Future is now for Canadian craft beer in Korea

Beer needs no ambassador, it might be said, but in South Korea the Canadian Embassy is helping inch open the market for quality craft beer at grocery stores, restaurants and bars.

Canadian beefsteaks and the country's thirst-quenching suds will slowly be made more widely available with the conclusion of nine years of free trade talks. So, spirits were pretty high at the second annual Canadian beer and cider tasting event at a hotel in southern Seoul on Wednesday.

Canadian micro-brewers Brasseurs du Monde, Dead Frog and Le Trou de Diable, as well as more well-known labels in the pantheon of Canadian quaffs appeared poised to sell big in the virgin waters that is South Korea's craft beer market.

Whistler Brewing Co., which displayed two lagers and two ales at the tasting, already sells its beer to select retailers, such as Lotte Department Store. But it was a local brewer that was perhaps lauded most on Wednesday.

Micro-brewer Park Chul was credited as a veritable "progenitor of craft beer" in South Korea during the tasting by introducing Alley Kat ale and a menu of other high quality ales, stouts and lagers from his own fermentation tanks. Based in Cheongpyeong, Gyeonggi Province, Park's Kapa Co. Ltd. concocts some 200 kegs (20 liters each) of Alley Kat a month for the local market, and much more.

Local and expatriate palates thirsting for something beyond the local grog - OB, Hite and Cass - sniffed, swirled and swigged a menu of craft beers by some 13 brewers representing about a half a dozen provinces across the Great White North.

"This event comes at an opportune time with the joint statement by Prime Minister Harper and President Park yesterday on the conclusion of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement," said Angela Bilkhu, counsellor and trade commissioner at the Canadian Embassy here. "For that I invite you all to have an extra glass of beer to celebrate this huge accomplishment."

Troy Zitzelsberger of JimiJames Inc. played the role of "beer cicerone," explaining interesting points about beer and advising participants about Canadian ales, ciders, lagers and more, including culinary pairing dos and don'ts. Zitzelberger, aka "Mr. Troy," recommended food-beer pairings as well. Which Canadian craft beer matches nicely with samgyeopsal? Perhaps a query for next year's tasting.