Alcohol

Beer Ads on North Korean TV. No Beer for Actual North Koreans.

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Looking for just the thing to wash down those bites of kimchi pizza? How about a tall refreshing mug of Taedonggang, a new beer that is the "Pride of Pyongyang"? 

The brew is reportedly delicious, "a full-bodied lager a little on the sweet side, with a slightly bitter aftertaste." How did a country with no beer brewing tradition managed to make a decent pint? The same way they got a decent pizza: Have Dear Leader buy the whole operation from a country that knows what it is doing, thanks to centuries of productive commercial effort:

North Korea's quest to produce decent beer began in earnest in 2000 when it started talks with Britain's Ushers brewery about acquiring its Trowbridge, Wiltshire plant that had ceased operations.

The North Koreans took apart the brewery that had been producing country ales for about 180 years, shipped it piece by piece to Pyongyang and reassembled it under the banner of its Taedonggang Beer Factory.

In classic communist style, the state television ad somewhat misses the point of advertising. The beer is only available for $1.50 a pop at bars that cater to foreigners. The ad is also three minutes long, and looks like hell. According to Reuters, the ad was snagged on Friday in Seoul and proclaims that the beer "represents the new look of Pyongyang. It will be a familiar part of our lives."

Via the world's foremost libertarian food blog Crispy on the Outside.

UPDATE: Commenters quite rightly demand to know what a 180-year-old ale-making brewery is doing churning out lagers. Those wacky North Koreans, they're always using equipment wrong. The next thing you know they'll be using nuclear material from a totally peaceable and legitimate power plant to make bombs!

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  1. What, no “Juche Juice”!?

  2. Hmmm, all praise to the “Beer Leader”…

  3. “Do you have ‘Kim Jong Pils’ on tap?”

  4. Well, that just about does it…

    Now, move on!

  5. If they bought a brewery that had been producing ales for 180 years, why should we assume that it can make a good lager?

  6. Im just guessing here, but Im betting I know more about making beer than KMW, so I might be getting overly pickety. But damn it, unlike politics, this stuff is important!!!

  7. My thoughts exactly, robc…

    On a related note, I’m more concerned about when the North Koreans start enriching their microbrew.

  8. What about wine? Nothing like a fine Uijeongbujolais to complement a filet of Seoul.

  9. Kim Jong Pils tastes like Kim Jong Piss.

    I’m assuming they didn’t buy recipes or a brewmaster.

    Oh well, finally a beer with more rice than Budweiser.


  10. Oh well, finally a beer with more rice than Budweiser.

    Great line! But really, the difference between ale and lager is that one is top fermenting, the other bottom fermenting. I think ale is bottom (my cousin is a brewmaster).

    This is nothing new. Whether it’s Vodka in the old Soviet Union, or crack and heroin in Harlem. It’s appeasement to the poor and oppressed.

  11. Tricky… I’m guessing Russ2000 is just ragging on the likely quality of the beer. That being said, given KJI’s penchant for all things extravagant, I would guess he’s probably using all imported malt and hops without any adjuncts. I’d also guess this beer is along the same lines as Heineken (and as somebody who spent two weeks in China studying their brewing industry, I can tell you that makes it better than most beers on the market in souteast Asia).

    To me the irony is that the trouble they’re running into is the same one that impedes many U.S. microbrewers: distribution. You can take apart the brewery piece by piece and move it, but if you don’t have any roads by which to get it to the consumer then what’s the point?

  12. ClubMedSux, maybe that’s what the missiles are for. Did you ever think of that?

  13. Great line! But really, the difference between ale and lager is that one is top fermenting, the other bottom fermenting. I think ale is bottom (my cousin is a brewmaster).

    Ale uses top fermenting yeasts and is a less heat sensitive process in general. Lagers require cooler temperatures and are a bottom fermenting yeasts. Hence the lagering process.

  14. Most homebrews are ale just because of ease and not needing a fridge or temperature controlled environment.

    Oh well, finally a beer with more rice than Budweiser.

    Not possible.

  15. Tricky… I’m guessing Russ2000 is just ragging on the likely quality of the beer

    No, I think he’s trying to say Bud sucks! And it does.

    But seriously, there are people eating dirt in N Korea. WTF. There’s no bread, let them drink beer? Wasn’t that what Animal Farm was about. Instead of growing wheat, the pigs were growing barley for beer? (it’s been a while)

    Thanks for the clarification hmm. From what I remember him telling me is that that is really the only difference in the actual brewing process. All the different types and flavors of beer all come from either top or bottom fermenting. Broad Ripple Brewpub

  16. Budweiser = Kim Jong Swill

    But I do like Budweiser American Ale.

  17. Kim Jong Pils tastes like Kim Jong Piss.

    If Russ 2000 hadn’t pre-empted with his:

    Oh well, finally a beer with more rice than Budweiser.

    I was going to go with, “Oh they stole the recipe for Budweiser?”

    If I was an Australian I’d go with, “Oh they stole the recipe for Foster’s?”

    But seriously, there are people eating dirt in N Korea. WTF. There’s no bread, let them drink beer?

    It’s worse than that. Reread the post. It’s only available to foreigners in tourist hotels.
    But they’re advertising it on broadcast TV for avery peasant (who has one) to see.

    At least the Soviets and the Cubans tried to keep the consumption of luxury goods by foreign tourists a secret.

    But I do like Budweiser American Ale.

    Yes, I do believe that AB realizes there are more mature palates in America.

    I like Michelob Amber Bock too.

  18. @1:10

    That’s the worst pour I’ve ever seen outside of a college kegger. If I was KJI, I’d have whoever did that shot.

    Course, the beer is probably shit. Its a German brewery which moved to Britain, then was bought, disassembled, and shipped piece-by-piece to Pyonyang, where it is reassembled and is now made with whatever ingredients the ignorant NK brewers can get their hands on. The straw-yellow color and massive amount of foam only strengthen my opinion of what the final product will taste like.

  19. Isaac, if the peasants have a teevee to see the ad, I suppose they can’t be too bad off.

  20. Beer is influenced by just about every variable from time of a hop or other substance in the wort, the process of malting, temperature of wort boil and what is add to the wort, yeast strain, temperature of fermentation, number of fermentations, hell the list is as long as the variables involved with making the beer. It’s an easy thing to do, but a hard thing to consistently replicate en masse. It really is a science beyond just the chemistry though. And it’s fun, and it makes beer. Anything with end product being beer and potential drunkenness is two thumbs up.

  21. Budweiser has considered itself a marketing company rather than a brewery for quite a while. The “grapenuts” smell in south city when they are fermenting is absolute heaven.

  22. I should say InBev, not Budweiser.

  23. Should it be considered irony when Americans criticize other countries with regard to the quality of their beer?

  24. Should it be considered irony when Americans criticize other countries with regard to the quality of their beer?

    No. Being a beer snob is bullshit to begin with. Drink what you like and get hammered with all.

  25. Should it be considered irony when Americans criticize other countries with regard to the quality of their beer?

    Depends on which individual Americans are doing the criticizing. The CEO of Anheuser-Busch — irony. The CEO of a microbrewery — not at all.

  26. @Russ

    Well as America makes some of the finest beer of the world, I imagine we can criticize other beers just fine. Perhaps you have only tried American beer from 3 breweries, and ignored the thousands of others? And nevermind the fact that those 3 breweries are not American owned?

    Not to mention certain countries that make bland, straw-colored beer but somehow manages to get by as a producer of “good beer” because they have a reputation as a “beer country”. Not naming any names, of course.

  27. Budweiser has considered itself a marketing company rather than a brewery for quite a while.

    And they even stole THAT idea from Pabst.

    The odd thing is that some of Pabst’s adjunct lagers taste better than Miller’s adjuncts, even though they’re brewed at Miller (with Pabst brewmasters, I think).

    Should it be considered irony when Americans criticize other countries with regard to the quality of their beer?

    Of course not. We’re expert on the subject.

  28. It’s fucking beer. There is no wrong. It’s like sex and money.
    (that does not include infected batches, that is bad, bad, bad beer)

    The best beers in the world are made in people’s garages, basements, kitchens and homes. You can’t beat consuming that which you have produced yourself. Then getting naked and running up and down the block screaming the, “rebels are coming” while holding a blow up sheep to avoid the indecent sex crime. (I’m sure I’m on enough lists I don’t need that one)

  29. It’s worse than that. Reread the post. It’s only available to foreigners in tourist hotels.
    But they’re advertising it on broadcast TV for avery peasant (who has one) to see.

    Fuck! There’s no carrot and no stick. Just a lot of ego. Who’s really responsible, the father or one of the sons (Kim Jong-chul, Kim Jong-un)? Sounds like a son to me. I don’t think the father gives two shits about a good brew, just little boys.

    (I’m sure I’m on enough lists I don’t need that one)

    Indeed!

  30. Taedonggang – It’s Dictatorially Delicious!

  31. Being a beer snob is bullshit to begin with.

    There are beer snobs? I thought snobbery was a pastime for winos.

    -jcr

  32. If I was KJI, I’d have whoever did that shot.

    If you were that murderous little twerp, you’d be too ronery to worry about what’s on TV.

    -jcr

  33. There are beer snobs?

    Sadly, yes. I suggest you start with BeerAdvocate.

  34. Then getting naked and running up and down the block screaming the, “rebels are coming” while holding a blow up sheep to avoid the indecent sex crime.

    I want some of that beer!!

  35. It’s not the beer.

  36. Should it be considered irony when Americans criticize other countries with regard to the quality of their beer?

    Have you been to other countries? Have you noticed that superchilled light American-style lagers are the most popular beers worldwide, and that almost every country produces one? There’s a reason that the UK needed to start the Campaign for Real Ale.

  37. ClubMedSux,

    BeerAdvocate’s founders specifically despise beer snobs. Beek geeks, on the other hand….

    When Im not on reason, guess one of the sites Im on?

  38. Sorry, having watched the “ad” (video is blocked at work, so I had to wait till I got home), I’m not sure this is being beamed into the homes of NK peasants, and I’m not sure if I shouldn’t chide young KMW for not checking her facts.

  39. robc-

    I have 2386 posts on BA and am technically a “Zealot of Beer” (and that and $2.50 will get me a cold can of PBR). I suppose I was being unfair to the BA users, most of whom are incredibly helpful (particularly on the homebrew forum). I was more venting my frustration with the Alstr?m Brothers themselves, whose Nazi-like moderation of the forum has gotten me to the brink of abandoning the site. Not only have they deleted threads of mine linking to reason articles regarding beer, but they recently nixed a weekly German-language thread because they can’t moderate what they can’t understand. I’m sick of being treated like a seven-year-old on the forum. Sorry for the venting, but honestly the one thing that keeps me coming back are the majority of users who are both knowledgeable and helpful.

  40. The ad is quite a hoot. Looks like the Norks got their hands on some video production software and felt the need to use every single special effect available. It’s the video equivalent of those desktop publishing monstrosities of the early ’90s when someone got a Mac and PageMaker and made a flyer using every single typeface they had.

  41. South Korean beers like Cass, Hite, and OB are okay if you just want a Coors Lite clone to drink while watching the Lotte Giants game. I’ve found that most Asian beers have that pleasantly generic taste that isn’t a bad complement to the vegetable and rice centered diet.

    If you’re out to really appreciate your beer experience, then you really are better off with the American micobrews or European brews.

  42. ClubMedSux,

    Too be honest, I dont read anything but the homebrew forums any more.

    You have me in posts, Ive only got 1342. 🙂

    It does seem like every time I dont read the site for a few weeks, they manage to run off a major poster. I still have no clue what the incident was that drove off Venom.

  43. Okay, robc, now I gotta know who you are. My username is Windigstadt. Feel free to beermail me if you don’t want Lone Wacko to infiltrate your homebrewing universe…

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