Japan's Belgian Beer Weekend Vs Great Korean Beer Festival 2015

Fukuoka's Belgian Beer Weekend
One of the many thrills you get for being an engineer is the mammoth-esque amount of documentation you have to go through. More than actual engineering to be honest. A document here, a document there and for every experiment you end up completing, you toss in a couple more as a bonus. Just marvelous. Engineering schools never tell you these things you know.

This being said, documenting life on a blog is fun, you should try it too. For my case it’s purely a therapeutic relationship between me and my computer because that is what it is; I talking and the machine not giving a shit about what I have to say. It’s like talking to a really good dog friend who listens and then just walks out without saying a word. No judgment, no comment, no nothing. Pure nonchalance.

It is not that I don’t ask “it” to share a pint and last time I tried to do anything remotely near making my laptop drink a fair share of my beer, it nearly gave up on me. I don’t know what’s up to be honest. Beer is such an amazing drink to kill time but this shit here won’t have any of it. Not even the IPA I poured onto a couple of times.

Talking about IPA’s and what not, just this past month alone, I got my ass to visit not one but two beer festivals not just here in Korea but one in Japan as well. Spring is really the perfect time to go out with your pals and drink a couple of pints and get drunk and get funky and what not but also a time when you can seriously have a look at how Korean craft industry has gone on to strength to strength in the last couple of years.

If you already didn’t know, I had teamed up with a couple of our ex-quillers to open an online beer/food magazine called FANATIKorea which, obviously, through our lack of appropriate sponsorship (beer is really expensive here) and lack of time (and manpower) decided to call it a day. The facebook page is still online although the only text we seem to get is those of people who want to sexually spam us. We are flattered but no thanks.

This has, in retrospect, allowed me to ease off and write about those festival here. I think the best way to approach reviewing both would be to juxtapose next to one another and see what each had to offer in their own ways. Let’s do it then, shall we?

The Beers:
Japan’s Belgian Beer Weekend’s beer line-up had some of the top top quality abbey and Trappist beers taking charge with the likes of Rochefort 10 and Westmalle Tripel with notable presence of Orval, Bush Amber and Kasteel. Some of the beers that I have started to make some sense on why people actually drink it-type beers like the Duchesse, a horribly sour ale, were worth trying as well. And yes, Duchesse was on tap!

Even their website was awesome

Korea’s Great Korean Beer Festival had more of its craft brewmanship to show for. The likes of Hand and Malt Brewing Company, Busan’s favorite Galmegi, Maloyne’s Brewing Co., Ka-brew, Platinum, Craft One, Hidden Track just to name a few. Craftworks was there too but who really gives a shit about their beers these days?

It is interesting to note that Korean brewers are taking a liking of hops and really going for it. I started out with Maloney’s Combat Zone IPA (Bill’s recipe) and then went on to try out Doljanchi IIPA hop bomb which probably then f***ed up my tongue pretty much and every other IPA I tried out, including Hand & Malt’s Slow IPA tasted shit. I had it a couple of times at our local pub in Seoul National University Station and I thought it was pretty decent. Some of other notable drinks were Galmegi’s Vanilla Espresso Stout, Southie was pretty damn good too. Call me biased but they do brew some very solid beers.

Twitter @craftbeerkorea
Btw, where the f*** was magpies? I thought I saw one of the founders there blocking my way to my beer stall. Why is he not behind a stall?

The ambiance:
Here’s what gets really interesting

The Belgian Beer Weekend had tons of people. Like tons. You had to wait in line for at least 10 minutes to get anywhere near the bathroom. So much people and the more the people you have drunk and having, fun the better. We were fortunate enough to get a standing table and that seemed to invite complete strangers to our place as well. I think we ended up sharing the table with what? 4 other Japanese who spoke better English as they drank.  On top of that they had a huge stage, live music and awesome, awesome atmosphere. Loved it.

Sweet Home South Korea
The Great Korean Beer Fest on the other hand, was a bit tame. Maybe it was because we went on a Sunday rather than a Saturday but the summer seemed to have sunk in on people a bit. The atmosphere was a bit mellow with people randomly walking across booths. The fact that we kept seeing the same people over and over again just went on to show it was pretty much a small affair. They had live music, and eventually we did head over to sit down and sip in what was on the palate. Ended at 8, so we just weren’t drunk enough and headed over to itewon for late dinner. (Great south African food man, absolutely amazing)

The price:
Both festivals were equally priced but with a notable difference. The Belgian Beer Fest were happy to hand you a very nice piece of glassware to carry around and drink while the Korean counterpart had a crappy plastic cup. Not very nice. I thought everything in Japan was carefully planned; stand up tables, glass rinsers, nice open space, great ambiance, late drinking and fun people. Korea not so much, no rinsers (you practically had to ask each booth to clean your glass for you), very laid back atmosphere (credit due in its own way) and not much happening with the beers except for a few. True, that am I comparing giants to dwarfs but hey, I paid my share of money. I can complain.

I personally still think Japan is way, way ahead in terms of what they have to offer beer-wise, home brewed or imported but Korea is slowly catching up. If you look at some of the beers on offer a few years back, what is available now, it has massively improved on both the taste, character and the style of beers available. Good to know but if you are one of those who are serious about brews, it is still in level where it’s disappointingly stale.

The only way from here is up, so it’s all good.


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