Finding Hoppiness in Seoul

Photo by  Ryan Bodenstein

If you have elected to read this article, it's safe to assume that you, like me, equate hoppiness with happiness. Upon arriving in South Korea you were likely overwhelmed with warnings of the impacts soju is bound to have on you. And you may have even ventured to try a few of the popular Korean beers such as Hite or Cass—both of which taste immensely better if mixed or flavored. But, you may have been hoping someone will navigate you to a tap with a Double IPA. Look no further! I am here to share a few gems that took me far too long to discover.

USAG Yongsan is situated just outside the heart of Itaewon in downtown Seoul, South Korea. For those of you stationed in the surrounding areas across the peninsula, I assure you your weekends will be filled with plenty of Seoul vacations. If you are traveling from outside the city, I recommend utilizing the KTX destined for Seoul Station. From there, you can easily transfer to the local metro system to navigate your way to Itaewon Station. Just be sure you have your T-Money card filled with a few thousand won on hand.

First Stop

Now that you have made your way to Itaewon, it is time to hop on over to the White Rabbit Taphouse. Tucked away from the main strip, you will be glad you ventured around the corner to find it. Jay, the barkeep and owner, will greet you with a friendly smile and is always ready to provide a beer recommendation based on your taste preferences. The best part? Jay has 37 craft beer options on tap, ranging from Porters and Lagers to Double, Triple and Quad IPAs, all sure to appease your hoppy cravings. No wonder you need his assistance in choosing one, right?

Right and Up Tip: White Rabbit has indoor and outdoor seating available and can easily accommodate groups ranging from two to six people. Jay will likely provide you with pretzels for snacking and a taste of any beer you wish to sample.

Second Up

Just a tad further up the road and around the corner you will find Magpei Brewing. Magpei has a strong reputation throughout the peninsula, attracting both locals and foreigners alike. You can expect to find both the indoor and outdoor sections packed on any weekend night during the summer. Don’t let the small enclave be deceiving though. Behind the building next door, to the right, is a narrow staircase leading you to the basement—this too is owned by Magpei. It is a great spot to enjoy a few beers, especially if the weather is cool or rainy.

Magpei only serves craft beers from its own brewery, so you won’t find any favorites from home or around the peninsula. However, you won't be disappointed. Plus, you definitely do not want to miss out on trying their delicious pizzas. Magpei Brewing is pet friendly and it is not uncommon to see a few dogs lounging around both inside and outside while their owners enjoy their evening.

This entire nook of Itaewon is filled with hidden craft beer gems. I’d be writing all day if I tried to name them all! Nevertheless, I’ll mention a few more stops for your journey, though White Rabbit and Magpei are my prized favorites.

Right next door to Magpei Brewing is a small shop selling an endless selection of craft beers, both canned and bottled, sold individually or by the case. Though the name escapes me, it is hard to miss. The owner has provided covered outdoor seating for customers who wish to enjoy their beer nearby. With no open container laws in South Korea, you can walk the streets of Itaewon enjoying your beer selection or take your choices home to enjoy.

Thank you Sir, may I have another?

Farther up the road you will spot Mad Tables. It's cozy spot offering intimate tables for groups of two to four, maybe six if you squeeze in or adjoin tables. While not on the top of my list, it is still a great option and typically less crowded. Mad Tables offers a limited selection of craft beers, all of which are their own. It is also a restaurant with food service.

Away from this little craft beer nook you will find Namsam Chemistry. Similar to Magpei and Mad Tables, Namsam offers its own brews of craft beers on tap and has a reasonable selection of appetizers and meals. This spot is great for large groups. The atmosphere is edgy with its high ceilings, hanging bikes on the walls and large floor-to-ceiling bay windows. It is a casual environment with beer served in plastic cups. The beer selection ranges from dark to light and always hoppy.

With these hidden nooks in your back pocket, you will surely impress your friends, co-workers, visiting family and out-of-town guests. So don't worry! You do not have to spend the next year without a delicious IPA. I just ask that you tell Jay I said hello and enjoy a Magpei pizza for me when you go!

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about the author

Ellen Brabo is a Public Affairs Officer and the owner of a well-worn passport, having traveled to more than ten countries in the last year. She is an avid photographer and writer with experience living abroad in both South Korea and Germany while serving in the U.S. Army. Lucky for her she gets to mix her passions with her day job! You can follow her adventures through Instagram (@imagesbyell) and online at msbrabo.com.