Friday, May 21, 2010

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.

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At 7:47 AM, Blogger Whitey said...

I find Alley Cat too sweet, and prefer Kilkenny or Guinness, also available on tap at those fine establishmnents.

I have friends who drink nothing but Alley Cat there, however.

At 7:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My, my Jeffery, now why didn't I think of that?

Going out beer drinking and taking along a teetotaling lawyer?

I'd be more effusive with my praise but I don't think Arkansas has any teetotaling lawyers.


At 8:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Whitey, I certainly prefer Guinness to the Alley Cat that I had. I can't recall what Kilkenny tastes like, so I'll have to try another one of those sometime.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:53 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, that teetotaling lawyer probably has a lot more brain cells as a result of his teetotaling ways.

He probably earns better money than I do, too, and spends less on beer.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Brendon Carr said...

Not a teetotaler, just don't like beer. It's sort of like kimchi -- while I can choke the stuff down, it's not a favorite and certainly not anything I can appreciate as "good".

It was nice to meet you, though. A delightful happenstance. Next time I'd like to hear more about the on-line homeschooling.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well . . . I don't like Mad Dog 20/20 (anymore), but I don't let that turn me off to good wines!

You just need to try some good beers, Brendon.

Until then, you are still a teetotaler in my book, but I do sympathize with all those who had to live for so many years in that state of misery just north of Arkansas . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:29 PM, Blogger Charles Montgomery said...


Best "north of the Han?"

Obviously you have never had "Glorious Independence of the People Pilsner" brewed by the Great Leader himself.

That'll be a torpedoing my friend!

At 7:11 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You mean Taedonggang Beer?

You're right. I've not had that mitigated pleasure . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:11 PM, Blogger Lucy Corne said...

Glad to hear that my article has people getting out there and tasting new beers! Have you had Oktoberfest's pilsner? Definitely the best beer in Korea (imho).

There's a homebrew beer event in Jukjeon on June 12th if you're into beer:


At 8:59 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Ms. Corne, thanks for stopping by. Yes, your article did indeed get our attention -- as did the earlier one on beers south of the Han River. Thanks for both!

I don't recall if I've tried Oktoberfest's pilsner, but I do love pilsner beer.

I probably can't make the homebrew beer event in Jukjeon, but I'm glad to know of it.

Maybe we'll run into one another on a beer run sometime.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:02 AM, Blogger ZenKimchi said...

Got to try Taedonggang beer a couple months ago. Reminded me of a bitter weissen. Count me as a fan of Alley Kat, but I think it's more for personal reasons. It tastes like the brew made at a brewpub I used to work at during my wilder days. I also think it's the best burger accompaniment. Sometimes I'm in the mood to relax and make sweet love to a pint of Guinness. And other times, I just want to down some Alley Kats.

At 9:14 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Good God, ZK, you had even wilder days?!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:10 PM, Blogger Bohemian in Korea said...

Alley Cat is a fine beer but my vote goes to Kilkenny. I too wished the Alley Cat to be "hoppy-er"

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Bohink, I'm glad to know that my dissatisfaction wasn't due just to burnt-out taste buds.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:46 PM, Anonymous The Magus said...

Is it the "best beer north of the river?"


Great hoppy flavour,tangy aroma reminiscent of deciduous fruit...) smooth finish, and soft creamy head (Not sickly-creamy like Kilkenny...).

In fact, it's the best beer in the country for REAL ale drinkers...however, less adventurous types who think pedestrian weizens etc. from pseudo-trendy poser palace 'brewhouses' like Oktoberfest (can never have too many of the three pretty-much- all-the-same German styled beers now, can we?) might disagree.

At 8:52 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Magus, thanks for the comment.

Like Lucy Corne, you found Alley Cat hoppy. Some of us didn't. Are there two different Alley Cat brews in Korea, e.g., Amber and Pale Ale? Are we talking about the same drink?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:21 PM, Anonymous The Magus said...

Actually Alley Kat Full Moon Pale Ale (to give it it's real title) is The ONLY Alley Kat product imported to Korea right now (You're right: it's not a real 'India Pale Ale' technically speaking, more like a 'West Coast Pale Ale' that uses north American Cascade Hops to impart the flavour...)... I wish there were more from Alley Kat's fine selection, but a combination of BS Korean import regulations and the higher cost of transport due to the increase in exchange rates of the Canadian Dollar have acted to prevent this; I'd love to get both their AMBER ALE and OLD DEUTERONOMY here for the real Ale driner's to quaff!
However KAPA, the company that imports Alley Kat does make some other fine microbrews, and has tasting events/BBQs at their brewery in Sangchon most Saturdays...

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Magu, thanks again. I'll have to try Alley Cat once more (or twice more, or . . .). Perhaps the spicy pepper sauce did interfere. I'd really need to taste that brew in comparison to a number of other brews, I suppose.

Jeffery Hodges

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