I am not a big beer drinker but do like the odd one every now and then. I didn’t really expect much in this department in North Korea though I did know that the beer and water would be included with lunch and dinner.
The beer we were served wasn’t bad. Clearly the brewers had taken heed of Kim Jong-il’s 2002 on-the-spot guidance when he exhorted that what was essential was to ‘keep beer tasty’ and that ‘to produce the best quality beer it is necessary to conduct tireless research’.
In reviews, North Korean beers typically out rate their Southern counterparts – Kim Jong-un must be pleased. My picture below (courtesy Korean Central News Agency) is of the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il inspecting some beer somewhere – I suspect he’s thinking he will stick with the Hennessy brandy he was famed for drinking.
Some of the local mass produced variety (the State owned Taedonggang brand of which is produced in a English brewery moved lock, stock and barrel to Pyongyang in 2000) came in a number of varieties which I could differentiate by a number. As I recall, I sampled numbers 10, 11 and 12 and one (I think it was 11) greatly outshone the other two. For those not wishing to partake of North Korean beer the only foreign option readily available was Heineken. This is the only foreign beer I saw but then again I wasn’t seeking it out. Many varieties of foreign spirits were available in our hotels and in the restaurants we ate in – I don’t know if this translates to them being available to the masses.
You may have noticed that I specifically referred to ‘mass produced’ beer above. What came as a complete surprise to me was that there are at least three micro breweries in Pyongyang. One of these, and the only one I didn’t visit, was in our hotel – the Yanggakdo. Apparently lots of places in North Korea make their own beer – they just don’t badge/market it as something special like these three outlets do.
After enjoying a children’s variety performance at the Mangyongdae Children’s Palace we visited the larger and more traditional pub looking micro-brewery, the Taedonggang Craft Brewery, which offered a range of around 12 boutique beers ranging from dark ales to light coloured beer.
While all beers listed were not available when we visited sufficient numbers were to allow our group to sample quite a few. From my non expert perspective the beers I tasted were top class.
A few days later after our walk along the Taedong River we visited the Rakwon Paradise Microbrewery.
This outlet is much smaller than the other one and due to another tour group arriving just before us we had difficulty getting a seat. Notwithstanding that, again a good range of beers was available and it tasted as good as what we had at the Taedonggang Craft Brewery.
The clientele at both establishments was clearly tour groups and local expatriates with a small sprinkling of better off North Koreans – so hardly what the guides described as local bars. Certainly a nice treat though.
I have to admit that the title of this review is not my creation but copied from Wired.co.uk – I do like it.
After an hour or so in the Rakwon Paradise Microbrewery we had dinner in a nearby restaurant. When that was over at about 9pm it still wasn’t time to return to the hotel on this our last night in Pyongyang – we were now off to the funfair !
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on my trip to Pyongyang. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Fun, Fun, Fun in the DPRK – or to start the loop at the beginning go to – Pyongyang – A Capital City Unlike any Other