Microbrewery with an identity crisisSummer is upon us once again: the season of sun, shades, shorts and suds. If the weather holds out, and you can supply the appropriate accoutrements, one place to come for the suds may well be Apgujeong-dong’s newest microbrewery, Deutsch Brau Haus, or German Brewery.
It’s difficult to miss. The outside is an ersatz European-style chalet. Downstairs and inside, it’s a huge, Munich-style beer cellar with wooden floors, faux brickwork and lots and lots of tables. There’s a performance stage and, in the back, the brewery itself: large copper vats glassed in behind the serving area.
There are also a number of incongruities. Although there are LCD screens featuring MTV, the music over the speakers is actually a German oompah band, which makes for a bizarre audio-visual experience. Even stranger: the beer-serving area has a number of bottles of wine prominently displayed, as well as a Coke dispenser. Now, while I am all in favor of catering to different tastes, let’s put this into perspective. Would you visit a vineyard and expect to see a keg of brew prominently displayed in the tasting room?
The reason for the wines becomes obvious as soon as you look at the menu, which features lamb chops, various steaks ― even lobster Thermidor. These aren’t the kind of items one expects to consume while sinking a beer. This is standard “hotel continental restaurant” fare.
Fortunately, there are some more appropriate beer accompaniments on the next page, including sausage platters, eisbein (pork knuckles), fish and chips, nachos and the like. There is also a very extensive salad bar, which offers all you can eat for 13,000 won ($11) as well as set menus for 19,000, 28,000 and 35,000 won.
We order the beer-battered fish and chips (21,000 won, which may make them the most expensive fish and chips I’ve ever ordered in my life) and a sausage platter (32,000 won; ditto above). The fish itself is rather good: thick chunks of cod, served on a bed of diced lemon and dressed with an above-average tartar sauce. But ― unpardonable sin! ― the chips are chips a l’Americaine ― i.e. potato chips ― rather than the French fries this dish demands. The sausage platter is not bad: a standard selection including herb and white sossies, with mustard, barbecue sauce and tartar (!) sauce as accompaniments. However, considering the price, we might have expected twice as many. And the sauerkraut, despite being embedded with black peppercorns and bacon, is weak and watery.
All of the above would be forgivable if the beer is good ― which it should be, considering the expense obviously lavished on this place.
Deutsch Brau Haus offers the three standard varieties which one has come to expect in Seoul’s German-style micros: a pilsener (Czech-style golden lager: 5,900 won, 500cc), a weizen (wheat beer: 5,900 won for 500cc) and a dunkel (dark lager for 6,900 won, 500cc).
The pilsener is cloudy rather than clear, watery and seems totally lacking in hop. I will be charitable and assume that this is because it had been tapped well before it was ready (we visited this brewery during its opening week). If, on the other hand, it has been brewed specially for local tastes (i.e., to cut out any bitterness), then it’s in breach of the trades description act to call it pilsener. The weizen is better: a spicy nose, a moderate body and a smoky taste. Finally, the dunkel. This is mid-brown, has an almost gingery nose, and a big, powerful taste with plenty of hoppiness ― much more so than most other dunkels. This is the best of the three by far.
The staff is eager to please and polite, although whether they will be able to keep up with demand if this huge place ever fills up is open to question.
Verdict: As noted, Deutsch Brau Haus is going through growing pains, so we assume ― and hope ― that things will improve. If it doesn’t, well, in spite of all else, the dunkel is worth a return visit.
Deutsch Brau Haus
English menu available
Telephone: (02) 3443-4455
Address: #611 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, just outside exit 2, Apgujeong station on subway line No. 3.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m.
by Andrew Salmon