Brew your way to happiness
President Lee Myung-bak is the Korean home brewer’s biggest proponent. How, you might ask? Well, by personally lobbying the U.S. Congress for the passage of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement ratified by the U.S. in mid-October.
What does this have to do with beer? Why should I (or you), a beer lover tired of the beer purgatory that is the Korean brew scene, care? Savings, my friend, as the lower tariffs on malting barley make it cheaper for you to brew your own beer. Don’t know how? The good folks at Home Brew Korea are more than ready to pull you out of purgatory into a beer paradise. Your beer oasis awaits as the brotherhood of Home Brew Korea aims to change the Korean beer culture one home-brewed bottle at a time.
Home Brew Korea (HBK) was started by one expat, Robert Titley, four years ago as he took a stand against the flaccid Korean Beer environment. He decided to brew his own beer and established a website to blog about his Korea home brew experiences. “I had been in Korea 8 years and the only beers available were Hite, Cass, OB, Budweiser and possibly Hoegaarden,” Titley said. “I got fed up. It tasted like garbage so I decided to brew my own and share what I know with other expats.”
What grew from this was HBK’s fourfold vision: 1. Make better beer; 2. Share beer making experiences with others; 3. Partner with craft breweries to change the beer culture in Korea so that beer lovers can thrive; 4. Make good beer generally available in Korea. Undoubtedly boosted by HBK and its members, the Korean beer scene has been slowly changing (although they lay no claim to this). Titley did note, “The bottled beer selection has expanded in E-mart, Home Plus and Lotte since I started Home Brew Korea but home brew beer is still better for taste, value and to suit individual tastes.” (For more on the state of brewing in Korea, refer to the articles in last month’s issue of Groove Korea magazine, “The Beer Situation in Korea” and “Wo Gibt Es Hier Bier? E-Mart” at www.groovekorea.com.)
Bill Miller, a member of Home Brew Korea, said, “I really wanted to learn to make my own beer and find people of similar desires. I know that malting barley and grain selection is limited in Korea and the high tariff on malting barley makes brewing your own cost-prohibitive. But, for the individual taste and unique value of drinking something you made yourself, it can’t be beat.”
So how high has the tariff on malting barley been? Up to a whopping 513 percent, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from exploring beyond the standard Korean craft brew offering, usually limited to three craft brew types, a weizen, a pilsner and a dunkel. International trade agreements will be making brewing (especially home-brewing) in Korea a more economic venture.
As Home Brew Korea welcomes any beer enthusiasts, getting started might be easier than you think. In fact, my companion and I attended one of their events without any beer in hand yet they still welcomed us with open arms. They willingly offered us sips from their efforts which were widely varied in style. Most were surprisingly good.
HBK provides a unique venue for beer lovers in Korea to build a community. Come to an event and enjoy an afternoon with fellow enthusiasts, share a few stories of brewing success and more of failure, eat some snacks and taste home-brewed beer. What a great bunch of guys they were. I was reminded when it came time to go, “you don’t have to brew at home to be a member, you just have to simply appreciate what others at Home Brew Korea are crafting.”
Location: For the latest news on Beer Tasting Events and Beer Fests check out their website at www.homebrewkorea.com
Beer Rating Experience: 3 out of 4 Stars
Price: Depends on the Event you attend - Free to ₩₩