20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 1

Drinking is deeply ingrained in Korean culture and society. Socialising with coworkers, friends, and even professors is often done around a table full of drinks.

While much of this drinking culture revolves around soju and, to a lesser degree, makgeolli, beer also plays a part. However, while beer has been popular in Korea for many years at this point, it is only recently that the beer culture has taken off.

Where are a few years ago, you might struggle to try to find alternative brands to the ‘big brands’ of Cass, Hite and Kloud, craft beer and local breweries have been taking off since 2017. So now, when visiting a convenience store, you will find a wide range of domestic beers. Not just from the macro breweries, but also from a range of microbreweries.

Over my time living in Korea, seeing this beer culture grow has been a fascinating experience. It’s great to see smaller breweries try their hand at unique and flavourful beers. Only a few years ago, Korean beer was rather boring. However, now it’s more exciting than ever!

There is a common thought that Korean beer is not great. I hear this very regularly, and while I did agree a few years ago, this is no longer the case. When writing this post, I spent a few weeks trying every beer listed below (and more!) – let me tell you, some of them are quite good!

With that being said, let’s jump straight into the list. After all, it’s the reason that you’re here! Let’s take a look at the best Korean beer! Please keep in mind that this list is in no particular order.

Also, I am by no means a beer expert. While I certainly enjoy the drink, I am not a beer connoisseur. I’ve done my best to describe all of the drinks as I found them, but I would be curious to hear from you. What are your favourite Korean beers? What wasn’t as good as you expected? Please feel free to comment below!

Looking to try some Korean alcohol other than beer? Check out this post on the best Korean alcohol!

This article contains affiliate links. Affiliate links provide me with a percentage of purchases made from links on this page. This comes at no extra cost to you – for more information, please refer to my affiliate disclaimer.

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 2

These beer brands are those that you can find virtually everywhere in Korea. When I refer to the ‘commonly found’ beers, these are the ones that I am referring to. There are a few key brands in this category. Namely, Cass, Hite, Kloud, Max and OB.

These beers are generally not fantastic. If you’re looking for the best experience, you’ll want to keep reading on to the craft beers. However, these beers have their place and they make for great somaek mixers (soju + beer).

From my own personal experience, and a lot of research online, these beers are generally considered to be quite weak compared to their European counterparts. These beers are mostly adjunct lagers that a style similar to Budweiser.

These mainstream Korean beers are best enjoyed alongside some chicken, samgyeopsal, or other delectable Korean food.

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 3

Alcohol Content: 4.5%

Beer Type: Adjunct Lager

Price (500ml): 2700KRW

Store: Available everywhere

I’m not entirely sure if Cass is famous or infamous. Either way, it’s incredibly popular and is the beer you will often encounter in Korea. With a market share of 36%, this adjunct lager (similar to a lite lager) has won the best beer award for the past five years.

Out of the top beer brands in Korea, Cass is often thought to be the best tasting. I would agree with this! Cass has a more distinct and iconic taste compared to Kloud, Hite, OB, Max and Terra. I found many Korean beers to be very light and lacking in flavour. While still more lightweight than craft beers, Cass has a stronger taste than the commonly-found beer brands.

Cass has a mild hops flavour, and the taste will stick around for a while after taking a sip. The taste isn’t smooth as some other beers, such as Kloud, but Cass has a richer and deeper flavour. On top of this, Cass
tastes more crisp and refreshing.

While Cass is an adjunct lager, it does have a stronger hops taste than the other big Korean beer brands. If you are a fan of light beers, Cass might be on the stronger side. However, it’s a good bridge between light and heavier beers. Cass is considered the ‘mainstream’ beer in Korea and can be found virtually everywhere.

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 4

Alcohol Content: 5.0%

Beer Type: Pilsner

Price (500ml): 2500KRW

Store: Available everywhere

My second favourite Korean beer, Kloud is a German-style pilsner created by Lotte. It’s also relatively new, only entering the market in 2014. However, similarly to Cass, Kloud is a mainstream beer brand that you can expect to find at every convenience store.

When first taking a sip of Kloud, there is a distinct cereal hops taste. This taste quickly subsides, and there is an aftertaste that I can only describe as slightly sweet with a minor breadiness. The further through the can you get, the more this smooth, sweetish taste comes to the forefront.

Kloud has a slightly fruity taste that has a tiny tang. This sweet taste isn’t pronounced in the face of the taste of the grainy hops. Overall, Kloud is relatively light-bodied.

This makes Kloud very easy to drink. It’s a smooth beer that is easy to drink more than you should. While the taste doesn’t have the same traditional feel as Cass, some people will prefer this softer beer. Due to the flavour profile of Kloud, this is a great beer to have with lightly salted or bitter side dishes.

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 5

Alcohol Content: 4.3%

Beer Type: Pale Lager

Price (500ml): 2500KRW

Store: Available everywhere

Hitejinro, the company behind Hite Beer, is a heavy hitter in the alcohol industry. Established just under 100 years ago, Jinro Soju accounts for more than half of the soju sold worldwide. So it’s fair to say Jinro is an incredibly popular alcohol brand.

I can’t say the same about the other half of the name, though, as Hite doesn’t have the same popularity. This beer is a rice-style European pale lager that is often compared to Budweiser. Although brewed from barley malt and rice, I found that there was nothing particularly distinguishing about its taste. Honestly, it’s a bit boring. I found it most comparable to some of the far cheaper beers on this list (more on that later!).

Hite is lighter than Cass and has an even taste – it’s not overly sharp, rich or strong. For this reason, it didn’t stand out to me. Instead, I found it was most comparable to FiLite, one of Korea’s budget beer brands. While FiLite has a sharper taste (and not in a good way), the aftertaste is similar.

Hite is an okay beet choice if you are looking for something simple that won’t take away from another flavour. It’s good to wash down spicy foods or Korean barbeque where you don’t want the beer overwhelming the food.

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 6

Alcohol Content: 4.6%

Beer Type: Adjunct Lager

Price (500ml): 2300KRW

Store: Available everywhere

Also produced by HiteJinro, Terra is a better tasting beer than the flagship. Perhaps this is due to the use of Australian Malt advertised prominently on the packaging? On the other hand, maybe I prefer adjunct lagers? Who knows. Either way, Terra is better than Hite, and I would rank it second to Cass when it comes to the mainstream Korean beer brands.

Terra has a light malt taste when it first meets your taste buds. However, this taste grows as your progress through the can and is more distinctive after a few sips. You may also notice a slight corn smell that is ever-present while not obvious.

The best comparison that I can draw to Terra is Cass. However, suppose you’re looking for international comparison; Heineken is the best comparison. The beer has a light mouthfeel and is clean and refreshing. But, with that being said, nothing makes it stand out.

Kloud is sweeter than Terra, and Hite is simply not as good. Terra has a deeper taste than Cass, but Cass has a more iconic upfront hops taste.

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 7

Alcohol Content: 4.5%

Beer Type: All Malt Beer

Price (500ml): 2300KRW

Store: Supermarkets

Max was the first all-malt Korean beer. Created by HiteJinro, one of Korea’s alcohol giants (alongside OB), Max is a more malty version of its sister beer, Hite. What makes Max particularly interesting is that every year they have a special edition. Just last year, the special version used 100% New Zealand hops.

Max is known for being an exceptionally creamy beer. For this reason, it’s usually found alongside chicken in Korea’s many chicken restaurants. However, it can be hard to find in convenience stores. For this article, I had to search through a multitude of convenience stores before finally finding Max in a Korean supermarket.

This Korean beer has a rich taste that complements the creaminess. There is also a nice depth to the malt beer. The balance of malt and hops makes Max a smooth drink that works well with a range of dishes. Of course, chicken works particularly well with Max beer!

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 8

Alcohol Content: 4.6%

Beer Type: Adjunct Lager

Price (500ml): 2300KRW

Store: Supermarkets

A beer with a very long history in Korea, Oriental Breweries OB beer has been a mainstay since the early 50s. This adjunct lager is crisp and has a bland taste that feels clean with a slight floral aftertaste.

Overall, OB has a very mild taste. It’s likely the tasteless beer on this list, even compared to the low-malt beers such as FiLite and FilGood. Then again, those beers overcompensate on hops to reintroduce flavour. OB beer feels like an overly watery beer that is too carbonated.

OB is a very light beer with a mild malt taste – there is almost no trace of hops. So if you aren’t a fan of beer or are just introducing yourself to alcohol, this might be an excellent place to start.

For anyone more familiar and accustomed to the taste of beer, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere. Korean beer has a reputation for lacking in flavour, and while I don’t believe that’s true overall, it’s true for this beer.

Despite being one of the most historic beer brands in Korea, I recommend staying away from OB. Instead, stick to Oriental Brewery’s other beers that are significantly better.

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 9

Alcohol Content: 4.6%

Beer Type: Lager – Rice

Price (500ml): 2300KRW

Store: Available Everywhere

With the primary ingredient being rice, Hanmac is produced by Oriental Brewery – the same company behind OB and Cass (also Cafri, but let’s forget about that one). Hanmac was created to symbolise Korean beer and become a defining Korean lager.

While Hanmac is a new entry to the beer market, it’s already found almost everywhere. On top of this, with the power of OB behind it, I am certain that it will become mainstream in the near future. As such, I chose to include it in this section of the list.

Hanmac Lager is advertised as using only home-grown rice, and the taste reflects this. There is a distinct wheat smell when opening the bottle. With a clean taste that struck me as being very neutral, Hanmac lager strikes a decent balance between bitter and sweet.

Compared to its sibling, Cass, Hanmac has a cleaner taste but less depth. In taste, Kloud is the closest comparison that I could find – the beer is smooth with a slightly sweet aftertaste that isn’t overwhelming. This is a great side to spicy food!

If you’re looking to save some money, these are the best Korean beer brands to look out for. Where Cass and other mainstream beers usually cost around 3000KRW for a 500ml can, these beers can be found for as low as 1600KRW for the same size. Of course, you won’t receive quite the same experience, but it’s great to have the choice of cheaper beers!

These beers are most popular among students who want to minimise money spent while still having the enjoyment of a cold beer. Most workers and older generations will almost never drink the beers below and will rather stick to the mainstream products.

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 10

Alcohol Content: 4.5%

Beer Type: (Non-Beer), Light Beer

Price (500ml): 1600KRW

Store: Available Everywhere

One of the two budget beers in Korea, FiLite and FilGood are a student’s best friend. FiLite is usually around half the price of beers such as Cass. I spent a long time wondering how this was possible before discovering that they minimise taxes by using less than 10% malt. This makes it technically not a beer. However, for all non-tax intents and purposes, it is.

Hite is also behind FiLite, and I can taste it. While Hite is undoubtedly better than FiLite, there is a similar flavour profile. FiLite has a strong hops flavour, but the beer itself feels a lot lighter – likely due to the lower malt content. The original FiLite (blue) tastes like a very light beer, and the green (clean barley flavour) feels like a light beer.

FiLite is not smooth and instead has a sharp initial taste that hits hard and fast. Once this taste wears off, it feels weaker in flavour than almost every other beer on this list. On top of this, FiLite seems overly carbonated compared to different Korean beers. I’m unsure what causes this, but I noticed it when comparing it with other brands.

As a student in Korea, FiLite was probably my most drunk beer over the past five years. While it’s by no means great, and it would place low on a list of the best Korean beers, it is drinkable. Also, I find it to be the best of the budget Korean beers.

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 11

Alcohol Content: 4.5%

Beer Type: (Non-Beer), Light Beer

Price (500ml): 1600KRW

Store: Available Everywhere

FiLite is Hite’s budget beer brand, and FilGood is OB’s budget (almost) beer. For some reason, they also have very similar names – at least the first three letters! Similarly to FiLite, FilGood is also incredibly cheap since it can skirt around tax laws that force other beers with more malt to face higher taxes.

In terms of taste, FilGood has a similar flavour profile to FiLite. However, it also tastes weaker, almost more watered down. FiLite has a more distinct flavour than FilGood; therefore, I prefer FiLite. With that being said, FilGood is a better choice if you aren’t a fan of the solid initial hops taste of FiLite.

FilGood has a consistent taste. That is to say, the taste doesn’t change much throughout a can. Some other beers have strong initial or aftertastes. FilGood is more consistent and has no peaks and dips in flavour. However, it is noticeably weak and has the taste of a drink trying to masquerade as beer. In other words, it has a very mediocre taste.

I would say that FilGood is easier to drink than FiLite due to this more consistent taste and the fact that it is smoother. So if you are looking for a beer that is easy to drink and cheap, FilGood is worth trying!

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 12

Alcohol Content: 4.2%

Beer Type: Light Lager

Price (500ml): 1700KRW

Store: Available Everywhere

Often referred to as Korea’s version of Corona, Cafri is a budget light lager in Korea. While not as cheap as FiLite and FilGood, it’s generally more affordable than the likes of Cass and Kloud. With that being said, I really can’t recommend Cafri – no matter how cheap it is! Among the macro brews in Korea, I would rate this as the worst.

This light lager doesn’t taste much like anything at all. The taste is very weak, and it feels overly watery. Cafri tastes more like a carbonated soft drink with a slightly bitter taste. The taste also dissipates almost instantly – a second or two after taking a sip, you won’t even remember the taste.

With the light and sweet taste, I can imagine that Cafri would be nice with a lemon wedge to add an element of flavour. Overall, I found Cafri to be overly fizzy and lacking anything defining regarding taste. I’m not saying that the beer is terrible. It just was not at all to my liking. This might be up your alley if you are looking for a very light, carbonated beer.

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 13

While the Korean beers listed above have mostly been around for quite a while, craft beers only started to become popular in Korea after 2017. CU convenience store is largely to thank for this, as they’ve been constantly introducing new Korean craft beers to their shelves.

As with every country, Korea has some amazing and not-so-amazing craft beers. You will find a massive range of flavours and experiences within these beers. However, I do highly recommend trying some of them. It’s always fun to experience new tastes!

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 14

Alcohol Content: 5.3%

Beer Type: Wit Ale

Price (500ml): 3500KRW

Store: CU and other convenience stores

Now that most of the ‘mainstream’ beers have been covered, it’s time to dive into some of the more exciting corners of Korean beers!

Jeju Wit Ale was first introduced in Jeju in 2017. Since it has spread throughout the peninsula, you can now find it in almost all convenience stores, even in Seoul! Jeju Beer Company established itself with the help of Brooklyn Brewery. Jeju Wit Ale is the company’s flagship and is a wheat beer.

Jeju Wit Ale is one of my favourite beers. Amongst the craft beers in Korea, Jeju Wit Ale is easy to recommend because it is a smooth beer with a slight coriander taste. Before this turns anyone off, I hate coriander! The taste is almost indistinguishable here – the herb adds an extra layer of depth to the drink.

Jeju Wite Ale is easy to drink, and many people enjoy it. Compared to some of the stronger craft beers, Jeju Wit Ale has a more mild taste and is not as polarising. There is a dry hops flavour akin to many western wheat beers.

Jeju Wit Ale has a rich taste that has a slight citrus aftertaste. It tastes clean, and while sweet, it’s not overly so. This is perhaps its most significant appeal – it manages to straddle the line between being sweet and bitter, which allows it to go well with a range of food and snacks.

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 15

Alcohol Content: 4.5%

Beer Type: Wheat Beer

Price (500ml): 3500KRW

Store: CU

This beer was introduced by CU earlier this year. CU has been pushing craft beers and has single-handedly led to a massive uptake in this relatively new form of beer (for Korea). 7Bräu Gompyo Wheat Beer is one of CU’s more recently stocked beers.

Made by a flour company, this wheat beer is very clean and has a taste unique to other beers on this list. However, what I appreciate the most about Gompyo is that the aftertaste quickly clears up and doesn’t impact the taste of foods or other consumed drinks.

Gompyo doesn’t have much of a kick, which also helps it be an easy recommendation. If you prefer a beer with a distinct taste, you might want to look elsewhere. However, if you want something easy to enjoy anytime, Gompyo is an excellent choice. On top of this, Gompyo is rich and has a clean flavour.

This is on a tangent, but I just realised that we should be calling this Gompyo Bear. Gom is the Korean word for bear, and the logo is a (rather chubby) bear. Anyway, that’s beside the point!

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 16

Alcohol Content: 5.0%

Beer Type: Pale Ale

Price (500ml): 3500KRW

Store: GS25

Gwangwhamun craft beer is a more ‘standard’ tasting Korean craft beer. Where beers such as Jeju Wit Ale and Y Black IPA have an added citrus or otherwise fruity taste, Gwangwhamun sticks with the traditional taste and relies on a rich malty flavour. If you’re looking for a solid, local Pale Ale, look no further!

Don’t get me wrong; there is a slight orange peel aroma and taste with this pale ale. However, there is far less reliance on this taste aspect than the earlier-mentioned beers.

Gwanghwamun craft beer is quite bitter – I would say that it is perhaps the most bitter beer on this list. However, I would need to compare it to Hanok Maeul to confirm that directly. For sure, though, Gwangwhamun beer has a deep and rich taste that makes it a great traditional tasting pale ale.

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 17

Alcohol Content: 4.5%

Beer Type: Pale Ale

Price (500ml): 3500KRW

Store: GS25

This IPA from Kabrew was my first encounter with the brewery. It was also a pretty pleasant introduction! While one of the most expensive Korean beers on this list, Gyeongbokgung is a solid IPA that can be purchased at many convenience stores within the country.

Gyeongbokgung is a malty beer with a strong, rich initial taste that quickly dwindles to a light aftertaste. Overall, I would say that Gyeongbokgung IPA was most comparable to Gwangwhamun Pale Ale in flavour – something that I find pretty surprising.

This beer heavily advertises the inclusion of lotus root in its brew. However, I barely noticed this. There was a very slight fruity taste, but this was largely overwhelmed by the malt taste. Either way, the lotus root wasn’t noticeable to me, and I feel like that might be a good thing. Overall, I good IPA that is easily found!

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 18

Alcohol Content: 4.5%

Beer Type: Ale

Price (500ml): 3500KRW

Store: CU

Another craft beer that you can find in a range of convenience stores, Hanok Village Ale is a deeper beer with a slightly bitter taste. While I can’t explain exactly why, Hanok Maeul felt somewhat ‘earthy’ to me. Perhaps this is due to the malt taste that is prevalent. 

Hanok Maeul is definitely not a sweet beer. Quite the opposite! While not overly bitter, Hanok Maeul leans more towards being bitter than sweet. The beer has a very rich taste with a weaker aftertaste. There are notes of coriander and floral scents.

This beer is well-bodied and if you’re not a fan of coriander, the beer is still carried by its mild wheat flavour that is far more noticeable. If you like ale, Hanok Village Ale is one worth trying! Find it at any local CU convenience store.

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 19

Alcohol Content: 4.5%

Beer Type: Dark Beer (English Porter)

Price (500ml): 3500KRW

Store: CU

Malpyo craft beer from Squeeze Brewery is an English Porter. Malpyo is a Korean craft beer brand that has recently become popular off the back of their English Porter and grape-flavoured ale. Listed as an English Porter, but also as a dark lager, Malpyo is wonderfully unique among Korean craft beers.

Malpyo is very smooth and balanced yet at the same time, it has a rich taste with depth. This depth is largely due to the coffee/chocolate elements that have been added to the beer. Unlike other, non-Korean, coffee-based craft beers that I have tried, however, Malpyo is far smoother. It also has a slight caramel taste that while apparent, is not sweet.

This beer is also very mildly bitter. With other coffee-based craft beers, there is often a sharper taste followed by a more bitter coffee flavour. Malpyo has struck a great balance by being light enough to feature both the tastes of coffee and English Porter equally.

The English Porter version of Malpyo beer is probably my favourite Korean craft beer out there currently. As someone who loves coffee, chocolate, and beer equally, it’s a perfect blend!

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 20

Alcohol Content: 4.7%

Beer Type: Pale Lager

Price (500ml): 3500KRW

Store: CU

One of the more interesting Korean craft beers, Y Black IPL has a fruity taste. However, while fruity, this beer isn’t overly sweet. In fact, it’s pleasantly bitter. Compared to other beers with fruity elements, Y Black IPL is on the more bitter end of the spectrum.

My first impression of this beer was that it has a rich taste with a more unique flavour profile than beers such as Cass and Kloud. The aftertaste of the beer is that of grapefruit, and this added bitterness on top of the citrus taste makes this beer stand out.

Overall, Y Black IPL is an Indian pale lager with a rich yet balanced taste. The beer is full-bodied and while I’m not usually a fan of black bears, this is one worth trying!

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 21

Alcohol Content: 5.2%

Beer Type: Malt Lager

Price (500ml): 3500KRW

Store: CU

If the name Jin sounds familiar, then you’re right! Jin Lager is the intended accompaniment of Jin Ramyun – one of the best Korean Ramyuns. Made in collaboration with Amazing Brewing Co, Jin Lager instantly intrigued me when I saw familiar styling in the alcohol fridge at CU.

Jin Lager has a mild aroma in which no particular note stands out. If anything, it smells like a mild malt lager. The first thing that stands out when it comes to the feel of the lager is carbonation. Perhaps there is a little too much carbonation, but that’s possible to overlook.

The taste is full-bodied, strong and flavourful. The craft beer is smooth, but there is a slight sharpness to it. It doesn’t go down as easily as Malpyo or Gwangwhamun beers, but it’s also not overly sharp. Overall, this malty lager is a great companion to Jin Ramyun (or any other ramyun for that matter!).

20 Best Korean Beers & Korean Beer Brands to Try 22

Alcohol Content: 5.8%

Beer Type: Mango Ale

Price (500ml): 3500KRW

Store: CU

Created by Satellite Brewing Company, buldalk mango ale is one of the most interesting entries on this list. Satellite Brewing Company started in 2017 and has since made a range of unique beers. Ever heard of chewing-gum flavoured craft beer? Neither had I until I came across Satellite Brewing Company.

This collaboration between Samyang and Satellite Brewing Company is very special indeed. This ale is very sweet, but not the point of an RTD or premade cocktail. Rather, the buldalk craft beer leans on ale’s natural sweetness and fruity flavours and even enhances them with the added mango.

If you’re looking for a great accompaniment to spicy buldalk ramyun then this beer is the perfect drink. The sweetness balances out the exceptional spice of Korea’s famous fire noodles!

What Is the Best Korean Beer?

This is totally subjective! However, in my opinion, the best mainstream beer is Cass. When it comes to craft beers, I love Malpyo and Jeju Wit Ale.

Where Can I Buy Korean Beer?

If you are in Korea, the best place to go is your local supermarket or convenience store. If you are overseas, check out the local Korean mart or shop online!

What Is the Most Famous Korean Beer?

The most famous Korean beers are Cass, Kloud, Hite, OB, Terra and Max.

What Types of Beer Are Famous in Korea?

In Korea, you will find a lot of Adjunct Lager. Light beers and Pale Ale are also quite common!

What Beers Are Trendy in Korea?

Currently, craft beers are very trendy in Korea. The most popular craft beers are Jeju Wit Ale, Gompyo and Malpyo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *