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Critics say North Korea makes a tasty beer

The beer has received a "thumbs up" from American visitors, according to Taedonggang beer factory manager Ri Bong Hak.

By
Elizabeth Shim
A North Korean advertisement for Taedonggang beer. The beer's success is the result of meticulous quality control, according to a North Korean factory manager. File Photo by Yonhap
A North Korean advertisement for Taedonggang beer. The beer's success is the result of meticulous quality control, according to a North Korean factory manager. File Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, June 24 (UPI) -- North Korea, known more for its fiery rhetoric, nuclear missile development and dynastic regime, is less known for one of its more benign products: beer.

That, however, could change in the near future, if its popularity among visitors is any indication.

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Critics agree North Korea's Taedonggang beer ranks high in taste. According to a British journalist, Taedonggang outdoes the average South Korean beer, South Korean newspaper JoongAng Daily reported.

The secret to the beer's success lies in quality control, a pro-Pyongyang magazine published in Japan said.

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South Korean news agency Yonhap said Choguk magazine's June issue featured Ri Bong Hak, a manager at Taedonggang's plant in North Korea.

Ri told Choguk that North Korea's Taedonggang beer is created using a quality-control method that begins in the hops cultivation area.

Employees of the plant are dispatched to the field, where they provide guidance on production and technique, Ri said.

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The bitter taste of hops and its calibration at the early stage of production is key to the North Korean beer. Sterilization and the use of circulation pump cleaners were cited as steps in enhancing the taste of the beer and suppressing bacteria.

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The popular North Korean brew uses barley in the malting process, and testers use a "five-sense analysis" to achieve consensus on the beer's quality.

Ri said the beer has received a "thumbs up" from American visitors to his factory and that he hopes to go global with the product.

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According to Yonhap, Taedonggang began operations when North Korea purchased a closed British brewery for $15.7 million in 2000. The factory currently produces seven kinds of beer that mixes white rice with the barley brew.

Not all North Korean beers, however, are created equal.

JoongAng Daily reported a nonprofit specializing in civic exchange with North Korea posted a scathing online review of a new North Korean beer.

Samgak, or Triangle Beer, was said to have tasted like peanut peels mixed in with petroleum.

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