Joongang Daily's History of Korean Beer

Joongang Daily staff writer Cho Jae-eun examines the history of Korean beer and gives his own take on each of the major Korean brews:

Cass (OB Corporation)
In the 1990s, Cass was synonymous with youth and vigor because of its crisp taste. Even compared to other offerings under the Cass label, including Cass Red and Ice Light, the original, with a sharp, clean aftertaste, outdoes all other local beer by having the most bite. It is one of the strongest sellers in Korea.
Alcohol Content: 4.5 percent
Cafri (OB Corporation)
With its sleek design and lemony flavor, Cafri is a fresh, elegant summer beer for ladies. In fact, when it was launched, it was marketed heavily as a beer for women. It is almost like the salad of beers, without the nutty flavor of barley. It has a crystal-like lightness and a zingy, citrus aftertaste.
Alcohol Content: 4.2 percent
Hite (Hite Corporation)
The signature brand of Hite beer, this original has the most balanced taste “• not too fragrant nor too smoot or crispy.
It is known as a standard beer.
It is the plain Jane among domestic beer varieties. Those who prefer the more distinctive taste of dark beer might find this offering to be a bit bland.
Alcohol Content: 4.5 percent

Max (Hite Corporation)
The most recent addition to Hite’s range, this is wildly popular, with its sales going up on an average of 11 to 13 percent monthly. It is the only Korean beer which uses 100 percent barley and has a strong aroma and taste based on this ingredient. A smooth tasting brew, it goes well with food.
Alcohol Content: 4.5 percent
OB Blue (OB Corporation)
This brew is matured and fermented at a low temperature and has a smooth but rich flavor. Although not as pungent as Max, OB Blue is a good choice for those of you looking for a flavorful yet light beer. OB Blue’s aftertaste lingers for a long time but it is not as strong as the aftertaste of Cass Red.
Alcohol Content: 4.4 percent
Cass Ice Light (OB Corporation)
This is Cass’s “light” version, with 50 percent less carbohydrates than the original version. This brew tastes watery and flat, without any layers of taste. However, it is easy on the stomach. Amazingly, even after three full cans, my stomach didn’t feel like it was going to explode.
Alcohol Content: 4.2 percent

Stout (Hite Corporation)
As the only dark beer in Korea, Stout has merit as a quality beer that costs less than imported dark beers such as Guinness or Beck’s Dark. Stout is lighter than Guinness in both alcohol content and taste, but still has a full bouquet of flavor while being smooth in texture.
Alcohol Content: 4.5 percent
Cass Red (OB Corporation)
Cass Red has the highest alcohol content among domestic brands. The company said that this brew was made for those who get too full when drinking regular beer. Cass Red has a crisp texture and a distinct aftertaste, akin to cherries. This brew reminded me of Dr. Pepper.
Alcohol Content: 6.9 percent


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16 thoughts on “Joongang Daily's History of Korean Beer”

  1. I’ve been noticing a lot of new imported beers showing up in the convenience stores lately. My curreent favorite is the 2,000 won cans of Tiger beer from Singapore carried by Buy the Way. Blows all Korean beer away in my opinion!

  2. hite stout might be stronger than guinness draft, but it is about the same as guinness original and less than guinness extra stout.

    that line about hite prime max “being good with food” is ripped straight from commercials. i’d say it’s no better or worse with food than the rest of the swill.

  3. I’ve said before that I do like Hite Prime Max. It reminds me of the beers I had when I lived in Germany. It’s not the best, but it’s not bad at all. It’s a hell of a lot better than Bud, Coors, and Nat Light. Yet the people who dis Korean beers do so while praising Bud and the other dull mass mass produced American beers.

    Give Korea some time. Beer is not one of their traditions. And considering how Japanese breweries are now winning international competitions, it’s only a matter of time before it spreads to Korea. I think it’s an exciting time to be in a country where they’re trying to re-invent their beers every few months.

    When was the last time Budweiser came out with a new product?

  4. “Amazingly, even after three full cans, my stomach didn’t feel like it was going to explode.”

    Whoa, slow down dude! THREE full cans!?

  5. I got to be honest, only one beer with 100% barley is pathetic. In fact, calling the rest beer seems like a blatant lie. Perhaps “Bland Chemically Created Hangover Inducer” would be more appropriate

  6. Korean mass produced beer is terrible, but not much worse than Canadian or American macros. The sad thing is there are good microbrewers dotted around the country, but they are not allowed to sell their beer in bottles. We’re getting robbed by the big breweries monopolizing because of bottling laws.

  7. As an above-poster said, mass-produced Korean beer isn’t much better or worse than the fishwater in other countries, but still, I never imagined that anyone could break down the local brews with an analysis like this. Stout, Hite Prime Max, and the Cass Red are, for better or worse, the only ones that really stand out from the pack and I daresay wouldn’t fare too well in a blind taste test of the others.

  8. Jesus, I just ran across this. What a load of crap!!!

    Quote: “Hite beer, this original has the most balanced taste. Not too fragrant nor too smoot or crispy.” Nor too bloody good!!!!!!!!

  9. Is this some kind of propaganda?
    I don’t know if it’s a joke or a serious article.

    Home Brewing will save your soul !!!!!

  10. I’ve lived in Korea for three years, and have travelled to 49 countries. I can honestly say that Korean beer is the worst I’ve ever tasted. All of the beers listed above are terrible, but Cass and Hite especially so.

    Luckily, you can buy foreign beers in Korea. However, they are much more expensive and unfortunately not served in restaurants.

  11. I’m a big fan of Hite. Granted it’s not as good as the brews in my homeland (Germany) but it is much better than a lot of the crap I’ve tasted around the world.


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