Craftworks Taphouse and Bistro, one of the city’s newest pubs to specialize in craft beers, has hit the nail on the head.
How? The newly-minted Itaewon establishment keeps it simple and straightforward. They put out five top-notch microbrews for only 4,000 won to 5,000 won per pint.
“This beer has a shelf life of only a few weeks and is brewed every week and shipped fresh daily from the brewery,” said Craftworks consultant Dan Vroon.
One sip of the establishment’s American-style golden ale confirms the luxury that comes from being able to enjoy a beer crafted from pure spring water in a microbrewery just a few hours away from Seoul.
Strong aromas of caramel ― sweet and sugary ― tease the palate. One huge gulp unloads a flood of full-bodied, fruity flavors, namely banana with a hint of butterscotch, before packing a spiky punch at the end.
This is the kind of beer that you want to drink by the liter, over and over again.
So where is it brewed and who makes it?
All of Craftworks’ microbrews hail from Kapa Brewery in Gapyeong County, Gyeonggi Province.
Kapa and Craftworks owner Park Chul is the tastemaker behind these delicious beers.
Trained in Germany, Park brought in equipment from Canada and set up shop with a brewpub, Ka-Brew, in Yeouido in 2003, before opening a second branch in Ilsan two years later. Then, in 2007 he had a change of heart.
One might think that brewing and serving microbrews on the premises ― which is what a brewpub does ― is as good as it gets, but when Park moved his microbrewery out to Gapyeong and started using the county’s fresh spring water, his beer improved leaps and bounds.
Craftworks Taphouse and Bistro consultant Dan Vroon pours Kapa Brewery’s lean yet chocolately Geumgang Mountain Dark Ale straight from the tap at the Craftworks Taphouse and Bistro in Itaewon, Seoul on Nov. 26. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)
“The way they tasted changed radically,” the 56-year-old brewer said over the phone.
“96 percent of beer is water,” he explained. “Good water makes good beer.”
But it is also Park’s willingness to experiment with his brews that makes Kapa’s beers so memorable.
For example, Kapa’s Geumgang Mountain Dark Ale is a dark brew that is leaner than the well-known Guinness, which is a dry stout with a creamy head and a thick, rich flavor.
With the Geumgang, grainy aromas and chocolate flavors are pared down by a sour bite and bitter aftertaste.
To achieve that balance, Park says he restrains the amount of roasted malt barley used, which makes the dark ale taste lighter.
Other Kapa brews prove equally bold and unique.
The Namsan Pure Pilsner sends a nod to its Czech origins as a pale lager with grassy aromas and an acidic bite balanced out by cereal fragrances.
The Baekdusan Hefeweizen plays up its strengths as a traditional, unfiltered wheat beer, blasting the palate with amped-up yeasty heft, fruity fragrances and bubbles that go on for miles.
Last but not least is Kapa’s seasonal addition, their Kolsch. A brew that traditionally hails from Cologne, Germany, Kapa’s version is tangy, bitter and full-bodied.
While all of his brews stand apart, they do have something in common. They boast serious yeast, that crucial component that makes beer feel alive, frothy and ever-so-slightly on the verge of going buck wild.
“None of Kapa’s beers are filtered,” Park explained. “The yeast is live.”
For now, these five, live-yeast beers more than satisfy, but the ne plus ultra of a microbrewery is that you can keep cranking out new brews.
So can we expect more from Kapa?
Park says he will continue to work on developing new recipes.
“I am thinking of doing American-style ales,” Park said, of a style that has successfully managed to riff off its traditional European roots and earn recognition as its own indigenous variety.
Park also revealed a desire to experiment with brews himself: “I want to make creative beers.”
Craftworks Taphouse and Bistro is located in Itaewon near Noksapyeong Subway Station Line 6, Exit 2.
To get there just walk straight out the subway exit until you reach the underpass. Enter the underpass to cross the street and take the exit to your left. After you get out of the underpass, cross the street and pass NOXA. Craftworks will be to your left, a bit hidden from the main road.
Opening hours are from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. from Sundays through Thursdays. Craftworks will be open till 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Plans are to extend hours to include lunch and Sunday brunch soon.
Kapa’s Namsan Pure Pilsner, Halla Mountain Golden Ale, Baekdusan Hefeweizen, Geumgang Mountain Dark Ale and German-style Kolsch cost 4,000 won to 5,000 won per pint.
For more information call (02) 794-2537 or visit craftworkstaphouse.com.
By Jean Oh (firstname.lastname@example.org)