Nearly ten months ago now, I packed my bags and departed the rainy winter of Portland, OR, bound for Changwon, South Korea and a year of teaching on the far side of the Pacific Pond. The contrast was, of course, striking. Where I was once surrounded by the beard and the tattoo, I am now enveloped in a sea of well dressed businessmen and the humdrum of factory life. The array of tall bikes and unicycles have given way to a sea of white, silver and black Kia sedans. The neighborhood vibe of Portland's bohemian underbelly has been replaced by the steadily glowing backdrop of Korea's neon skyline.
All things considered, these changes are minor.
What is not so minor is the transition from the beer mecca of America to a land where Budweiser is considered premium and the local beers, which make a boy understand why they consider Budweiser a premium beer, are sold for 4 dollars a pint at the average bar. It has been a harsh, jarring transition.
But do not despair! There is an answer, and it was simple and obvious enough that I'm ashamed, as a former Portlandian beer lover, that I didn't start doing it from day one in Korea.
The solution? Home Brew. My friend, the debonnaire David Lumsden, brought it to my attention a month or so ago when he mentioned his recent purchase of a home brew kit and showed up to dinner a few weeks later with a 22 of home brewed RyePA for every person in the house. I swiftly invited myself over to his house for the next brewing session.
I have never made my own beer before, but the process was shockingly straightforward. To simplify a process that I'm no expert on, it goes something like this: clean some containers, heat some water, pour in some grains, heat 'em and steep 'em, do some more pouring things around and then apparently a few weeks later there is beer and I can drink it and it's worlds better than anything else I can find in Changwon. Add this to the relatively cheap start up costs of a home brew kit(around $170), and suddenly you're drinking great beer for cheap with the extra bonus of being the proud parent of your own newborn home brews.
The process was actually so relaxed that during one of the down phases, we opted to take this stately old chair out for a photo shoot with some of the beers that were lying around the apartment. We posted up on the grand old leather throne throughout the markets and side streets of Masan, confusing plenty of local shopkeepers. Surprisingly, no one asked any questions when we saddled up next to their market stall with a deep seated armchair and began snapping off pictures. I suppose nobody questions The King and Queen of Masan Beer.
What I'm getting at is this: there's really no reason to complain about a lack of good beer in your life, even in a place as seemingly barren of good beer as Korea. If you find yourself missing a quality brew and a have a few weekends to kill, get yourself a home brew kit and start making it happen. You can get starter kits at Seoul Homebrew and Craft Brewer, the latter based in Busan. They also sell packages with all the grains and hops needed to make whatever beer you miss the most from back home. Get some kits. Follow the directions. Drink the beer.
And get a good armchair. It makes it all better.