With so many to choose from, which Seoul craft beer bars are the best?
It’s no secret Korea is known for drinking. The soju culture is alive and well every night of the week. And although the days of throwing back a bottle or three over some delicious Korean bbq and chasing with some Hite or Cass still are part of the South Korean nightlife experience, Korea has embraced the craft beer revolution more than any of its neighbors (well, maybe not Japan).
When you consider that most Koreans grew up with few beer options, the amount of craft beer available in the country is even more impressive. High taxes and archaic brewing laws crushed imports and domestic competition for years, making the cheap cost of soju and Korean beers prevalent. Brewers had no incentive to improve quality because consumers had no choice, and they didn’t know better. Less than ten years ago the question “What’s your favorite beer?” would’ve been answered with Hite or Case nearly every time, with the occasional Heineken thrown in.
Those were sad times.
But then things got better. A group of expats teamed up with some Koreans and started brewing something different and the Seoul craft beer scene started to gain momentum.
They weren’t the first, but they’re the people often credited with starting the craft beer movement in South Korea. We know them today as Craftworks and Magpie’s, two of Itaewon’s popular craft beer bars. With the support of the local expat neighborhood and adventurous Koreans looking for something new, craft beer bars started to fill up, and in true entrepreneurial style, new bars started popping up all over.
Things change fast in Korea. What’s here today is gone tomorrow, only to be replaced by a new business that may or may not be there in three months. Our list includes some of the most well-established bars in Seoul. Hopefully, we’ll be adding to it in the future.
Itaewon’s “Craft Beer Alley”
Itaewon is Korea’s foreigner hangout. With the highest concentration of ethnic restaurants and foreigner bars in the country, it’s got a lot to offer. These days, it is bustling with Koreans, open to its variety and promise of something new around every corner.
This small street in the Kyungridan neighborhood known as Craft Beer Alley is nothing fancy, but it’s sure loaded with good beer.
Magpie’s Brew Shop and Basement
As one of the pioneers in the Seoul craft beer scene, Magpie’s has survived the ups and downs and challenges of brewing in Korea. They’ve maintained a loyal following with their quality beers and fair prices.
Although most famous for their pale ale, Magpie’s brews other exciting beers. IPAs, porters, and Saisons are often on the menu, and their beers rotate on a regular basis.
The tasting room is basic and small, but that doesn’t stop the crowd from grabbing a pint and standing around outside. It’s common to see small groups spread out outside wherever there’s space. It’s also common to see folks from the neighborhood with their pets, making Magpie’s not only a great spot for people watching but also good for dog watching.
Magpie’s Basement is directly across from the brew shop. They have the same great beers, but there’s also more seating and appetizing pizzas on the menu. And if you prefer the natural lighting of the outdoors, they’ll bring the pizza up for you.
Next to Magpie’s is Korea’s best bottle shop. Although you’d never know it from the outside, inside Woori Mart you’ll find the refrigerators full of imported craft beers from all over the world, and you’ll find them at the best prices in the country.
Outside they have a very basic seating area with red plastic chairs you can’t miss and some old-style folding tables. Nothing fancy, but very suitable. And in the winter, they cover the area with plastic walls and turn on the space heaters. Year-round craft beer bottles!
The Booth Pizza and Craft Beer
The Booth is a pizza-by-the-slice joint with a great selection of craft beer. They brew their own and have a rotating choice or three from other known brewers.
Located just up the road from Magpie’s and the Woori Mart, they’re hard to miss with their uniquely decorated walls and wooden palates as tables.
With several locations around Seoul, The Booth is a reliable spot for both pizza and craft beer.
The first craft beer bar in the area and the first one to make a name for itself, Craftworks is still a busy, popular spot just outside of Craft Beer Alley, yet close enough that we’ll group it together. The location is bright and airy, as the back doors slide open for an indoor/outdoor atmosphere. Craftworks is a sit-down type of bar, really more of a restaurant with good beers and cocktails on the menu.
Their beers are named after Korean mountains, and with a steady supply of dark ale, pilsner, IPA, and other choices, there’s something there for everyone.
They have a full food menu, and this is a nice spot for a meal.
Itaewon’s Haebongchon (HBC) Neighborhood
Just across the main road from “Craft Beer Alley” is the long-time expat neighborhood of HBC. Coming from Noksapyeong Station exit 2, HBC’s street is marked with the famous Kimchi pots, which lead up the hill to all kinds of trendy restaurants, cafes, and bars.
A short walk up the hill and you’ll come to the Hidden Cellar on your left. This basement bar has an excellent craft beer selection as well as the best wine choices in the area. They focus on offering quality beer and wine, and the selection is always impressive.
Although not known for specializing in craft beer, Phillies has a good selection of both domestic craft beer and imports. They are the neighborhood sports pub. There’s always a few groups of expats hanging out, often running into others they know.
Their first floor is open-air and ideal for people watching, and they have a basement area with a full bar. They might not be the first name thought of when considering a Seoul craft beer bar, but this is a fun spot making an effort to offer craft beers.
Bonny’s Pizza Pub
A stone’s throw from Phillies is HBC’s most popular pizza joint. Bonny’s Pizza Pub is the place with the line out the door. People line up for their pizzas and great beer selection. With several refrigerators stocked full of great beers and a good selection on tap, it’s no wonder why.
Bonny’s has a small basement in addition to their first-floor seating area. To avoid heavy crowds, try them during off hours. Otherwise, prepare for a wait.
Four Seasons Craft Beer Bar
A short walk south of Itaewon Station is Four Seasons, a basement bar with a tap board and loyal beer-loving crowd. Here you’ll find several domestic craft beers and a few high-quality imports on tap, as well as some fine choices in bottles.
The bar is on the street that runs parallel to Itaewon’s main road, and it’s a little hidden. They serve pizza and some other pub food, perfect for enjoying with a few pints.
Hongdae is known for its clubs, and although several places are popping up with craft beer on the menu, there aren’t as many quality craft beer bars as one would expect to find in the area.
The Magpie’s in Hongdae is similar to what they offer in Itaewon, but it has less of that neighborhood hangout feel. It’s more of a bar, serving their great beers and pizzas. The location near the park is about a five-minute walk from either Hongdae or Sangsu Stations, near the university and not far from anywhere in the area.
With 15 beers on tap, Funky Taphouse is a solid choice in the Gangnam area. They have both domestic craft beer and imports, and the selection is quality.
The bar is simple. It’s one open area full of tables; there’s no bar to belly up to. But this simple concept works. You’re there for the beers, after all.
To go along with your pint, enjoy a pizza or some chicken. Again, it’s a simple menu, but it’s one that popular with just about everyone.
Funky Taphouse is popular with the Korean crowd, so unlike some other Seoul craft beer bars, you won’t forget you’re in Korea.
A little out of the way over by Sinbanpo Station is Craft Bros. This is a combo craft beer bar and bottle shop. They have around 12 beers on tap and a good sized bottle selection to choose from. If your Seoul craft beer adventure has the energy, making your way to Craft Bros. is worth the trip.
The bar itself is a little small and fills up most nights. You can enjoy their tap selection or grab bottles from the bottle shop. However, they do charge an additional fee to drink the bottles in the bar. Prices can add up fast here, but you get what you pay for.
Neighborhood Craft Beer and Pizza Pub
Similar to Hongdae, Sinchon is known as a youthful party area. When the crowd is young, sometimes it’s hard to find a nice craft beer bar amongst all the cheap hofs and soju spots, which is why Neighborhood is such a nice place in Sinchon to know about.
This is the best spot in Seoul to try Busan’s Galmegi Brewing’s beers. They have a great tap selection, and the place fills up around dinner time with locals coming in for the great pizza.
It’s not the biggest bar in Sinchon, but it should be any craft beer lover’s first stop.
The Seoul craft beer scene has come a long way. It went from a country with a handful of low-quality lagers to one of Asia’s best craft beer scenes. Local craft beer is worth seeking out. It’s more affordable and the quality is high, yet there are plenty of imports available both on tap and in bottles.
Itaewon is the best for variety. Craft Beer Alley might not be the fanciest place, but it’s our pick for the best craft beer in Korea. And if it’s not for you, you’re not far from many other great Seoul craft beer bars.