Written by – Editor and Head, Park Eun-hee
Photo – Kim Yo Han (Korea Image)

Craft beer refers to beer developed by individuals or small breweries according to their own unique manufacturing methods. So a beer can be a thick, strong, or fragrant depending on beers. The flavor of hops and the aroma of malt are alive, so it is popular among young people who pursue individuality. The same goes for beer enthusiasts. Craft beer restaurants in Gangneung are represented by  Willow Brewery and Gangneung Brewery. I would like to introduce Gangneung Beer Ssangwoong, which pursues a different personality.

Hongje-dong Willow Brewery
Offers emotional beer that you drink with your eyes first.

“What would you like to drink?” It is our daily habit to shout out the name of a large company’s product as if there is a fixed answer. There was a time when consumers were tamed with the phrase “You don’t even understand what beer tastes like,” and there was a time when the celebrity in the advertisement was the sole reason for the selection of beer. Beer, which was produced starting from 1933 in Daejapan Brewery has led to the growth of two to three brands. The domestic beer market was uniform, with bottled beer or draft beer written on the menu. It may be because the stereotyped consumer’s answer has not given the consumer an opportunity to understand the taste of beer.

However, now there is an opportunity to test one’s taste with pride. Gangneung, the city of “the original place,” where you can drink local brand coffee in the morning and craft beer from local brewery in the evening. It is no exaggeration to say that Gangneung’s craft beer market was divided into before and after “Willow Brewery.” Isn’t it fascinating that there is a local beer brewery in your neighborhood? Let’s go to Hongje-dong, the birthplace of Gangneung beer.

“We used to grow hops in Gangneung. However, the relatively cheap hops began to be imported, and the growth was stunted. We also cultivated hops as an experiment, and it was so expensive that the barriers were high to proceed even with simple experiments. In order to supply craft beer at a cheap price, mass production was eventually required, which means that facilities should increase naturally. There will be only about 50 places in the country that can produce and distribute due to problems with funds, space, and facilities. There are many places where brewery and pubs move together, but most of them cannot escape in-store consumption. That’s how small the market is. In addition, I think there are many companies that have not been able to withstand the recent COVID-19 crisis.

Now that the taste has been upgraded as a whole, I think the brand, the design and the identity of Gangneung beer are important for survival. We can show you “the way beer is” very well. I’m trying to upgrade the beer while making the most of its personality while compromising marketability and technology. Having a brand philosophy and holding onto continuity at the same time is more difficult than I thought. There is a difference between making good beer and selling good beer even though they sound similar. Keeping the balance between the two is also the current concern of Willow Brewery. The thing that’s most important is being loved by the people in the region.” (CEO Lee Chang-ho of Willow Brewery)

MINORI Session
Zume Blanc
Hasla IPA

● MINORI Session
The taste is clean, light, and fresh. The traditional liquor making method is applied and the liquor is made with hard-boiled rice. It was named “Minori” because more than 40% of the rice used is harvested in Minori, Sacheon-myeon, Gangneung-si.

● Zume Blanc
Wheat beer reinterpreted in Korea with chrysanthemum and oriental pepper. It is soft because of the scent combination of chrysanthemum, banana, and spicyness. “Zume” is the actual name of Gangneung, which means “a village that dips.”

● Hasla IPA
IPA beer rich in the aroma of tropical fruits and fine scent. It is balanced with a bitter taste and is provided an enjoyable drinking experience. IPA is a British beer with a slightly dark, bitter scent. 

Gyodong Housing Site “Gangneung Brewery”
There is only one Gangneung Beer in the world

The drinking culture has changed recently. Strange cultures such as turning glasses or making new drinking alcohol have disappeared, and the days of “Pour, drink, and alcohol is the enemy” have passed. Now alcohol is turning into a kind of side dish and a culture that stimulates the taste of food. Shouldn’t beer be one of the mature tastes in the future?

Beer is a drink that is fermented and aged by adding hops and yeast to sprouted barley. There is a bit of a catch in this word. Beer takes about a month to make and drink, which means that even if the alcohol that will be made a month later is born ruined, there is no way to reverse it. Even if beer is stable, it is also a fermented food. The taste also changes little by little depending on the raw material and how mature it is. If you go expecting the exact same taste as the homemade beer you had last time, you might be disappointed. Therefore, getting a satisfying homemade beer right away is perhaps a matter of luck. The beer, which was brewed under the maker’s unique recipe and deep affection, has its own biological rhythm in each glass. After writing this, craft beer feels like a swaggy fashionista. Let’s taste the sincerity of Gangneung beer at Gangneung Brewery, which uses Gangneung agricultural products to create its own taste with a fierce experimental spirit.

“It’s been 23 years since I started drinking, and it’s been a little over 10 years since I started drinking beer. It takes at least a month for alcohol to be made and served, and it is safe to say that you can only try it about 12 times a year. I’m still in the process of learning, and I’m gaining experience through new attempts. This is possible because it’s a run alone. If an employee continues to ruin the alcohol through experiments, he or she has to take responsibility, but if it’s serious, he or she can pack up and leave. Therefore, most breweries in Korea use imported yeast that results in stable fermentation. Otherwise, it’s hard to cover the disposal cost.

Nevertheless, my theory is that when I make alcohol, I have to make it using local bacteria. Recently, we made Pilsner (normal beer) and Sejong-style liquor by obtaining yeast from dried persimmons in Gangneung, Gangneung pears, and Gangneung pine needles. I’m going to continue to make beer only with my own yeast. I want to show you the real Gangneung beer that you can only drink in Gangneung. It would be great if local breweries, with pride and identity, can gather one by one to create a craft beer alley with their own yeast. Content development is also something that is consumed and sustainable only when the market expands to a certain extent.” (CEO of Gangneung Brewery, Kim Sang-hyun)

Red Bean Belgian Weisen
The Tiger and the Dried Persimmon
The Scent of Pear Blossoms

● Red Bean Belgian Weisen
Instead of the coriander seeds originally used in the Belgian beer, we added our oriental pepper seeds. There’s a love story of the legend of Hongjang of Gyeongpo Lake in Gangneung behind it. It’s good and enjoyable for women.

● The Tiger and the Dried Persimmon
After fermenting Gangneung persimmons, yeast is extracted and made. It has a soft and unique flavor. It is a beer that contains the philosophy of CEO Kim Sang-hyun, who has studied traditional liquor for a long time.

● The Scent of Pear Blossoms
Beer made by extracting yeast from pears. The most basic beer style with the scent of pear added, so anyone can enjoy it lightly. The alcohol content is rather high.