It was 10 days into my trip to South Korea, and I had a hankering. The feeling had been growing for a few days, and wasn’t budging. It presented as a thirst. A desire, nay, a yearning.
It was tough to handle.
Take away the sightseeing, the new friends, the traditional Korean wedding I attended (in requisite hanbok), and the massive amounts of Korean BBQ, Kimchi, Bibimbap, Bulgogi, Fried Chicken, and Soju, and I was in a funk.
From a dietician’s viewpoint, it’s less than impressive. From a beer-drinker’s viewpoint, it’s unfortunately (in the restaurants and pubs and club I was visiting at least) an adjunct lager paradise.
So it was to my sheer delight that I chanced upon a craft brewery in an American-style brew-pub in Busan (South Korea’s 2nd largest city, and a major port down in the south of the country).
Galmegi Brewing Company is the name, and brewing much-better-than-your-average-Korean-beer is their game.
For the uninitiated, the rise of microbreweries and widespread experimentation with beer styles is a very new trend in South Korean brewing. For many years the brewers (and the sellers) operated using the ‘German Beer Hall’ attitude. Both because that was seen as the ‘ideal’ way of doing things, and also because by law you had to brew, pipe, and serve your beer straight from the tank. As a result, breweries tended to have only two or three beers on tap, and because you couldn’t keg beers you couldn’t really experiment too much.
Three years ago, a magical event occurred.
The laws were changed. You could keg beers. No doubt brewers openly wept with joy. The brewing gods certainly were smiling that day.
Enter Stephane Turcotte. Starting off his adventures into beer by starting a home-brew collective in Korea, Turcotte began Galmegi Brewing Company in May 2014, Busan’s first American-style microbrewery.
Taking a break from cleaning out the brewhouse to pour several beers for me, Turcotte chatted about the beginnings of Galmegi, and how the allowance of kegging of beers has opened up a huge amount of opportunities for experimentation in his brewing.
As a former home-brewer, Turcotte is no stranger to mixing together innovative brews, and he often concocts beers with local ingredients.
His best sellers are of course, his hop-heavy brews. According to Turcotte, the big flavours in Korean food are complemented effectively by big-flavoured beers. It just makes sense!
While at the brewery I had the chance to sample a number of brews.
- Yuja Gose: Using yuja (a fruit that’s like a lemon-orange cross), the gose isn’t too acidic, it’s too salty, but is quite refreshing.
- Red Devil RyePA: Malty, hoppy, full of crystal malt that gives it a big red hue.
- Hwacha Double IPA: A delicious double IPA, it’s strong (over 8%) and has a long lingering hoppy finish that left my taste-buds thoroughly satisfied.
- Brett IPA (Wild IPA): Made with mosaic hops, and a Brettanomyces yeast. It’s not too funky, but has a level of ‘brett’ that makes it different to your normal IPA’s.
- Espresso Vanilla Stout: This has a huge coffee hit but a surprisingly light body – coffee beans are dry-hopped through the brew, ensuring that your stout tastes like a fresh cup of ‘joe’.
It’s always exciting finding new beers – especially when travelling – and to chance upon Galmegi (who are only just starting on their brewing adventures in the grand scheme of things) was brilliant.
If you ever find yourself in Busan, make sure to check them out!