While in Seoul, I had a small chance to partake in some local beers, brewed there right in the heart of the metropolis. I was not able to visit an extensive number of breweries or pubs due to time and money constraints, but the ones I was fortunate enough to visit offered a diverse offering for the traveling beer lover.
Pong Dang in Sinsa (Gangnam area)
I figure I’d do this list in reverse chronological order, starting with the last places I visited, since there is a trend in quality this way. The day before I left, I went to Pong Dangs spacious taproom in Sinsa, complete with 100 Won (about 10 cents) arcade games you could play along the back wall. The staff wasn’t the most chatty or friendly, but I gave a couple beers a shot. I had the C of Galaxy Pale Ale, which had a low bitterness and a clean taste. There was also the Half Moon Pilsner, a Czech-style pilsner on tap, which had a pretty alright flavor. Overall, given how much hype this place was given to me before my departure, I felt a little letdown. The beer was fine but there was nothing there to wow me (the service was pretty spotty, too).
Magpie Brewing Co.
Another famous Seoul establishment, I was able to visit the tasting room in Itaewon and the restaurant/larger venue in Hongdae. The taproom had a nice, intimate feel with awesome grilled cheese sandwiches, while the restaurant had some tasty pizzas and much more space to navigate (and a healthier mix of locals and tourists, versus the notedly expat vibe of the tasting room). I tried quite a few, but the two that stood out to me were The Sinner Belgian Strong Ale and the Magpie Porter. Honorable mention to the seasonal Full of Fall Rye Beer! All had pretty good tastes, but again, I feel the place fell victim to the hype machine. Still a good investment of your time and money!
Craftworks Taphouse in Itaewon
This place was my favorite! First, they had flight samplers you could get. For about 20 dollars, you can try every beer they have on tap. Second, this was the only brewery that tried to incorporate Korean ingredients and flavors into their beers, with awesome results. Their more European-style traditional brews are a mixed bag; I personally enjoyed the Bukhansan Pale Ale the most. The best two beers there for me, by far, were the Jujak Pilsner and the Harubang Gose. The Jujak has this wonderful earthy flavor from ginseng being introduced to the brewing process, delivering a crisp and interesting flavor. The Harubang is made with special tangerine-like fruits from Jeju Island and orange salt. While I’m not usually a sour or gose fan, this beer knocked it out of the park! The saltiness from the orange salt really complements the tangy sour citrus of the Jeju fruit. Easily the best beer I had during my time in Korea!
There are still a ton of pubs, taprooms, and breweries in Seoul I would still like to explore, but for now, I am pretty pleased with what I was able to try during my trip.