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Beer Reviews

The Booth Daedong Pale Ale | 더부스대동 페일에일

 

"Fiery food, boring beer"

If you're from South Korea, there's a pretty decent chance you would have heard this. If you aren't, here's some context: this was the headline of a 2012 The Economist article on the beer landscape in South Korea.

Now, the title itself seems fairly ordinary - perhaps just another food critic demonstrating their critiquing ability, or maybe a jaded observer merely capturing the state of affairs - now given that this article managed to stir quite a fair bit of controversy in South Korea, you might begin to draw some guesses as to what went down.

 

(Image Source: The Korea Times, The Economist)

  

But let me fill you in anyway, as fact is better than fiction with this story - this was written by a British journalist Daniel Tudor who had moved to South Korea as a Korea correspondent for The Economist. During which, being the beer-loving Brit that he was, he had quickly found that the beer landscape in South Korea was for the most part a duopoly between conglomerates Hite-Jinro and Oriental Brewery (OB). The two mega breweries had filled a tightly regulated (read: inaccessible) Korean market with commercial lagers that Tudor had not found particularly diverse.

Yet, being the hardworking journalist that he was, he would take it one step further - he would compare what he found in South Korea to North Korea's own government-brewed Taedonggang beer, which he claimed was superior - boy, oh boy. You quickly begin to get a sense of why his article on The Economist became such a hot button topic - ironically, in my own research, I've actually found quite a number of sites that have claimed that Taedonggang beer is one the best beers around. I'll have to try it for myself before making a call on that one.

Nonetheless lest we veer too far from the topic at hand, the reception to The Economist article was curious to say the least - quite a number of South Korean publications had actually concurred with Tudor's spicy observations! Not what you might've guessed from what would have otherwise been a likely clarion call for a good ol' showing of nationalism.

 

North Korea's Taedonggang beer.

 

It is worth clarifying that Tudor's article wasn't aimed at the quality of South Korea's commercial lagers - and if there were any reference to that it was merely a supporting observation - what he was focusing on rather was the lack of diversity. Where's the craft beers, baby??

And so this article of Tudor's not only made waves in the zeitgeist of South Korea society, it even made its way to the top! The government began re-examining small business laws that had for decades posed a massive obstacle to craft breweries from being created. That plus a South Korea hosted FIFA football World Cup mega-event would help to turn the tide and law by law, aspiring would-be craft brewery owners began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Today, craft breweries dot the country en masse, with more vibrance than ever before. The mega breweries? They're doing just fine and continue to retain massive market share.

I suppose you can thank Tudor in some way for helping to chug things along.

And what ever happened to Tudor anyway?

 

 

Well, 8 months after penning that The Economist article, Tudor would leave publication and collaborate with a South Korean couple - a former investment banker and a doctor - to start a beer and pizza joint, The Booth.

The Booth would not only serve its own beer - just a handful of expressions rather than the entire vocabulary of craft beer literature - and just as well a single food item, pizza by the slice or the whole. The idea was to just be a great hangout spot and do few things but do them right.

Its mascot was Boothman (also nicknamed Booster), which is a character you'll find on each Booth beer going about various adventures, and seems to epitomise the camaraderie and high spirits whilst drinking beer.

 

 

Since its establishment in 2013, The Booth has gone on to open multiple outlets around South Korea, and whilst it initially tagged upon South Korea's OG craft brewery, KaBrew, for its brewing operations (a whole story of its own here!), it's since split its brewing across several facilities, namely Eureka in California, where it took over another prominent US craft brewery's, Lost Coast, facility as it expanded into a larger one. That means a good number of The Booth's beers are actually made in the US and then shipped back to South Korea, which the brewery's founders say is still on the whole cheaper than doing it entirely in South Korea, and allows the use of US native hops, access to a wider pool of brewing staff and more developed cold chain logistics.

In any case today we've got The Booth's flagship Daedong Pale Ale that seems to sport a censored sticker over Boothman - looks like a reference to Tudor's spicy The Economist article!

Let's give this a go!

The Booth Daedong Pale Ale | 더부스대동 페일에일 - Review / 리뷰

  

Tasting Notes

Color: Amber Gold, Incredibly Foamy Head

Aroma: Lots of thick sweet, estery ripe fruits - juicy apricots and mangoes, with a side of green bitter hoppiness. But mostly super aromatic juicy fruits. 

Taste: Those lovely, juicy fruits make their way to the palate - awesome! Lots of fruit nectar and sweetness - fresh apricots and mangoes. It then turns more bitter and drying, with more hoppiness coming through. It’s medium-bodied but the lush texture makes it feel denser, coupled with these rich flavours.

Finish: More hoppy bitterness here -  definitely much more ascetic than before, accentuating and turning up that dryness a lot. Lingering notes of drying bitterness.

  

My Thoughts

Optically this is so foamy - which for some reason inspires quite some excitement in me haha!

Anyway, nosing it, it stands out as having really ripe, juicy, estery sweet fruits of mangoes and apricots - really gorgeous aromas. On the palate - this ain’t no bait and switch! - the juicy  fruits make it there and again lots of fresh, juicy fruits, just lovely. 

And then in quite a U-turn, like some sort of plot twist where a light-hearted rom-com turns into a horror movie, it turns a lot more hoppy bitter and drying.

This continues into the finish which has a really intense hoppy bitterness and dryness.

I really enjoyed this quite a lot and considering The Booth’s start as a pizza joint, I could see this as being a great accompaniment!

Really solid stuff! Great aromas, solid lush texture and a nice complexity and transition from sweet, juicy fruits to dry hoppy bitterness, with strong intense flavours all around.

 

My Rating: 7/10

 

Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most whiskies, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.

 

Kanpai!

 

@111hotpot