Previously here on Visit North Korea we have explored the story of the country’s most famous alcoholic drink: Taedonggang Beer. As a result of this and given the product is so well known, we felt there wasn’t a need to make a “Made in North Korea” article about it. Instead, we decided to cover some of the country’s lesser known alcoholic drinks. Thus here we’re going to take a look at what is described as “Ponghak Beer” a cheaper, yet popular alternative beverage known for its signature golden colour and white head! Might we convince people going on DPRK tours to try it? Let’s see.
About 25 miles north of Pyongyang, in North Pyong-an province, sits a small city known as Pyongsong. The city is relatively well off for “outside Pyongyang standards” is known for its focus on industry, science and research. On this note, the city is home to what is called the Paeksong Foodstuff Company, a corporation dedicated to producing snacks and beverages for the DPRK, which are produced in its Pyongsong Factory. The factory happens to possess a professional brewery, the 2nd one in the country to be established after the founding of the Taedonggang one in the early 2000s. The brewery makes a wide range of drinks including the Korean favourite Soju, but most notably its signature brand: Ponghak Beer.
Ponghak might be described as a malt beer or Pale lager. Similar to Budweiser, Ponghak Beer is characterized by a solid gold appearance, white head and a somewhat sweet taste to it with minimum bitterness. Due to its less dominant position in the DPRK market, the drink is cheaper than its nationally branded Taedonggang Rival. With the latter being heavily favoured by the state, this also effects Ponghak’s distribution. Unless requested, restaurants and bars will always serve Taedonggang as a primary option. Ponghak Beer is sometimes available on request. However, there have been some ocassions where it has not been present at all. The Yanggakdo Hotel for example, has been hit and miss in stocking it.
Despite this, Ponghak Beer has gained a surprise popularity amongst tourists. It has been frequently favoured above Taedonggang for its unique taste and flavour. Thus our message to you is this: The next time you are in North Korea, don’t settle for the obvious on the assumption that it is the only beer the DPRK has to offer- It isn’t. Ponghak Beer is a strong, but unknown alternative. Due to the way the state favours and develops certain brands above others, it cannot be said to be a true “competitor” but it can continue to win the hearts and minds of visitors!