A little dark and blurry pic of the seasonal Hobak IPA at Craftworks

Wow, the two big Korean breweries are getting a double punch this week. First is an in-depth piece (as in tons of numbers) by our good friend Joshua Hall (Wine Korea) in The Wall Street Journal. He talks about how the FTAs barely put a dent in beer prices in Korea because of all the other taxes levied on beer. Despite that the import market has grown significantly. He also points out how laws have effectively squashed any local competition so no craft beer market has sprouted–until recently.

The protectionism is targeted equally at foreigners and potential local competitors. If a brewery or brewpub wants to distribute broadly, it must have the capacity to brew 150,000 liters onsite. In the U.S., a successful independent craft brewery such as Anderson valley has only 35,000 liters capacity. The tanks, pumps and building required for that scale require millions of dollars in investment.

In The Economist, they just go right out and say that beer from the two major breweries sucks and goes into more detail on how small brewers have been stymied by the government.

Punitive tariffs prevent brewing experimentation. The Korean taxman treats malt, hops and yeast as beer ingredients, which are subject to low import duties. Anything else you might put in the brew is deemed an agricultural import, and thus a threat to the nation’s farmers. “Speciality grains like oats aren’t on the approved list, so we must pay more than 500% if we want to use them,” says Park Chul, another frustrated brewer.

Last week, I met some friends at Craftworks, one of the stars of both those articles, and tried their seasonal Hobak (Pumpkin) IPA. Drank a lot of it. That’s a nice holiday brew right there.

Brewing Up Free Trade in Korea (Wall Street Journal)

NOTE: If you hit a paywall then Google the article title and click.

Fiery food, boring beer: A dull duopoly crushes microbrews (The Economist)

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Joe McPherson founded ZenKimchi in 2004. He has been featured and sourced in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, CNN, KBS, MBC, SBS, Le Figaro, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, Harper’s Bazaar Korea, The Chosun Weekly, and other Korean and international media. He has consulted for "Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain," The Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, the PBS documentary series “Kimchi Chronicles,” and other projects in the UK, Canada, and Australia featuring celebrity chefs such as Gizzi Erskine and Gary Mehigan. Mr. McPherson has written for multiple Korean and international publications, including SEOUL Magazine, JoongAng Daily, The Korea Herald, Newsweek Korea and wrote the feature article for U.S. National publication Plate magazine’s all-Korean food issue. He has acted as dining editor for 10 Magazine and was on the judging panel for Korea for the Miele Guide. He spoke at TEDx Seoul on Korean food globalization, at TED Worldwide Talent Search on the rise of Korean cuisine, and in New York City on Korean Buddhist temple cuisine. The company ZenKimchi International organizes food tours for tourists and corporations and acts as a media liaison for foreign and Korean media and local restaurants and producers.
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