Before I delve into my favorite 10 things/places/et ceteras of Seoul, I should mention that these are in no particular order.
Anybody that knows me knows I enjoy drinking. Anybody that knows Korea knows Koreans also enjoy drinking. So Koreans and I should get along just fine, right? Well, yes and know… I mean, no.
Anybody the really knows me knows that I truly enjoy drinking a finely crafted beer. Koreans, on the the other hand, tend to drink macro can-piss and soju. Now, when I’m chilling at a Hof after a long day of repugnant children, there is nothing wrong with 3000cc of Cass, bottle of Jinro, and a plate of assorted fried things. Hell, it even goes great with barbecue (in fact, I’ve come to expect them together).
The underlying problem, however, is looking for some sort of flavor in my beverage. Luckily, my colleagues and I discovered a wonderful little brewpub at the station just past the foreigner neighborhood. Just 35 minutes on the brown line out of the Bonghwa, and you’ve reached Noksapyeong and, more importantly, Craftworks Tap House.
Craftworks brews 6 beers, all of which are delicious and named after a mountain. My personal favorites have been the subtle Namsan Pilsner, the maltier Halla Mountain Golden Ale, and the heavy and creamy Geumgang Mountain Dark, the Gwanaksan Köslch, and the much sought after Jirisan Moon Bear IPA. I’d been waiting since April for this fucking beer, and finally, after months of strenuous effort, sitting and drinking non-IPA beers, I was able to enjoy one a few weeks back. Worth. The. Wait. It’s a good beer, 1000 times better than anything else I’ve had in Korea, probably the only beer I’ve had with a perceivable amount of bittering hops.
Unfortunately, all the Moon Bear has done is put the taste of blood… er hops… on my lips. USA, prepare to drown me in your hoppy potables. I am coming for them. They are not safe.
As great as Craftworks’ beers are, the remainder is less fulfilling. Weeknight service is respectable, but the weekends are chaotic, and stressful. To Craftworks’ credit, they waitstaff seems to get better and less antagonistic with every visit. The food is decent but not particularly noteworthy, and pricey for the portions.
Luckily, Craftworks is located at a hub of awesomeness, a little intersection of hidden gems in the massive city of Seoul. Head up one hill and you’ll find a smattering of weird bars and one cool one, Blue Beer. It’s just cool, has cheap mixed drinks and board games to prevent bored drinking.
Head up another street and you’ve wandered into Haebongchon (HBC). A budding street that I’m told was nothing a year ago. There are a few bars, black-market shops, and a handful of delicious restaurants. For good, fairly-priced imported beers and a gooey philly cheese, hit up Phillies. For every possible burger permutation, head to Jacoby’s burger. Chili burgers, bacon burgers, guacemole burgers, veggies burgers, and the “Gutbuster” especially are all waiting to fill every corner of your digestive system. Come hungry. Also come thristy, because you can order buckets of draft Hoegaarden. Along the way you’ll also find a makgeolli bar whose name I don’t know. What I do know is that their selection is second to none: at 30 varieties including black bean and another made “with yeast that has listened to classical music for fifty years.” Find it. Drink there.
If you head up another street, you’re walking towards the tunnel that goes under Namsan. Turn around.
Take the last street and you’ll reach Noksapyeong. On your way there, you’ll pass a few pizza joints, some bakeries, and Namsan Kimchijjigae, the best purveyor of kimchijjigae I’ve ever encountered. At the top of the hill, you’ve reached Noksapyeong, the West end of Itaewon. Itaewon, of course, is the foreigner capital of Seoul. It has it’s ups and downs of its own. Ups include Chili King, Hoolywood Grill, Suji’s, Taco Bell, What the Book?, and a host of other restaurants I’ve never been to. The downs include Rocky Mountain Oyster Club and all the d-bags.
At any rate, Craftworks is a destination in its own right, and one I opt for as often as possible. If it turns out to be packed, or the night leads elsewhere, it has the added benefit of being near A LOT of great places. I will miss you dearly, my Canadian Expat run brewpub. You are truly an inebriated beacon of joy in the otherwise dreary cesspool of Korean liquor (which may make it on the top ten, as awful as it is).
P.S. Hoegaarden is in WordPress’s dictionary. WordPress is not.