Best Beer North of the Han River?
A couple of weeks ago, I called my friend and long-time expat 'Sperwer' to go have a drink or two in Itaewon to find out if Alley Kat is the best draft beer available in Seoul, for according to Lucy Corne, in "Seoul's best beer -- north of the river," written for the Korea Herald (May 10, 2010), Alley Kat's India Pale Ale ranks number one:
Available across the country, Alley Kat is a hoppy India Pale Ale imported from Canada and is one of the most palatable pints on the peninsula. In Itaewon there are a bunch of bars serving up this surprisingly well-priced beer, including the cozy Three Alley Pub and the ever-popular Sam Ryan's upstairs.That says only "one of the most palatable," but she's ranked it number one and quotes a local beer expert named Rob Titley, who states:
As for draft beer, I naturally drink a lot of my own homebrew, but I'm always up for a pint of Platinum Ale or a pilsner at Oktoberfest. However, while Korean beers are getting better, I’d have to say that the best draft beer on offer right now has to be Alley Kat.Well, 'Sperwer' and I tried it, and while we found it quite good, we didn't think it notably better than the local drafts that we tried at Castle Praha some months back. Ms. Corne called the beer "hoppy," but I didn't notice that quality being especially present. Now, perhaps there was a reason that I didn't notice. 'Sperwer' and I had just eaten lunch and had taste-tested a couple of very spicey hot sauces at a nearby hamburger place, one of those sauces being the very hottest that I've ever experienced . . . so, that might account for why I didn't notice much hoppiness, nor did I perceive much bitterness.
But I also wonder if we tried the same beer recommended by Ms. Corne and Mr. Titley, for the former called the draft beer an India Pale Ale, but our drink looked amber to me, and I see from the Alley Kat website that they do indeed brew an Alley Kat Amber brown ale, which they describe as having "light floral hoppiness and slight bitterness," and that corresponds more to what I tasted.
Incidentally, I don't see an India Pale Ale listed at the Alley Kat site, though an American Pale Ale, is listed and described as "a cleaner and slightly hoppier version of British Pale Ales," so perhaps that's what Ms. Corne was writing about.
At any rate, the Alley Kat draft that we drank was enjoyable, and we were unexpectedly joined by local expat lawyer -- excuse me, "Foreign Legal Consultant" -- and surprising teetotaler Brendon Carr, who had some interesting stories about his life as a legal expert in Korea . . . but I won't retell his stories here.