12 Popular Korean Beer Brands Everyone Drinks

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Move over Germany and Wisconsin. Korean beers are moving into your territory! While Soju, a distilled rice spirit, reigns supreme in Korea, their beers are becoming a close second. 

Truly, they are giving other beers all over the world a run for their money.

While Korean beers have a history of being less than desirable, they’ve improved their taste in recent years.

The following list contains an overview of the top 12 Korean beer brands any brass monkey aficionado is sure to love.

Part of the cause behind recent improvements is the viral criticism many Korean beer brands received. 

Some people claim they taste bad, while others speak to the lack of flavor and a poor ABV (alcohol by volume).

Overview of 12 Korean Beer Brands

The Korean beers listed are not in any particular order. The only thing they have in common is that they all come from Korea. 

While you can only obtain some of these in Korea, others are available in places like the US, Canada, and Europe; you’ll have to check with your local liquor store though.

  • Jeju Wit Ale
  • FiLite
  • Gwangwhamun Beer
  • Hite
  • Malpyo
  • Hanmac
  • FilGood
  • Terra
  • Cafri
  • Hanok Village Ale (Hanok Maeul)
  • Jin Lager
  • Cass

About Beer in Korea

Before we get into our special collection of Korean beer brands, there’s a few pointers to note. First, traditional Korean beer is light and rather flavorless. 

These are usually very weak and lackluster without any real body or nose to them. But, there’s a good reason for this.

Korean culture favors its social life. They work very hard and play just as intensely. But, when they go out for a night of drinking with friends, it’s not the same as what you would find in the US or Ireland. 

While the goal is to catch a bit of a buzz, it’s more about spending time with people than it is about getting hammered.

Also, the price of beer in South Korea bases itself on how much malt comprises it. The more malt, the higher the tax and, therefore, the more expensive the beer is. 

With all this in mind, let’s delve into the wonderful world of Korean beers.

12 Korean Beer Brands

1. Jeju Wit Ale

Type: Craft Wheat Ale

Alcohol Content: 5.3% ABV (10.6 Proof)

This ale by Jeju was once a phenomenon on the isolated peninsula of the same name in South Korea. But now, you can find it all over the country, even at convenience stores. 

It really is one of the fastest growing beers, coming on the scene as recently as 2017. This is the strongest beer on the list, exceeding 10 proof.  

Its creation came about with the help of the Brooklyn Brewery in NYC. But it is the company’s flagship wheat ale. It’s smooth with a hint of citrus and a note of coriander. 

However, the coriander is not overpowering or off-putting. It merely adds a layer of depth to the drink, which makes for a wonderful herbal flavor.

In fact, you could compare it to many top-shelf craft beers you’d find in the UK or the USA due to its definite dry hops taste. It’s rich, clean, and pleasantly sweet, which means it’s good with food or snacks.

2. FiLite

Type: Budget Light Beer

Alcohol Content: 4.5% ABV (7.87 Proof)

FiLite is a very light beer with low alcohol content. Because it contains less than 10% malt or barley (depending on the variety), it’s great for tight budgets.

Students tend to love this beer because of the price and how it’s strong enough to take the edge off of exam week yet light enough to not detract from studies.

There’s a strong taste of hops, but it’s very light on the palette. 

This is not as smooth as others mentioned here. It’s very sharp and hits you fast. But, once the initial experience wears off, the flavor is weaker and not nearly as strong as initially expected.

Also, some beer lovers say that the carbonation in the beer is far too intense. However, it’s very drinkable and comes in handy when finding oneself in a financial pinch.

3. Gwangwhamun Beer

Type: Craft Pale Ale

Alcohol Content: 5.0% ABV

One of the best standard pale ales out of Korea is the one made by Gwangwhamun. Aside from the slight orange peel aroma, there are no fruity, citrus, or other flavors; just a rich and malty beer the way it should be. 

The traditional taste is what makes this so popular among Koreans and others all around the world.

However, Gwangwhamun is the bitterest one in this particular collection of Korean beer brands. 

Its deep and full-bodied flavor is a favorite among people who know their beer and understand what they like. It’s a bit of a shift from the traditional and common way most Korean beers come.

4. Hite

Type: Mass Produced Pale Lager

Alcohol Content: 4.3% ABV (8.6 Proof)

Mass-produced by Hitenjinro, this is an excellent beer for consuming with food. For the last 100 years, the company has made Soju and supplies alcohol to more than half the world. 

This makes Hitenjinro once of the heavier hitters in the global race for alcohol sales.

Hite comprises rice and barley malt with a very light taste and non-existent finish. There’s no sharpness to it, and it’s not very strong at all. 

So, it doesn’t stand out, but it is excellent with particularly spicy and hot foods. But it’s good to drink on its own for those who don’t like the hoppiness of Western-style beers.  

5. Malpyo

Type: Craft English Porter Dark Beer

Alcohol Content: 4.5% ABV (7.87 Proof)

Malpyo is a craft beer from Squeeze Brewery. This English-style porter is very dark. It has a bite with a bit of caramel and a chocolatey coffee finish. 

However, the initial sip tastes like grape. It sits in a class all its own compared to other Korean beers.

It’s rich and deep yet wonderfully smooth and balanced, but it’s not sweet, overpowering or off-putting. 

However, it’s mildly bitter in its way. This is an ideal brew for those who equally adore chocolate, coffee, and beer. Malpyo hits that special sweet spot.

6. Hanmac

Type: Mass Produced Rice-Based Lager

Alcohol Content: 4.6% ABV (8.05 Proof)

Made by the Oriental Brewery, the main ingredient in this lager is rice. The company also produces other beers on this list, like Cass and Cafri. 

But, the mission of this particular brew is to exude Korea symbolically, and homegrown rice fit the bill.

This is quite new on the scene, but you can find it almost anywhere in Korea. It has a definite smell of wheat when you crack open a bottle, but the taste is clean and neutral. 

It balances the best of sweet and bitter in a beer, which makes it great to pair with super spicy Korean foods.

7. FilGood

Type: Budget Light Beer

Alcohol Content: 4.5% ABV (7.87 Proof)

This is an excellent beer for those who don’t like the overbearing taste that most ales, lagers, and porters deliver. 

It’s on the weaker side of things with an almost watered-down body to it. There is no tone of hops, citrus, or anything like that.

Filgood is ideal for making or combining with soju cocktails. Additionally, it goes well with foods that have plenty of umami or spice. 

What makes this particularly great is the cheap price due to its low malt content. Plus, there are no changes in the flavor as you sip it in the same way as other stronger-tasting beers.

8. Terra

Type: Mass Produced Adjunct Lager

Alcohol Content: 4.6% ABV (8.05 Proof)

Yet another lager produced by Hitejinro, Terra uses malt from Australia, and they promote it right on the can. It is light upon first tasting, with a malty corn taste and aroma. 

But it grows and builds with every sip. Once you get halfway through, the flavor becomes very distinctive.

Many brewage buffs attest to the taste becoming something like a Heineken. However, the mouthfeel is lighter, cleaner, and more refreshing. 

But, there’s nothing about the nose of Terra that stands out. It’s not an iconic type of beer, but it is delicious all the same.

9. Cafri

Type: Mass Produced Budget Light Lager

Alcohol Content: 4.2% ABV (7.35 Proof)

Cafri has the weakest alcohol content in this lineup of Korean beer brands, and its taste is comparable to Corona. It’s very inexpensive, and most Westerners do not like the taste of this. However, Koreans seem to adore it.

There really is no taste, being as watery as a beer can get. There’s some bitterness, but it comes off more like a carbonated soft drink than beer. 

Some critique that it’s a can of glorified water. Plus, the sweet taste is rather off-putting. However, for those who don’t like the taste of beer in any capacity, Cafri may be right up your alley.  

But this is why Koreans love it. You can mix it with soju shots, which allows for more drinking without getting too tipsy. It’s the sweet aspect that makes it great for things like Soju Bombs and Somaek. 

10. Hanok Village Ale (Hanok Maeul)

Type: Craft Ale

Alcohol Content: 4.5% ABV (7.87 Proof)

Hanok Village Ale is one of the better Korean beer brands. It has an earthy tone, possibly due to the heavy flavor of malt that pervades. 

It isn’t sweet but, rather, quite bitter yet not overly so. It’s rich and smooth with a light aftertaste that some people characterize as weak.

Plus, there are hints of floral with some coriander. It has a good body to the flavor, where the wheat covers and complements the coriander in the most delightful way. 

It’s an excellent craft brew for those beer drinkers used to getting a little more from a pint or glass.

11. Jin Lager

Jin Lager

Type: Craft Malt Lager

Alcohol Content: 5.2% (10.4 Proof)

If you’re familiar with Korean Ramyuns, or Korean ramen noodles, then you’re certainly familiar with the Jin brand. The design and intention of this lager are to accompany their line of excellent, delectable Ramyun varieties.

Created in conjunction with Amazing Brewing Company, this is sure to please. If not in taste and flavor, then definitely with the buzz you’ll get. Even by American or UK standards, this is quite strong in terms of alcohol content.

Jin Lager has a mild aroma of malt with a delightful carbonated bubbly effect that shimmies on the tongue. Regardless, it has a full body flavor that’s smooth with a hint of sharpness.

12. Cass

Type: Mass Produced Adjunct Lager

Alcohol Content: 4.5% ABV (7.87 Proof)

Last but certainly not least is Cass. People most often come across this beer when in South Korea. 

It’s akin to a very light lager and has actually won awards as being the best for the last five consecutive years. Cass dominates the Korean beer market, comprising about 36% of all sales.

Even though this is very lightweight in flavor compared to some of Korea’s craft beers, it is the best tasting of all the ones mass-produced on this list. 

It tastes and feels stronger, with a solid note of mild hops, which means it will linger on the palette for a while.

Conclusion

Many more Korean beer brands are worth trying that are not mentioned on this list. 

However, most fall under the category of the kinds Koreans tends to love – something light without much flavor that seems to favor the sweet and fruity.

For those from places like the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, or Ireland, it can be a rather underwhelming experience. 

However, as illustrated above, some brands manufacture a decent brew with a good body to the flavor. While improvements are still coming, there’s a lot of promise for the future.

Even still, you can’t go wrong trying a few of these. They offer an unusual journey into consuming beer that’s not like anything you’ve had before.

About The Author

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Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul over 4 years and during that time, he has experienced a lot of the city's quirks and charms. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others who are interested in learning more about South Korea.

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