Homebrewing in Korea

July and August have been busy months for me here.  So busy, in fact, that my contact with family members is reduced to refuting various forwarded emails concerned with Barack Obama’s religious preferences and trying to set up this year’s NFL football pool ($100 buy-in, leave a comment if you’re interested).  One of the purposes of this blog is to keep friends and family up to speed on what I’m doing, so I thought I’d get around to it.

Our homebrewing mess

Our kitchen on brew day.

My biggest development lately is that I’ve started homebrewing again.  The main reason for this is that beer in South Korea is worse than Budweiser or Miller Lite.  Dogs would rather die from dehydration than risk a sip of Cass or Hite — or as I like to call them, Ass and Shite — over-processed, nutritionally deficient  macrobrews.  Having spent a large chunk of my life in western North Carolina, I’m disappointed.  The Seoul microbrewing “scene” is not adequate for a world-class metropolis.

Meanwhile, imported beers are too expensive to take home regularly, and they don’t have many styles — it’s all pilsener.  Of all places, North Korea produces a pilsener-style beer that tastes similar to many quality German brews.  The only problem is that, as far as I know, you can’t buy it outside of the DMZ gift shops.

Now, I like cheap-ass beer for tailgating and general binge drinking, but when I’m relaxing at home or hanging out with a friend, I like savoring what I eat and drink.  So I got a buddy at work who willingly overpays for decent beers to go in with me on homebrewing equipment and last weekend we cracked open our first batch of pale ale, made from a malt extract.

Grain bed

Inside our mash cooler, grains soak in hot water to stimulate enzyme activity, converting starches into sugars. The grains are kept in mesh "tea bags" for the sake of convenience.

Given our laughably simple set-up, I thought it’d turn bad for sure, especially with the high temperature I keep in the apartment — around 77F.  The temperature did me a favor, though, causing a fast fermentation that ensured there wasn’t time for nastiness to grow in our beer.  The results were encouragingly drinkable.

Extract brewing is a little too simplistic, though, and I wanted to pick up where I left off years ago, with all-grain brewing.  After finding a free cooler in my apartment building — they run upwards of $70 for even a basic model here — we were able to go all-grain with our second batch, a wheat beer which is busily bubbling away in the living room as I type this out.

Sparge bitch

Naved, the designated sparge bitch.

Our process needs refinement, but I’m confident that we’ll get it down with practice.  Our biggest problem was not having enough hot water on hand to rinse out the grains.  Our batch is a little smaller than our five-gallon target.  Live and learn, I guess.  The next step is a keg, and maybe a cheap kimchi fridge to keep it cold.

-Daniel Daugherty

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1 Comment

Filed under Daily Life

One response to “Homebrewing in Korea

  1. Don

    uuuuummmmmmmmmmm…. tasty homebrew…… ddddooouuughthththhhhhhh…

    All work and no beer make Homer sumtin, sumtin…

    You would be the Beer Baron here is Saudi with that stuff…

    Well Done Indeed!!

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