There is a reason why the people of Korea mix soju 소주, a 15% alcohol Korean spirit, with beer mekju 맥주 to make the semi-sweet, semi-vile combination known as somek 소맥. They drink this concoction for two reasons. First, Koreans, like any civilized and over-worked people, like to drink. And second, because Korean beer is so terrible that if you are going to drink it, it better be effective. Hence the reason for fortifying their tasteless, mass-produced lagers into what is essentially a beer cocktail that ranges anywhere from 5 to 14% alcohol depending on the mix. Interestingly the expression for tastes bad in Korean is without taste, so it’s ambiguous to me if Korean beer is tasteless or tastes bad; however, either interpretation is accurate.
Last night, I carried out a blind taste test of the main Korean beers as well as a few Japanese beers and Budweiser. Besides becoming fairly drunk and getting really, really, really sick of tasting beer, the results were surprising.
Beers used (all 355 mL cans):
- Hite 하이트 ₩1350 4.3%
- Cass 카스 ₩1350 4.5%
- Dry Finish 드라이피니쉬 ₩1390 4.8%
- OB Lager 오비 ₩1350 4.8%
- Cafri 카프리 ₩1850 4.2%
- Budweiser 버드와이저 ₩2950 5.0%
- Suntory The Premium Malts 산토리 ₩3200 5.5%
- Sapporo 삿포로 ₩2850 5.0%
- Asahi 아사히 ₩2950 5%
- Of the 5 Korean beers, which is most and least preferred?
- Is Korean beer worse than the Japanese beer available in Korea?
- Is Korean beer worse than Budweiser?
- 5 cups labelled with numbers 1 through 5.
- For each sip test, pour sample amount of beer into cup. Cup is chosen with random number generator.
- Participant doesn’t know which beer is in the cup, ie single-blind test.
- Participant tastes beer and arranges cups in order of best to worst.
- Ranks are recorded as scores from 1 to 5.
I am incredibly embarrassed to say that according to this sip test, I prefer Cafri, the lightest and weakest Korean beer available. I also equally prefer Budweiser, a beer I’ve long considered to be the king of shitty beer.
The sip test was repeated 3 times with only the Korean beers. Cafri scored the best at 2.3 (highest is 1; lowest is 5); whereas the other beers all scored between 3 and 3.3 which is probably statistically insignificant. This suggests that I can’t distinguish between Cass, Dry Finish, Hite, and OB.
When Cafri, the winner of the Korean beers, was tested against Budweiser and the Japanese beers, the results were equally shameful. Cafri and Budweiser tied for 1st place with an average of 1.6 (again the test was repeated 3 times) while the Japanese beers scored between 3.6 and 4.
Again, as someone who considers themselves to prefer heavy and dark beers, like ales and stouts, these results were an equal mix of shock and embarrassment.
I can choose to interpret these results in one of two ways. Either, I actually prefer really light beer; or, the results are misleading. Perhaps, it’s simply the case that light beer is favourable in a sip test and the other Korean beers are indistinguishably bad. It’s well known that Pepsi usually wins in its taste test (it is distinguishably sweeter than Coke), but does anyone actually prefer Pepsi? Ergo, I will go with the latter interpretation.
So which Korean beer sucks the most? They all suck!