Friday, October 22, 2010

Korean Alcohols I Have Known And Loved

Korea loves to drink. Korea loves a good bargain. Therefore, Korean alcohol is cheap. This works out well if you're more interested in trying alcohol than enjoying it. In my two months here I have made it a point to try different alcohols. Here's what I've imbibed (in alphabetical order for no good reason):

Cafri is fake Corona. Or possibly fake San Miguel, which is the Philippines' fake Corona. It is drinkable like Corona and forgettable like Corona.

Cass 2X
There are three main beer companies in Korea, Hite, O.B. and Cass. This is Cass' 2X beer, which is pretty much a useless brew because it only has 2.9% alcohol while all other Korean beers sit in the 5% range. The text on the can says (in English): "Extreme and exclusive beer for the explosive minds." Perhaps my mind wasn't explosive enough to understand it.

Cass Fresh
As you can see from the picture, Cass Fresh is the "Sound of vitality." In this case, vitality is carbonation. Cass is highly carbonated. It's the Fresca of beers.

Cass Red
If Cass Fresh is the Fresca of beers, then Cass Red is the Mountain Dew. With an alcohol content of 6.9% and a surprisingly sweet flavor, it's designed for getting the job done as quickly as possible. Seemingly only available at convenient stories.

Hite is far and away the most popular beer in Korea. It's what most restaurants serve, either on tap or in bottles. It's bland like most Korean beers, which are brewed with rice as a main ingredient. That being said, Korean beer tastes really good when paired with Korean food, or when mixed with soju, Korea's answer to vodka. (Mixing beer and soju, called some in Korean, is not recommended for beginners and often results in hand-holding with your male co-teachers and dreams in which you've woken up from a black-out to find your arms covered with Korean prison tattoos.)

No, your eyes do not deceive you. That is beer in a plastic bottle. And yes, it tastes terrible that way.

Hite D
I'm actually drinking this right now. And not only because of the taste, which is strikingly similar to what you or I would call "beer." It's also because I prefer to "Refresh your spirits. Break away from the daily grind. Hite D is brewed with our exclusive Dry Finish process using the select dry yeast."

Foreigners like to joke that Hite rhymes with shite.

This is makgeoli, an unfiltered rice wine not unlike nigorizake, if you know what that is. It's cloudy and sweet and, well, comes in a plastic bottle. It's apparently popular with young people and farmers, and I read it's got a following in Tokyo as well (but then again what doesn't). This particular bottle was around $1.50, carbonated (not common) and nasty. I'm ready to be converted, really, but this brand isn't going to do it.

Max is a sub-brand of Hite. Foreigners seem to like it but there's something odd about Max to me. It tastes like they added some artificial citrus flavoring or something. That won't stop me from drinking it if I'm out and that's what they have on tap but you won't find me kicking it at the Family Mart with a 1000ml plastic bottle of Max. At least, not any more.

This, dear readers, is a pitcher of beer. It holds 5000ml of beer. That's 5 liters. It's almost too much. You're really working to get that last liter down.

Bokbunjaju Black Raspberry Wine
Koreans make alcohol out of all kinds of things, including black raspberries. This is actually really delicious and is a lot more like grape wine than I expected. It's sweet but not cloyingly so, like a dessert wine. (A friend warned me to stay away from this brand, the most common, as people have gotten sick from it. Oops.)

Here it is: soju, the national drink of Korea. What vodka is to Russia, sake is to Japan, and wine coolers are to teenage girls, this fine drink is to the Land of Morning Calm. It doesn't always come in a juice box but I'm partial to booze served in child-size portions. Man do I miss drinking Oni Koroshi sake from a juice box in Japan. Anyway, soju tastes like sweet, sweet lighter fluid and will knock you on your can. I avoid it as much as possible.

Style S
This is diet beer. With fiber in it. It tastes like liquid smoke. I bought a six pack of it. I'm an idiot.

Tesco Imported Premium Lager
My local grocery store is somehow related to Tesco, the UK supermarket chain. This is nice in that I have access to decent breakfast cereal and spaghetti sauce. I also have access to stuff like this. I bought it because it says, "Continental strength." So exotic. So forgettable. So Tesco.

And there you have it. Quantity over quality. Power over finesse. Me over the toilet bowl. Thank you and good night.


  1. try the hite-made black beer if you come across it. it's not bad and a nice change from crap hite and cass.

  2. Actually I have tried it. I'm not a fan of dark beers anyway so it's really not for me. I have heard that a beer called Red Rock was pretty good but I guess it's not made any more.

  3. Thank you for trying all of these so I don't have to. Though I'm addicted to that raspberry wine and some other fruity white Korean wine. Hooray alcoholism!

  4. Suddenly I'm all thirsty!

    You left out Cass Light, which is "33% calorie down". Doesn't taste any worse than the full-calorie model. And I don't feel quite as fat.

  5. Thanks for the comment, Tuttle. I'll keep an eye out for Cass Light.