Korean beer has gained popularity in recent years, and for good reason. The country boasts a wide variety of beer brands, from mainstream to craft, that each cater to somewhat different tastes and preferences. Some of the most popular Korean beer brands include Cass, Hite, and Kloud.
These mainstream brands are widely available in convenience stores and bars throughout the country, but for those on a budget, there are also options like FiLite and FilGood. If you're looking for something more unique, howveer, there are plenty of Korean craft beer brands to choose from, such as Gompyo Beer and Gyeongbokbung Beer.
When it comes to finding the best beer in Korea, it really depends on personal taste. However, there are certain brands that consistently receive high praise from beer enthusiasts. For example, Jeju Wit Ale is a craft beer that has gained a cult following for its refreshing taste and unique blend of wheat & citrus flavors.
On the other hand, OB Golden Lager is a classic Korean beer that has been around for decades and is beloved for its smooth, easy-drinking taste. Whether you're looking for a refreshing drink or a unique beer to try on your next trip to Seoul, our list of the best Korean beer brands has got you covered from budget-friendly to high-end. Please drink responsibly.
- History of Beer in Korea
- Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try
- Mainstream Korean Beer Brands
- Budget Korean Beer Brands
- Craft Korean Beer Brands
- Best Korean Beer FAQ
History of Beer in Korea
Beer, called maekju (맥주) in Korean, was first introduced to Korea in the early 20th century. Seoul's first beer brewery, Kirin, opened in 1905, and two current major breweries even date back to the 1930s. The third brewery established in Korea, Jinro Coors Brewery, was only founded in the 1990s.
During the 1940s, two breweries were confiscated by US authorities for a brief time after Korea was liberated from Japan. Then in 1948, Kirin became Tongyang Co., which later produced OB beer. In the 1960s, the Korean government established a state-owned brewery called Oriental Brewery.
The brewery was later sold to Anheuser-Busch InBev, a Belgian-Brazilian multinational beverage and brewing company. These days, Oriental Brewery has become the largest brewery in Korea and produces the popular Cass beer.
In recent years, the craft beer scene has been growing in Korea. Local breweries and pubs offer a wide range of craft beers, including IPAs, stouts, and sour beers. Korean craft beer brands such as Galmegi Brewing Co. and Magpie Brewing Co. have gained popularity both domestically and internationally.
Despite the growth of the craft beer market, mainstream Korean beer brands such as Hite, OB, and Cass continue to dominate the market. These beers are typically light and easy to drink, with an alcohol content ranging from 4% to 5%.
The history of beer in Korea has evolved from the introduction of Western-style beer in the early 20th century to the current dominance of mainstream Korean beer brands and the emergence of the craft beer scene.
Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try
Are you a beer enthusiast? If so, you won't want to miss the chance to sample some of the best Korean beers out there. Whether you prefer mainstream brands, budget-friendly options, or unique craft beers, there's something for everyone.
Stay for a while and check out our list of the best Korean beers and beer brands to try, ideally with some comfort food in hand and your new favorite brew in the other.
Mainstream Korean Beer Brands
Cass is a popular Korean beer brand owned by the Oriental Brewery Company, which is the largest brewery in South Korea. The beer was first introduced in 1994 and quickly became one of the most popular beers in the country.
It’s known for its crisp and refreshing taste. It is a light beer that is easy to drink and perfect for hot summer days; plus you can find Cass in most Korean bars and restaurants.
Cass is made with barley malts, hops, starch, and water. The malts provide a sweet flavor that is present throughout, while the starch gives hints of corn and grass. The hops are barely noticeable, though they can be perceived to some degree, and I'd just generally label it 'drinkable.'
It's not for enthusiasts, but it'll get the job done.
Kloud is a relatively new Korean beer brand, introduced in 2014 and marketed as a premium brand. Although Kloud is a Korean beer, it is actually a German style Pilsner. It has a smooth and rich flavor that is perfect for beer enthusiasts. Kloud is available in various types, including a lager, weizen, and IPA.
Lotte Chilsun, the beer maker brews Kloud from all-malt beer made with German hops and the brewery uses fermented concentrates from the original gravity.
The proportion of hops produced in Germany is over 50%, and it has a 5% ABV. The taste of Kloud has cereal malt, bread dough, and light esters of pear, with a kiss of floral hops and bitter finish.
Hite is one of the most popular Korean beer brands, both in Korea and abroad, the oldest beer brand in South Korea, having been introduced in 1933, and also the largest beer brand in the country, with a market share of over 60%.
It's a light beer that is brewed with rice and barley. Hite has a clean and refreshing taste that is perfect for pairing with Korean food. Hite Korean beer is made with barley malt, hops, corn, and rice, giving it a clean, crisp, and refreshing taste with a slightly sweet flavor.
It has an alcohol content of 4.3% and is best served chilled. We use to nickname it 'Shite,' sp proceed with caution.
Terra is another new Korean beer brand, introduced in 2016 owned by HiteJinro company. It's a premium Korean beer made with organic ingredients, and for most people, that's the main selling point. It has a smooth and rich flavor that's great for beer enthusiasts on a budget.
It's available in various types, including a pilsner, weizen, and IPA. Terra Korean beer is made with 100% pure malt grown in Australia and real carbonic acid produced only from fermentation. The beer boasts dense foam and stays carbonated for a long time, so along with some anju (salty foods eaten while drinking), you're in for a good night.
It has an alcohol content of 4.6%, with a sweet, malty body and a crisp finish.
Max was first introduced in 1990 by HiteJinro Company and quickly became one of the best selling beers in Korea. It's a light and refreshing Korean beer that is perfect for social gatherings.
It has a clean and crisp taste that makes it easy to drink, and it's available in most Korean bars and restaurants, sometimes with celebrity endorsements of the Max Cream type. Max and its follow-ups are the first all-malt Korean beer made with 100% newly harvested hops from New Zealand.
The beer has a rich and full-bodied taste with a slight bitterness from the hops and a fresh tropical fragrance, along with a respectable alcohol content of 4.7%.
OB is the second-largest beer brand in South Korea, with a market share of around 50%. In addition to being the second-largest beer brand in South Korea, OB is also one of the oldest. It was first introduced in 1952 and has since become a staple in Korean beer culture.
OB is known for its smooth and refreshing taste, making it a popular choice for pairing with Korean food. If you're visiting Korea, you're likely to come across OB in most bars and restaurants, because it has a strong presence in the Korean market and is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
So if you're looking to immerse yourself in Korean beer culture, be sure to give OB a try.
According to The Korean Herald, Hanmac is a new entry to the Korean beer market, produced by Oriental Brewery, the same company behind OB and Cass (also Cafri). Hanmac was created to symbolize Korean beer, and has become a defining Korean lager.
Despite being a new entry to the market, Hanmac Lager is already widely available and gaining popularity. With the backing of Oriental Brewery, it's likely to become mainstream in the near future, which is why I deem it worth including in this list of the best Korean beers and beer brands to try.
Hanmac Lager has 4.6% alcohol content and is advertised as using only home-grown rice, which gives it a distinct wheat smell when opening the bottle. It has a clean, neutral taste with a decent balance between bitter and sweet.
While it has a cleaner taste than its sibling, Cass, it may lack depth. However, it's a great side to spicy food and can be compared to Kloud for its smoothness and slightly sweet aftertaste.
Budget Korean Beer Brands
FiLite is a relatively new brand in the Korean beer market, having been introduced by the Lotte Group in 2014. Despite being a budget-friendly option, FiLite has quickly gained popularity among beer enthusiasts for its light and refreshing taste, which makes it perfect for hot summer days and making somaek.
FiLite is brewed with malt and hops, giving it a clean and crisp taste that's easy to drink. It's also low in calories, making it a great option for those who want to enjoy a cold beer without worrying about the extra calories.
FilGood is a relatively new addition to the Korean beer market, having been introduced by the Lotte Group in 2019. Like FiLite, FilGood is a budget-friendly option that's perfect for those on a tight budget.
FilGood is a light beer that's easy to drink, making it a popular choice for social gatherings. Its clean and refreshing taste is perfect for hot summer days, and it pairs well with a variety of Korean dishes.
While it may not have the same depth of flavor as some of the other best beers in Korea, it's still a great option for those who want to enjoy a quality beer without breaking the bank.
Cafri, a Korean beer brand that has been around since 1994, is one of the best beer options in Korea. It's known for its crisp and refreshing taste, which makes it a great beer to pair with Korean food. Although there are many brands of Korean beer available, Cafri stands out for its quality and affordability.
While it may not have the same complexity of flavor as some of the other Korean beer brands, Cafri is still a popular choice for those who want a refreshing and easy-to-drink beer that pairs well with Korean cuisine.
Craft Korean Beer Brands
11. Magpie Brewing Co.
Founded by four friends from Jeju Island in 2011, Magpie Brewing Co. has quickly become a staple in the Korean craft beer scene. Their line-up boasts a range of brews, from traditional IPAs to more experimental offerings.
One of their most popular beers, the Magpie Pale Ale, is renowned for its balanced flavor profile of malt sweetness and hop bitterness. The brewpub in Itaewon, Seoul, has become a hub for craft beer enthusiasts.
12. Galmegi Brewing Co.
Based in Busan, Galmegi Brewing Co. was the city's first craft beer brewery. The name Galmegi means 'seagull' in Korean, reflecting the brewery's coastal origins.
Galmegi offers a solid line-up of beers, from the refreshing Galmegi Pilsner to the robust Espresso Vanilla Stout. They also brew seasonal beers, keeping their offerings fresh and exciting throughout the year.
13. Jeju Beer Company
Jeju Beer Company is a craft beer brewery located on the picturesque Jeju Island. Their beers are inspired by the natural beauty of the island, and they use locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.
Their Jeju Wit Ale, made with locally grown tangerines, is a standout. This refreshing, citrusy brew encapsulates the spirit of Jeju Island.
Best Korean Beer FAQ
What is the most popular Korean beer brand?
Hite is the most popular Korean beer brand, both in Korea and abroad.
What is the best Korean craft beer?
The best Korean craft beer depends on personal taste, though some popular options include Jeju Beer Company and Magpie Brewing Co.'s seasonal brews.