North Korean on beer brewing map

The impoverished state best known for its communist propaganda has quietly been brewing one of the highest-quality beers on the peninsula.

by: Jon Herskovitz | 10 Mar 2008

But due to the North's poor infrastructure, limited trading links and minimal skills in the capitalist world, its Taedonggang beer will likely remain a little known product.

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.

A few critics who have sampled it in Pyongyang say it is a highly respectable, but not award winning, brew. Available in Seoul until last year, foreigners say the beer is infinitely superior to the mass-marketed beers in South Korea.

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.

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