“We believe the Korean market is thirsty for an alternative,” announced Hyukkee Moon in a press release revealing that another brewery will soon be making its home on Jeju. The CEO of Jeju Brewing Co. said on Oct. 24 that a craft brewery will open in 2014 in partnership with Brooklyn Brewery of New York.
The US craft brewer has partnered with JPDC (Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Devel-opment Corporation) to produce 1.5 million liters in its first year at Gimnyeong, Gujwa-eup. The brewery will produce premium bottled, canned and draught beers.
The news is another sign that Korea’s long-maligned beer industry is diversifying. In August, Jespi, also under the JPDC, opened Jeju’s first large-scale brewery producing stout, pale ale, pilsner and strong ale. The province will now host two commercial breweries with the industry rising in prominence.
The production facility at the Lava Bedrock Sea Water Industrial Complex (Yongam Haesu Danji) at Handong-ri will include an education center and offer brewery tours to visitors, potentially putting it on the tourist map, also. Production is slated to begin in June next year with beers hitting the shelves in August.
Brooklyn Brewery’s genesis has some striking parallels with its Jeju project. Founders Steve Hindy and Tom Potter were jaded by the mass-produced national beers dominating the market in 1984 and sought to “bring good beer back to New York City.” They found, however, that much of the supply chain was controlled by big breweries and dis-tributors took much convincing about their specialized product.
▲ Brooklyn Brewery's kegging lines in New York. Photo courtesy Brooklyn Brewery
Many challenges were faced in those early years, but as a result of enlisting the top talent in brewing, design and market-ing, Brooklyn Brewery established itself as an internationally respected beer producer. With similar challenges faced in Korea, the corporation believes it is well placed to achieve success in Asia as the region’s market matures.
Robin Ottaway, Vice President of Sales for Brooklyn Brewery, feels that Koreans are starting to discover craft beers and demand more from their brews. Fed by rising incomes and increased overseas travel, education has been a key catalyst: “Good beer drinkers are good beer drinkers everywhere,” he says.
The local beer market has long been dominated by the Hite-OB duopoly and while this is far from over, imports and consumption are diversifying and competition is increasing exponentially. Ottaway reflects on the similarities with the US market 25 years ago: “The Korean market is desperate for better beer with an interesting story.”
With its established brand and natural image, “its pure artesian well waters and its verdant landscape,” Ottaway is confident that Jeju can provide this “interesting story.” Its central location also makes it an ideal platform for entry into the wider Asian market: “It’s a perfect place from which to build a global Korean craft brand,” he adds.
Brooklyn Brewery is in partnership with JPDC, producers of Samdasoo and Jespi, yet Ottaway feels this will not hinder the company’s operations and says that they have been given control over the project. Bringing in its market expertise, there may even be scope for Brooklyn to work alongside the Jespi brand, but that is not on the cards just yet.
▲ The New York original. Photo courtesy Brooklyn Brewery
Brooklyn Brewmaster Garrett Oliver will work alongside Jeju Brewing Co. to produce three year-round beers, such as Jeju Lager and Jeju Pale Ale. Ottaway sees this range as reflecting the market, the season, and the Jeju brand.
“We would expect to develop a line of seasonal beers as well as special one-time beers. Part of the fun of craft brewing is experimenting with different styles. And we'd like to experiment with other local ingredients, such as tangerines and honey,” he said.
Benefits to the local economy in- clude the use of local ingredients, such as mineral water and barley, and employment for 15 locals, rising to 70 after 10 years in operation. Although Ottaway will be bringing a team over from the US, additional hiring will be done locally.
The high-end market being targeted by the operation is growing across the world and Ottaway predicts a maturing local palate will receive the new product well.
“Our goal isn't to compete with the big local brands, OB and Hite. We want to help create a high-end space in the beer market, which exists in much of the developed beer world. Craft beer is happening in Korea, and will continue to grow. We want to be a part of that.”
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