Beer makes you feel full? Korean beer tastes flat? They don’t know what they’re saying2017-08-28Hit:32
A successful maniac. It is the perfect word for describing Park, Sang-Jae (29), a co-founder of ‘Amazing Brewing Company,’ a craft beer pub. After encountering home brewing while he was still in KAIST College of Business (MBA) in 2014, all he was into was researching ‘how to make more delicious beer’ instead of studying for classes. He was famous for his love for beer in school. At that time, there was no one at the school who had not tasted his beer, both professorsand students. In 2016, he opened ‘Amazing Brewing Company’ with Kim Tae-Kyung (39), another beer maniac who was an internationally recognized beer sommelier.
Then, in June 2017, he was the first Korean winner at the National Homebrew Competition (NHC) held in Minnesota, USA. The contest, called the Beer Olympics, featured 10,000 beers in 30 different fields. Park won in the ‘Sour Ale’ part.
Hobbies are the driving force of Park's life. When he was into radio-controlled cars (RC cars), he participated in a world tournament held in Thailand and placed 40th in the world rankings. He even made it into a profession. When he was into baseball, he opened a store for baseball equipment, and now he works for a beer company. He falls into whatever he likes so deeply that he becomes a master. He said, “I concentrate only on that specific hobby once I get into it. I do not spare money to buy whateveris required.” But he was able to earn money from his maniac hobbies because he can develop skills faster than others.
Among all the hobbies that Mr. Park has ever had, home-brewing is has been the strongest. Although he majored in business administration as his father advised, he was always interested in making something directly by himself since he was a child. Craft beer was especially attractive to him because it requires a double production process of making the beer equipment and then brewing the beer. There is also the pleasure of taste-testingafter a change in the equipment. He made about 10 different pieces of beer brewing equipment includingfermentation tanks (beer ripening machines) and cooling machines at the Amazing Brewing Company.
Not long after he started home brewing, Mr. Park became famous as ‘a man of beer.’ In May 2014, he won the third place in the Korea Home Brewing Contest (KHC) hosted by ‘Beer Making Club’, the largest home-brewing club in Korea. It took only five months. The industry started to notice him as well. In August, a representative of a craft beer pub in Seoul, Sinsa-dong, proposed producing beer together. As home-brewing was purely a hobby for him, Mr. Park asked for a 100 glasses for beer instead of monetary compensation. His beer was a big hit, and other craftbeer houses as well as breweries asked for his help. He adjusted the recipe according to the customers’ preferences. For example, he brewed a beer with a fresh taste for a pub frequented by men in their 50s and older as the main customers, while he brewed a crisp beer for a pubwith women in their 20s as the main customers.
He won 15 domesticcompetitions while expanding his scope. Then, he met Kim, Tae-Kyung in September 2015. Kim, an internationally recognized beer sommelier, reached out to Mr. Park to work together after seeing him winning every contest. In April 2016, they opened the Amazing Brewing Company, Mr. Kim as the CEO and Mr. Park as the beer equipment designer.
Mr. Park introduced himself as ‘a grasshopper.’ After he finished his MBA, he did not look for jobs in companies like other graduates, because he thought it would be too hard for him to endure the regular working hours and the harsh working environment.
Mr. Park said, “Because I like to spend money and play, I also know when other people spend their money,” and explained about the outdoor space at the flagship store in Sungsoo-Dong as an example. The place is covered with artificialturf. The customers take pictures of the place, and share them through SNS including Instagram which helps popularize the store. He said, “I remember how good it was to lie down on the lawn and drink with nice wind.”
In addition, he has a business principle that there should be a surprise element at the store for the new consumer. This is why he installed more than 100 beer tabs at the main flagship store at Sungsoo. Because a handful of handmade beer boutiques usually have 15 to 20 taps, so few taps won’t be enough to surprise the customers.
He talked a lot to correct common misunderstandings about beer. He said, “Some people claim that they don’t like beer because it only makes them full. But these people simply don’t know about beer.” Some beer contains 22% alcohol, which is even higher than soju, and the color varies from white to black. Depending on the additives and the fermentation method, beer has hundreds, even thousands, of tastes.
Mr. Park recommends trying out lots of different kinds of beer. His response to a common misconceptionthat mass-produced Korean beers are tasteless was that “There is no such thing as tasteless beer in the world.” Rather, he gave a good score, saying that “beer is the perfect best friend of chicken.” Korean beer is a light lager, which, by definition, is a ‘gold light beer with a light flavor, and very refreshing due to a lot of carbonic acid and doesn’t taste bitter.’
“When you do consumer research, customers like to ‘quench their thirst on a hot summer day’ or ‘drink beer with chicken.’ The company delivers a refreshing, not bitter, light lager based on the customer's preference. It involves lots of facilities and costs.”
The Amazing Brewing Company has rapidly grown over the past year. In December 2016, the pub expanded to the next building, and new pubs have opened in Starfield at Hanam, Jamsil, Seoul, and Songdo, Incheon. Park modestly said, “I just expanded the market from 1% to 5%.” The analysis on Korean drinking culture suggests that Koreans enjoy drinking beer with food, instead of enjoying the beer itself. This, in turn, slows down the diffusion ofcraft beer, which requires enjoying the beer itself, in a short period of time in Korea. For example, think about black beer. In Korea, blackbeer is not so popular because it does not pair well with other foods, and consumers must fully enjoy the beer itself. Compared to the traditional Korean beer, a light lager, craftbeer has a stronger taste and smell, which makes it hard to pair with foods. Korean foods are generally salty and spicy, which doesnot fit so well with craft beer.
What is the next goal of this world-recognized beer maniac? “I want Amazing Brewing Company to become a leading beer company in Korea and beyond Korea, and to become Korea’s representative craft beer company in the world. That is why we have built mass production facilities to produce handmade beer in bottles and cans. We plan to sell them at marts and convenience stores.”