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South Korea has a great drinking culture, but until recently, quality beer was not part of it. However, in recent years, there has been an explosion of craft beer in Seoul. This craze has been fueled both by local interest in better beer, but also by Seoul’s position as an international city that has residents from all over the world. Seoul is a massive city, and when you get that many people together, they’re bound to bring in & adapt culture from home. Seoul’s craft beer bars are mostly concentrated in two areas that have a large international presence: Itaewon & Gangnam. One note: unfortunately beer bars come and go pretty quickly in Seoul. Some of my favorites from this list have already disappeared, despite them having seemingly been popular & making good beer.
Here are some of the best places to drink craft beer in Seoul, grouped by neighborhood.
The best craft beer in Seoul
Craft Hans is just to the north of Itaewon station, on a street packed with bars and restaurants. They offer 4 taps of their own beer, plus a decent selection of bottles. There’s a nice outside patio where you can people watch the crowds, but the rest of the bar is very open as well.
White Rabbit Tap House
Nearby is White Rabbit Tap House, which boasts one of the better selections of craft beer in Seoul. They have 26 taps available. While only a few are local, there is a nice selection from the United States and Europe. They also have a huge whisky selection.
White Rabbit Tap House is a friendly open spot with lots of fresh air, plus I liked that they kept refilling my pretzels constantly. It’s such a little thing to do, but it goes a long way.
Made In Pongdang
Pongdang is one of the largest craft breweries in South Korea, with a couple of bars in Seoul. The one in Itaewon is called Made In Pongdang.
The tap selection of 6 beers isn’t huge, but it’s complemented by a large selection of hard-to-find bottles from the United States and Europe. On the night I visited, there was a tap takeover on.
The food menu specializes in fried snacks, one of which was Korean, so I had to try it. It was called kim malee, and it was essentially a fried roll of noodles wrapped in seaweed.
Magpie Brewing Company
Magpie Brewing Company has a few locations in Seoul, a couple of which are on the same street in Itaewon. The first one I visited was a large open building with a nice outside patio. They feature 8 taps of their own beer, at some of the cheapest prices. Given that they also make some of the best craft beer in Seoul, they’re a must-visit. The staff were the friendliest I encountered, which is saying something, as nearly all of the other bars I visited were also welcoming.
Down the block, Magpie has a basement bar with the same beer, but also with pizza. I visited just an hour after it opened, and it was already very busy. Magpie is the sort of brewery you like to see in a burgeoning market, as they are helping push towards better quality.
The Booth – Craft Beer & Pizza
The Booth is a brewery that has a few locations around Seoul. I visited their location on the same street as the last couple I’ve mentioned, just off Noksapyeong. There is another outlet not far away near Itaewon station, along with a couple in Gangnam.
As the name suggests, The Booth has craft beer & pizza. I wasn’t hungry, but the pizza smelled legit. They had 4 taps, plus a half dozen or so cans & bottles. At the time of my visit, they only had a couple of Korean beers available (both their own), and the rest were from the United States & Europe.
It was a cool little laid back place, even if the selection wasn’t huge. Across the street, they have another spot that serves as an overflow space & tasting room called Beer for Geeks. The Booth is ambitious, with growth plans including the United States. It will be exciting to see what they do in the future.
In between Magpie & The Booth, there is a nice bottle shop. The shop has a large variety of beer available. None of them are local at the moment, but they have a massive selection of imports. Plus, there is an outside patio where you can drink your selection.
A couple of blocks deeper into Itaewon is Namsan Chemistry. On the surface, this seems like it is an amazing bar. With 33 taps, it has one of the biggest selections of craft beer in Seoul. However, the experience needed some improvement. This is the tap list from the day I visited.
Notice something? This is a list of beers with basic style names, but almost no breweries. That made figuring out what to drink quite difficult.
Based on more recent photos, it appears they’ve made improvements not only to how they display their beer list, but also to the quality of the selection. That’s great to see. Social media posts show that people formerly associated with the great Pongdang brewery have had a presence at Namsan Chemistry, as well as some new projects.
Mikkeller Bar Seoul
Now it’s time to move on to Seoul’s other craft beer hotbed, Gangnam. We’ll start with the South Korean outpost of Mikkeller, a mainstay from some of my other travels. The closest station to Mikkeller is Sinsa. The vibe in this area is much different from Itaewon. This is trendy Seoul, completely with the requisite shops & millennials doing photo shoots on the streets. Mikkeller fits this aesthetic with their typical decor. It was as if I had stepped into one of their bars in Copenhagen.
With 30 taps, Mikkeller has one of the largest selections of craft beer in Seoul. While the selection was of high quality, featuring great beer from Europe, the United States, and New Zealand, there were only a couple of beers from South Korea, and even those were Evil Twin & Mikkeller collaborations with local breweries. As the local craft beer scene develops, I would hope that this number would increase to support Korean breweries.
Craftbros Tap House
Craftbros Tap House isn’t located near much else in Seoul, but it’s worth taking a detour for. Located in a residential area south of Sinbanpo station, it’s part of a neighborhood that has the feel of a burgeoning hipster area, along with the requisite coffee shops. There’s another beer bar nearby called Thirsty Monk, though that bar specializes more in German beers.
This combination tap room & bottle shop is one of the best places for craft beer in Seoul. The bar offers 13 taps of their own beers. Four were their own, while the rest were a quality selection of guests, mostly from American breweries. They had just had a Modern Times tap takeover on, plus they also had Stone available. The bottle shop had a great selection of American & European beers. The food also had an American angle, featuring mac & cheese and wings. Craftbros serves each of their own beers with different glassware & coasters for each, which is a nice touch. Definitely a place to check out, even if you have to go out of your way.
Brew 3.14 was one of my favorite craft beer bars in Seoul. It happened to be right near my hotel in Jongno-gu. Just north of Jongno-3 station is a lovely area packed with bars & restaurants down narrow, twisting alleyways. This is an amazing neighborhood for all kinds of nightlife, but head back deep into it, and you’ll find one of the best places to drink craft beer in Seoul, Brew 3.14.
Brew 3.14 has 11 taps of Korean beer, plus pizza & fried chicken. It was the friendliest bar I encountered, consisting of a nice mix of both locals & travelers. There is a second separate section called 3.15 that has more seating space for groups.
Some of the bars I visited in Seoul felt entirely local, and others felt like they were entirely expats, but this one bridged the two. As a solo traveler, their bar seating was a great place to sit and talk to the staff & other drinkers.
A bit further to the west along Jongno is The Table. This area has a lot of bars & restaurants as well, so it’s easy to overlook, but The Table is down in a basement.
The Table has 8 taps of their own beer available. It’s a unique spot. Most basement bars tend to be dives, but this one was surprisingly spacious, with lots of seating both at the bar/large table as well as for groups.
They also had a unique bar snack that they give out for free – toast sticks with a bit of sugar on them. Random, but any place that does free snacks is fine by me. The Table also has buttons on the tables to call the servers over, which helps with better service.
More craft beer in Seoul
In addition to the bars & breweries I’ve mentioned, Seoul also has craft beer events throughout the year. During my visit in late September/early October, there were two of note. Unfortunately, I missed the Great Korean Beer Festival by just one day, but I was able to make it to the last day of The Beer Week Seoul, which was held at Common Ground near Konkuk University. Common Ground is a hipster shopping area made of shipping containers, but the courtyard was perfect for beer tents & food trucks. The Beer Week Seoul had dozens of local & international beers available. I had several, along with some great Korean Fried Chicken, which always goes well with beer.
There were even more bars that I passed that I didn’t go into that listed craft beer outside. How good these are is debatable, but what can’t be debated is that Seoul is currently having a craft beer moment. There’s an energy to the scene that, while still in its nascent stages, has tremendous potential with the city being so big. South Korean craft beer wasn’t mind-blowing or particularly experimental at the moment. However, with such great interest in craft beer in Seoul, more adventurous brewing is an inevitable next step. Korea has so many unique flavors that it will be exciting to see where breweries eventually go.
Interested in taking a food or drink tour while you are in Seoul? Check out these tours:
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