Beer Adventures in the Far East

I’ve just returned from 6 weeks travelling around East Asia. After landing in Tokyo I travelled the west of Japan for two weeks before flying to Busan in South Korea to continue my exploring. After a strenuous start climbing Mount Fuji I dedicated the rest of my holiday to sampling all the local delights and of course the beers.

One of the first stops on my adventure was the Japanese city of Matsumoto – famous for its five-tiered castle (and being home to the best Indian restaurant in Japan!). A highlight of the city was a visit to their local brewery. The range of beers at the Matsumoto Brewery were not too dissimilar to what I would expect to see in any Yorkshire pub! Their range included a Castle Stout, Pure Blonde, Smart Wheat and a Traditional Bitter. I opted for their Awesome Pale Ale, and was pleasantly surprised with how hoppy it was in comparison to British pales.

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After travelling to South Korea, I ventured up the west coast to Daegu where I attended the Chimac festival, the national festival of chicken and beer. It was here I discovered Somaek. Somaek was lethal. It involved using the national lagers Cass and Hite as mixers for Soju, a strong rice wine. Rarely drunk for its taste and well known for getting you intoxicated quickly there’s no more explanation needed as to how this evening progressed!

Venturing further north I eventually reached Seoul, the final destination in my travels. Seoul had a surprisingly vibrant beer drinking culture. Upon recommendations from other travellers I visited Itaewon an area of town that housed what the locals refer to as craft beer valley. I was surprised by not only the range of beers but also the range of establishments: pubs, microbreweries, tap houses and bars. Also notable was the balance struck between local and import beers. I found myself jumping between Korean brewed IPAs and bottles of Brewdog and Thornbridge. The craft beer valley was a definite highlight in terms of beer and I happily spent a day meandering in and out of the bars sampling over 12 different beers as well as local street food.

Toby Hayhurst

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