Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hite Exfeel-S

In my last post, I mentioned that I was in the far-off land of South Korea, experiencing the culture and the beer. Furthermore, I said I going to write a blurb about my experiences and post it here as part of some entries about Korean beer. Wellllll...the ensuing entry I wrote in my notebook during the 10-hour flight between Seoul and San Francisco clocked in at almost 12 full pages of unadulterated text, so that's probably not going to appear here. So, let me sum it up South Korea for you: Technologically-savvy, wants Korean unification under South Korean rule, hates Japan, dislikes American military, loves American civilians, wants to be more western, kimchi, kimchi, kimchi.

Drinking is a big part of South Korean culture, especially between the boss and his co-workers. The drinking age is 18, and no one bats an eye at drinking in public. People mostly drink soju, a rice vodka; some sort of bamboo-based alcohol that tastes like apple cider; and makkele (not sure on the spelling), a thick white rice beer; all were delicious. Then there was the beer. I was deeply saddened to discover that there was virtually no good beer in all of South Korea. The three main brands, Hite, OB, and Cass, were South Korean equivalents to Miller, Bud, and Coors. I had just about every brand of beer I could find in the numerous convenience stores around where I was staying, and I can tell you that for the first time, I'd've taken a Bud over another can of Hite or Cass Lemon. The best the country is Guinness, but no, I had to have a Hite Black Beer Stout instead.

To quote Hugh Grant in Music and Lyrics, "God, I suffer for my art."

On every trip aborad, I try to bring a beer back from the country I came from. This time, it was Hite (pronounced like "height") Exfeel-S. It caught my eye, not because of the green bottle (sigh...), but because of its claim as "The stylish beer with fiber." Yes, fiber. They put 1.65 grams of fiber in every 330 ml bottle because Koreans apparently don't get enough fiber. No really, that's what they claim on Hite's website. Ingenious, in my opinion. Other than its fiberousness, I can't tell you any historical information about the beer, but according to Hite's website, the company itself started as the Chosun Beer Company in 1933, growing due to various acquisitions and mergers throughout the years.

Here come the stats:

Hite Exfeel-S
BREWERY: The Hite Co., Ltd., Yeongdeungpo-Dong, Yeongdeungpo, Seoul, South Korea
STYLE: "Fiber beer"
DIETARY FIBER/SERVING: 1.65 g per 330 ml bottle
ABV: 4.1%

The limited information came from Hite's English Site, except the location of Hite's headquarters, which came from some sales lead site.

When I poured the beer, it was a clear golden color with a foamy white head. The smell was pretty nondescript, smelling like a Bud or Coors. But what really threw me was the taste. Man oh man was it bad. And I don't like to bad mouth a beer, but the taste was horrible. I tried this with some friends, and one of them described the taste as "grass beer." I would describe its taste more like a spoilage-riddled Becks Light. To make matters worse, the aftertaste was a stale spoilage-riddled Becks Light flavor, and it just kept building and building as the beer got warmer. Yuck.

While I admire their attempt to get Koreans to add more fiber to their diets by slipping it into their beer, they should've put it in a better beer. Their website claims that "Simply holding [Exfeel-]S makes you a style leader." I say, simply holding Exfeel-S makes you a person holding the worst beer I've ever tasted. If you go to Korea, avoid Exfeel-S in the convenience stores and grab a Guinness. Or seek out the rare Korean microbrewery, whose beers aren't sold in most convenience stores over there. Or (I never thought I'd say this) don't have a beer.

건배 (Geonbae)!

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