Just get there.

The first things you notice when you enter Mikkeller are the taps: 30 of them. This might not be surprising in Europe or the USA, but in Asia a tap arsenal of that size is almost unheard of. And the selection is excellent. Mikkeller, being a “collaborative” brewer, features not only its own creations in its bars, but also a fantastic rotating selection of offerings from other brewers around the world. In addition to its own labels, at the time of our visit Mikkeller Bangkok offered beers from Brewfist (Italy), To Øl (Denmark), Siren (England, UK), Rogue (Oregon, USA), Boon (Belgium), and 8Wired (New Zealand) among others. Stouts, IPAs, lambics, brown ales, pilsners, porters, pales, Belgian ales, as well as ciders, meads, and craft spirits are offered... and our thirsty group sampled many. We even tried a chipotle- and coffee-infused stout, which was admittedly a bit challenging for many of our palates. By and large, however, the selections we tried were excellent and ran the gamut of varieties offered.

Yes please.

Yes please.

The last thing that impressed us about Mikkeller Bangkok was that the staff are sticklers about quality. We spoke with one of the managers about the issue of maintaining quality with imported beer, and he talked at length about their relationship with their importer and the standards they have for handling the product properly, to ensure quality during shipping and storage. And on our visit, we found the imports to be spot on, as if their journey around the globe had been just a short trip around the block.

Before visiting Mikkeller, I wouldn’t have considered Bangkok to be much of a destination for anyone serious about craft beer. But like in so many other cities around the world, beer drinkers in Bangkok are seeking out more options in flavor and in brewers, and Mikkeller is delivering, putting Bangkok on the craft beer map in Asia.

For more information, visit Mikkeller Bangkok's web site: http://www.mikkellerbangkok.com

Asia travelers? What Craft Beer gems have you found out there? Leave them in the comments section.


New Adjunct Faculty, and #CraftBeer in Panama!

Steve Smith, an old friend of Jimmy's, reached out recently with an exciting proposition: He travels worldwide constantly for work and wanted to contribute to THHG! After much thought (2 or 3 seconds) we heartily agreed. Please welcome our newest contributor, the Frequent Flyer Guy, with a report from Panama!

Something's Brewing in Panama: Craft Beer

Like in many countries, beer options in Panama have been historically limited to large established domestic and international brands. SABMiller, for example, presently holds 66% market share in Panama, both through its indirect ownership of Panama's Cerveceria National (Atlas and Balboa brands), and as a result of its recent introduction of international brands like Miller Lite. But a fledgling craft beer movement is taking root and gaining momentum in Panama, and the prospects are looking bright for the nation's beer lovers.

The origins of the Panamanian craft beer movement can be traced to 2005, when the Istmo Brew Pub opened in the El Congrejo neighborhood of Panama City. After nearly 9 years in operation, Istmo's business definitely doesn't seem to have gone flat, drawing a large Friday night crowd of locals, ex-pats, and tourists when I visited. This is thanks in large part to its selection of house-made "cerveza artesanal", including the refreshing Istmo Colón (pictured), one of five varieties offered.

If BrewDog stopped by, these guys must be pretty cool...

If BrewDog stopped by, these guys must be pretty cool...

In the historic and now-trendy Casco Viejo neighborhood, the La Rana Dorada brewery has burst onto the craft beer scene. It currently features four diverse selections: a Belgian blanche, a German-style pils, an English-style pale ale, and a classic English porter. La Rana Dorada enjoyed a brisk business comprised mostly of locals when I visited, so much so that two of the four beer selections had sold out by the time I arrived later in the evening.

La Rana Dorada Brewery, Panama City.

La Rana Dorada Brewery, Panama City.

Adding to craft beer's momentum, Panama hosted its inaugural Micro Brew Fest in 2013, with Istmo Brew Pub and La Rana Dorada as two of the four domestic craft breweries participating, Also participating were Oregon's Rogue Ales and Scotland's BrewDog. 2013's success brought an expanded roster of 10 breweries in 2014, more evidence of growing interest in craft beers in Panama.

As I have traveled this past year and a half, the discovery of craft beers and breweries in unexpected places around the world has been surprising. Panama City, Bangkok, and even Shanghai are now home to thriving craft breweries, bringing to mind an image of Chairman Mao cheerfully sipping a hoppy IPA. No longer just a North American or European phenomenon, the craft beer movement has gone global, bringing choice and flavor to beer lovers everywhere.

Steve Smith, the Frequent Flyer Guy

Steve Smith, the Frequent Flyer Guy

Steve Smith is a software developer and former technology entrepreneur who is presently on a multi-year adventure exploring the food, drink, and culture of the world. Born in Detroit, Michigan, and based in San Francisco, California, he currently spends the majority of his time abroad. Steve's favorite international destinations include Paris, Bangkok, and Buenos Aires. His preference in bars tends toward neighborhood pubs, feeling that they offer the best opportunity to interact and meet new people while traveling. Some of Steve's favorite watering holes include San Francisco's R Bar, Finnerty's in New York, Le Galway Irish Pub in Paris, and The Game in Bangkok.