Taedonggang Brewery…

Reuters has a write up of my favorite North Korean beverage, Taedonggang Beer:

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.

By April 2002, it was up and running. In June 2002, the North’s leader Kim Jong-il, known for his fondness of expensive brandy and wines, went on a brewery tour.

“Watching good quality beer coming out in an uninterrupted flow for a long while, he noted with great pleasure that it has now become possible to supply more fresh beer to people in all seasons,” North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said.

Taedonggang beer, named for a river that runs through Pyongyang, is a full-bodied lager a little on the sweet side, with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Still not the choice of locals:

Taedonggang is one of several brews in North Korea and it has quickly become the top brand, according to foreigners living in the reclusive country.

Park Myung-jin, of distributor Vintage Korea which used to sell the beer in the South, said the North’s leader Kim wanted a showpiece brewery.

“They used the best quality material without thinking of the production cost,” Park said. He stopped selling the beer in the South in 2007 due largely to a sudden price hike.

The North taps into overseas markets for ingredients, Park said. It has abundant supplies of fresh water because its hobbled factories do not produce enough to cause pollution problems.

Beer is not the drink of choice for most North Koreans, who prefer cheaper rice-based liquor that packs a big punch.

Dont expect to see it in your local pub:

But do not expect to see Taedonggang or any North Korean beer invading overseas markets any time soon.

North Korea may have solved the riddle of making a robust beer but it has not completely solved the problem of bottling it.

The brewery has occasional trouble sealing bottles properly and the glass it uses is fragile.

The transport system in North Korea is also a mess, making it unlikely that the beer can become one of the few legitimate exports from a country shunned by the developed world for its defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons and a human rights record cited by the United States as one of the world’s worst.

The full article can be found here:
North Korean beer: great taste, low proliferation risk
Reuters
Jon Herskovitz
3/9/2008

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  • North Koreans are very proud of their Taedonggang Beer, which, in fact, is of excellent export quality. However, for some reason, its export is allowed only to South Korea (which is technically the same country).

    The hardware is, indeed, British but the story of brand creation goes back to Kim Jong-il’s visit to Russia in August 2001. During his visit to the Baltika brewery in St.Petersburg, the North Korean leader invited its experts to cooperation and, in memory of the tasting, took away a 5-liter keg. See: http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=5037

    Some cooperation between this Russian brewery and North Korean Taedonggang took place soon after that. Also, Taedonggang beer owes its qualities to the technological processes of Chinese Tsingtao and Japanese Sapporo (according to the factory’s official guide, Ms. Kim Seong-bok). Its byproducts include Taedonggang soju and Taedonggang barley tea.

    Barley and hop, which are used for Taedonggang beer, come from the northern Ryanggang Province, and the fresh water from South Hwanghae Province. The filtering material is also produced locally. Taedonggang is produced bottled and draft (10° and 12°). But the North Koreans prefer stronger liqueurs and consider beer merely a “beverage”, not alcohol.

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