July 25 (UPI) -- North Korea's beer festival, which debuted last year, was abruptly canceled, possibly because of a looming drought, according to two tour companies.
The Taedonggang Beer Festival was set to start Wednesday in Pyongyang, but organizers Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours said they heard of the cancellation news Sunday.
"The reason for the cancellation is unclear and we don't expect full information to be forthcoming but it is possibly down to the ongoing drought in the country that has caused a great deal of trouble," Koryo Tours said in a statement.
Simon Cockerell, Beijing-based Koryo's general manager, expected bad "optics" if the beer festival went ahead as planned.
"It won't look great for Pyongyang middle class to be having a jolly good time while people are working on drought relief," Cockerell told CNNMoney.
Last week, the United Nations said the nation may soon experience its worst drought since 2001. Rice and maize are at risk because of dry weather during the growing season of April to June.
Last August, the monthlong beer fest drew about 45,000 visitors -- mainly residents of the capital, Pyongyang, but attendees also included foreign visitors.
In 2016, the menu included several types of draft beers, fried chicken and mutton on a stick.
"As well as the opportunity to try some of the DPRK brews, the main reason for attending this festival for tourists is the excellent mingling and interaction opportunities with the hundreds of local people who attend every evening," Koryo Tours said.
The state-owned Taedonggang Beer Factory was founded when the country was recovering from its last drought.
Then-leader of North Korea Kim Jong-Il bought British brewery Ushers of Trowbridge for $1.95 million, and then dismantled and shipped it to Pyongyang.
Last Friday, U.S. State Department said it will issue a travel ban to North Korea for all Americans. Officials cited a serious risk of arrest and imprisonment in North Korea.