Visit to North Korea


I found a quote from a North Korean chap who said, “There is no other beer in the world that tastes better than Taedonggang.” I can’t think of a single reason not to believe this bloke. I also can’t dispute it, as I’ve never drunk any of the beers from the Taedonggang Brewery in Pyongyang. But I want to.

Visit to North Korea Photo Gallery

“Taedonggang Brewery in Pyongyang” is a pub quiz answer. The question is: “In 2002, Ushers of Trowbridge closed their brewery and sold their brewhouse. Who bought it?” It’s a stateowned brewery and we can assume it’s popular with the proles, where in a country of working men it makes sense that the ultimate working-man’s drink should be widely available and widely drunk, although soju seems to be the knock-it-back, get-drunk-quick drink of choice and beer is emerging in a more middle-class market. When you look further into the limited amounts of information about beer and brewing in the country, there seems to be a nascent scene with beer halls and numerous venues brewing their own beers—bowling alleys, restaurants, a few hotels. There’s more to North Korean beer than the state-owned brew.

In 2016 the country hosted its first-ever beer festival, with locals hoisting steins of Kim Jong’s finest lagers at the 20-day event in Pyongyang. The venue overlooked the Taedong River, which gave its name to the brewery the festival was set up to promote, and all the brewery’s seven beers were available. If you’re interested, they are socialistically named: Taedonggang 1, Taedonggang 2, Taedonggang 3, and so on through to 7, with some using over 50 percent rice in the grain bill, while numbers 6 and 7 are dark.

Most western reviewers of the Taedonggang beers are less enthusiastic than the North Korean fella, though most are also a little surprised, making comments such as “Not as terrible as I expected…” and “It’s fine.” Frankly, that’s better than I was expecting. And I’m certainly interested in what beer might be like there, what that festival would be like, and where else I might be able to find places that make their own beer. To put words in the mouth of that man from Pyongyang: “There’s no country in the world with better beer.” Probably, anyway, and one day I’d like to find out for myself.

Taedonggang being served to thirsty locals in Pyongyang.

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