The Pyongyang Taedonggang Beer Festival was a long time coming, expectations were high and I can gladly report that it did not disappoint!
Pyongyang’s relationship with mass produced beer is a very recent one. In 2000, the government acquired the closed Ushers of Trowbridge brewery in England for £1.5M. The North Koreans dismantled the plant and reinstalled it in Pyongyang’s east side, naming it after the river that flows through the city.
The Taedonggang brewery produces 7 beers, all of which were up for tasting at the festival. They range from very good to quite bad (I’ll let those who’ve tried argue about which ones fall into each category). You can check out a list of beers here.
The festival itself had a remarkable German feel to it. Sausages on the grill, large and overflowing stein glasses, performances on stage, and—dare I say it—attractive waitresses by the bucketload. It all adds to a unique Pyongyang beer experience.
Number 3 is the most popular—it’s a rich full tasting lager. As Kim Jong Il once said; “it’s a beer for all seasons”. I couldn’t agree more.
All that was missing was the lederhosen. Open from 7pm to midnight every day for two weeks, patrons could choose to sit in the beer garden next to the stage, ride the floating restaurant, or take the quiet standing-only tables further down the river overlooking the Juche Tower.
Hundreds, if not thousands, thronged the riverside nightly with their partners, colleagues, and families. Singing, dancing, toasting, and stumbling home. It could have been a beer festival anywhere in the world but it was Pyongyang, and that’s what made it remarkable. Here’s to next year!