Category Archives: Craft Beer Around the World

Where to Drink Craft Beer in Seoul

I lived in Seoul for a month. While I was there I searched for craft beer. Here’s what I found:

Itaewon = Craft Beer Central

Most of the craft beer scene is in Itaewon. It’s a pretty central area in Seoul and is also where the US military base is located. Here you will find most of the craft beer bars and local brewery taprooms. Also unique to this neighborhood is the large number of convenience stores selling bottles of USA craft beer (with lots of west coast representation) and European imports (mostly German and Belgian).

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Magpie
My favorite. Local brewery, ambiance, pizza.
Find them in Itaewon near Noksapyeong station; website; Facebook
691 Itaewon-dong (244-1 Noksapyeong-daero) Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea

They are the best of the best in Seoul craft beer right now. They have two locations, this one, and another one in Hongdae, which I did not visit. This location has two parts: a ground level bar, and a basement in the adjacent building. It looks like they brew 1-barrel batches on site, but they don’t – their beers are contract brewed somewhere else.

The regular lineup includes a pale ale, porter, and amber ale. When I was visiting they featured the “Terrible 2’s” IPA, brewed for their 2nd anniversary, which was by far their best beer. Might have been a limited time offer, unfortunately. You can order pizza in the basement, and it’s excellent. Great ambiance, no TVs. Highly recommend everything about this Magpie location.

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Craftworks
Local brewery, good selection of beer styles, large food menu.
Find them in Itaewon near Noksapyeong station; website
651, Itaewon 2-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea

They brew their own, the standard lineup of American styles. Their beers are fine, a solid offering, and they brew a stout, which isn’t as popular of a style in these parts.

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The Bottle Shop
Great selection of import (USA and Belgian) bottles.
Find them in Itaewon from Noksapyeong station, near Magpie; Facebook
705 Itaewon 2(i)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
(approximate address)

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Made in PONG DANG
Local microbrew.
Find them in Itaewon from Noksapyeong station; Facebook
222-1 Noksapyeong-daero (561 Itaewon-dong) Yongsan-gu, Seoul South Korea

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Little Ale
Local and import craft selection, nice staff.
Find them near Itaewon station; Facebook
130-4 Itaewon-dong (7 Bogwang-ro 59-gil) Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Small place serving Korean craft (Magpie), USA west coast imports, and fries.

Reilly’s Taphouse
Large election of Korean and import craft, large food menu.
Find them at Itaewon station; Facebook
123-32 Itaewon-dong Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Large place serving Korean craft (Magpie, Platinum), USA craft, and sometimes Japanese craft (Coedo). Large menu of standard American food, sometimes with a Korean twist (e.g. kimchi nachos).

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Lovibond
Apparent attention to detail, selection of import craft, pizza.
Find them in Itaewon near Noksapyeong station; Facebook
341-12 Itaewon 2(i)-dong Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
(approximate address)

I didn’t actually visit Lovibond because I only found out about it on my last day in Seoul. It looks good, so check it out for me!

Hopscotch
Craft beer, excellent food and ambiance.
Find them in Gangnam-gu near Gangnam-gu Office station; Facebook
113-20 Nonhyeon-dong (35 Eonju-ro 134-gil) Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Serves Korean craft beer (Magpie), USA imports, bottles of European craft, and whiskey. Good food, a bit pricy, definitely the most expensive place on this list. Excellent ambiance, no TVs, and they play jazz music.

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Bali Superstore
Craft beer selection and good food.
Find them in Mapo-gu near Hapjeong station; Facebook
396-32 Seogyo-dong (45 Yanghwa-ro 6-gil) Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Serves Magpie + others (I forget) and tasty Indonesian food.

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ROCKS frites
Try their own recipes.
Find them in Haebangchon (“HBC”) from Noksapyeong station
26-10 Yongsan 2 ga-dong Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
(approximate address)

Small place with a handful of taps serving Platinum and 7brau. The owner told me they’ll soon be serving their own, contract-brewed recipes. Fries only for food.

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Craft Alternatives

While not as good as a proper craft beer place, in a pinch a “self beer bar” is better than nothing. You can find these all over Seoul, including in Itaewon and Gangnam. They are bottle shops, usually serving some pub food, where you can choose what you want to drink directly from the refrigerators. These places tend to stock a lot of German imports.

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Brasserie St. Bernardus (Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo)

It was right before Christmas 2012, on my beer pilgrimage to visit St. Bernardus in Belgium, when I learned that they had recently opened a brasserie in Tokyo. I knew I had to go there.

Fast forward to today, March 24, 2014. It’s my first day of my month-long stay in Japan. I just left work, and I’m on my way to Brasserie St. Bernardus to enjoy some Belgian beers in Tokyo.

I take the JR from Shibuya to Kanda Station. It’s a windy night. St. Bernardus is just a few blocks from the station. I snap a picture from across the street before heading inside.

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After warm welcome, as usual in Japan, I’m seated at the bar, so I get to take a look at all the taps up close. Awesome!

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There are a lot of beers here I want to try. Almost everything from St. Bernardus is on offer, save for a few. The Watou Tripel is nowhere to be seen. (I’ve only had it in Belgium, and it isn’t sold in the US.) The Tokyo isn’t here either. It’s either out, or it really was a one-time-only beer to commemorate the opening of this brasserie.

There’s a nice draft offering from other Belgian breweries, too, including Mikkeller and De Ranke. There are also Belgian beers from a Japanese brewery called Rio. Here’s the full tap list:

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I’ve feeling some nostalgia from my time in Belgium, so I order the St. Bernardus Grottenbier (グロッテンビア), which I had in Belgium, and also isn’t sold in the US. My 250ml pour arrives:

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Time for some food. After asking for a recommendation (おすすめ – “osusume” in Japanese) I order the pate and Belgian frites. Both are delicious.

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For my second beer, I choose the Mikkeller Single Hop IPA, brewed with Sorachi Ace, which is a Japanese hop variety and the same hop that we use in our own Japanese Pale Ale. It’s nice to have the Sorachi highlighted in this IPA – the unique lemon-like flavor is easily distinguished.

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The whole place is done up in wood and decorated with Belgian signage and knickknacks. It feels kind of like a Brussels pub, but also distinctly Japanese.

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They have a book about Belgian beers, with a large section featuring Westvleteren, and I thumb through it for a bit.

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For my third and final beer I roll with a Japanese brewery and choose the Belgian Chocolate Stout by Rio Brewing & Co. The chocolate and Belgian yeast both have a nice presence and this is an enjoyable dessert beer.

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I chat for a while and make friends with my bartender, Moto. He’s a beer geek, too, and has visited Belgium!

On my way out I take one last look at the bar from the far side of the room. Then I sprint to the station and just barely make the last train home. Whew!

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St. Bernardus Brasserie is an excellent experience. The beer selection is solid, with many Belgian drafts on offer. Though I didn’t order anything from the bottle list, I looked at it, and there are many good beers there as well. You won’t be disappointed.

You can browse the full gallery of photos from Brasserie St. Bernardus on the Bushido Brewery Facebook page.