A great beer can be as rewarding an experience to savor as a perfect cup of coffee, a deep, complex glass of Cabernet, or a languid three-hour dinner with close friends.
But, while java, vino and food have been expanding their depth and breadth in Korea for several years, it’s only recently that good beer entered the conversation.
Since the start of this decade, an explosion of international choices started occupying supermarket and convenience store shelf space alongside domestic heavyweights.
Even more recently, thanks to the lifting of strict laws that once required companies to produce at least one million liters per year before going to market, more and more small Korea-based brewers are taking advantage of greater opportunity to compete for your hard-earned won (and your tastebuds) by producing beers of their own.
To make a long story short, and give it a happy ending: Korea’s craft beer revolution has begun to blossom, as brewers with such names as Akitu, Wild Waves and Whasoo enter the market.
We’ve put together some spots in Busan where you can discover your new favorite Korean beer for yourself.
Levee Brewing Company, Seomyeon
Opened in March, Levee Brewing Company offers limited seating for thirsty patrons inside and out. Its cool metallic motif matches the funky exterior of its host, Hotel B’z, which continuously changes colors amid the bustling Seomyeon landscape. The pub exclusively serves its own beers, brewed in Suwon. Selections include a strong pale ale, wheat beer and dark India pale ale, available in two sizes, with prices ranging from 3,500 to 8,000 won. A limited food menu is also available.
Hours: 12:45 p.m.-1 a.m., daily. Directions: Seomyeon station, exit 7, B’z Hotel, behind Lotte Department Store. (Facebook page)
Annyeong Pub and Taphouse, Seomyeon
An eclectic mix of classic tunes play through the speakers as patrons indulge in a large variety of bottles and drafts from around the world, including selections from Busan-brewed Akitu and Wild Waves. Beers on tap range from 7,000 to 12,000 won. There is a dizzying array of empty bottles lining the walls, reminding folks of tasty times gone by. Bar food is also available.
Hours: 5 p.m.-3 a.m., Mon.-Sat.; 2 p.m.-midnight, Sunday. Directions: Seomyeon station, exit 1. Walk straight and turn right at first corner, then next left, past Gukbap Street. Entrance is on the right, across from a GS25, near a Frisbee Store. (Facebook page)
6Pack Tap House & Bottle Shop, Gwangan
First opened in 2014 as a craft beer bottle shop, 6Pack began serving drafts from To Ol of Denmark and Worthy of the U.S.A. in May. They recently added local selections from Akitu, Wild Waves and Whasoo. Their intimate location now serves over 100 kinds of imported bottles and over 10 different local and imported kegs. South Indian-inspired menu options include chicken curry, crab masala and spicy chickpea masala.
Hours: 7-11 p.m., Tues.-Thurs.; 7 p.m.-1 a.m., Fri.-Sun.; Directions: Geumnyeonsan station, exit 5. Turn right at the cobblestone road. At first major intersection, cross and turn left. 6Pack is on your right. (Facebook page)
Gwangan Tap House and Galmegi Brewery, Gwangan
The granddaddy of local craft beer destinations in Busan, Galmegi Brewing Company opened its first location in June 2013 to immediate success. It opened its brewpub around the corner a year later, adding a third Busan location on Oryukdo soon after. A fourth location, Neighborhood in Seoul, followed, along with the original site in Gwangan getting a facelift and name change and adding almost two dozen local and international drafts to Galmegi’s already expansive in-house selection. Menu items at the tap house include several finger foods and a variety of pizzas.
Hours: 6-11 p.m., Mon.; 6 p.m.-midnight, Tues.-Thur.; 6 p.m.-1 a.m., Fri.; 1 p.m.-1 a.m., Sat.; 1 p.m.-11 p.m., Sun. Directions: Geumnyeonsan station, exit 5. Turn right at cobblestone road. Cross first major intersection and continue straight. Tap house is on third floor of building just before Starbucks. (Facebook page)
Owl and Pussycat Tap Room and Kitchen, Gwangan
Like 6Pack, Owl and Pussycat began life in 2014 as a bottle shop, located near the Galmegi brewpub. In July 2015, they added a tap house and kitchen near Gwangan Beach, sandwiched between Sharky’s Bar & Grill and Gwangan Tap House. With a stunning view of the Diamond Bridge, patrons can enjoy 21 beers on tap, both local and international, including OPC’s own blend, a Saison Belgian farmhouse ale named Suri. Italian-inspired pizzas and appetizers are available for dining.
Hours: 5 p.m.-1 a.m., Mon.-Fri.; 1 p.m.-1 a.m., Sat.; 1 p.m.-midnight, Sun. Directions: Geumnyeonsan station, exit 5. Follow same directions as Gwangan Tap House. Owl and Pussycat is in the building just after Starbucks, before Sharky’s. (Facebook page)
Akitu Craft Beer, Nampo
If you’ve tried one or two of their brews at other tap houses and are craving more, head over to Akitu’s very own pub in Nampo, just off the always-bustling Gwangbok Road. Their cozy, modern third-floor pub has six regular beers and a seasonal special, boasting such wistful local names as Dalmaji, Oryukdo and Jagalchi, and such mouth-watering crafts as American pale ale, coffee stout and saison. Pizzas, sausages and fries are among the food items available.
Hours: 5 p.m.-midnight, Sun.-Thurs.; 5 p.m.-1 a.m., Fri.; 3 p.m.-1 a.m., Sat. Directions: Nampo station, exit 1. Go straight and turn right at the second road. Akitu is on the third floor at the next corner on the left. www.akitubrewing.com
Finger Craft Beer, Oncheonjang
Named for its desire to be the number-one craft beer destination in Busan, the owners of Finger Craft Beer (or 수제맥주, ‘homemade beer,’ as the large sign outside reads) turned an old milk storage office into a warm, extremely comfortable tap house you’ll want to stay at for hours. The beverage options certainly help. Hefeweizen, pale ales, IPAs and coffee stouts with such names as Amarillo Finger, God Finger, Gold Finger and Devil Finger cost between 5,000 and 6,000 won. Complimentary fruit platters are included, and various bar foods are available, served on thick wooden slabs.
Hours: 6 p.m.-1:30 a.m., daily. Directions: Oncheonjang station, exit 2. Turn left and cross at next crosswalk. Turn left, cross bridge and make next right. Finger Craft Beer, 수제맥주, is on your left. www.tofo.me/tag/Fingercraftbeer /Kim Sung Ho, 010-2773-7195
Ofrito Tap House, Deokcheon and PNU Area
Owners Bill Sheridan and Song Won Park decided to shift to a tap house from a bar concept that had been in the same location for two years, citing the rapidly growing Korean craft beer movement. Their cozy, classically styled Deokcheon pub opened in May, offering several local drafts, including Busan’s Akitu, Whasoo from Ulsan, and Platinum and Korea Craft Brewing from Seoul (as well as Watermelon Wheat from Lost Coast Brewery in the US). Prices range from 4,500 to 7,000 won. Bar food is also available.
Hours: 5 p.m.-2 a.m., daily. Directions: Deokcheon subway station, exit 9. Make first right at Paris Baguette; walk straight two blocks. Turn left after KFC; Ofito is on the right. PNU Location (Frito): Pusan National University station, exit 3. Walk to big road at the right of subway station. Turn left, then left again between Lotteria and Pizza Hut. Turn right at next road. (Facebook page)