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Domestic India pale ale a beer breakthrough

Korea’s first production-licensed craft beer company launches its canned IPA in Homeplus

Until now, ale in the can or bottle was a niche market restricted to imported brews. India pale ale ― that hopped-up brew hailing from 18th and 19th century England ― even more so. Then one South Korean brewery changed the course of history last Thursday with the launch of its very own IPA in cans.

7brau (also known as Sevenbrau) ― a craft beer company that first made a name for itself with draft beers sold throughout bars in Seoul ― is a pioneer in more ways than one.

Not only did has it released its domestically-produced IPA in Homeplus stores throughout Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, it is the nation’s first mid-to-small-sized beer company to nab a standard beer production license that allows it to brew beer that can be sold in more than one establishment. From a larger perspective that essentially means domestic craft beer is no longer a brew that can only be primarily enjoyed at a microbrewery or brewpub. 
7brau launched its India pale ale canned last Thursday. Possessing a well-balanced trio of bitter, fruity and creamy notes, the complex brew makes for a good standalone libation. (7brau)
7brau launched its India pale ale canned last Thursday. Possessing a well-balanced trio of bitter, fruity and creamy notes, the complex brew makes for a good standalone libation. (7brau)

7brau obtained its license a year ago. Now the company is taking the first steps to going mass market with an unlikely brew. Rather than canning its pilsner ― which is a lager, and therefore more familiar to Korean consumers ― 7brau opted for ale.

“We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the crowd with our initial launch and the IPA is quite possibly something novel to Korean consumers, though that may not be the case overseas,” 7brau director Kim Kyo-ju, 38, said over the phone.

7brau’s IPA, at its 2,600 won per can price tag, is a pretty good buy for fans of this style of beer. Complex, this is a brew to be savored, not chugged, and it is a good stand-alone libation.

The strong suit of 7Brau’s IPA is in its well-executed interplay between bitter, fruity and creamy notes. Just when the bitterness of the hops seems to be stealing the spotlight, aromas of mango and pineapple rush in before being softened by a lush hint of cream.

“We want a balanced flavor that is not too bitter,” said Kim. “We want it to be robust.”

Kim explained that 7brau was going for an American-style IPA, which makes sense, considering the style’s popularity on an international level.

While IPA originated in England in around the 18th and 19th century, where it was made for export to European consumers in India, American craft brewers have been producing their riffs on the style for years now.

For 7brau’s version, Cascade hops are used, which gives the beer its floral and fruity notes. The beer is brewed in Gangwon Province from water from the region.

To properly enjoy it, Kim recommends refrigerating the beer for two to three hours and then pouring it into a glass before drinking.

The IPA is currently sold in 30 Homeplus outlets throughout Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, with plans for expansion to stores nationwide by next year.

A Homeplus representative said that consumer response had been good thus far and of the decision to sell 7brau, added, “We believe that 7brau’s beer has a competitive edge.”

“It is the third beer company to come into being in Korea,” the representative said over the phone. “It is a domestic, premium beer of good quality.”

The other two firms the representative was referring to are domestic beer goliaths Oriental Brewery and Hite Jinro, whose history goes as far back as the 1920s and 1930s. 7brau obtained its beer production permit approximately 80 years after the two got theirs during the Japanese colonial period.

Unlike its predecessors, 7brau is much smaller-scale craft beer company. Director Kim predicts that more mid-to-small sized breweries like 7brau could jump into the beer-in-a-can market in the future, giving way to a mass-market, domestic artisanal beer movement.

By Jean Oh (